Sunshine Coast Birds

Birding and other wildlife experiences from the Sunshine Coast and elsewhere in Australia - and from overseas - with scribblings about travel, environmental issues, kayaking, hiking and camping.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Southern Emu-Wren at Evans Head

Southern Emu-wren

After a successful stay in the Border Ranges National Park in northern NSW, where multiple sightings of Rufous Scrub-bird, Albert's Lyrebird and Eastern Bristlebird made for an especially fruitful experience, we moved on to the town of Evans Head on the NSW North Coast for a few days in the town's nicely positioned caravan park-camping ground. Evans Head is sandwiched between two national parks - Bundjaling to the south and Broadwater to the north.

Southern Emu-wren

On the southern outskirts of the town, at the entrance to Bundjaling National Park, I had repeated views of a pair of Southern Emu-wrens in wallum heath. This area was believed to be the most northerly site for this species until it was found much further north in the Cooloola-Great Sandy region of south-east Queensland. The emu-wren has not been found anywhere between Cooloola and Evans Head, a distance of several hundred kilometres, despite the presence of plenty of suitable habitat.

The emu-wrens were in the wallum heath pictured above.

The view south from Evans Head over Chinaman Beach.

White-cheeked Honeyeater

It was nice to see flowering Xanthorhoea scattered throughout the heath with attendant White-cheeked Honeyeaters and honey bees (below right of image above!)

Some other critters about the place:


Great Cormorant

Little Corella

Friday, 19 October 2012

Multiple Rufous Scrub-bird sightings and other goodies in the Border Ranges

Regent Bowerbird

Seeing six Rufous Scrub-birds at six separate spots in the Border Ranges National Park in northern NSW this week was the highlight of a 4-day campout there at Sheepstation Creek. Other goodies included excellent views of Albert's Lyrebird, Regent Bowerbird, Bassian Thrush, Noisy Pitta, Logrunner and Paradise Riflebird. In the  post following this one I discuss the superb views I had of Eastern Bristlebird in another section of the national park. This park must surely surpass Lamington National Park across the border in Queensland as THE place to visit for the Rufous Scrub-bird - arguably one of Australia's most difficult birds to see - and all the Lamington specialties are easy to find here.

I found all six scrub-birds in a single morning. This image depicts typical habitat - dense sedges and other growth in wet gullies in dense rainforest at high altitude. Given that it is not unusual to spend a couple of days chasing this bird without a glimpse, multiple sightings in such a short period of time was something I did not expect.

Rufous Scrub-bird

Although I saw the birds on numerous occasions, they were constantly on the move, usually scuttling about on the ground in dense vegetation, occasionally perching briefly on logs or rocks, and these poor images were the best I could manage pictorially.

Rufous Scrub-bird

 I saw both male and female scrub-birds but only the males appeared to be vocalising, giving the whole range of calls for which they are famed. I'm reluctant to be specific about where the birds were. Many years ago I shared information about scrub-bird sites I found around Gloucester Tops in NSW; since then, by all accounts, those birds have suffered badly as a consequence of too much call playback.

Antarctic Beech, Nothofagus moorei (above). was often present around gullies frequented by scrub-birds. Interestingly, Rufous Scrub-birds in the Gloucester Tops area, a different subspecies, are believed to live primarily in eucalypt forest, albeit close to stands of Nothofagus. In the Border Ranges, however, they are very much denizens of the rainforest.
 Around the Sheepstation Creek campsite, both Regent and Satin Bowerbirds were common, along with Paradise Riflebird, while Bassian Thrush was found further up the mountain.

Regent Bowerbird

Satin Bowerbird

Satin Bowerbird bower

Paradise Riflebird

Australian King-Parrot

Crimson Rosella

Emerald Dove

Bassian Thrush

Eastern Yellow Robin

Red-bellied Black Snake

A fine vista from a view point in Border Ranges National Park.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Eastern Bristlebird in the Border Ranges

Eastern Bristlebird

The northern population of the Eastern Bristlebird is fast disappearing so it was with great pleasure that I followed a pair of these wonderful, enigmatic birds for more than an hour in the Border Ranges National Park this week.

Eastern Bristlebird

There had been virtually no rain in the region since July so I was fortunate that on this day, it had rained heavily. The birds were quite vocal and easy to watch as they foraged in leaf litter, low bushes, and even right out in the open on a walking track.

The northern population of the Eastern Bristlebird may be as few as 20-25 birds, with perhaps just a handful surviving in Queensland, with the rest in a narrow band of suitable habitat across the border in north-east NSW. I have commented previously that the bird may be extinct in the Conondale Range in the Sunshine Coast hinterland - the most northerly site known for the species. The extent of the decline is reflected in surveys conducted by Queensland and NSW authorities across the range of the species: in 1987-89, 154 birds were found in 103 territories; in 1997-98, 26 birds were found in 16 territories.

This is the classic habitat of the northern race of Eastern Bristlebird - open forest with plenty of native grasses, especially kangaroo grass and tussock grass.

At the site in NSW, I saw no wild sorghum, which is often associated with the northern population of this species. There was plenty of blady grass and weeds of various kinds - seemingly not ideal habitat. It was apparent  that the NSW authorities had been slow-burning bushland in sections in the region. This is almost certainly good management practice as the birds' habitat may otherwise be choked by weeds or invaded by other forest types.

For obvious reasons, I've been asked not to divulge the location of this sighting. Some people are of the view that all reports of this bird should be suppressed, but I think it is important for people to know they are still about, while maintaining discretion about where to find them.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Birding the Brisbane Valley

Red-necked Avocet

Highlights of an afternoon and morning birding in the Lockyer and Brisbane valleys west of Brisbane included Australian Painted Snipe,  Red-necked Avocet,  Blue-billed Duck,  Pink-eared Duck,  48 Cotton Pygmy-Geese,  200 Great Crested Grebes,  Banded Lapwing and Black Kite.
I started in the early afternoon at Rosewood Lagoon, where 2 male and 1 female Australian Painted-Snipe were found. The snipe were present at this site last year. The birds were shy and difficult to spot as they crouched in dry grass near the lake shore; I was unable to photograph them. Also present on the lagoon were two Cotton Pygmy-Geese.

Red-necked Avocet

The Gatton University Lake (Lake Galletly) was excellent, with nice birds including a single Red-necked Avocet which allowed close approach.

Pink-eared Duck

Among the large flock of ducks on the lake were 12 Pink-eared Ducks. It was especially pleasing to watch a pair of Blue-billed Ducks, although the birds were shy. They have evidently been present on the lake for some time.

Blue-billed Duck female

Blue-billed Duck male
Blue-billed Duck with Pink-eared Ducks
A nice assortment of other waterbirds were on the lake.

Royal Spoonbill, Pied Stilt, Pied Goose 
Black Kite

After overnighting in a Gatton hotel, it was off to Lake Clarendon where I tried unsuccessfully to find the Blue-winged Kookaburras which had been present in paddocks opposite the school. Of interest there was a single Black Kite. On the lake, no fewer than 200 Great Crested Grebes were seen, with many pairs displaying.

Banded Lapwing

I moved on to Seven-Mile Lagoon but it was full with few birds, though 2 Pink-eared Ducks were seen. Six Banded Lapwings were present in nearby paddocks, which have consistently been a good site for this species over many years.

Cotton Pgymy-Goose

At Atkinsons Dam, I was surprised to find no fewer than 46 Cotton Pygmy-Geese (bringing the total seen on the trip to 48) on the main dam overflow - on the eastern side of the road between the two camping grounds. I've not seen anything like this many Cotton Pygmy-Goose together previously.

Little Lorikeet

Lorikeets and honeyeaters were in abundance in flowering grevilleas by the lake shore, including some nice Little Lorikeets.

Little Friarbird

Atkinons Dam, like all the lakes visited, was full to brim, notwithstanding two months without rain, following two exceptionally good west seasons.

Australian Pelican

  Large numbers of Australian Pelicans were present throughout the region, gathering in tightly knit groups to herd fish. Pelicans had been largely absent from south-east Queensland in recent times but they have  returned from their nesting grounds in the flooded inland.

Wandering Whistling-Duck

Several Wandering Whistling-Ducks were on a lagoon on Kellys Road north of Atkinsons.

It was nice to drop in on Pobblebonk, a property we formerly owned between Esk and Coominya. In eight years, the gully there had been largely dry, but despite the dry weather recently, it was in full flow. The normally dry woodlands were more densely vegetated than I have seen them - another indication of the unusually good weather conditions presently being enjoyed in south-east Queensland.

Black-fronted Dotterel 

This Black-fronted Dotterel showed nicely on Somerset Dam on the way home.