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.

Tuesday, 29 January 2019

Changes in status of South-East Queensland birds over 40 years – Part 3, brush-turkey to terns

Lewin's Rail

This is the third post demonstrating changes in the status and distribution of birds in South-East Queensland over the 40 years between 1979 - when my booklet The Birds of South-East Queensland was published – and 2019. The list covers only those species where a significant change has been noted over the intervening period. Some changes are doubtlessly influenced by an increased number of observers and technological advances (especially with playback) but many can not be explained by these factors. See here for Part 1 (emu to storm-petrels) and here for Part 2 (boobies to hawks).

Australian Brush-turkey
Australian Brush-turkey. Described as “moderately common” in 1979, it is regarded today as common, and locally very common. The species has clearly benefited from the greening of Brisbane's outer suburbs and other urban areas.

Red-backed Buttonquail. In 1979 it was recorded as “rare”, known from agricultural crops in the Lockyer Valley and rank vegetation near Gin Gin. It is today still regarded as scarce but has been recorded regularly from mid-to-tall grassland, wallum heathland and crops, especially sugarcane, in several areas including Maryborough, the Sunshine Coast and Lake Samsonvale.

Lewin's Rail. In 1979 it was thought to be “rare”, with specimens and sightings from a small number of sites. It is now known to be uncommon generally and moderately common in some areas. It is also known to frequent a much wider range of habitats than was previously thought to be the case.

Spotless Crake
Spotless Crake. Another species described in 1979 as “rare”, it is today known to be moderately common in suitable habitat and is the most numerous crake in the region. Like the previous species, records have doubtlessly increased due to the growing popularity of playback, but both can be quite vocal and it is unlikely so many records were overlooked previously.

Black-tailed Native-hen
Black-tailed Native-hen. Known in 1979 from a single sighting, at Redcliffe in 1973. It has since been recorded in small numbers on several occasions from around Brisbane, the Sunshine Coast, and the Lockyer and Brisbane valleys.

Australian Bustard
Australian Bustard. It was thought to be extinct in South-East Queensland in 1979, though known historically from western and northern parts of the region. It remains very rare but has been recorded as a vagrant from a handful of sites including Monto, Maryborough and the Gold Coast.

Sooty Oystercatcher
Sooty Oystercatcher. Described as “rare” in 1979, it is known now to be uncommon though widely distributed on coastal rocky outcrops.

Banded Stilt. In 1979 the occurrence of this species in the region was unconfirmed, with reported sightings “almost certainly” immature Pied Stilts. There has since been a single confirmed record, from Lake Clarendon.

Red-necked Avocet
Red-necked Avocet. The species was thought to be “rare” in 1979, known from a handful of sites. It was unknown at the time from areas such as the Lockyer Valley and parts of Moreton Bay where it is now known to be moderately common if irregular.

Asian Dowitcher
Asian Dowitcher. In 1979 it was known from a single sighting at Wynnum. It is now considered a rare summer visitor though is recorded regularly from several sites.

Pectoral Sandpiper
Pectoral Sandpiper. Like the previous species it was considered a vagrant in 1979, known from two records. It is similarly known now to be a rare summer visitor though recorded regularly in suitable habitat.

Great Knot
Red Knot & Great Knot. Red Knot in 1979 was thought to be “moderately common to common” while Great Knot was “generally uncommon, though locally common”. The reverse could today be regarded as more accurate, with Great Knot greatly outnumbering Red Knot. Furthermore, unlike the Great Knot, the Red Knot is more numerous in the region as a transient migrant, with relatively few spending the summer here.

Curlew Sandpiper
Curlew Sandpiper. The species was thought to be “very common” in 1979. It can best be described as “moderately common” today with numbers declining notably. This is one of many migratory shorebirds to suffer from the destruction of feeding habitat in east Asian flyways.

Ruff. Another “vagrant” in 1979, it was known from a single sighting at Dyers Lagoon. Although still fairly described as vagrant, there have since been a number of sightings from the region.

Pomarine Jaeger
Pomarine Jaeger. This bird was considered an “uncommon” summer visitor in 1979 but we now know it be quite common in offshore waters.

Long-tailed Jaeger. Considered “rare” in 1979, with several autumn sightings from North Stradbroke Island, it is today seen uncommonly but regularly in offshore waters.

Pacific Gull. Records of the species in 1979 were unconfirmed in the region but it is now confirmed as a vagrant.

Sooty Tern
Sooty Tern & Bridled Tern. Sooty Tern in 1979 was known from about 30 beach derelicts but no sightings, while Bridled Tern was considered “rare”, with a very small number of sightings off North Stradbroke Island. The Sooty Tern is regularly seen in offshore waters these days and while still uncommon, the Bridled Tern is reported irregularly from inshore and offshore waters.

White Tern. It was a “vagrant” in 1979, known from four sightings. Many more sightings have since been recorded, though it still is regarded as a rare visitor.

White Tern

Tuesday, 22 January 2019

Changes in status of South-east Queensland birds over 40 years – Part 2, boobies to falcons

Magpie Goose

This is the second post demonstrating changes in the status and distribution of some birds in South-East Queensland over the 40 years between 1979 - when my booklet The Birds of South-East Queensland was published – and 2019. See here for the first post – emu to storm-petrels. Only those species where significant changes are recorded are listed.

Red-footed Booby. In 1979 this species was described as a “vagrant”, known from two beach-washed derelicts with no sightings recorded. We now know it to be a scarce visitor to offshore waters and it seen very rarely from shore.

Red-footed Booby
Masked Booby. Considered in 1979 also to be a “vagrant” that was “very rarely seen offshore”. These days it is regarded as a scarce visitor to offshore waters; it is seen occasionally in inshore waters.

Red-tailed Tropicbird & White-tailed Tropicbird. Both species were described as “vagrant” in 1979 with no sight records of either; there were four beach-washed Red-tailed Tropicbirds and six beach-washed White-tailed Tropicbirds known. Both tropicbirds are now regarded as scarce visitors to offshore waters, with White-tailed seen more often.

White-tailed Tropicbird
Australian White Ibis. It was considered “very common” in 1979 in pastures and saltwater and freshwater shallows. It remains numerous but has since colonised Brisbane and other urban centres, where it is ever present even in busy central business districts. 

Magpie Goose. This species has changed in status and distribution more than any other in the region. In 1979 it had not been recorded “for many years” anywhere in South-East Queensland, although it was “apparently once not uncommon”. Happily the bird is once again a common resident.

Wandering Whistling-Duck. Considered “rare” in 1979, the species is now regarded as moderately common.

Wandering Whistling-Duck
Plumed Whistling-Duck. Regarded as “generally uncommon” in 1979, though locally common. It is now considered to be common and widespread throughout the region. This is another example of waterfowl having clearly increased significantly in population. It is likely some waterfowl have been displaced by the widespread degradation of wetlands elsewhere, especially in the Murray-Darling Basin as a consequence of overallocation of water for irrigation.

Plumed Whistling-Duck
Radjah Shelduck. In 1979 there were “no published records from the region this century”, though its range once extended to north-east NSW. Another good news story, with the species now known to be resident in small numbers in a few areas such as Baffle Creek, Hervey Bay and Tin Can Bay. It is now known to be a rare visitor to the Sunshine Coast and Brisbane.

Radjah Shelduck
Australasian Shoveler. Regarded as “rare” in 1979, it is seen regularly these days, sometimes in substantial numbers, though considered generally to be uncommon.

Australasian Shoveler
Pink-eared Duck. Also considered “rare” in 1979 and like the previous species, recorded mostly during inland drought. While regarded as uncommon now, it is frequently seen, sometimes in large numbers.

Pink-eared Duck
Australian Wood Duck. The species was described as “moderately common” in 1979. Its population has clearly increased substantially and it is considered in 2019 to be very common.

Freckled Duck. It was a “vagrant” in 1979, with just one sight record of eight birds, from Sandgate Lagoon. The duck is now thought to be a scarce though regular visitor and can occur in reasonable numbers.

Freckled Duck
Letter-winged Kite. In 1979 it was a “vagrant”, known for a handful of records. The species has not been recorded in the 40 years since then in South-East Queensland. Occasional influxes to coastal areas elsewhere in south-eastern Australia have similarly stopped. Due to the menace of feral cats in its inland stronghold, the future of this species is uncertain - see here for more.

Letter-winged Kite
Square-tailed Kite. Thought to be “rare” in 1979 and known from just six sites, it is regarded today as uncommon but widespread.

Square-tailed Kite
Grey Goshawk. In 1979 it was considered “uncommon to moderately common in wet sclerophyll and rainforests”. Its status is unchanged but the bird is now often seen in grassland and other open habitats which once would have been thought unsuitable.

Grey Goshawk
Spotted Harrier. Considered “rare” in 1979, it could be described as uncommon in 2019, nesting in areas such as the Sunshine Coast where it was previously absent.

Spotted Harrier
Red Goshawk. It was described as “rare” in 1979 with records known from a handful of sites. Birds were then seen occasionally in the Conondale Range area, where they nested, but no confirmed sightings have been recorded from there in recent years. Other than the Conondales, I am aware of perhaps just two or three sightings in the region since 1979.

Red Goshawk - image by John Young 
Nankeen Kestrel. It was "very common and widespread" in 1979. Today it can best be described as moderately common. There is little doubt that its numbers have declined sharply, possible due to poisoning by rodenticides.

Nankeen Kestrel

Thursday, 17 January 2019

Changes in status of South-East Queensland birds over 40 years – Part 1, emu to storm-petrels

The Queensland Conservation Council in 1979 published a booklet I wrote, The Birds of South-East Queensland. It was an annotated list of birds from the state's south-east with a focus on status, distribution, habitat and environmental threats. Forty years later, in 2019, I thought it timely for a “then and now” look at how things have changed for some species listed in the publication. These posts discuss the minority of birds listed where knowledge of status and distribution has changed markedly.

South-East Queensland
The area covered by the list is south-east Queensland: east of the Great Dividing Range and north from the NSW-Queensland border to the Round Hill-Eurimbula area. References to seasonal occurrence are generalised (for instance, describing a bird as a “summer visitor” means only that it is most frequently encountered in the warmer months).

Bribie Island's Eric the Emu
Emu. Listed as “uncommon” in 1979; though regular in the north-west (for instance, the Upper Burnett), it was “scantily distributed” on the coast and declining in numbers. That decline has accelerated. In 2019, the species is very rare in coastal areas. It occurs in small numbers around Woodgate but is probably now extinct in places where it once occurred regularly such as Cooloola, Beerwah and Bribie Island. Emus had been numerous on Bribie Island, to the point where they were a nuisance in camping areas. The last surviving bird was at home in urbanised parts of the island; known to locals fondly as Eric the Emu, it was killed by a dog on Red Beach in 2015.

Sooty Albatross & Light-mantled Sooty Albatross. Both species in 1979 were described as “vagrant” with one record of Sooty Albatross and two of Light-mantled Sooty Albatross – all beach-washed. While no further records of Sooty Albatross have surfaced, several more Light-mantled Sooty Albatross have beach-washed and the species is seen rarely in offshore waters.

Northern Giant-Petrel
Southern Giant-Petrel & Northern Giant-Petrel. Southern Giant-Petrel is listed in 1979 as a “moderately common” winter visitor, based mainly on observations from Point Lookout, North Stradbroke Island. Little was known in those days about identifying giant-petrels and it is likely most birds seen were in fact Northern Giant-Petrel. Northern Giant-Petrel is listed in 1979 as a “vagrant”. Southern Giant-Petrel can best be described as a vagrant these days, with Northern Giant-Petrel considered a scarce winter visitor. Certainly no giant-petrel in the region can be now regarded as “moderately common”. Like many seabirds, their populations worldwide have been seriously depleted by the fishing industry, mainly through competition for food but also from being caught by hooks.

Providence Petrel
Providence Petrel. Described as “rare” in 1979, we now know it is a common winter visitor to offshore waters. It was known from just 5 specimens and no sightings in 1979. As with many pelagic birds, knowledge has improved dramatically with offshore trips to the continental shelf, which did not begin in the region until the 1980s. In the 1970s, however, some us had regularly searched beaches in the region, especially North Stradbroke Island, for derelict seabirds.

Tahiti Petrel
Tahiti Petrel. In 1979 it was thought to be a “vagrant”, with just two beach derelicts known and no sightings. The species is in fact a common visitor to offshore waters, especially in the warmer months.

Grey-faced Petrel
Great-winged Petrel & Grey-faced Petrel. The Great-winged Petrel was described in  1979 as "probably moderately common" on the basis of about 30 beach-washed birds. This species is now thought to be a rare visitor. However, the Grey-faced Petrel, recently split from the Great-winged Petrel (and therefore not recognised as a species in 1979) is uncommon though regularly encountered in offshore waters; many of the earlier "Great-winged" specimens were doubtlessly Grey-faced.

Gould's Petrel. Described in 1979 also as a “vagrant”, with no sightings and a total of four beach-washed specimens. The species is now regarded as an uncommon though regular summer visitor to offshore waters.

Black-winged Petrel. Another “vagrant” in 1979 known from three beach derelicts, with no sightings. It is now considered a scarce summer visitor to offshore waters.

Streaked Shearwater
Streaked Shearwater. Again considered a “vagrant” in 1979, known from three beach-washed specimens, all found on the same day. We now regard it as a scarce but regular summer visitor to inshore and offshore waters.

Fluttering Shearwater
Fluttering Shearwater. Considered a “common” winter visitor in 1979, mainly to inshore waters, it could be regarded today as uncommon, and significantly more so than the following species.

Hutton's Shearwater
Hutton's Shearwater. Described as “rare” in 1979, with just a handful of sightings, it is now considered to be a moderately common visitor at any time of the year.

Wilson's Storm-Petrel. Records were few in 1979, though it was “probably moderately common” as a passage migrant offshore. It is in fact a common visitor to offshore waters, especially as a passage migrant.

Wilson's Storm-Petrel
White-faced Storm-Petrel. A “vagrant” in 1979, known from two specimens. It is today known to be an occasional visitor to offshore waters.

Black-bellied Storm-Petrel. Another “vagrant” in 1979, again known from just two specimens. It is thought today to be an uncommon but regular winter visitor to offshore waters.

Black-bellied Storm-Petrel

Sunday, 6 January 2019

Red Goshawk nest tree pruned as research shows endangered bird flies vast distance

Red Goshawk on Cape York (Image by John Young)
Queensland Government officers studying the endangered Red Goshawk on Cape York lopped the limbs off a nesting tree while a bird was sitting on eggs to improve photographic opportunities. The claim was made as it was revealed radio-tracking has demonstrated that the Red Goshawk will fly considerable distances and across large bodies of water.

It was reported last month that the state Department of Environment and Science (DES) had effectively handed over responsibility for Red Goshawk research on Cape York to international mining giant Rio Tinto. The research involves catching nesting Red Goshawks in bow nets and fitting them with tracking devices on the company's bauxite and aluminium leases. Rio Tinto holds leases over 380,000 hectares of Cape York and is strip-mining extensive areas of tropical savannah woodland – the preferred habitat of the Red Goshawk.

Birding enthusiast David Milson says that when he lived in Weipa in 2015, he discovered the first Red Goshawk nest on Rio Tinto leases. The finding was reported to authorities and the then Department of Environment and Heritage Protection called in an arborist to lop several large limbs from the tree, where a female goshawk was sitting on eggs.

At the time, workers climbed the tree to fit two cameras to photograph and film the birds. Milson says he confronted departmental officers about what he regarded as unnecessary and risky intrusions: “I could not believe that here is this rare bird sitting on a nest, and here they are lopping off big branches all around the nest so they can get better pictures. Then they've got guys climbing up the tree to set the cameras up. It was beyond comprehension that they were doing it.”

Rio Tinto's strip-mining on Cape York
While living in Weipa, Milson learned of early results from the research program. A female fledgling that was caught and tagged was found to have flown 250 kilometres south from Weipa to the Edward River near the Aboriginal community of Pormpuraaw. The bird flew across Albatross Bay, a large expanse of water in the Gulf of Carpentaria. Signals from the transmitter stopped abruptly soon after the bird's arrival near Pormpuraaw. If confirmed by as yet unpublished data, this would be the longest recorded movement by a Red Goshawk, and likely the first instance of one flying over large expanses of water.

The DES and Rio Tinto refuse to say how many birds have been or will be caught and tagged under the program. The DES said in response to a series of questions about the program: “We've confirmed that you need to address these questions to Rio Tino, as the project leader.” Rio Tinto did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

However, the program was defended by Red Goshawk Recovery Team member Steve Debus, who has undertaken research funded by Rio Tinto in the past. In a post on chatline Birding-Aus, Debus says: “The original RAOU Red Goshawk project in the ’80s got some invaluable data on a pair of Red Goshawks that were caught and radio-tracked (female in the breeding season, 2 young fledged) and they bred in the following season after they had shed their transmitters. The Weipa study is funded by RioTinto but the work is conducted by expert raptor ecologists... notably Dr Richard Seaton. He has extensive experience radio-tracking raptors. The project is overseen by the Red Goshawk Recovery Team, and the team is privy to preliminary key data on female home range and juvenile dispersal.”

Referring to researchers losing track of birds netted under the program, and claims that goshawks could die as a result of the devices, Debus says: “Transmitters can fail or fall off, so ‘disappearance’ could be a signal issue rather than goshawk death. Raptors are quite robust... The recovery team is meeting in January, so we will undoubtedly be discussing the issues raised as well as data. The data will be published in due course. The study arose from Rio Tinto’s obligation to assess and minimise impact on a federally listed species.”

Debus dismissed critics of the research program as “trolls... going about half-cocked without knowing the facts”.

This prompted a response from North Queensland birding guide David Crawford: “It might be fine for you to accuse some of the concerned public as going off half-cocked about the latest Red Goshawk debacle… I agree that transmitters can fall off but I also believe that death is possible, if not likely, and one death or failed nesting due to disturbance is one too many.”

Debus responded by saying that the satellite transmitters fitted to goshawks would “give much better data in a proposed mining area so the researchers can identify key Red Goshawk areas and aspects of the birds’ ecology, so as to better understand and conserve them”.

Wednesday, 2 January 2019

Glossy Black Cockatoo under threat from Sunshine Coast nursing home

Glossy Black Cockatoos drinking at Sunrise Beach

Critical habitat for the endangered Glossy Black Cockatoo is set to be bulldozed for a new aged care facility at Sunrise Beach on Queensland's Sunshine Coast. A community group set up to protect the birds, Glossy Team Sunrise, says hundreds of food trees are threatened by a development planned by the Uniting Church's Blue Care. The area surrounding the proposal is recognised as a hotspot nationally for the cockatoo: during a 2016 survey in South-East Queensland, more than a third of  96 birds recorded were in the Noosa-Sunrise Beach area.

Glossy Team Sunrise says five hectares of habitat will be destroyed by the development – a huge complex including 98 residential aged care beds, 74 apartments and 55 living units. The facility will be built in the heart of the most important areas favoured by the Glossy Black Cockatoo. Group spokesperson Bettina Walter says about 300 Allocasuarina feed trees, which the birds are dependent on, would be removed. A high care unit and car park will be built adjacent to a creek visited by the birds for drinking. Survey stakes for the development were planted recently.

Glossy Black Cockatoos feeding at Sunrise Beach
Says Bettina: “From how we read the plans and what we understand from Blue Care, it is a clear-fell proposal… In the north [of the site] are many food trees and this will be the site of the high care unit. In the southern area are some real regular hotspots. These contain stands of old feeding trees and also younger regrowth. We could spot some glossies feeding there pretty much every time we went in. I have not found any food trees in the adjacent southern lot, that has been allocated for conservation.”

While Blue Care is expected to be required to plant Allocasuarina seedlings in nearby areas to “offset” the felled trees, these will take at least seven years to grow. The species feeds only on the cones of mature Allocasuarina trees. The development will also destroy thousands of Banksia and other trees in wallum woodland on the site.

Site of Blue Care's development plan
According to Glossy Team Sunrise, the then Sunshine Coast Regional Council in 2008 gave Blue Care permission to develop the facility. It did not happen at the time and approval was extended by the Noosa Shire Council in 2017. Says the group: “We believe the approval was given based on dated knowledge of the ecological value of the site and a traffic report long overtaken by reality. While aged care is needed in Noosa, the current high-density Blue Care design will require clear-felling of a prime habitat of the Glossy Black Cockatoo, one of Australia’s rarest cockatoos. The Glossy Black Conservancy recommends that where developments are planned, existing stands of favoured food trees should be recognised and retained.”

Protecting the local “glossies” has become a goal warmly embraced by the local community. Residents plant food trees, remove weeds, mark the most important feed trees and carefully monitor the movements and behaviour of birds.

Feed tree marked at Sunrise Beach
Adds Glossy Team Sunrise: “At a minimum, we are asking the Uniting Church (Blue Care) to show commitment to their aspirations to be a 'green church' and to retain and protect our Sunrise Glossy Black Cockatoos and wallum. We would like them to listen to a community passionate about their unique environment and to work with Team Glossy members and other experts to rethink and adapt the development. Their Eco-Mission Statement is encouraging the congregation to care for the environment as God’s creation. Well we have the perfect place to put those words into action.”

Anyone wishing to register their concerns about the plans can sign a petition here.

Glossy Black Cockatoo feeding at Sunrise Beach

Tuesday, 1 January 2019

2018 Sunshine Coast Birds Big Year

#303 Pale-vented Bush-hen
Every now and then I think it's good to take up a challenge: set oneself a goal and go for it. It may take a while to reach your target. It was many years before I finally attained my goal of seeing all 234 bird families in the world; that milestone was notched up in Panama in 2015 with the sighting of Sapayoa.

2018 Zone of Happiness
Birders often embrace a Big Year as a worthy goal. The idea is to see as many species as possible within a period of 12 months. A Big Year might be nation-wide or international, but I thought the Sunshine Coast region would do nicely for 2018. That wasn't the plan initially. Ken Cross, the leader of BirdLife Australia Sunshine Coast, had for a few years been running a competition for local birders to see who could photograph the most birds in a calendar year. Part of the goal was to encourage up and coming birders to improve their skills by identifying images posted on a Facebook page created each year for what was dubbed The Game.

#1 Brush Cuckoo
I thought initially that I'd join The Game in 2018 for a hoot, but that soon morphed into a full-on Big Year. I set a goal of photographing 300 species in the region in the calendar year.

#30 Eastern Grass Owl
The area covered for The Game is the so-called Zone of Happiness. The zone extends beyond the boundaries of the Sunshine Coast and Noosa councils: north to Inskip Point, south to Bribie Island and west to beyond Kilcoy and Amamoor, with an outlier in the Sheepstation Conservation Park south of Caboolture. My first photograph for The Game was a Russet-tailed Thrush behind Yandina. Although identifiable, I thought the image unworthy so discarded it; another seven months went by before I managed another photograph of this species! 

#31 Grey Ternlet
As it transpired, quantity not quality is the order of The Game for photographs. So long as an image is identifiable by someone in the group, that's adequate for it to pass muster; quite a few photographs on the page, including some of mine, are not as sharp as one might wish. That's fine: it's a birding indulgence first and foremost, not a photographic contest.
The winning total for The Game in 2017 was 256 species photographed by Carolyn Scott. I thought then that was an impressive effort. I've seen a total of 348 species in the Zone of Happiness, with observations stretching back to the early-1970s. Two species – Eastern Bristlebird and Emu – are now extinct in the area. Many others are vagrants or rare visitors, especially seabirds. (Birds seen on pelagic trips offshore are counted for The Game.)

#158 Shining Flycatcher
Most species in the region are common and widespread so are not difficult to photograph – the so-called low-hanging fruit. Others are numerous enough but can take a bit of work to nail down: Rose-crowned Fruit-Dove and Russet-tailed Thrush are good examples. Yet others are skulking, elusive and difficult to see, let alone photograph. Rails and owls feature prominently in the latter group.

#200 Brolga
As the early months of 2018 went by, I worked out a plan to boost the prospects of snaring the maximum possible number of birds before December 31. I had some advantages. I'd done a good deal of guiding over the years so knew of reliable sites for cryptic species such as Pale-vented Bush-hen and Black-breasted Buttonquail. I organise the Mooloolaba pelagic trips so was able to amass a reasonable collection of seabirds. On the other hand, I was going to be away from home for more than three months of 2018, so some visiting birds would inevitably be missed (as transpired with the likes of White-browed Woodswallow and Freckled Duck).

#221 Australian Owlet-Nightjar
For many targets, it was a matter of studying ebird records, Google Earth and Google Maps to gather information on distribution, habitat and access. I figured that the dry woodlands north of Gympie, for instance, might work for species that hadn't been recorded in previous years of The Game, like Speckled Warbler and Weebill. Or the paddocks and lightly wooded country around Kilcoy or west of Amamoor might harbour local rarities like Yellow-rumped Thornbill and Black-chinned Honeyeater.

#225 Pectoral Sandpiper
As the year marched on, various pieces of what I imagined to be a big jigsaw puzzle gradually fell into place. Pelagic trips offshore ensured that both summer-visiting seabirds (like Short-tailed Shearwater and Tahiti Petrel) and winter visitors (like Antarctic Prion and Providence Petrel) were in the bag. The odd rarity, notably Grey Ternlet, didn't go astray. Six pelagic trips were undertaken during the year.

#246 Red-browed Treecreeper
I managed to photograph all the region's nocturnal birds: Australian Owlet-Nightjar; two nightjars (Large-tailed and White-throated); two frogmouths (Marbled and Tawny) and six owls (Eastern Grass, Barn, Masked, Powerful, Barking and Southern Boobook). Some of the trickier waterbirds snapped included Spotless Crake, Baillon's Crake, Pale-vented Bush-hen, Australian Little Bittern and Lewin's Rail.

#247 Masked Owl 
I put in some serious driving time. I travelled twice to Bribie Island in one day because I learned after I got home from the first visit that a Radjah Shelduck had turned up at Sandstone Point, just 1km from where I was. I got the shelduck, and it didn't stay around, but I saw the species later in the year anyway at Tin Can Bay.

#250 Powerful Owl
Participating in The Game meant that I disclosed a fair number of sites held close to my chest for many years. But I learned through other participants of sites I'd not known of.

#274 Black-bellied Storm-Petrel
It helped that I went on 10 campouts of 1-3 nights in the region during the year - Charlie Moreland Park, Kenilworth Bluff, Conondale National Park, Amamoor, Yandilla, Brooyar State Forest, Rainbow Beach, Tin Can Bay, Cooloola and Noosa North Shore – as well as overnight stays on Bribie Island and in Kilcoy and Tiaro (the latter outside the zone, but to access the northern woodlands).

#285 Regent Honeyeater

I had just a single shot at quite a few birds - that is they were seen (and photographed) just once during the year: Eastern Grass Owl, Grey Ternlet, Streaked Shearwater, Marbled Frogmouth, Brush Bronzewing, Oriental Cuckoo, Baillon's Crake, Brolga, Fluttering Shearwater, Plum-headed Finch, Superb Fruit-Dove, Pectoral Sandpiper, Barn Owl, Large-tailed Nightjar, Glossy Black Cockatoo, Masked Owl, Sooty Owl, Black-breasted Buttonquail, Red-footed Booby, Red-browed Treecreeper, Shy Albatross, Yellow Thornbill, Barking Owl, Weebill, Green Pygmy-Goose, Regent Honeyeater, Lesser Crested Tern, Grey Plover, Southern Emu-wren, Sanderling, Pacific Swift, Black Bittern. As the year drew to an end, the pickings became few and far between.

#286 Lesser Crested Tern
The vagaries of birding are well illustrated by the very last bird for 2018 – Red-winged Parrot, seen on December 31. One had been seen on the outskirts of Gunalda a few days earlier. I was at the site at the crack of dawn and searched the area diligently without success for two hours. I returned mid-afternoon and there was the bird.

#293 Radjah Shelduck
As for my favourite bird of the year, I can think of a few. Photographing Southern Emu-wren and Brush Bronzewing at Cooloola was uplifting. They weren't great images but I'd not seen the emu-wren in Queensland since the 1970s, and the bronzewing just a couple of times since then. I photographed Eastern Ground Parrot a few times before eventually managing a half-decent image. Pectoral Sandpiper near Toorbul was nice, as were Masked Owl near Yandilla and Eastern Grass Owl at Bli Bli. The Regent Honeyeater at Carlos Pt was an extraordinary out-of-range record.

#300 Black Bittern
I was very happy to bag a Red-browed Treecreeper, in the southern Conondales. This species was once regularly encountered in the Conondale and Blackall ranges but numbers appear to have crashed; in the almost 10 years since I moved to the Sunshine Coast, I'd seen it just once previously. I believe it is one of a number of birds in the region to be impacted by climate change. Probably top of the pops was Black Bittern at Tin Can Bay. I've seen the species occasionally but regularly in the region, though hadn't managed to photograph it before. It was also the 300th species for the year.

#302 Lewin's Rail
I ended up with 310 species photographed in 2018. The Zone of Happiness in 2019 will be quite different from 2018 because its boundaries extend well westward, netting a suite of extra birds, so comparing 2018 with 2019 will not be comparing apples with apples. I spotted but failed to photograph three species – Black-tailed Native-hen, Swift Parrot, Budgerigar - so saw a total of 313 species for 2018 in the Sunshine Coast region. Now it's 2019, and time to move on. Let's see now. Getting my world lifelist up from 7920 to 8000 would be nice.

#310 Red-winged Parrot