Thursday, April 25, 2013

Elusive or Common Birds of the Lockyer Valley

On Sunday I decided to go to the Lockyer Valley again to try and locate some of the "now common birds" of the Lockyer Valley. Over the last few weeks there have been many reports of Hoary-headed Grebes, Australasian Shovelers, Freckled Ducks and Yellow-billed Spoonbills, most of them in large numbers according to several blogs and web sites. I have made many trips to the area in the last few months but have not seen any of these species except for 2 Freckled Ducks on one occasion. Since the reports have been more frequent and larger numbers of all these species in the area recently I thought I would go for another look with a few friends to help me scan the dams, lakes and lagoons. It seemed to be a sure thing as just the day before all of these species had been sighted in large numbers in many spots, by several people in the Lockyer Valley.
We arrived at the first location before 9 o'clock and we left the Lockyer Valley just after 2 o'clock. It was a glorious day. A warm day of about 29 degrees and hardly a cloud in the sky all day. A perfect day for bird watching.
We arrived at Atkinson's Dam first. There were heaps of Australian Pelicans here along with heaps of Eurasian Coots, Little Black Cormorants and numerous Black Swans, Australasian Grebes, Great Crested Grebes, Grey Teal and Pink-eared Ducks. We didn't stay here for long as all of these species I have photographed before and most of them were quite a distance from the bank which made it near impossible to obtain decent photographs.

A postcard shot of the Australian Pelicans

We headed to Seven Mile Lagoon next. All the same species were seen here that were at Atkinson's Dam along with several Black-winged Stilts, Masked Lapwings, Magpie-larks, Intermediate Egrets, Great Egrets and possibly a few thousand (at the most) Pink-eared Ducks spread over several flocks. Hardheads were also very common. Two Freckled Ducks were also spotted. I didn't take many photos here either due to the distance between myself and the birds.

Black-winged Stilt

Australian Pelicans flying in formation over Seven Mile Lagoon

A Black Swan with some Pink-eared Ducks

Great Egret at Seven Mile Lagoon

Great Egret just after landing in the water

On the way to our next destination one of my friends spotted this Nankeen Kestrel on the power pole on the side of the road. This is the first time I have photographed this particular bird.

Nankeen Kestrel

The same Nankeen Kestrel

Our next stop was Lake Clarendon. Here we found basically all the same birds as the first two locations, just in lower numbers.  Pacific Black Ducks were also common here. While we were here we did see several Cockatiels, Grey-crowned Babblers and a large flock of Whistling Kites. In total there were approximately 40 - 50 birds circling the lake.

A Black Swan up ending searching for food

Part of the flock of Whistling Kites

Our next location was Jahnke's Lagoon. This lagoon had a large number of species for the size of the body of water. Basically the same water birds were seen again as the other locations except no Australian Pelicans were seen. Many Plumed Whistling-Ducks were present along with a couple of Little Pied Cormorants.

Mixed flock of Plumed Whistling-Ducks, Pink-eared Ducks, Grey Teal, Eurasian Coots and Little Black Cormorants

Same species as above with a Little Pied Cormorant

Pink-eared Ducks

Great Egret

Our next stop was Pechey's Lagoon. We went to lagoon 1 and 2. This area is beautiful. The surrounding bush had many birds calling out. One of the birds I was unable to identify by call. We didn't go looking for the birds in the bush as we had a limited time at each place. After scanning the waters of the lagoon basically the only birds we could see were a few Black Swans and Pacific Black Ducks along with heaps of Eurasian Coots and Plumed Whistling-Ducks. We didn't keep many photos from here as we already have heaps of good quality photographs of these birds and they are extremely common in SEQ.

Our second last place to visit was Karasch's Lagoon. This lagoon had the same species of water birds again that we had seen at the other locations. Several Red-kneed Dotterels and a few Black-fronted Dotterels were spotted also. In the surrounding trees we saw a couple of Little Corellas, heaps of Common Mynas, several Australian White-Ibis and Scaly-breasted Loikeets.

Pink-eared Duck

Little Pied Cormorant

Black-winged Stilt

A pair of Little Corellas

Australian White-Ibis

Our last stop before heading home was Lake Galletly at The University of Queensland, Gatton Campus. There were mainly Magpie Geese. There were possibly a 150 in total. Other than that there were a few dozen Pink-eared Ducks, Grey Teal, Plumed Whistling-Ducks, Eurasian Coots, Australasian Grebes and several Hardheads. Red-kneed Dotterels and a few Black-fronted Dotterels were also sighted. In the trees around the lake several Grey Fantails were seen as well as 50 or more Superb Fairy-wrens. The Superb Fairy-wrens are not near as photogenic as the Variegated or Red-backed Fairy-wrens. I had a few issues with the focussing of the camera too while trying to photograph them which didn't help, hence the quality of the photograph.

Pink-eared Ducks circling searching for food

Magpie Geese preening

A couple of Magpie Geese with some Plumed Whistling-Ducks

Another couple of Pink-eared Ducks

Grey Fantail

Superb Fairy-wren

Magpie Goose

After visiting all these locations and having a good look at each spot plus scanning all the smaller waterholes and dams along the way we failed to find the species we were after. It was still a great day out and we got a few good shots and saw a new species. One of my friends got to see many new species on the trip as this was her first time birding in the Lockyer Valley.

After I got home that evening I saw that there were another few reports that said that most of the species I was looking for were sighted in the same places that we visited, by a few different people. I must be very unlucky. I know that the birds can move from place to place throughout the day but what is the chances of not seeing any of the species I was looking for, at any location yet others were able to see them around the same time (within a few hours at the most) at the same place? 

The one that confuses me the most is the Hoary-headed Grebe. Grebes will stay on a given body of water until nightfall. They don't travel during the day except very short distances if they are attacked, usually still on the same body of water. At one of the smallest locations that I visited apparently the Hoary-headed Grebes were sighted by others. I would nearly guarantee that they were not present at this location as we had two good quality cameras scanning the water and reeds plus a good set of binoculars.

If they were sighted on Atkinson's Dam or Seven Mile Lagoon I could understand as they are huge bodies of water and they could easily be missed. Pechey's Lagoon is quite small and easily observed. I have no doubt that the birds have been seen by people in the area and in the numbers they are saying but I think some of the reports could be inaccurate too. I think I will take sightings and blogs with a grain of salt from now on as anybody can post bird sightings on web sites really. Without a photo, or good equipment mistakes can be made on identifications. To be honest I thought I spotted the Hoary-headed Grebes on two occasions that day. After getting a more detailed view or shot I realised that they weren't, they were in fact juvenile Australasian Grebes.

Anyway that's enough about that. I hope I haven't offended anyone in the last few paragraphs, as that is not my intention.

More updates and pics coming soon.

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Birding at Inskip Point

Last weekend a few friends and I decided to go for a drive to Inskip Point to do some birding. We left early in hope to see the Ground Parrot. We arrived just after sunrise in the area off Cooloola Way which is recommended by T&T for sighting the bird. We had the call of the bird also which we played in hope that they would answer. Luck was not on our side. We didn't manage to hear or see one for the few hours we spent in the general area.

The ground was quite wet. I'm not sure if this effects the birds at all.

Habitat for the Ground Parrot

Heathland near Cooloola Way

Other side of the track where Ground Parrots are seen
Just as we were about to leave a quail came running down the track. Unluckily for me I had the camera put away. By the time I got it out I just managed to get this quick shot (terribly out of focus due to the grass between the quail and myself) of the Brown Quail.
Brown Quail

All the creeks and waterways in the whole area are this beautiful rich colour from all the tannins in the water. Just need to add a little milk!

All the waterways are this rich colour

As we were driving back out the track we spotted a couple of Striated Pardalotes digging a nest tunnel in the moist bank.

Striated Pardalote

Just before we got back onto Cooloola Way my friend spotted this Australian Hobby. I was very pleased to photograph this bird as it is the first time I have seen them.

Australian Hobby

A closer shot of the Australian Hobby

The next place to go was the camping area around Inskip Point. This area is one of the most reliable places for spotting the Black-breasted Button Quail in Australia. We took the walking track to the left at the end of the car park which leads to the ferry. This area was alive with birds. There were numerous White-browed Scrubwrens, Variegated Fairy-wrens, Little Shrike-thrushes, Restless Flycatchers, Spangled Drongos, Bar-shouldered Doves, Varied Trillers plus many lorikeets and other common scrub birds.

White-browed Scrubwren

Bar-shouldered Dove

The signs of the Black-breasted Button Quail being in the area were very obvious. We found hundreds of platelets that they create while digging for food. We found no fresh platelets though. They had all been rained on so it had been at least 4 days since any new ones had been created. Many of them looked quite old. I spoke to a ranger as he drove passed and said that dogs in the area have been causing issues and they are unsure of the impact they have had on the population there.

One of the many platelets made by the Black-breasted Button Quail

Male Varied Triller

Female Varied Triller

This Thornbill was spotted collecting something from out of an ant's nest in the tree. They aren't ants though. I'm not quite sure which Thornbill this is, as I think it is a juvenile coming into colour. I know that it is either a Yellow Thornbill or a Brown Thornbill due to the colour of its eye and some of the markings it is showing already. The Brown Thornbills vary so much in colour from region to region and to be honest I have never seen them myself, hence why I'm not certain of which Thornbill it is. I'm quite sure that it is a Brown Thornbill.

Yellow or Brown Thornbill?

A Yellow or Brown Thornbill collecting something from the nest

Restless Flycatcher

Another Restless Flycatcher

The bushland around the area is quite different from many areas around the Sunshine Coast. The different shapes and sizes and formations of the trees is really something. It is a beautiful area to come visit.

Some of the scrub around Cooloola Way

Once we had finished looking for birds at Inskip Point we drove out along the beach to make our way back to Rainbow Beach. The Silver Gull in the picture below was the only water or sea bird that I saw for the day. It was very busy in the area and any sea birds that still might be here wouldn't be seen with that amount of traffic. Hopefully I can try again in the near future a little bit earlier before too many people arrive.

View driving along the beach from Inskip Point to Rainbow Beach
It was a great day out even though we didn't see the 2 birds that Inskip Point is best known for. We got to see many birds and we managed to get a few good pics too.
More updates and pics coming soon.

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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Birding in the Maroochy River at Maroochydore

On Monday myself and three friends decided to go out birding on the Maroochy River. Two of my friends had a small boat so they towed their boat down and we went out on that. The weather didn't look too good as we arrived with a few showers but the sun came out within a few minutes and we only had a few light showers for the entire morning. It was a mixture of sun and cloud cover for the morning so I found myself constantly changing the settings on the camera. We were unsure of what we would see but it was one of the most successful birding trips for any of us for the number of new species that we saw in such a short time. We were mainly after water and sea birds and we found a good number of species.

A few minutes after we took to the water we spotted a pair of Ospreys on the northern bank of the river in a dead tree. We were unable to get through to photograph them though. Just as we were pulling away from the bank one come and landed in the tree on the edge of the bank.


The same Osprey

While we were photographing the Osprey a Brahminy Kite was spotted gliding across the river.

Brahminy Kite

We then spotted a large bird in a tree on the bank of Goat Island. We thought it may be a White-bellied Sea-Eagle. As we got a little closer we realised it wasn't near big enough and eventually we saw that it was another Osprey.

Another Osprey

While photographing this Osprey a bird flew from the edge of the bank and landed on a mangrove just down from where we were.  We slowly moved the boat closer and found a Whimbrel. This specimen showed very well and was not fazed by the approaching boat. This is the first time I have ever seen a wader roosting in a tree. We were able to get within 15 meters of the bird to obtain some great shots.

A Whimbrel perched on a mangrove

One of my mates spotted a Pied Oystercatcher just a bit further up the bank. So we slowly moved towards it. As we got closer we realised it was missing one foot. Most likely it had been tangled in fishing line. The missing foot had healed over and it seemed to get around without any problems. It was sad to see the bird like this but great that it had adapted.

Pied Oystercatcher

As soon as we got these photos a White-faced Heron landed on a tree back near where we photographed the Whimbrel. I could see that the position it was in and the lighting was perfect so we went back to get a photo. I got a couple of great shots before it flew off and landed in the same tree the Whimbrel was in. The Whimbrel didn't want the company as it flew off as the heron landed.

White-faced Heron

The White-faced Heron landing and the Whimbrel taking flight

We decided to head towards the mouth of the river on the northern bank of the river. We could see many sea birds flying around. As we were approaching we could see that dogs were chasing the birds from the sand. We could see that most of the birds had disappeared by the time we got there thanks to irresponsible dog owners.

We started walking along the sand and we noticed many small birds standing on the sand. Like many birds they were resting on one leg. As we approached we saw one jumping away on one leg. I was saddened to think another bird had been disfigured. As we came closer to the flock we saw most of the birds were jumping along the sand on one leg. We realised that is how they move short distances as shortly after they had two legs on the ground and began to scurry along the sand. The two species that remained on the sand were a small flock of about 15 Red-capped Plovers and about 20 Double-banded Plovers. This was the first time I had seen either of these species.

A Red-capped Plover preening

Red-capped Plover

Double-banded Plover

Part of the flock of Double-banded Plovers

Another Double-banded Plover

A Double-banded Plover at North Shore

Another Red-capped Plover

As we were heading back to the boat we noticed a lone Gull-billed Tern standing on the sand. It was quite approachable. We managed to get a few good shots before it took flight.

Gull-billed Tern

Gull-billed Tern in flight

As we were getting back on the boat we could see many birds sitting on a sandbank in the river. As we approached we could see that there was a pair of Pied Oystercatchers and a flock of Whimbrels resting. At the back of the sandbank we noticed one larger bird that looked very similar to the Whimbrels except for the size difference and the massive bill. It was a single Eastern Curlew, which is actually the world's largest wader. None of the birds even moved as we steadily moved the boat  as close as we could get to the sandbank.

A flock of Whimbrels resting on the sandbank

Close up of some of the resting Whimbrels

Eastern Curlew

Pied Oystercatcher

As we moved the boat back towards the mouth of the river my friends spotted some of the birds that flew off when they were chased by dogs. They had landed on one of the bigger sandbanks in the river away from the dogs. It took quite a while to get around to this sandbank as we had to take it steady as the water was so shallow for much of the route. Just before we arrived we could see a few children, probably 8 to 12 years old chasing all the birds continuously. As soon as they landed away from the kids they would run after them and chase them again. The 2 older men that were with them didn't even seem to mind about the problems the children were causing. I wanted to say something to them about chasing the birds around but my mates talked me out of it. Once we arrived they left on their boat which I was very pleased about, otherwise I may not have been able to stop myself. It is sad to think that these people had no respect for the birds.

The flock was a mixed flock of many different species. The larger part of the flock that was closer probably consisted of 300 - 400 birds. At the back of the sandbank was another smaller mixed flock of about 100 - 150 birds. I didn't attempt to view the smaller flock as I would have disturbed the larger flock to get to them. Some of the species in the flock were Silver Gulls,  Pacific Golden Plovers, Crested Terns, Common Terns, Little Terns and White-winged Black Terns.

Part of the larger flock

Another section of the large mixed flock

Four Pacific Golden Plovers (background)

Crested Tern

Some more coming in to land

Common Terns taking a bath

Common Terns with a Little Tern

More Common Terns with another Little Tern

Crested Terns, Common Terns and White-winged Black Terns

Golden Plovers, Common Terns and White-winged Black Terns

White-winged Black Tern coming in to land 

An Australian Pelican flying overhead

White-winged Black Tern in full breeding plumage (centre) 


Part of the mixed flock after some more arrived

More of the mixed flock after some other birds arrived

Common Tern

Little Tern

Crested Tern, Common Terns and White-winged Black Terns

Silver Gull, Common Terns and White-winged Black Terns
Artic Tern (front) with Common Terns

Common Tern coming in to land

This Crested Tern just landed

Four Golden Plovers with a Silver Gull and a variety of terns

We had a great morning out with lots of bird sightings and we managed to get a lot of great shots. It was great going out with some different people as well. Hopefully we can do it again soon.

More updates and pics coming soon.

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