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, 10 February 2018

Rainbow Beach & Cooloola February 2018

Beach Stone-Curlew
We camped for three nights this week at Pt Carlos, outside Rainbow Beach. There was no sign of the Large-tailed Nightjars that were so evident here in September 2016. A family of Bush Stone-Curlews in the camping ground were the first birds we saw.

Bush Stone-Curlew
Shorebirds on the sandflats at low tide included good numbers of Red-necked Stint, Grey-tailed Tattler, Pacific Golden Plover, Lesser Sand-Plover and Bar-tailed Godwits in breeding plumage (elist).

Bar-tailed Godwit

Grey-tailed Tattler

Lesser Sand-Plover

Pacific Golden-Plover
A Squirrel Glider was spotted above our camp and a Common Ringtail emerged from its hiding place in a bunch of mistletoe after being harassed by miners.

Common Ringtail

Squirrel Glider
I visited the spit at Inskip Point several times in the hope of more interesting shorebird fare but exceptionally high tides didn't help. There were very large numbers of Little Tern, with Common Tern in smaller numbers. Three Double-banded Plovers in non-breeding plumage - suggesting they had oversummered - were of interest, as was a trio of Beach Stone-Curlews, including a fledged youngster.

Double-banded Plover

Little Tern
A Frilled Lizard along the road was nice; the Great Sandy World Heritage Area is one of the most southerly known sites for this iconic species. There was no sign at all of Black-breasted Buttonquail at Inskip Point - not even old platelets; clearly they are gone from this site. Nobody is sure why as they had been there for many years and disappeared relatively quickly. It could be that a feral cat learned the art of catching them, in which case the entire population would be doomed. 

Frilled Lizard

Frilled Lizard
At Bullocks Head a female Shining Flycatcher showed nicely in the mangroves, as did a pair of Torresian Kingfishers (elist).

Shining Flycatcher

Torresian Kingfisher
I visited the Noosa Plain of Cooloola in the early morning. I heard three Eastern Ground Parrots calling just before dawn and flushed a male King Quail from the track. Then I saw a Brush Bronzewing on the track, about half-way between the pump station and the area of damp heath. As usual it was extremely skittish and this distant image was all I managed.  A recently fledged Channel-billed Cuckoo flew overhead (elist).

Channel-billed Cuckoo

Brush Bronzewing

I visited the rainforest at Bymien - where plenty of Rose-crowned Fruit-Doves and a few Wompoo Fruit-Doves were calling - and Lake Poona.

Lake Poona
 Some more of the birds seen in the area generally follow.

Little Egret

Scarlet Honeyeater

Striated Heron

Wompoo Fruit-Dove

Friday, 26 January 2018

Grey Ternlet at Mooloolaba

Grey Noddy found this week at Mooloolaba - Pic by Matt Harvey
A second Grey Ternlet (Noddy) has turned up on the Sunshine Coast. This bird was found on January 23 on rocks at Mooloolaba and taken to Twinnies Pelican and Seabird Rescue at Landsborough,  from where it was transferred to Australia Zoo's veterinary facility.

Unfortunately the ternlet had to be put down. According to Australia Zoo wildlife rescue worker Matt Harvey, the bird showed signs of extensive physical damage including a broken wing, head trauma and bleeding. The ternlet may have been seriously wounded during an attack by another animal, or it may have faltered at sea and sustained injuries when washed up on the rocks.

Grey Noddy seen on January 7 off Mooloolaba
The find was almost two weeks after a Grey Ternlet was seen on the January 7 Mooloolaba pelagic just 20km offshore. The species is a very rare visitor to Queensland waters.

Matt also reports that a juvenile White-tailed Tropicbird was found in an emaciated condition at Sunshine Beach on January 21.

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

South Pacific Cruise Part 2: Lifou Island & Port Vila

Metallic Pigeon
We had two landings during our recent South Pacific Cruise – Lifou in the Loyalty Islands and Port Vila, the capital of Vanuatu.

Easo, Lifou Island

Pacific Dawn, Lifou Island 
On Lifou, part of New Caledonia, we were ferried to shore in the village of Easo in tender boats from the ship, Pacific Dawn. Here I waved down a driver who took me 6km north to the village of Mukaweng, where I walked further north birding along the road to Joking for about 2km. I had gleaned from trip reports and Google Earth that this might be a good area for the two endemic white-eyes.

Small Lifou White-eye
Lifou Island: Mukaweng-Joking Road
Small Lifou White-eye was common and easy to find, as was the distinctive Lifou Island race of Silvereye.

Large Lifou White-eye
Large Lifou White-eye was harder to track down and is often missed by observers, but after 1.5 hours I finally heard its call and found two birds. Of particular interest also was a single Phylloscopus warbler seen in two places on the island; as far as I am aware no leaf-warblers are known from the Loyalty Islands. I also saw a New Caledonian Friarbird, which is not supposed to be on the Loyalty Islands.

Dark-brown Honeyeater
Other birds included Dark-brown Honeyeater. Brown Goshawk, South Melanesian Cuckoo-shrike and Cardinal Myzomela. A single Melanesian Whistler was seen. I arranged to meet the driver who dropped me off late in the morning (I was on the road for a total of 2.5 hours) to return to Easo and the ship; I paid the driver $A20 for his troubles. Ebird list for Lifou Island.

Port Vila Harbour

Port Vila - at the Summit Gardens
At Port Vila we hired a taxi for 3 hours for $80 and drove to the Summit Gardens outside the city. From here there is a spectacular view over the scenic harbour, and some nice forest where I was able to find my only two possible lifers in this part of the world – Yellow-fronted (Vanuatu) White-eye and Tanna Fruit-Dove.

Pacific Imperial-Pigeon

Yellow-fronted White-eye
Other birds included Pacific Imperial-Pigeon, Melanesian Whistler (supposedly the same species on the Loyalty Islands) and Red-bellied Fruit-Dove.

Markets at Port Vila
Later in the afternoon I walked through a forest patch along a road behind where the ship is berthed. This was very birdy indeed with the above-mentioned species recorded along with others including Metallic Pigeon and Melanesian Flycatcher. Birders alighting from a cruise in Port Vila need look no further than the scrub behind the port. Elist for the Port Vila port site is here. Seabirds seen on the cruise are covered in a separate post.

Melanesian Flycatcher female

Melanesian Flycatcher male

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Long-toed Stint in Brisbane

A Long-toed Stint turning up in Brisbane was hard to resist as this species is a very rare visitor to Queensland. A Long-toed Stint was first found by Ged Tranter at Tinchi Tamba Wetland in northern Brisbane on January 17. It appeared to have left the site when Michael Daley found a stint at Kedron Brook Wetland, not too far away, on January 21. Since then two Long-toed Stints have been seen together at the latter site.

I was at Kedron Brook yesterday and Chris Attewell was kind enough to point us in the direction of where the bird had been hanging out. Over the next couple of hours the stint showed nicely as it foraged among Sharp-tailed Sandpipers, Red-necked Stints and Red-kneed Dotterels at the southern end of the wetland.

With that toe showing
The bird occasionally flew short distances from this area when chased by Sharp-tailed Sandpipers but would return soon after. The stint however gave as good as it got, chasing both Red-necked Stints and Sharp-tailed Sandpipers at times. It was easy to steady the lens on the scope and watch the birds across a short stretch of water without disturbing them. It was not until later in the day it emerged that two birds were present, so I am not entirely sure that all of my images were of the same individual.

With Red-kneed Dotterel
I've seen this species in Queensland just once before – a single bird with Chris Corben at what is now Lake Bindegolly in January 1972, which at the time was the second record for Queensland.  

With Red-necked Stint

With Red-necked Stint & Sharp-tailed Sandpiper

Sunday, 21 January 2018

South Pacific Cruise Part 1 – The Seabirds

Red-footed Booby
We've just returned from a week-long South Pacific cruise aboard P&O's Pacific Dawn. Gusty northerlies in Brisbane delayed departure from the Hamilton cruise terminal by 7 hours which meant missing our first port of call, Noumea in New Caledonia - no great loss as we've been there before. Our two other landings – the New Caledonian island of Lifou and Port Vila, Vanuatu – are the subject of a separate post.

Red-footed Booby

Red-footed Booby
Typically for tropical sea cruises, it was not unusual for several hours to pass without a single seabird showing. Easily the commonest bird at sea was Wedge-tailed Shearwater, which was nonetheless scarce for much of the time in the Coral Sea, but abundant in waters around New Caledonia and Vanuatu. 

Wedge-tailed Shearwater
Another problem was that our approaches to land were at night, so while at sea we were generally in very deep water.

Red-footed Booby - intermediate phase (L) light phase (R)
The second commonest bird was Red-footed Booby, which first showed in Australian territorial waters on the first day and was a regular presence around the ship. As many as 20 boobies would be wheeling around the vessel, trying to catch flying fish which skimmed across the water as they were disturbed by the boat. About two-thirds of the boobies were dark phase and a third pale phase, with many showing characteristics of both phases.

Red-footed Booby - juvenile
Flying fish

Masked Booby
I also saw just one Masked Booby, about 20nm north of New Caledonia.

Brown Booby
Two Brown Boobies rounded out the booby haul.

Sooty Tern
Sooty Terns were common throughout. I saw 3 White-tailed Tropicbirds and 2 Red-tailed Tropicbirds scattered across the voyage but all were distant and these lousy images were all that I managed. A big disadvantage of cruise ship seabirding is the generally considerable distance between the observer and birds, but birds were not the primary reason for this trip.

White-tailed Tropicbird

Red-tailed Tropicbird
I saw just 4 Pterodroma petrels: 2 Gould's Petrels and 2 that were too far to be identified, with none offering a picture opportunity. Apart from the spectacular antics of the Red-footed Boobies, the highlight of the trip was a White Tern in the Coral Sea on the last day in Australian territorial waters – 24.6797S; 155.5082E – 115nm east of Fraser Island. Unfortunately, as the image shows, the bird was typically distant. I've tried without success to enter this sighting on ebird; for some reason it will not accept any starting time.