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.

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Hervey Bay & Boonooroo – Dec 2017

Pacific Swift
It was time for what has become an annual camp-out in the Hervey Bay area. Waterways and wetlands were full following heavy rains recently. At Arkarra Lagoons, 3 pairs of Magpie-Goose had goslings in tow and another 6-8 pairs were on nests. Other birds included Rose-crowned Fruit-Dove, Fairy Gerygone and Nankeen Night-Heron. Arkarra Lagoons ebird list.

Of interest at Pt Vernon was a flock of 70 Pacific Swifts hawking for insects along the shoreline, with a handful of White-throated Needletails in the mix.

Pacific Swift

Pacific Swift
A Rainbow Bee-Eater here made short work of a dragonfly.

Rainbow Bee-Eater
Good numbers of Greater Sand-Plover, Lesser Sand-Plover and Pacific Gold Plover were present at the high hide roosts at The Gables and nearby Gatakers Bay.

Greater Sand-Plover, Lesser Sand-Plover, Pacific Golden Plover
Grey-tailed Tattlers roosting on rocks demonstrated the pitfalls of identifying tattlers on the basis of habitat, more suited here to their Wandering cousins. Pt Vernon ebird list.

Grey-tailed Tattler
I visited Garnetts Lagoon with local birder John Knight but high water levels meant not much of interest was about, other than a couple of Brown Songlarks.   A large colony of waterbirds was nesting on a lagoon in Ann Street, Urangan, near the Hervey Bay Botanic Gardens. All 4 species of egret were nesting along with a few Little Pied Cormorants and Little Black Cormorants, and large numbers of Australian White Ibis.

Cattle Egret

Intermediate Egret & Cattle Egret

Little Egret
After moving on to Maryborough, Brown Songlarks were present also along Dimond Road, where a pair of Pale-vented Bush-hen were flushed from flooded grasslandVery high king tides (3.6m) made the going tough at the shorebird roosts of Boonooroo and Maaroom. Large numbers of Eastern Curlew and Bar-tailed Godwit were present as usual but there was no sign of the Asian Dowitchers which I found during my last two visits. Boonooroo ebird list.

Bar-tailed Godwits

Eastern Curlews
A flock of 50 Marsh Sandpipers were at Maaroom.

Marsh Sandpipers
A male Shining Flycatcher was a nice find in mangroves near the jetty at Maaroom. Maaroom ebird list.

Shining Flycatcher

Shining Flycatcher

Monday, 27 November 2017

Sunshine Coast Pelagic - November 25, 2017

Cook's Petrel
A prolonged period of ideal weather conditions – E-SE winds of 10-20 knots consistently over the past couple of weeks – together with a highly successful pelagic off Southport on November 18 prompted us at short notice to head out for the second time this month. We departed Mooloolaba Marina at 6.30am with a forecast of 10-15 knots SE looking promising on what turned out to be a partially cloudy daily with occasional showers and a maximum temperature of 28C.

Wilson's Storm-Petrel
We were up against a vigorous 1.5m-2m swell on the way out, but the large size and deep hull of Crusader 1 - operated by Sunshine Coast family company Sunshine Coast Afloat helped ease the discomfort. Again, Wedge-tailed Shearwaters were in alarmingly small numbers in inshore waters for reasons which remain unclear. A flock of Short-tailed Shearwaters, a single Hutton's Shearwater and a dark phase Arctic Jaeger were seen as we headed east.

Wilson's Storm-Petrel
We cut the engine just off the shelf in 220 fathoms at 9.20am – the rough ride having slowed us down a bit – 32 nautical miles offshore: 26.38738S, 153.42603E. We began laying a berley trail – thanks Rob Morris for getting the berley side of things sorted at short notice – and the first Wilson's Storm-Petrel was quickly on the scene. We had Wilson's about in some numbers for the whole time we were out wide, often very close to the boat, and it was the most common bird of the day.

Cook's Petrel
A large ray surfaced close to the boat before we saw an interesting petrel several hundred metres to the north. It was most likely a White-necked Petrel, but the bird didn't oblige by coming in closer.
An hour later we noticed two small Pterodroma petrels in the distance to the south and this time one of them followed the slick up to the boat. It was a Cook's Petrel which showed nicely if briefly at close quarters. This is a rare species in Australian waters and only the second time it has been seen in Queensland.

Cook's Petrel
The weather turned out to be pretty much as forecast. Tahiti Petrel was seen regularly. 

Tahiti Petrel
Wedge-tailed Shearwaters remained thin on the water. The occasional Short-tailed Shearwater checked out the slick, as did a single Flesh-footed Shearwater.

Short-tailed Shearwater
Completely unexpected was an immature Great Cormorant which flew in and hung around for a while, looking more than a little out of place.

Great Cormorant
A single Sooty Tern flew high overhead, as did a single Pomarine Jaeger.  A pod of Pantropical Spotted Dolphins surfaced shortly before we pulled up stumps and turned around at 12.50pm, having drifted just 1.5 nautical miles during the 3.5 hours we were off the shelf. We arrived back at the marina at 3.20pm. 

Sooty Tern
PARTICIPANTS: Richard Taylor (skipper), Zoe Williams (deckhand), Greg Roberts (organiser), Margie Baker, Tony Baker, Chris Burwell, Antonia Burwell, Felicia Chan, Wan Fang Chen, Alex Ferguson, Rick Franks, James Galea, John Gunning, James Martin, Rob Morris, Steve Murray, Gerry Richards, Carolyn Scott, Ross Sinclair, Natalie Sinclair, Jim Sneddon, Andrew Stafford, Andrew Sutherland, Ged Tranter, Paul Walbridge. E-list.

SPECIES : Total (Maximum at one time)

Cook's Petrel 1 (1),
Tahiti Petrel 30 (6),
Wedge-tailed Shearwater 35 (8),
Short-tailed Shearwater 25 (20),
Flesh-footed Shearwater 1 (1),
Hutton's Shearwater 1 (1),
Wilson's Storm-Petrel 60 (15),
Crested Tern 30 (8),
Sooty Tern 1 (1),
Arctic Jaeger 1 (1),
Pomarine Jaeger 1 (1),
Great Cormorant 1 (1).

Pantropical Spotted Dolphin 15 (6).

Monday, 20 November 2017

Yandina Creek Wetland Officially Opened

Yandina Creek Wetland
Queensland Environment Minister Steven Miles and UnityWater Chairman Jim Soorley today officially opened the Yandina Creek Wetland on the Sunshine Coast.

Steven Miles & Jim Soorley opening the wetland
Here is Unity Water's Statement:
Unitywater bought the 191-hectare site last year as a green alternative to upgrading sewage treatment plants in the area.
The site is former cane farming land and as part of Unitywater’s management of the site, flood gates will be opened to restore the area to a wetland.
Minister Miles said the wetland will act as a natural filter and remove nutrients and sediments from Maroochy River.
“The wetland will remove about 5.3 tonnes of total nitrogen a year – it’s an environmental win that this can be achieved naturally,” Minister Miles said.
“The wetland plants will take up nutrients from the river and help maintain water quality.
“We are proud of Unitywater’s commitment to this site and the natural environment.”

First bird surveys of the wetland underway
BirdLife Australia members at the wetland
 Unitywater Chairman Jim Soorley said Unitywater had partnered with Birdlife Southern Queensland and the University of the Sunshine Coast to help manage the site.
“Birdlife Southern Queensland volunteers are undertaking quarterly bird surveys for the next three years,” he said.
“The first survey was completed recently and 41 different types of birds were spotted on site, with 211 spotted in total.
“We’re also undertaking a five-year study with the University of the Sunshine Coast, which will assess the fisheries habitat in the wetland and focus on fish, prawns and crabs compared with other sites.
“Our vision for the future is to open the site up to the public for bird watching and walking trails, for locals and visitors to get back to nature.
“And with the solar farm just across the road, we look forward to working with Sunshine Coast Council and the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection to create a dynamic environmental education hub here.
“Unitywater is committed to maintaining the natural state of the wetland and working with neighbours and other stakeholders for many years to come.”

Saturday, 18 November 2017

Lockyer Valley November 2017

Blue-winged Kookaburra
Among nice birds encountered during a foray into the Lockyer and Brisbane valleys were Blue-winged Kookaburra, Freckled Duck, White-winged Chough, Hoary-headed Grebe, loads of Rufous and Brown Songlarks, Red-necked Avocet and Black-tailed Godwit. I started out along Cove Road, Stanmore, where a pair of Cotton Pygmy-Geese were on one of the farm dams. Moving on to Toogoolawah, an immature Nankeen Night-Heron was flushed from a roadside ditch. Plenty of Rufous Songlarks were in the grasslands east of the town; they proved to be unusually common throughout the region.

Nankeen Night-Heron

Rufous Songlark
Atkinsons Dam was about half-full. An estimated 500 Whiskered Terns, many in breeding plumage, were feeding over the lake's shallow waters. A pair of Wandering Whistling-Ducks here is unusual for this part of the world. ebird list.

Wandering Whistling-Duck

Whiskered Tern
Seven Mile Lagoon was nicely full. Huge numbers of birds were concentrated here, mainly Eurasian Coot, Hardhead, Grey Teal, Black Swan and Pacific Black Duck. Several Brown Songlarks were displaying and they too were found in several other spots during the day ahead. At least 10 Hoary-headed Grebes could be made out in the distance along with small groups of Pink-eared Duck and a few Glossy Ibis. A Swamp Harrier was quartering the flooded grassland.

Grey Teal, Hardhead, Eurasian Coot

Swamp Harrier
Continuing west along Nangara Road I came across a party of White-winged Choughs – a scarce species in south-east Queensland including the Lockyer Valley, despite the presence of plenty of suitable habitat.

White-winged Chough
I walked most of the way around Lake Clarendon, focusing on the northern end where a concentration of fallen and dead trees makes for interesting habitat. At least 150 Sharp-tailed Sandpipers were here but no sign of the Pectoral Sandpiper seen earlier in the season. Good numbers of Red-kneed Dotterels were present.

Red-kneed Dotterel & Sharp-tailed Sandpiper
Other migratory shorebirds were 1 Black-tailed Godwit, 1 Marsh Sandpiper and 2 Red-necked Stints. Two Red-necked Avocets were there and 2 Freckled Ducks were seen distantly. Pink-eared Duck and Australasian Shoveler were present in small numbers as were all 3 grebe species – Australasian, Hoary-headed and Great Crested. ebird list.

Black-tailed Godwit & Glossy Ibis
Fairy Martins were abundant and nesting everywhere.

Fairy Martin
At Lake Galletly, 3 Pink-eared Ducks were among several hundred Magpie Geese. Pairs of Pink-eared Ducks were scattered around several farm dams in the valley.

Pink-eared Duck
Cockatiels were plentiful along the road on the way to Forest Hill.

I found a Blue-winged Kookaburra at Forest Hill in the same spot where they were seen in 2015 by Roger Jaensch, suggesting they are resident here. This species is rare in south-east Queensland; the Lockyer Valley is one of the few areas in the region where it is occasionally encountered. The species may be declining in south-east Queensland. For many years it was resident at Wivenhoe Crossing and at Lake Clarendon, but it turns up only rarely at Lake Clarendon these days and has disappeared entirely from Wivenhoe Crossing. ebird list.

Blue-winged Kookaburra
Some wetlands such as Jahnke's Lagoon and Karrasch's Dam were empty despite the heavy Spring rains that fell over south-east Queensland. Peach's Lagoon had a bit of water but not much was there other than a Little Bronze Cuckoo. A flock of 22 Red-necked Avocets was on a farm dam near Laidley.

Monday, 6 November 2017

Sunshine Coast Pelagic - November 5, 2017

Short-tailed Shearwater flock
We departed Mooloolaba Marina for the Sunshine Coast Pelagic on Sunday November 5, 2017 at 6.40am with tempered expectations in view of the forecast 10-knot south-easterly. A good start was a Wandering Tattler on the breakwater rocks as we left the Mooloolah River.

We noted as we headed east that numbers of Wedge-tailed Shearwaters were low. Given that we pass through waters off Mudjimba Island, which hosts an important nesting population - 2700 burrows were recorded in 1997 - this is cause for concern. We saw several flocks of Short-tailed Shearwaters, all of which were determinedly heading in a southerly direction.

Mudjimba Island
We stopped to lay a berley trail at 9.20am 32 nautical miles offshore in 300 fathoms: 26.4009S, 153.4190E. A fine, sunny day prevailed (max 29) with a 1.5m swell. However, there was no wind, not even a breeze. If there is one thing worse that the dreaded northerlies on these trips, it is no wind at all. I can remember just a handful occasions previously where there has been zero wind all day. Unfortunately, that was our lot this day.

Wedge-tailed Shearwater
A Wilson's Storm-Petrel appeared after 30 minutes but little more, so we ventured further out to 500 fathoms 36nm offshore. It made no difference bird-wise, although we did attract several decent-sized sharks, which appeared to be Bronze Whalers. A handful of Wilson's Storm-Petrels and small numbers of Wedge-tailed Shearwaters and Crested Terns were all the birds we saw before we turned around at 12.30pm. We tried our luck again with a third berley trail in 250 fathoms before heading back at 12.50pm.

Wilson's Storm-Petrel
A dark phase Arctic Jaeger, a pod of Short-beaked Common Dolphins, and several more flocks of Short-tailed Shearwaters were of interest on the way in. We returned to the marina at 3.30pm. Once again, all aboard were impressed with the comforts and space of our boat, Crusader 1, run by Sunshine Coast family company Sunshine Coast Afloat.

PARTICIPANTS: Greg Roberts (organiser), Toby Imhoff (skipper), Zoe Williams (deckhand),
Margie Baker, Tony Baker, Devon Bull, Locky Cordell, Phil Cross, Jo Culinan, Alex Ferguson, John Gunning, Nikolas Haass, Barrie Harding, John Houssenloge, Mary Hynes, Elliot Leach, James Martin, Maggie Overend, Steve Popple, Carol Popple, Andrew Sides-McHugh, Mary Sides-McHugh, Raja Stephenson, Kevin Webb

SPECIES: Total (Max at one time)
Wilson's Storm Petrel 7 (3)
Wedge-tailed Shearwater 20 (4)
Short-tailed Shearwater 200 (40)
Silver Gull 2 (1)
Crested Tern 15 (4)
Arctic Jaeger 1 (1)

Short-beaked Common Dolphin 6 (6)

Friday, 3 November 2017

Square-tailed Kite Nesting on Sunshine Coast

Square-tailed Kite
A pair of Square-tailed Kites have again successfully raised a youngster at their nest in open forest at Tinbeerwah on the Sunshine Coast.The nest is close to a mountain bike path in what is now Tewantin National Park. Local birders have had the nest under observation for some time but I was unable to connect with it until today, having failed in my first attempt a few days ago to find it.

Square-tailed Kite
An adult kite was sunning itself in the canopy of a tall eucalypt near the nest when I arrived this morning. After a while I heard the juvenile calling about 50m away and the adult flew to join it. Both birds then returned to the nest, where I saw the adult feeding the youngster on what presumably were the remains of a bird or nestling.

Square-tailed Kite
After 40 minutes of so both birds departed the nest, the juvenile clearly very close to independence.
The birds nested in this area last year and have done so in previous years. The species appears to be loyal to favoured nesting sites. A pair have nested at Mt Coot-tha in Brisbane in similar habitat for several years in succession.

Square-tailed Kite
Similarly, a pair of Square-tailed Kites have nested each year in woodland near Bundaberg since 1985, according to local birding legend Eric Zillmann.

Juvenile (L) & adult (R) at the nest

Some observers believe the population of this species, generally considered one of Australia's most rare raptors, may be on the rise. Birdline in NSW no longer bothers to publish records of Square-tailed Kite. I see the kites from time to time in my garden at Ninderry and come across them regularly on and around the Sunshine Coast. They occur mostly over open forest and well-wooded country but I have seen them flying over parks and farmland, in wallum heath and even on the beach at Coolum.

If they are increasing, that would defy a trend in Australia of raptor populations generally being in decline - in some cases severely, with the Letter-winged Kite now in dire straits.

Dingo x wild dog
Also today I called in to Frogmouth Lane nearby, where a dingo/wild dog was seen.

Close by also is the Noosa Botanic Gardens, where a pair of Barred Cuckoo-shrikes have been hanging around for a couple of weeks. I found them easily enough.