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.

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 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. 

Friday, 27 October 2017

South-East Oz Part 8 – Regent Honeyeater Ablaze at Capertee + Visit to Werrikimbe

Regent Honeyeater
Following our visit to Kangaroo Valley (see following post) we spent a few days sight-seeing in Canberra before continuing north to spend 2 days with our friend Kathy Haydon in Capertee Valley - a renowned birding hotspot. The valley is essentially a vast canyon floor set amid the spectacular sandstone escarpments along the western fringe of the Blue Mountains World Heritage Area.

Capertee Valley near Glen Davis

Capertee Valley near Glen Davis
We camped in the free camp (complete with hot showers!) in the quaintly deserted former mining township of Glen Davis. We visited Gardens of Stone National Park, Wollemi National Park and Capertee National Park. We birded along the Glen Alice and Glen Davis roads. Many thanks to Dean Ingerwersen and Ross Crates from BirdLife Australia for birding advice on the area.

Ironbark woodland, Capertee National Park
The key photographic target at Capertee was the critically endangered Regent Honeyeater, with the site being a major stronghold for this fast disappearing woodland specialist. I have seen this species on just 3 occasions previously, and looked unsuccessfully for it earlier in the trip west of Armidale.

Regent Honeyeater

Regent Honeyeater
Two groups were encountered at Capertee – an impressive gathering of 8-12 birds in Capertee National Park, including at least 2 juveniles of different ages - indicating successful breeding this season in the area. A further group of 3-4 birds was found along Glen Davis Road.

Regent Honeyeater
In both areas, the birds were feeding primarily on the red flowers of the Mugga Ironbark Eucalyptus sideroxylon – a tree that the bird has a special affinity with. The honeyeaters would periodically fly to feed briefly on the white flowers of other Eucalyptus species. At the Capertee site it was noted that the Regent Honeyeaters were constantly chased by the much more common Noisy Friarbirds.

Regent Honeyeater
The two juvenile birds were both fed by adults during the time we had them under observation. Some adult birds had been banded as researchers are working on the birds at Capertee. At the Glen Davis Road site, no friarbirds were present and the Regent Honeyeaters turned the tables – aggressively chasing White-plumed and smaller honeyeater species out of their feeding tree.

Regent Honeyeater adult & juvenile
Another nice find near the Glen Davis camp were a couple of pairs of Rock Warblers on the slopes above the camp, where Brush-tailed Rock-Wallaby was also present.

Rock Warbler
Other birds at Capertee included Brown Treecreeper, White-browed Babbler, Red-capped Robin, Rufous Songlark and Crested Shrike-tit.

Brown Treecreeper

Crested Shrike-tit
Red-capped Robin

White-browed Babbler
Reptiles included Jacky Lizard.

Jacky Lizard
Sections of the main roads have recently been upgraded with 100kmph zones, so vehicles travel at high speed through the valley, taking a substantial toll on the wildlife.

Common Wombat roadkill near Glen Davis
We moved on to Maitland for an overnight stay, then drove high into the mountains for a 3-night stay in the Brushy Mountains Camp in Werrikimbe National Park. A female Flame Robin in the camping round was unexpected.

Flame Robin female
I had hoped to photograph Rufous Scrubbird here but it was not to be. The birds were vocal enough but we were plagued by rain, cold and strong winds. I heard a total of 4 scrubbirds between Spekes Lookout on the Scrubbird Trail and the Brushy Mountains camp; 2 birds along the 3.6km loop trail; 1 bird at the campground; and 4 between Brushy Mountains and the Cockerawombeeba Road turnoff. I managed to see 2 of the Scrubbird Trail birds briefly.

Scrubbird habitat at Werrikimbe
Superb Lyrebird, Bassian Thrush and Olive Whistler were common and the place is worth a visit just for the beautiful camp ground and surrounding forest. 

Brushy Mountains camp
Our final stop was the caravan park at Wooyung near Pottsville on the NSW North Coast, where a feisty Buff-banded Rail was unusually tame. We had been on the road for 52 days, travelling more than 8000km through NSW and Victoria.

Buff-banded Rail