Tuesday, 3 May 2016

A long weekend of birdwatching

It was a long weekend of unusual weather given the time of year—with temperatures reaching a high of 27C, and the humidity giving rise to brief thunderstorms on Monday evening, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was still summer—but with my schedule clear, I was champing at the bit for three days of stellar South-east Queensland birding, and I was not disappointed!

Beach stone-curlew, Wellington Point.

First up was a trip out to the Redlands on Saturday, where a friend and I had a casual stroll out to King Island, off the coast of Wellington Point. 

We had good views of red-necked stint (Calidris ruficollis) flocks that were foregoing their mammoth Northern Hemisphere journey this season to remain in sweaty Queensland instead. 

Resident shorebirds were well-represented by pied oystercatchers (Haemotopus longirostris), caspian terns (Hydroprogne caspia) and a little egret (Egretta garzetta), but the best sighting was undoubtedly a beach stone-curlew (Esacus magnirostris) seen in the shade of a mangrove just beyond the island itself. 

Unfortunately, the bird spooked as soon as we noticed it, and flew off in a north-easterly direction. 

On our return back south along the spit to the mainland however, we saw either the same bird again or another individual out on more open mudflats, moving along at a brisk pace as the tide came in. 

Good sightings continued on the Sunday, when I headed out to Marburg in the Somerset region to wander along a quiet gravel lane named Martens Road. 

Passing through gum-topped box (Eucalyptus moluccana) woodland similar to that found at nearby Haigslea, the bird life was mainly represented by familiar open forest species like little lorikeet (Glossopsitta pusilla), striated pardalote (Pardalotus striatus) and olive-backed oriole (Oriolus sagittatus).

As is often the case out here in drier country however, I also saw some less common birds like the peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus) and a ‘happy family’ of grey-crowned babblers (Pomatostomus temporalis).

Wedge-tailed eagle, Marburg.
I had the fright of my life when a large European hare (Lepus europaeus) burst out of a nearby tussock right when I was feeling particularly relaxed, but seeing a magnificent wedge-tailed eagle (Aquila audax) sweep down low over the hillside ten minutes later made me forgive the hare its explosive, swift nature.

Monday saw me head up into the wallum country on Bribie Island, walking into the National Park via McMahon Street.
The swamp mahoganies (Eucalyptus robusta) at the track entrance are currently in flower, so I was immediately greeted with a flurry of lorikeet activity, of both the rainbow (Trichoglossus moluccana) and scaly-breasted (T. chlorolepidotus) variety.

These and many other species in the National Park were present in huge numbers, particularly silvereyes (Zosterops lateralis) and noisy friarbirds (Philemon corniculatus), two birds whose numbers swell in South-east Queensland over the winter, as local populations are supplemented by visitors from down south.

Noisy friarbirds, Woorim.

I found a large flock of friarbirds hawking insects in mid-air, and was quite impressed by their efforts given that they don't immediately appear to be the most aerodynamic member of the honeyeater family.

They were accompanied by a party of spangled drongos (Dicrurus bracteatus), but at one point in the heat of the afternoon, many other species joined in on the aerial feast, including rainbow bee-eaters (Merops ornatus), welcome swallows (Hirundo neoxena), willie wagtails (Rhipidura leucophrys) and white-breasted woodswallows (Artamus leucorynchus).

Despite having seen much more uncommon birds over the previous few days, I’d have to say this swirling vortex of feathered activity became perhaps my favourite moment of the long weekend, and a perfect way to bring it to an end.

Shared with Wild Bird Wednesday, a collection of bird blogs from around the world. 

12 comments:

  1. Hello, three days of birding sounds like fun. Great sightings and photos. I would be thrilled to see the Stone Curlew, Bee-eaters and Lorikeets. The Friarbirds are cool looking. Sounds like an awesome trip! Happy Thursday, enjoy your day!

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    1. Thanks Eileen, yes I bet a fair few of these birds would be unusual and exotic for an American birdwatcher! :)

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  2. Great bird watching experience. Beautiful shots.

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  3. Nice lot of birds for the weekend.

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    1. Thanks Neil, it was great to traverse beautiful SEQ over the three days :)

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  4. Wonderful bird - we have one down here at present - I think its lost!

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

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    1. Wow Stewart, that's an unusual record for Victoria! Definitely lost, poor birdie.

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  5. A Beach Stone Curlew is always such a special sighting. They are such handsome birds too. Lovely blog which just goes to show that spending time not far from home can be very rewarding.

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    1. My heart leaps whenever I see them! I think even a non-birdwatcher would recognise they are seeing something very unusual and special when they see this bird.

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  6. Wow! What a fabulous weekend you had, Christian! I have never sighted a Beach Stone Curlew before.

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    1. They're such magnificent birds, Liz! So lucky they still live in the Redlands...

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