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, 18 September 2017

South-East Oz Part 2: NSW Riverina

Superb Parrot
We had a Pink Cockatoo in the camping ground on our last morning at Lake Cargelligo (see following post) and two more at the treatment works, where Swamp Harrier and Spotted Harrier also showed. We headed south through the NSW Riverina to the rice town of Leeton, known as a birding hotspot, for a 2-night stay at the showgrounds.

Superb Parrot pair
It wasn't long before the first Superb Parrots flew overhead and I was soon enjoying close encounters with several birds of this aptly named species on the well-wooded golf course adjoining the showgrounds.

Fivebough Wetlands
I spent quite a bit of time at the RAMSAR-listed Fivebough Wetlands where an astonishing number of ducks were present. There were several thousand Grey Teal along with a sprinkling of Australasian Shoveler, Pink-eared Duck, Australian Wood Duck, Hardhead, Chesnut Teal, Australian Shelduck and a pair off Blue-billed Ducks.

Australian Shelduck

Blue-billed Duck
Other birds included good numbers of Red-necked Avocets, a few Yellow-billed Spoonbills and about 20 Australian Spotted Crakes. I also visited the Tuckerbil Swamp where a nice flock of Marsh Terns was present.

Australian Spotted Crake

Red-necked Avocet

Yellow-billed Spoonbill
We continued south to the town of Deniliquin for a 2-night stay in the Riverside Caravan Park on the Edward River.

Edward River at Deniliquin
At McLean Beach were several Long-billed Corellas, including this pair mating vigorously. The cockatoo was also present in the caravan park and elsewhere about town.

Long-billed Corella

Long-billed Corella

Yellow (Crimson) Rosellas are common in the grand river red gums that abound in this area.
One morning I headed up the road to Conargo and took some back roads returning to Deniliquin. 
Yellow (Crtimson) Rosella
Good birds along here including Banded Lapwing, Horsfield's Bushlark and White-winged Fairy-wren.

White-winged Fairy-wren
Others included Pallid Cuckoo, Greater Bluebonnet, 3 Blue-winged Parrots and a few more Superb Parrots.

Blue-winged Parrot
Greater Bluebonnet

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

South-East Oz Pt 1: Stanthorpe to Round Hill Reserve

Shy Heathwren

We left home on September 6 for a lengthy road trip through NSW and Victoria. First stop was Glen Alpin near Stanthorpe, staying by the Severn River at the Country Style Caravan Park. There were plenty of Dusky Woodswallows here. It's always nice to be in the Granite Belt but we could do without the weather – down to -2 on our first morning.

Dusky Woodswallow
We moved on to Armidale the next day, calling in on the excellent birding area along Old Wallangarra Road, where a Yellow-footed Antechinus was of interest in the short time available. A couple of Little Eagles were seen on the way south for a 2-night stay in the Armidale Tourist Park. I spent a full morning in the ironbark woodlands of the Yarrowyck area west of Armidale, along Gwydir Park Road and Gwydir River Road.

This is a known site for Regent Honeyeater, but none were to be encountered. Few ironbarks were flowering though plenty were full of bud.

Square-tailed Kite
Fuscous Honeyeater was abundant. Other good birds included a Square-tailed Kite quartering the woodland and a Rufous Songlark. The cold weather persisted with the temperature dropping to -4 in Armidale.

Rufous Songlark
We moved on to Dubbo, overnighting in a free camp 10km north of town in the Terramungamine Reserve. It's a pleasant spot by the Macquarie River, but not much was around in the way of birds. 

Macquarie River, Dubbo
We went upmarket the next night in the Dubbo City Holiday Park. We drove south-west through Parkes, seeing a Pink Cockatoo east of Condobolin. Our base for the next 4 nights was the Lake View Caravan Park by the lovely Lake Cargelligo, where we met up with our friend Kathy Haydon. A pool by the road just outside the town of Lake Cargelligo on the Condobolin road had Red-necked Avocet, Black-tailed Godwit, a flock of 30 Sharp-tailed Sandpipers (some in partial breeding plumage) and Australasian Shoveler.

Sharp-tailed Sandpipers
Another pool had Black-tailed Native-hen and Red-kneed Dotterel, with loads of Australian Pelicans about.

Australian Pelican

Black-tailed Native-hen
The Lake Cargelligo Wastewater Treatment Plant is an excellent spot. Musk Duck and Hoary-headed Grebe were among the birds here. 

Hoary-headed Grebe
In the reeds were large numbers of Australian Reed-Warbler and Little Grassbird, with White-winged Fairy-wren and White-fronted Chat in the saltbush.

Black Falcon
A Black Falcon was among the raptors present.

Little Grassbird
Best of all were the three species of crake together at the treatment works. Over a couple of days I saw and heard 20+ Baillon's Crakes, 8 Australian Spotted Crakes and 5 Spotless Crakes.

Australian Spotted Crake adult

Australian Spotted Crake immature 

Baillon's Crake

Spotless Crake
We had a full day in the mallee of the Round Hill Reserve and adjoining Nombinnie Nature Park, concentrating on the area around the so-called old wheat paddock. 

Malle at Round Hill
Many mallee trees were in flower and honeyeaters were abundant: Black, White-fronted, Yellow-plumed, Grey-fronted, Brown-headed and White-eared Honeyeaters were everywhere.

Black Honeyeater

White-fronted Honeyeater

Grey-fronted Honeyeater
We saw a total of 5 Gilbert's Whistlers and heard 2 or 3 others in various spots; there was no sign of Red-lored Whistler.

Gilbert's Whistler
Shy Heathwren was encountered several times, offering nice close-up views.

Shy Hylacola
Southern Scrub-Robin was another mallee speciality that performed nicely.

Southern Scrub-Robin
Other birds included Mulga Parrot, Southern Whiteface, Red-capped Robin, Splendid Fairy-wren and Horsfield's Bronze Cuckoo.

Splendid Fairy-wren

Southern Whiteface

Horsfield's Bronze Cuckoo

Mulga Parrot
On the way back we stopped near the railway line on the southern boundary of the nature reserve and had a most co-operative pair of Chesnut Quail-thrush close to the car.

Chesnut Quail-thrush
Further on we stopped at the so-called Chat Alley, where plenty of White-fronted Chats duly appeared in the saltbushes.

White-fronted Chat
A Shingleback was encountered on the road.


Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Rare Owl Victims of Vehicle Strike & Pesticide Poisoning

Sooty Owl roadkill - Pic by Matt Harvey
A Sooty Owl and an Eastern Grass Owl are the latest victims in a spate of incidents of rare owls being killed or wounded by vehicle strike or apparent chemical poisoning around the Sunshine Coast and elsewhere in South-East Queensland. While extremely unfortunate, these incidents are telling us a bit more about the distribution and habitat of these little-known birds.

Sooty Owl talon - Pic by Matt Harvey
An adult female Sooty Owl was found dead last week near the entrance to Australia Zoo on Steve Irwin Way, Beerwah, by Australia Zoo wildlife rescue worker Matt Harvey. This area is not what could be regarded as prime habitat for the rainforest-loving Sooty Owl. It is essentially open forest with at best a thick understory with some rainforest plants. The owl weighed in at over a kilo; the image of its talon demonstrates what a formidable predator this bird can be. 

Eastern Grass Owl road victim - Pic by Ken Cross
Also last week, Ken Cross found a dead Eastern Grass Owl near Gatton. This species is associated with extensive grasslands and wallum heath. It was found in a mixed area of barley crops and pastoral paddocks. What the bird was doing in the relatively dry climes of the Lockyer Valley is something of a mystery.

Eastern Grass Owl road kill - Pic by Matt Harvey
In his work with Australia Zoo, Matt comes across more than his fair share of owl road victims. He found a road-killed Eastern Grass Owl last year on Old Toorbul Road, Toorbul, in an area that is mixed Pinus plantation, cleared paddocks and coastal open forest: again, seemingly unfavourable habitat for this species.

Eastern Grass Owl road victim - Pic by Matt Harvey 
An Eastern Grass Owl came to Matt's attention from the dry Roma district of central-west Queensland in yet another example of the species turning up in unexpected places. Perhaps the birds are more nomadic than is generally thought, moving over large distances to suitable habitat as rodent populations fluctuate. This owl thankfully survived.

Eastern Grass Owl road victim - pic by Sarah Bevis
I am aware of at least four road-killed Eastern Grass Owls from the Sunshine Coast in recent years, including this bird found in 2013 at Yandina Creek by Sarah Bevis.

Sooty Owl road victim - Pic by Matt Harvey
Matt helped rescue a Sooty Owl last year that was hit by a vehicle in wet sclerophyll forest between Beerwah and Peachester in the Sunshine Coast hinterland. At least the owl was in suitable habitat this time, and the bird also survived its ordeal.

Masked Owl chemical victim - Pic by Vic Jakes
Also last year, Vic Jakes found this dead male Masked Owl near his home at Cooroy Mountain, in the Sunshine Coast hinterland. The site where the bird was found appears to rule out vehicle strike as the cause of its demise. The owl was in pristine condition with no indication of physical damage. Vic had previously found dead Torresian Crows around his place that were almost certainly poisoned by pesticides or other chemicals. He believes that was the fate of the Masked Owl as well. 

Masked Owl chemical victim - Pic by Vic Jakes