Thursday 30 August 2012

Brisbane's birds, August 2012

This is a quick post to show a few pictures of birds seen at different times during a holiday to Australia. They don’t really fit into a post by themselves, but give a flavour of some of the birds that you might encounter anywhere in and around Brisbane.

Rainbow Lorikeet

Roma Street Parklands, Google Earth ref; 27°27'51.52"S 153° 1'13.17"E, held plenty of common birds, but since most of my time here was spent howling at the sky after dropping my camera down the concrete steps, I did not do justice to its potential.

Blue-faced Honeyeater

Anyone who has visited Redgannet before will probably know that my gear is constantly being dropped and broken. On this occasion, the shutter button was damaged and refused to take a picture. 

Straw-necked Ibis

It was still possible to use the camera with the remote shutter release, but that was a bit cumbersome without the tripod.

Pied Butcherbird

New Farm is a city park on a bend of the Brisbane River (Google Earth ref; 27°28'6.33"S 153°3'2.86"E) downstream from the city. It has wide lawns and shady trees for the children’s playground. Noisy miners sunned themselves and even my ornithophobic family found them comically watchable.

Noisy Miner

My favourite of the urban parks is the City Botanic Garden at Google Earth ref; 27°28'34.75"S 153° 1'48.69"E. It is very easily accessible from the downtown business and shopping areas and produced my only Sacred Kingfisher of the holiday.

Crested Pigeon

Visit the dedicated Australia page for more from the Lucky Country.

Tuesday 28 August 2012

Mt Ommaney Walkway, Brisbane, August 2012

This time my thanks go out to Shealagh Walker whose eBird contributions and subsequent reply to an RFI led me to Mount Ommaney Walkway. The first thing a visitor here notices is the bat roost. The golf course across the road plays host to a very dense colony of fruit bats who in turn tolerate a breeding community of Australian Ibis.

The walkway begins at Google Earth ref; 27°32'36.40"S 152°55'33.40"E and follows a track to the Brisbane River and along its bank. I ran into a party of birds almost as soon as I stepped into the trees. Grey Fantail, as ever, formed the nucleus of the group with Silver-eyesRufous Whistlers and Golden Whistlers feeding alongside.

Numerous other parties all included the fantails, but the other revellers alternated with Brown Honeyeaters, Lewin’s Honeyeater and even a Fantailed Cuckoo showing briefly. 

The path led me down to the river bank and almost into another world. The far bank was rough pasture with what I took to be a farmhouse in the distance among the eucalypt trees. Behind me was a small wood and it appeared that I had been cut off from the suburbia of Brisbane that I had been hoping to escape all week.

It was a delightful scene, but I had to drag myself away and back to the world of owl-spotting. I had been primed to look out for a small hawk-owl known as a Southern Boobook. The described location had been thoroughly searched on the way out and a subsequent scouring on the return similarly failed to turn up my quarry.

Just as I picked up my bag to head back to the car (how many times does this happen? Perhaps I should give up earlier in the piece next time I am searching for something), a streaked belly caught my eye through an open patch in a densely leafed tree. I was able to adjust my position without disturbing the owl only to find that there were two of them. Shealagh had told me that as many as three had been seen in this area before now, but I was more than thrilled with just two.

Birds seen; 23
Little Black Cormorant 1, Australian Pelican 7, Great Egret 2, Australian Ibis 40, Masked Lapwing 1, Galah 4, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo 8, Rainbow Lorikeet 6, Fantailed Cuckoo 1, Southern Boobook 2, Variegated Fairywren 3, Lewin’s Honeyeater 1, Scarlet Myzomela 1, Brown Honeyeater 3, Blue-faced Honeyeater 12, Eastern Whipbird 1, Pied Currawong 1, Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike 3, Golden Whistler 2, Rufous Whistler 5, Grey Fantail 20, Silver-eye 60, Mistletoebird 1.

For more posts from Brisbane, follow the links below;

Visit the dedicated Australia Page for more from the region, including Powerful Owls from Sydney.

Monday 27 August 2012

Catching up.

Catch up catch up. Back from Australia and straight back to work with barely a chance to even download my pictures from the holiday, get the camera back to the mender and then check in first thing in the morning for a double trip to Newark and Washington Dulles.

The return migration is probably warming up nicely as this is published, but at the time, I worried that I might just be a week or two too early in mid August. Just the same, I took a cycle down the road through the graveyards at Newark and was pleased to see a couple of young White-tailed Deer stags in the early morning mist. The advantage of a 15 hour time change is that early mornings are easy.

The “season of mists and mellow fruitfulness” seemed to be upon us as a gentle haze rose from the damp grass. The lightest of breezes encouraged it uphill as the sun appeared for the day.
I had not done very well for the north-bound migration, so I was hoping to catch a few early birds on the journey south for the winter. Menlo Park produced Black and White Warbler, American Redstart and Pine Warbler. Baltimore Oriole were seen on a couple of occasions, but only a Red-tailed Hawk sat for a picture before my battery died in the small camera.

There are other posts describing the cycle routes around the Iselin and Woodbridge areas, follow the links below while I get on with the catching up.

To expedite the catch up process, a brief Washington post will be added here too. A visit to Raglan’s Wood produced some White-tailed Deer, but almost no birds. A cycle ride down to Great Falls River was more productive and very enjoyable in the sunshine.

It was a busy Saturday at the park, with lots of people staking out picnic tables and getting the barbeques stoked up ready for the day. The Potomac River was flowing as gently as I have seen it, but more drownings occur during times of low water I am informed by the warning signs.

The river is not the only danger around here as I found when I stopped on the road to watch some White-breasted Nuthatches chasing each other around a ‘killer tree’.
A couple of new odonata were found including an American Rubyspot Hataerina Americana on the rocks below the weir and an Eastern Ringtail Erpetogomphus designatus.

For more in-depth profile of Great Falls Park follow the links below;

Visit the dedicated USA page and you will find more posts from IAD including Shenandoah National Park.

Sunday 26 August 2012

Mt Nebo and Mt Glorious, Brisbane, Aug 2012

To the east of Brisbane is a large area of forested hills known as D’Aguilar National Park. Mount Nebo Road joins Mount Glorious Road to allow easy access and runs past the delightful Maiala Park (Google Earth ref; 27°20'0.73"S 152°45'47.02"E. This picnic area has grassy areas with forest edge and also boasts a rainforest walk.

We stopped a couple of times along the way. At a look-out point, a Pied Butcherbird watched over its youngster. We dropped into a café for some tea. While I watched the Bell Miners in the trees by the car park, my wife and son were treated to a tableful of Sulphur-crested Cockatoos and Australian King Parrots which had gathered to take advantage of the sunflower seeds liberally sprinkled there. If you should ever feel the need for a nice cup of tea, or for that matter, catering hygiene, I would drive past this café. If you just want to feed some fantastic birds, this is the place for you.

Other birds seen during the drive included Satin Bowerbird, Laughing Kookaburra and as ever, Australian Magpie.
While the family relaxed in the sunshine after the chill of the early morning, I took a stroll around the open area and forest edge of the picnic site. Grey Shrike-thrushes were easily found and Eastern Yellow Robins sat out more boldly than I have seen elsewhere. Brown Gerygones picked, warbler-like, through the leaves of the trees while Yellow-browed Scrubwrens kept to the lower levels.

Sulphur-crested Cockatoos

The rainforest track is well signed and describes a two kilometre loop. Huge buttressed trees and strangler figs lined the trail, but the undergrowth was very scant. Occasionally, a fallen tree allowed light through for the lower vegetation to flourish and Yellow-browed Scrubwrens were found here. Eastern Whipbirds ran along the forest floor between the trunks and after checking the field guide, a pale, yellow robin turned out to be a Pale-yellow Robin.

Australian King Parrot

Birds seen; 24

Australian Brush-turkey 2, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo 15, Rainbow Lorikeet 1, Australian King Parrot 10, Laughing Kookaburra 1, Satin Bowerbird 2, Lewin’s Honeyeater 1, Bell Miner 10, Noisy Miner 15, Yellow-throated Scrubwren 5, Brown Gerygone 2, Eastern Whipbird 2, Pied Butcherbird 2, Australian Magpie 4, Pied Currawong 4, Golden Whistler 3, Rufous Whistler 1, Grey Shrike-thrush 4, Grey Fantail 2, Pale-yellow Robin 1, Eastern Yellow Robin 4.

Follow the links below for other posts from Brisbane;

Visit the dedicated Australia Page for more from the region including; Sydney Botanical Gardens and Bi-Centennial Park

Friday 24 August 2012

Oxley Creek Common, Brisbane, Aug 2012

This post carries a big thank you to Mat Gilfedder. His eBird submissions caught my eye and prompted an enquiry about Oxley Creek Common. Mat replied with an extensive site report that completely sold me on the idea of a visit.
As promised, the early arrival was rewarded with a view of the White-bellied Sea-eagle returning home with its catch, mobbed in its flight by Torresian Crows.

The Red Barn at Google Earth ref; 27°32'8.61"S 152°59'33.56"E is an obvious feature to assure first-time visitors that that they are in the right place. Referred to as Area 1 in Mat’s guide the grassy approach and mound brought my first lifer of the day in the shape of an Australian Pipit. This was a bird that I had known in its previous incarnation as Richard’s Pipit, but taxanomic adances and a change of governing body, brought a fanfare from my listing software (does eBird give you fanfares? I think not!).

Two visits have been heated, folded and beaten back into shape as a single post. The pipit was seen on the first exploratory sneak peak, but I had use of a car on that occasion and had to return by public transport to qualify the sightings for my 10,000 Birds Year List. The pipit was seen by the barn during the first visit, but missed until much later in the day on the qualifying trip.
The trees around the barn brought the first Brown Honeyeater of the day as well as Blue-faced Honeyeaters and assorted Australian “black and whites”.

The path leads through a gate and into Area 2 which is characterised by the tree line bordering the cattle meadows on the left, with the tidal creek to the right. Lewin’s Honeyeaters, Silver-eyes, and Black-faced Cuckoo-shrikes were seen in the trees while the meadows produced Tawny Grassbird, Chestnut-breasted Mannikin and Golden-headed Cisticolas

Brown Quail crept along the fence line separating the two habitats. 

The bird that I had really hoped to see here was found at the first dip. An unmistakeable male Red-backed Fairywren was accompanied by a much duller female in the short grass by the dried stream. Without the male, I would have had to refer to the field guide to separate the female from the also present and similar Variegated and Superb Fairywrens.

As I continued on, the strident call of the Brown Honeyeater could be heard almost constantly. More tuneful were the Golden and Rufous Whistlers.

A path leads off to the left toward Jabiru Swamp. Willie Wagtails flitted up and down from the fence posts and Cattle Egrets diligently followed the large bullocks through the long grass of the meadows. A pair of Australian Kites roosted in the shade in a large gum to the left of the track and a White-faced Heron flushed from the seepage from the larger pond to the right. Three Black-fronted Dotterels flew in and it seemed that two preferred to be together and kept chasing the third one away. They moved towards me. feeding as they went. They reached forward with their legs and wriggled their toes in the mud in the manner of an egret probing for food and approached to within 5 meters. I have never been close enough to see the chestnut wing patch before.

Black-winged Stilts, Australian Grebe and Pacific Black Ducks were seen on the pond with a single male Chestnut Teal on the far bank.

Further along was Pelican Lagoon with one Australian Pelican roosting on the island as if to prove that names are not just pulled out of a hat. Dusky Moorhen, Australian Grebes and Welcome Swallows were plentiful on the lake, with White-eyed Duck, Black Swan and Fairy Martins at a closer look.
I returned to the path by the creek and continued towards “The Neck and the “Secret Forest”. More Quail flushed from the fence line and a Pheasant Coucal flew off in a panic when I surprised it by appearing suddenly on the skyline as it explored a damp gully. Some charming Double-barred Finches were seen just before I reached the furthest point and turned to head back.

On the return walk I was pleased to find the Grey Shrike-thrush that I had seen on the first visit, but almost missed on the second. It was accompanied by a Spangled Drongo, but neither would sit for a picture.

Bird seen; 64

Black Swan 4, Maned Duck 2, Pacific Black Duck 15, Grey Teal 8, Chestnut Teal 1, White-eyed Duck 1, Australian Brush-turkey 8, Brown Quail 8, Australian Grebe 20, Little Black Cormorant 5, Little Pied Cormorant 4, Australian Darter 1, Australian Pelican 1, Great Egret 1, Intermediate Egret 1, White-faced Heron 2, Australian Ibis 20, Straw-necked Ibis 1, Australian Kite 2, White-bellied Sea-Eagle 1, Brown Goshawk 2, Australian Kestrel 1, Dusky Moorhen 30, Eurasian Coot 4, Masked Lapwing 2, Black-fronted Dotterel 3, Pied Stilt 12, Caspian Tern 1, Crested Pigeon 8, Bar-shouldered Dove 6, Galah 8, Rainbow Lorikeet 4, Pheasant Coucal 1, Red-backed Fairywren 9, Superb Fairywren 3, Variegated Fairywren 6, Lewin’s Honeyeater 10, Noisy Miner 4, Brown Honeyeater 30, Blue-faced Honeyeater 3, Eastern Whipbird 2, Grey Butcherbird 6, Pied Butcherbird 12, Australian Magpie 6, Pied Currawong 1, Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike 8, Golden Whistler 2, Rufous Whistler 4, Grey Shrike-thrush 2, Australian Figbird 1, Spangled Drongo 1, Willie Wagtail 30, Grey Fantail 12, Magpie Lark 4, Torresian Crow 40, Welcome Swallow 15, Fairy Martin 8, Australian Reed-warbler 1, Tawny Grassbird 1, Golden-headed Cisticola 8, Silver-eye 20, Australian Pipit 2, Double-barred Finch 10, Chestnut-breasted Finch 12

For other posts from the Brisbane area, follow the links below;

Visit the dedicated Australia page for other posts from the region including sites in Sydney such as Royal National Park and North Heads.

Friday 17 August 2012

Mount Coot-Tha, Brisbane, Australia. Aug 2012

To the east of Brisbane is a forested hill that tops out at around 250 meters and goes by the name of Mount Coot-Tha. It looked like an easy ride from Paddington, but the suburbs around Brisbane are not quite as flat as Google Earth would have you believe. Access to the forest from the foot of the hill can be had at  JC Slaughter Falls, Google Earth ref; 27°28'15.15"S 152°58'15.25"E,or Simpson’s Road, 27°27'57.29"S 152°57'54.86"E.

The Summit Trail leads from the car park and picnic area at JC Slaughter Falls. Despite its preciritous sounding name, the track is gently inclined with a few steps at the top and a few early morning walkers chatted easily as they climbed towards the Summit Restaurant at Google Earth ref; 27°29'6.01"S 152°57'32.53"E.

Galahs perched on dead snags near to the entrance and the air was rent by the raucous calls of the Sulphur-crested Cockatoos and Torresian Crows

In the car park, an Australian Scrub-turkey had commandeered a pile of bark chippings meant for re-surfacing the path. Maintenence workers had not finished spreading the chippings on Friday afternoon and returned to work on Monday morning to find this male, Top o' the Heap, with 3 females laying in his ready made nest-mound.

The picnic area at the base of the slope provides forest edge birding habitat with tree-top birds visible at a feasible angle. Striated Pardalotes were seen high in the eucalypts with Pale-headed Rosellas closer to the ground.
A party of birds including a Lewin's Honeyeater, Brown Honeyeater, and a Grey Fantail were seen at the beginning of the path where a small stream passes through. The stream opens up a little further on. The flow was minimal which may explain why I missed the eponymous falls. A White-faced Heron stalked through a shadowy pool before coming out into the light for a picture.

Grey Fantails often herald a party of birds and each feeding group that I encountered this morning had at least one of these fidgety birds at its heart. Yellow-faced Honeyeaters, Golden Whistlers and Silvereyes were also present, though the Noisy Miner seemed to thin out a little inside the forest.
The track runs for just over two kilometers to the top of the hill where a restaurant and coffee shop command a wonderful view across Brisbane to Stradbroke Island in the distance.

Birds seen; 25
Maned Duck 2, Australian Brush-turkey 8, Australian Grebe 1, White-faced Heron 1, Dusky Moorhen 2, Galah 35, Sulpur-crested Cockatoo 20, Rainbow Lorikeet 15, Pale-headed Rosella 2, Laughing Kookaburra 8, Lewin’s Honeyeater 1, Yellow-faced Honeyeater 3, Noisy Miner 60, Brown Honeyeater 3, Spotted Pardalote 3, Striated Pardalote 3, Australian Magpie 3, Pied Currawong 10, Golden Whistler 5, Australian Figbird 4, Gray Fantail 3, Torresian Crow 10, Welcome Swallow 6, Silver-eye 6, Mistletoebird 1.

Monday 13 August 2012

Brisbane, Australia, August 2012

The past two weeks have been spent on a family and friends visit to Australia. The social whirl created such a spin that we never quite built up the impetus to escape the gravitational pull of Brisbane and immerse ourselves in the ornithological extravagance of the northern parts of Queensland. Hardened birders amongst you will no doubt be aghast that the treasures of the Australian rainforests were left unplundered, but a couple of sites close to the city were visited during a sober moment and produced some red-letter highlights.

Red-backed Fairywrens and Brown Quail were seen during a visit to Oxley Creek Common. An exploratory visit by car was followed up by a second on a bicycle, so that the list would count towards the 10,000 Birds Year List.

The Southern Boobook cannot be included however. Despite being my “Best bird of the weekend”, I had the loan of a car for the day and went on an intentional birdy walk which disqualifies them from my list.

Australian King Parrots qualified as they were seen as part of an incidental drive into the hills inland of the city and Australian Scrub Turkeys were common in the neighbourhood of Paddington, rearranging the carefully laid bark chippings into huge mound nests.