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A Few Days Around Brisbane

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Old Monday 15th September 2008, 16:01   #1
Mark Harper
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A Few Days Around Brisbane

18 August

Arrived Brisbane at 6.30am, passed smoothly through immigration and customs, collected the hire car and were on our way to the hotel to drop off our bags by 7.30am. First target was Double-banded Plover and our main site for this was Manly wader roost, but first decided to call in at Leeton near the Port of Brisbane to see if there were any waders there.

On the way from the airport we saw several species that we were familiar with from a previous visit to Australia, Crested Pigeons, Sulphur-crested Cockatoos, Rainbow Lorikeets, Australian Magpies, Black-faced Cuckoo-Shrikes, and Willie-wagtails to name a few.

Brown Honeyeaters were one of the first birds we saw on arrival at Leeton and proved to be common in more open habitat all day. We didnít want to spend too long here in case the waders at Manly were tide dependent as high tide was at about 8.00am, but in 30 minutes or so we were able to get a quick taste of the site. The muddy areas held a Royal Spoonbill, several Bar-tailed Godwits and Pied Stilts, but not a lot else so we had a quick walk along the Mangrove boardwalk. Mangrove Gerygones were singing but remained elusive, Collared Kingfishers were much more obliging posing for photographs.

From the end of the boardwalk the open sea was viewable and both Pied and Little Black Cormorants were added to the list. There were also a lot of Black Swans and a few Australian Pelicans, but these were fairly distant. A pair of Chestnut Teals flushed as we continued around the boardwalk and a White-faced Heron was found amongst a flock of Australian Ibises. Back at the car Welcome Swallows, Fairy Martins and an Australian Figbird put in an appearance before we headed to Manly.

Manly wader roost is on the south side of the yacht club in Manly and had held good numbers of Double-banded Plovers recently according to reports on the internet, but as these birds migrate to breed in New Zealand we didnít know if any would still be around. We neednít have worried as no sooner had we arrived at the pool we were scoping our first Double-banded Plover in fine breeding plumage, in total we counted 25 birds.

Our target bird seen we were able to spend some time sorting through the other birds present. The most common species was Red-necked Stint with several hundred birds present, a flock of around 50 Far Eastern Curlews concealed a lone Whimbrel and there were also a few Curlew Sandpipers, Pacific Golden-Plovers, Red-capped Plovers, Pied Oystercatchers and Pied Stilts. Lesser Crested, Caspian and Gull-billed Terns mixed in with Silver Gulls and Little Pied Cormorants, whilst White-bellied Sea-Eagle and Osprey both appeared overhead.

As time was short and we still had several other sites to visit we didnít linger and headed across Brisbane to Oxley Creek Common, which holds lots of common species and had the potential for a couple of lifers based on the checklist I found on the web, although one of these Plum-headed Finch appeared a bit of a long shot, only having been seen on 14% of surveys of the site.

Arriving at the car park the site didnít look too promising with a lot of people around the picnic tables and flying model aircraft, but the walk along the river was fairly quiet and we even met another birder. Noisy Miners were common and Pied Butcherbird, Grey Shrike-Thrush and Mistletoebird were also soon onto our list. Whilst we were watching a Red-backed Fairy-Wren another birder came by and told us where he had been recently watching a Striped Honeyeater one of our target species and that there were also Variegated and Superb Fariy-Wrens around. We only walked another 20 metres before we found the Variegated Fairy-Wrens and soon after a nice pair of Double-barred Finches feeding on the ground, whilst Silvereyes moved through the trees above them.

Arriving at the area indicated for the Striped Honeyeater we found it almost immediately feeding right above the track and whilst watching and photographing one bird a second appeared. We spent a short time looking for Plum-headed Finches in their apparent preferred area without success, I suspect that these birds are not always present at the site, an Australian Kestrel, Rainbow Bee-eater and Golden-headed Cisticola provided some compensation.

There are a couple of lagoons at the site although one of these has been invaded by an aggressive plant so much so that no water was actually visible and Superb Fairy-Wrens were walking across the plants. The other lagoon held a Black-fronted Dotterel and both Purple Swamphens and Dusky Moorhens. Time was pressing so we couldnít investigate the area any further, but did manage to add Australian Brush-Turkey, Straw-necked Ibis and Brown Falcon to the list as we walked back.

Heading northwest we arrived in Brisbane Forest Park we had a whole list of potential sites to visit, but only enough time to go to one of them and opted for Bellbird Grove. The picnic area was fairly busy so we opted to walk along a road leading uphill from the car park and blocked to vehicles. The walk up the hill was fairly quiet and we saw very little, but as we started back down things improved significantly, a small group of birds turned out to be White-naped Honeyeaters and our third lifer of the day, following hot on its heels were several Rose Robins yet another lifer. A small mixed flock then produced White-throated Treecreeper, White-throated Honeyeater, and both Golden and Rufous Whistlers.

A dash back across Brisbane left us with an hour around Boondall Wetlands. Mangrove Gerygones were again heard and eventually several were seen, Lorikeets kept flying over, but the only ones we positively identified were Rainbow, although I did suspect some to be Scale-breasted. One species that we were keen to see was Mangrove Honeyeater and after much scrutiny of anything that moved we were eventually rewarded with a couple flying across the track in front of us and then popping up from out of the mangroves for a quick view, before flying off into the distance.

A couple of Galahs flying over the hotel car park gave us a total of 83 species for the day, including five lifers which far exceeded our expectations. We would have a few more days in the Brisbane area a couple of weeks later but prior to that we had a tour of Papua New Guinea to enjoy.

4th September

Our flight back from Port Moresby landed back in Brisbane at about 10.00am and we were greeted with heavy rain, quite unusual for the time of year and greatly appreciated by the locals, we just wished it could have happened a few days earlier. It was just after 11.00am by the time we had picked up our hire car and headed south towards Mt Tamborine.

A stop for a pie and coffee on the way found our first Maned Ducks wandering around the car park and a couple of Blue-faced Honeyeaters in a tree with Rainbow Lorikeets and Noisy Miners.

Surfing the web before the trip had revealed three or four reports over several years from a turf farm on Allen Creek Road in Gleneagle, to the north of Beaudesert, of Banded Lapwings, although the most recent of these was at least two years earlier. However, in Australia, apart from the frequently visited sites close to the major cities, it is not uncommon to find that sites are not visited or reported on with any regularity. Hence, we thought that there was a chance that they could be there and as it was not far out of our way we would go and have a look.

A small lake at the start of Allen Creek Road, held quite a few Grey Teals along with a few species we had already seen on our first day in Brisbane. The turf farm was easily found and we were able to stop and scan the fields from within the car, fortunate as it was still pouring with rain. There were plenty of Masked Lapwings along with Australian Magpies and Magpie-larks in the area. Two Pale-headed Rosellas sitting on the fence were the only ones we saw in our short time in Queensland, whilst two Crimson Rosellas were the first of many.

After much scanning we eventually reached the far end of the turf farm and stopped for a final scan and the first birds we saw were four Banded Lapwings quite close to the road. In better weather I would have tried to digiscope them, but given the conditions we just enjoyed them from the car before continuing to Mt Tamborine adding an Australian (Black-shoouldered) Kite on route.

Arriving in Mt Tamborine we checked into the Mt Tamborine Motel and debated what to do as it was still raining. After about an hour in the room with just an Australian Brush-Turkey to watch from the balcony we decided to brave the rain and visit Witches Falls in Tamborine NP. We trudged around the loop for an hour and a half and all we had to show for our effort was two very wet Laughing Kookaburras, several Australian Brush-Turkeys, a couple of Pale-yellow Robins, a few Brown Thornbills and a pair of Southern Logrunners. We did hear an Albertís Lyrebird, but it remained distant, so we headed back to the hotel hoping for better weather the following day.

5th September

Lamington NP was our destination for the day and it was our intention to visit Duck Creek Road at dawn. However, when we awoke it was still raining so we opted for an extra half hour in bed. Eventually we set off for Lamington in the rain, by the time we were starting our ascent on the winding road that leads to OíReillys the rain had just about stopped.
Duck Creek Road has a sign at the top saying that it is only suitable for 4 wheel-drive and although we had been told it was driveable with a car with high ground clearance with all the wet weather we decided to walk. Eastern Whipbirds were calling everywhere, but we didnít have time to stop and look for these so we walked on by. Eastern Yellow Robins were common and offered great views as they clung to the side of trees, until I went for the camera when they would repeatedly make themselves scarce.

A lone Albertís Lyrebird was seen briefly as it ran across the road by one of us, but did not reappear. As you head along Duck Creek Road the habitat changes from rainforest to Eucalyptus Forest very abruptly and as you do the birdlife also changes, for a start you begin to see birds rather than just hear them. A pair of Red-browed Treecreepers were the first birds we saw as we entered the Eucalyptus forest, and these showed really well as they scaled several of the nearby trees.

Our main target for Duck Creek Road was Spotted Quail-Thrush, the best chance of seeing one is early morning when they can sometimes be seen on the road. Once they get into the grass they could be within a metre of you and you wouldnít be able to see them it is so long. As we did not see one on the road, we headed to a spot we had been told about where the grass was shorter and a bird had been seen three weeks earlier. Along the side road to the site we had great views of a pair of Eastern Whipbirds that climbed high in a sparse bush right next to the track and a Spotted Pardalote also showed really well. Unfortunately there was neither sight nor sound from the Quail-Thrush and we really wanted to explore a few other areas, so after a short time decided to head back to the car.

On the way back the birds seemed a bit more active and we saw most of what we had seen on the way down, apart from the Lyrebird, but added to that White-browed Scrubwren, Buff-rumped and Striated Thornbills, Yellow-faced Honeyeater and Eastern Spinebill. As we approached the end of Duck Creek Road a flash of bright yellow shot across the road, a brilliant male Regent Bowerbird, it did not stop to pose, but we were hopeful that we might see more around OíReillys.

Arriving at OíReillyís we were greeted with masses of Crimson Rosellas with slightly lesser numbers of Australian King-Parrots all on the lookout for an easy meal. Even without any food to offer the odd one will land on your head, once you have some seed you are covered in them. Red-browed Finches were feeding on the spilt seed, but there were not any Bowerbirds to be seen in the feeding area.

Having had our own lunch we headed for the Python Rock Trail reportedly a good place for Albertís Lyrebird. Brown Gerygones were common and in amongst these we found a Large-billed Scrubwren. Pairs of Southern Logrunners were common and at times very showy, so different from their Northern cousins that we had failed to see despite hearing quite close in PNG. A Bassian Thrush put on a great show feeding in the leaf litter and even posed for a photograph on a fallen log.

Close to the lookout we had a quick view of a Green Catbird and whilst waiting for this to reappear two male Regent Bowerbirds visited the same tree, but quickly disappeared from sight into the back of the canopy. A short distance back along the trail we heard an Albertís Lyrebird, which sounded very close to the trail, but as we headed to the spot the bird went quiet and two people came walking along the trail from the direction of where we had heard the bird. We decided to wait and see if the bird would start calling again, whilst waiting we had nice views of a Fan-tailed Cuckoo, but as we waited more and more people came walking past plus it started to rain again and the birds never called again.

We headed back to OíReillys to explore around the resort a bit more hoping for photographic opportunities of Bowerbirds and whilst we were able to photograph Satin Bowerbirds, the only Regent Bowerbird seen was a distant female. A Wonga Pigeon wandering along the road was another trip first as were several Yellow-throated Scrubwrens seen from the boardwalk and a party of Topknot Pigeons that flew over.

Eventually we decided we would have to leave meaning we would need to search for Albertís Lyrebird the next day at Mt Tamborine. Whilst we had had a good day we had not managed a lifer, but as we drove down the road we spotted a Russet-tailed Thrush feeding along the edge of the road, making it a great day. Back at the hotel a Southern Boobook was calling in the hotel grounds, but no sooner had we pointed a torch in its general direction it disappeared without trace.

6th September

At dawn we were at Witches Falls in Tamborine NP, with one target bird in mind, so we set off again on the loop we had walked previously, but this time with much better weather. A Brown Cuckoo-Dove was seen sitting on the path, but we didnít stop long to admire it as we could hear our target bird somewhere in the distance. As we neared the area it had been calling from I glimpsed a bird walking towards us just as it disappeared behind a large tree trunk, we quickly moved towards the tree and hid behind it. A few seconds later an Albertís Lyrebird walked past within three or four metres of us and then stopped and gave a very loud call before disappearing into the forest. Thrilled with our sighting we headed back to the hotel to collect our bags before heading back in the direction of the airport.

Driving into Tambourine looking for some breakfast we drove past the turn off and as there were several cars behind us we continued along this road looking for somewhere safe to turn around. This turned out to be very fortuitous as we spotted a large wetland area with an area to pull in.

The water was covered with birds, lots we had seen earlier in the trip, but also Australasian Grebes, Hardheads, Pacific Black Ducks, Comb-crested Jacanas, an Australian Darter, a White-necked Heron, Great, Little, Intermediate and Cattle Egrets, Red-kneed Dotterels and best of all for us Lathamís Snipe our ninth lifer in Australia. Whilst watching these a flowering tree above where we were standing was being constantly visited by Scaly-breasted and Rainbow Lorikeets.

Our final site was only 20 minutes from the airport and we thought our 10th lifer was almost guaranteed as we were heading for a Square-tailed Kite nest site. On arrival we realised the directions we had were not going to make it too easy to find the right tree, although we did easily find Grey Butcherbird. After wandering around for a while we found someone to ask for directions and they pointed out the general area, but despite this we were still struggling to find the right place until a Noisy Miner drew our attention to a Square-tailed Kite by mobbing it. Once we found the bird we soon spotted the nest and realised that the original directions we had received were from a different car park to the one we were parked in. This was definitely just in the nick of time, as we had to have our hire car back at 11.00 and it was 10.59 when we pulled into the airport car hire return, very happy with our few days in Brisbane.

We had seen 132 species in our time in Brisbane a total we were very happy with especially considering the bad weather we had and the fact that we had not studied more than a few of the bird songs before we arrived.
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Old Monday 15th September 2008, 18:47   #2
halftwo
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Great stuff, Mark.
I'm deffo (as they say) getting itchy feet now!
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Old Monday 15th September 2008, 18:48   #3
Allen S. Moore
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Enjoyable to read your report, especially as I'll be in Brisbane later in the year. I was especially interested in what you wrote about Oxley Common (I've seen the same website!), as I'm staying 6 days in Oxley with friends. You did well with the fairy-wrens!
Allen

Last edited by Allen S. Moore : Monday 15th September 2008 at 21:37. Reason: Interrupted before!
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