Monday, November 7, 2011


We’d known it was there for quite some time. On our way into Nanango we had often spotted people out for a walk along the track, exercising their dogs, jogging or simply strolling for the sheer pleasure of a walk. We also knew that the track followed Reedy Creek, the second watercourse that, with its companion, Sandy Creek, had flooded back in January 2011 cutting off the town for a few days.

Its potential value as a birding site was obvious but knowing that and actually getting around to doing something positive about the prospect took a little longer to marry. The problem is the track is three kilometres outside Nanango, on the D’aguilar Highway. It’s six kilometres from out home and we rarely venture forth in that direction. Believe me, .you need to have a definite purpose in mind to travel out to Nanango; it has few appealing characteristics with about as much tourism appeal as a toothache.

We did nevertheless make the effort on Sunday.

Only, on reaching the starting point of this Council-laid walking track, we discovered that it was two walking tracks. The track we had observed from the car while making one of very few scheduled trips into Nanango turned out to be an easy 1.4km track following the course of Reedy Creek. However, this was also the starting point of another, previously unsuspected, track of 1.8km terminating at Brooklands Road.

We opted for the latter and were almost immediately gob-smacked [pleasantly surprised] at the quality of the birding. No sooner had we turned the first corner than we found ourselves crossing Reedy Creek via a concrete culvert and there ahead of us was a pair of Olive-backed Orioles Oriolus sagittatus with a pair of Yellow-faced Honeyeaters Lichenostomus chrysops in an adjoining tree.

A Channel-billed Cuckoo Scythrops novaehollandiae called from somewhere on our left, a Pied Butcherbird Cracticus nigrogularis from the right and a White-throated Gerygone Gerygone albogularis from a little behind us. We proceeded across the culvert and added a pair of Sacred Kingfishers Todiramphus sanctus and a small troupe of Apostlebirds Struthidea cinerea.

The next twenty metres provided our tally with a pair of Noisy Friarbirds Philemon corniculatus , three Variegated Fairy-wrens Malurus lamberti and a humble Weebill Smiicrornis brevirostris. That of course includes only those species observed at close quarters and for lengthy periods of time. In the same space we added a dozen or more “heard only” species [e.g. Pheasant Coucal Centropus phasianinus, White-browed Scrubwren Sericornis frontalis, etc.].

The short trek included a number of, at least for us, special species. The Black-chinned Honeyeaters Melithreptus gularis are a rarity in our own backyard and here were too high in the treetops and far too active to provide any photographic opportunities; a pair of White-winged Trillers Lalage sueurii excited but disappeared as I raised the camera towards them; the solitary Brush Cuckoo Cacomantis variolosus was interesting but too deep in shadow to make photography worthwhile.

Then we spotted the Fan-tailed Cuckoo Cacomantis flabelliformis!

In all, our tally for the walk amount to an impressive 44 species and of course, we still have the original track to explore.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Spring Continues Springing

It was not so long ago that I coined the expression Spring is Springing. I based it on the noticeable nesting activity of several resident species, such as the Noisy Miner Manorina melanocephala and Torresian Crow Corvus orru. Above all, however, it was the return of the two friarbirds, the Noisy Friarbird Philemon corniculatus and, a little later, the Little Friarbird Philemon citreogularis. They have long been among the earliest heralds of approaching summer in this part of the world.

Thereafter I became bogged down in tests, marking and data collation. It left little time for serious birding or bird observations- although of course breakfast in bed, listening to the birds remained sacrosanct, as did the second, occasionally third, cup of tea on the east verandah looking out for birds.

That changed last week. Queensland schools went on their two-week spring vacation; I completed the last of the marking and data collation and suddenly had time for more birding.

Fay had already noted the arrival of the Olive-backed Oriole Oriolus sagittatus. That had been around 0630 on 19 September, the first week of the school holidays but I was already on the way to school [yes, some teachers do actually sacrifice their own time in the furtherance of children’s education] and missed it until the other day [25 September] when it deigned to call again in my presence.

The other day [24 September] we were strolling back from the dam, where we occasionally pick up the odd Australian Wood Duck Chenonetta jubata or White-faced Heron Egretta novaehollandiae, or where, in the surrounding bush, we have recently begun to find our long-lost White-browed Scrubwren Sericornis frontalis, when we clearly heard the distinct call of an Australasian Figbird Sphecotheres vieilloti.

All these signs augured well for Allen Road.

On Saturday [24 September] we managed to venture forth, out into the wider South Burnett realm. Well, okay, merely a little over a kilometre from the front gate to The Nipple. I am not totally responsible for the appellation. Someone, some Council worker no doubt, has dumped a couple of cubic metres of gravel in the middle of a cleared patch off the Nanango-Maidenwell Road and, yes, for the whole world, it does have hints of a nipple amid an aureole. It wasn’t of course the pile of crushed stones that interested us, it was the adjacent woodland.

Here, again, the call of the Olive-backed Oriole was plain evidence that spring is springing up all around us. As we prepared to leave the Rainbow Bee-eater Merops ornatus called!

On Sunday [25 September] we dared a little further afield, to woodland bordering Tarong Energy property, where we not only heard the oriole but saw three scuttling about atop a tall tree. In the same area we picked up Leaden Flycatcher Myiagra rubecula, another species that tends to visit us in warmer times. But wait, there was more, a pair of Spangled Drongos Dicrurus bracteatus quietly whispering sweet nothings to each other out on a dead tree limb no more than a few metres from where Fay and I stood. They were so close we didn’t need our binoculars.

The final clue that spring is indeed here was when we called in at the Berlin Road bridge over the Meandu Creek. It has become a regular stopover point whenever we return home from that direction. Never mind the magnificent views of a pair of Pacific Baza Aviceda subcristata perched high above our heads or the glorious sight of a Collared Sparrowhawk Accipiter cirrocephalus out in the open on a dead tree limb it was the call of the Sacred Kingfisher Todirhamphus sanctus from across the other side of the creek that announced the definite arrival of the austral spring [austral spring officially opens on 1st September].

N.B. common species in bold black names denote summer migrants to this area.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Spring is Springing

Whilst we may still officially be in the throes of winter [austral seasons] the birds have already started giving out clear signs that spring is well and truly on its way. At school a couple of Year 4 lads [9-10 year olds] grabbed me the other day [playground duty] to point out a Noisy Miner Manorina melanocephala at its nest. Fay and I, monitoring the birds of the open woodland below Meandu Creek Dam [part of the Tarong Power Station complex], noted a pair of Torresian Crows Corvus orru collecting a few of the larger fallen leaves. Nearer home, the Australian Magpies Cracticus tibicen appear to be in nesting mode – and our local pair still has a couple of almost, but not quite, fully fledged juveniles from a previous breeding attempt.

An even more telling sign came from the school grounds a little over a week ago when I heard the first Noisy Friarbird Philemon corniculatus. It scheduled its first appearance on a Monday, during the weekly school parade. Most of those present accepted that I would suddenly leave the hall to investigate the call: “Mr B” is the local lunatic birdwatcher; he does things like that!

A few days later the first Little Friarbird Philemon citreogularis appeared at Allen Road. It was almost immediately followed by our own first Noisy Friarbird.

Other signs abound. In avian terms alone the Grey-crowned Babblers Pomatostomus temporalis are busily collecting nesting materials. A pair of Pale-headed Rosellas Platycercus adscitus has twice investigated the recently repositioned nestbox; will we finally break our failure at attracting these truly beautiful birds to accept our nestbox? The local White-winged Choughs Corcorax melanorhampus appear to be more visible and active. Along Berlin Road last Sunday we observed a Galah Eolophus roseicapillus closely examining a number of hollows in the sole tall gum tree left standing on the corner with Jensen Road.

The nights may still be below ten but the days are warming up. Spring is around the next corner.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Bell Miner at Yarraman State Forest

Hoop Pine Forest
image at:
In my previous blog, about our jaunt over to the East Nanango State Forest, I mentioned the large expanse of Yarraman State Forest, renowned for the presence of Black-breasted Button-quail Turnix melanogaster. Back in the mid-90s Fay and I made several birding trips out here in search of this elusive bird and will never forget the moment the little creatures first presented themselves, a few feet away, busily scratching around in search of fodder. Thereafter we took several other birders, including a number of overseas aspirants, to the same area. That was long before it ever occurred to either of us that one day we would actually become domicile just a few kilometres further along the D’Aguilar Highway.

Things have changed somewhat. Then the favoured spot for Black-breasted Button-quail was a small rest area referred to as “The Stables.” It provided minimal facilities. While still there, it is no longer in use, having been replaced by the "Rogers Day Rest Area", a lawned area with concrete barbeques, tables and toilet amenities. A track leads out through some scrub vine and while we have seen a number of the telltale platelets –although one has to be aware that it is not the only button-quail which creates these circular depressions as a function of its foraging practices- we have never seen a Black-breasted here.

Nevertheless we return here on occasions. Hope burns eternally.

On our last visit we had crippling views of Eastern Spinebill Acanthorhynchus tenuirostris. It was there, flitting low around a tree on the very edge of the carpark. We didn’t even have to leave our vehicle to see it. Then its mate appeared and we found ten minutes of our allotted birding time had been spent on watching these two gorgeous creatures.

There was no spinebill this time though the picnic area resounded to the calls of Eastern Whipbird Psophodes olivaceus. We could distinguish the whip crack of at least two males with the complementary response of two females.

The usual cacophony of early morning choristers accompanied us as we strolled along, including Golden Whistler Pachycephala pectoralis, White-throated treecreeper Cormobates leucophaea, Eastern Yellow Robin Eopsaltria australis and Grey Shrike-thrush Collricincla harmonica. Further out, but still within the confines of Yarraman State Forest, we heard the Pied Currawong Strepera graculina and the alluring call of the Brown Cuckoo-Dove Macropygia amboinensis.

Bell Miner image at: It was while we were attempting to track down the White-browed Scrubwren Sericornis frontalis, which had been busily scolding us for our elephant-footed approach to its particular patch of Hoop Pine Araucaria cunninghamii, that we first heard the familiar tinkle of the Bell Miner Manorina melanophrys. It wasn’t new to us. Indeed, on those occasions when we mis-time our descent [or accent coming the other way] of the Ranges [courtesy of the January floods washout] we console ourselves during the ensuing 15-20 minute wait for the light changes with listening to this captivating bird.

Aside: Back in 1974, our first year in Australia, while birding and exploring this new homeland of ours, we found ourselves travelling along the Cunningham Highway, slowly, listening out for birds, when I stopped to investigate a new wheel squeal the vehicle seemed to have developed. I meticulously inspected each tyre, listened while Fay revved up the engine. It took several minutes to appreciate that the unusual squeak was in fact the call of the Bell Miner. Thankfully several specimens showed themselves, no doubt chuckling at our unnecessary concern.

No, it wasn’t an anomaly; they abound just kilometres further along the highway. Yet, in all our visits here over more recent years, we had never heard the bird here – at the "Rogers Day Rest Area". However, search as we may, we failed to actually sight it.

We ended the day’s birding with flashing glimpses of the Australian Raven Corvus coronoides which had been giving its distinctive cry of utter misery for several minutes; once heard, and memorized, it is difficult to ever again confuse it with the similar but humbler call of the Torresian Crow Corvus orru.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

East Nanango State Forest

The South Burnett is blessed with a plethora of state forests. Fay and I have one, Tarong State Forest, just 4km along the Nanango-Maidenwell Road; a little further, the South Nanango State Forest. The Archookoora State Forest involves a little more travel and time. In another direction we have the massive Yarraman State Forest [globally renowned as a hotspot for the vulnerable Black-breasted Button-quail Turnix melanogaster], supplemented by both the Gibson and Pidna State Forests. Or, in yet a different direction, the East Nanango State Forest.

It was the latter to which Fay and I recently travelled. Like many other forested areas there are a number of entry points. Our usual habit has been to approach the East Nanango State Forest via the East Nanango Road and along Calvert Road. Back in November 2009 we’d made our first, and to date only, trip out to this state forest accompanied by the loosely formed ROBYN bird group [Recorders of Birds in Yarraman & Nanango]. On that occasion they had used the Mount Stanley Road entry point.

It seemed a good time to recapture that outing.

Many Queensland country “roads” eventually peter out to gravel, or simply grass. The Mount Stanley Road is no exception. However, for the first few kilometres we were impressed by the sound nature of the road surface. That is until we arrive at the point S26 30’ 51” E152 04’ 42”. Here the road began to rise but the damage of the January floods was abundantly clear. No doubt a more experienced, even braver, soul behind the wheel of a 4-wheel drive vehicle would have dared the challenge of ruts across and along the road but I am of a simpler mode; discretion has always been the better part of my valour.

We stopped, alighted and were almost immediately rewarded with the distinctive call of a Yellow-faced Honeyeater Lichenostomus chrysops. We counted seven Australasian Grebes Tachybaptus novaehollandiae on the adjoining dam. The Rainbow Bee-eaters Merops ornatus were an unexpected bonus, as were the crippling views of Eastern Spinebill Acanthorhynchus tenuirostris.

As we walked along the track we rapidly added other species to the day’s tally: Grey Fantail Rhipidura albiscapa, Lewin’s Honeyeater Meliphaga lewinii [a bird more often heard than seen], White-naped Honeyeater Melithreptus lunatus, Pale-headed Rosella Platycercus adscitus and eight Red-browed Finch Neochmia temporalis. Among the “heard only” species in those first few metres, we ticked White-throated Honeyeater Melithrptus albogularis, Brown Honeyeater Lichmera indistinct and Spotted Pardalote Pardalotus punctatus.

By the time we called it a day along the Mount Stanley Road we had accumulated a list of 30 species, including good views of Speckled Warbler Chthonicola sagittata, Welcome Swallow Hirundo neoxena and Eastern Yellow Robin Eopsaltria australis.

En route to home we turned into Calvert Road [it connects with the aforementioned East Nanango Road] where we added Superb Fairy-wren Malurus cyaneus and Pied Currawong Strepera graculina. As we left the East Nanango State Forest we spotted a pair of juvenile Olive-backed Orioles Oriolus sagittatus perched high in a tree. This, however, is not the place to wax lyrical about the presence of orioles in this region at this time of the year.

Thursday, June 16, 2011


Having spent the past few weekends up to my neck in school report cards I was determined to get out on at least one of three days of the Queen’s Birthday long weekend. Saturday was a washout. Rain. We have become accustomed to that wet substance which seems to have been coming down from out of the sky since before the onset of 2011.

Sunday came. It was overcast, dull, grey and grim but there was no rain. We decided to do at least something towards our continuing survey of the birds of the Tarong Power Station.

Given Saturday’s heavy downpour it was decided to go out to Nobby Smith Drive [the road leading to the Tarong Coal Mine], to monitor the birds on and immediately around the small western bay of Meandu Creek Dam. As we left the front gate visibility along Allen Road was no more than 20m; it fared little better once we turned onto the Nanango-Maidenwell Road. It was almost oppressive.

The birding matched the surrounding mood. The only waterbirds noted on the dam itself was a solitary Australasian Grebe Tachybaptus novaehaollandiae and a pair or forlorn Pacific Black Duck Anas superciliosa.

The woodland across the road was more fruitful but it really was a case of bird-listening rather than watching. The three Torresian Crows Corvus orru calling and flying by overhead could nearly have been the day’s most outstanding feature, matched only by the three Willie Wagtails Rhipidura leucophrys cavorting on the road edge a few metres from us – perhaps they too were finding the visibility challenging. Thankfully, the sudden appearance of a Nankeen Kestrel Falco cenchroides floating out from somewhere beyond the trees to glide overhead made the otherwise desultory trip worthwhile. Not that Fay and I are particularly raptorphilic but their presence always seems to add a note of drama to the settings.

We abandoned the western bay and opted to take a narrow dirt track leading off Nobby Smith Drive. The four Speckled Warblers Chthonicola sagittata were a welcome sighting. The White-browed Scrubwren Sericornis frontalis showed well, as did the usually more elusive Lewin’s Honeyeater Meliphaga lewinii.

A single Grey Shrike-thrush Colluricincla harmonica put in an appearance but the remainder of the list was a record of “heard only” species - that is until we approached the other end of the track [exiting back onto the Nanango-Maidenwell Road].

Fay spotted several small birds dart across the track some metres ahead of us; I was otherwise occupied avoiding deep ruts and potholes, the vestiges of January’s floods. We pulled up, lowered the windows, watched and listened. Three long-tailed birds flitted into view. Fairy-wrens. Females of the species and difficult to distinguish from other fairywrens. I squeaked. Does anyone else out there still have [and use] the old Audubon bird squeaker? A male responded by alighting atop a nearby bush. We had Superb Fairy-wrens Malurus cyaneus.

Given the miserable conditions, that would have served as a grand finale for the day but Fay, who has amazing hearing, picked up the faint call of a robin. We scoured the nearby treetops but lighting was poor. A bird shot through from one tree to a neighbouring tree. It was only the briefest of glimpses but enough to direct our binoculars in the right direction. A Rose Robin Petroica rosea! The first for this area.

On the way back home we pulled up onto the hard shoulder, it hardly qualifies as an entire lay-by, by the bridge over Meandu Creek [just south of the Berlin Road junction]. It has proved fruitful on past visits but then we have usually birded here in good light conditions. The list was, as expected under the circumstances, meagre but watching the Australian Magpie Cracticus tibicen strenuously attempting to pull a long worm out of the ground was interesting. The six Yellow-rumped Thornbills Acanthiza chrysorrhoa were that locality’s highlight on this occasion.

The hot coffee at home was marginally better.

Saturday, April 9, 2011


Image via
Australian Raven

One sure sign that you continue to be alive and kicking, both physically and between the ears, is that you are still learning something new as you pass through this mortal coil. Only the dead cease learning – and then some would argue that the jury is still out on that particular old chestnut. Yesterday [Saturday 9 April 2011] Fay and I found ourselves learning something new. Actually, two new things.

We’d been threatening to do it for more than a year but something always seemed to arise which drove the intention onto the back burner; something we would definitely do tomorrow. I’d even acquired the appropriate telephone numbers to contact… and duly misplaced them somewhere along the clutter on the tomorrow shelf. Two weeks ago I finally telephoned the Newsletter editor of the South Burnett Field Naturalists [formerly the Murgon Field Naturalists]. My timing was almost impeccable. They had a projected outing to on private property coming up soon – details in their current Newsletter which Harry would post out to me anon.

There was only one slight problem. The Field Nats had scheduled 0930 hours as their starting time. Clearly the organizer was not a birder. Or perhaps he was of German extraction! [aside: you have to know the ethnic make-up of the leading lights in the Nats to appreciate that small jest]. Mid-morning might well be a sufficient time in boreal quarters to start birding but it didn’t apply to austral conditions. No self-respecting Australian bird would be around that late in the day- except of course the usual, usually large, species that seemed to revel in making their presence known to all and sundry at any time of the day.

Nor had Fay and I realised that this was to be an all-day affair with the Nats bringing along breakfast and lunch for later- not to mention copious quantities of water. We already had a pressing engagement for later that afternoon.

Lesson No.1: Field Nats start late and finish late.

We’ll be better prepared for our next venture with this group [I paid the man our subscription fee out in the field].

Fay and I of course arrived early, partly to make sure we could find the place and partly to get in some birding before the day became too hot. We’d only ever been to Kumbia once before, passing through en route to somewhere else.

The drive to the township itself was straight-forward enough, it was basically at the other end of the Brooklands Road, part of which we travelled regularly in our quest for birds. However, experience, often of a bitter nature, warned us that an address numbered 1563 indicated a drive of at least 15km from some junction or other and the name Ironpot was new to us.

As it was, there was no problem and we found ourselves parked outside the property entrance well in advance of the scheduled start time. It was at a convenient T-junction with a track [undoubtedly the “old road” before the current bitumen was laid] leading off back towards the last bend we had negotiated.

The weather, however, was against us in both birding and photographic terms. Too windy. Nevertheless we did manage a list of some sorts before the Nats began arriving, including reasonable views of a pair of Australian Ravens Corvus coronoides. We added to the list while on the property which, together with the list of species recorded en route, made for a reasonable tally: 15 en route, 18 at the property itself.

Highlights included:

Australian [Nankeen] Kestrel

Australian Raven

Red-winged Parrot

Jacky Winter

Australian [Black-shouldered] Kite

Oh yes, Lesson No.2: when “bush-bashing” with a vehicle beware of grass seeds, they can insinuate themselves into your radiator and once in are virtually impossible to remove – ever!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Berlin Road by 7

But what else? Where else? It had rained throughout most of Saturday, confining Fay to the house [I’d been in Brisbane at a Science teachers’ conference- and it had rained there all day as well]. The rain came down again on Sunday morning, albeit initially only as a brief downpour. It continued to rain as a fine spray well into the afternoon. Clearly all those outside chores we had planned for the day were now either impractical or simply impossible. So why not a return to Berlin Road? If nothing else it would break the monotony.

Again armed with the trusty Garmin Oregon 300 GPS unit, we decided to refine our “stops” along this extended transect and recorded the geographical co-ordinates of each individual “staging post” while continuing to treat the entire road as one birding site for computer recording purposes [in other words, we did not repeat previously recorded species and only altered the number seen where appropriate].

Typical Hoop Pine plantation. Image via

We ended up with seven staging posts, ranging from the crest of the first hill [loose, open woodland on both sides of the road]; a stretch with narrow strips of remnant rainforest on both sides of the road; a stretch [one of our original stopping spots] where the remnant rainforest bordered only one side, with open grassland and a Hoop Pine Araucaria cunninghamii plantation on the other; at the intersection with both Chippendale and Jensen Roads, basically grassy lanes surrounded by grazing pastures; perhaps a 100m along the road beyond the “dog leg” where we had observed such gems as Zebra Finch Taeniopygia guttata on an earlier visit; at the gateway to a newly-acquired, but still house-less, site with a square patch of remnant rainforest on one side and open grassland on the other; and finally we parked in a gateway overlooking a small farm dam perhaps 50m from the road’s junction with the D’Aguilar Highway.

Our tally came to 31, equalling the second highest total we had previously recorded along Berlin Road back in January 2009 [the current best being 34 species in January 2010]. The day’s tally included four species new to the site:

Black-faced Monarch Monarcha melanopsis [an immature bird]
Scarlet Honeyeater Myzomela sanguinolenta
Golden Whistler Pachycephala pectoalis

And perhaps the most interesting from our prespective [see the recent blog at Birds of Allen Road] was the

Eastern Yellow Robin Eopsaltria australis.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Rocky Creek Circuit

Australian Hobby. Image via

We came across what we now refer to as the Rocky Creek Circuit more by chance and good fortune than by deliberate design. One end of Rocky Creek Road itself exits onto the D’Aguilar Highway, at a point where the highway crosses Rocky Creek, normally a thin trickle of water running along a narrow, but deepish, course. I pass it twice daily during the working week and in the back of my mind had always earmarked it as a potential for future exploration.

However, it wasn’t until we discovered that it’s other end terminates at its junction with Reeve Road, the latter running from Neumgna Road to the D’Aguilar Highway, that we appreciated the potential for a birding circuit.

The easiest way to picture this “circuit” is to imagine a capital Q; the circuit proper takes in Reeve Road, Rocky Creek Road, the D’Aguilar Highway and so back to Reeve Road. The tail of the Q is that part of Reeve Road which sweeps into Neumgna Road [and that leads to Berlin Road].

Our initial exploratory outing was back in January 2010, a trip that produced a mere five species but given that one of the very first birds was the Australian Hobby Falco longipennis it fired the imagination and has become a regular route when we’re short of extended time but feel the need to go a little beyond Allen Road.

On the subsequent visit the tally of birds rocketed to 19 and included crippling view of a pair of Jacky Winters Microeca fascinans [a member of the Petroicidae, robins]. On the previous visit, in November 2010, we had tallied a record 29 species and while the list had included nothing out of the ordinary, other than perhaps a pair of Plumed Whistling-Duck Dendrocygna eytoni, it had shown us that there was much to be had from this circuit.

Jacky Winter Image via

On the first visit for this current year, Sunday 13 March 2011, we tallied only 24 species but it did include good views of Red-rumped Parrot Psephotus haematonotus, strung out along overhead wires along Reeve Road. Unfortunately the morning was overcast, dull and gloomy; not the ideal conditions for photography.

With a little "tweaking" this should the Rocky Road Circuit should become one of the best nearby locales Fay and I have on our South Burnett schedule.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Slow Day @ Berlin Road

I suppose one of the problems with Berlin Road for me is that I travel along it twice a day during the working week; once on the way to Blackbutt and again on the return journey home. On most occasions, when venturing further afield [e.g. leaving for one of our occasional trips back to Redcliffe], we use Berlin Road as the most convenient route. One tends to become a little blasé; familiarity breeding contempt.

It can often take a special occasion to stir complacency out of its moribund state. Yesterday [Saturday 12 March 2033] serves as a point in case. We were heading to Jimboomba to visit our [non-birding] son and, with Fay in the front passenger seat, notebook and pencil in hand, we recorded the birds on or either side of the road as we travelled.

Given the less than satisfactory circumstances [speed, albeit never above 80kph, is not the perfect partner to good birding practice] our eventual meagre list was disappointing:

Crested Pigeon Ocyphaps lophotes
White-faced heron Egretta novaehollandiae
Galah Eolophus roseicapillus
Rainbow Lorikeet Trichoglossus haematodus
Australian Magpie Cracticus tibicen
Torresian Crow Corvus orru
Magpie-lark Grallina cyanoleuca

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Tarong Power Station

Image from Courier-Mail

There are those birding occasions when you get a tantalizing glimpse of a particularly magnificent bird. In a perfect world, or given a magic wand, you’d no doubt prolong that agonizing brevity into an endless moment of bliss but the reality is that there are no fairy godmothers and you have to make do with what Father Time allots you.

Such was our dilemma on Saturday [12 February] when Fay and I decided to put in another visit to the nearby Tarong Power Station.

Fay and I, the only birders with security clearance, and permission, to enter Tarong Energy property, have now been covering the power station for just less than two years. I’ll need to present them with a preliminary report in April 2011.

It was at the end of the session. We’d driven as close to the woodland area as the prevailing track conditions allowed. Water continues to lie around; deep ruts warn of previous unfortunates who had ignored the muddy conditions. We walked, as we had done in the early years of our birding career together back on Cannock Chase in Staffordshire.

The birding was good if not particularly spectacular. The Little Crow Corvus bennetti was a first for the Tarong area. The distinctive call of the Fan-tailed Cuckoo Cacomantis flabelliformis was a keen reminder that this parasitic bird is still around. Views of Speckled Warbler Chthonicola sagittata and White-browed Scrubwren Sericornis frontalis are always welcome. Both the White-throated Treecreeper Cormobates leucophaea and Eastern Yellow Robin Eopsaltria australis again failed to be in an appearance but sang their little hearts out.

Having walked around the woodland, duly recorded the 31 species present, we made our way back to the car. A rather gorgeous butterfly momentarily distracted us and it was while I was photographing it that we heard the unfamiliar call. It was not a new call; we’d heard it on previous occasions but not in the South Burnett and not for a very long time. Its name was on the tip of the tongue when I caught the merest glimpse of a bird skulking in some thickets.

Photo by D.A. King
Immature Black-faced Monarch, note absence of facial black markings.

As we often do, we approached the bird from slightly different angles to maximise our chances of getting good enough views to put a name to the quarry. With binoculars focused on the bird it was readily identified as a Black-faced Monarch Monarcha melanopsis: grey upper parts contrasting sharply with the rich rufous underparts. The absence of any facial black [forehead and throat] earmarked it as an immature specimen.

We ended the morning’s outing by pulling up at the Meandu Creek bridge crossing which on the prvious visit had provided us with a bagful of gems, including crippling views of a Tawny Grassbird Megalurus timoriensis. This was not a repeat occasion. We came away without a single sighting and the merest of calls from Little Friarbird Philemon citreogularis, Australian Magpie Cracticus tibicen and Striped Honeyeater Plectorhyncha lanceolata.

Meandu Creek, a little past the bridge, continues to be turbid and muddy.

Breakfast beckoned.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Berlin Road Gems

Australasian Pipit

I travel the 6km length of Berlin Road twice daily, Monday through to Friday, on the way to and from Blackbutt. That, with few exceptions, has been the routine throughout the school year since late January 2006; I tend to avoid travelling to school during holiday times.

It’s a long transect which, on average, produces few birds of outstanding interest: Torresian Crows Corvus orru abound, closely challenged by Australian Magpie Cracticus tibicen. There are of course the ubiquitous Magpie-larks Grallina cyanoleuca and Crested Pigeons Ocyphaps lophotes. On occasions, the drive produces Pheasant Coucal Centropus phasianinus, Pied Butcherbird Cracticus nigrogularis or fleeting glimpses of Australasian Pipits Anthus novaehollandiae disappearing over barbed-wire fences into nearby thickets.

Perhaps then, not too surprisingly, whenever I, or both Fay and I, travel along Berlin Road we rarely expect to be amazed by any particular avian delights. The occasional Willie Wagtail Rhipidura leucophrys or Masked Lapwing Vanellus miles often serve as the highlights of the stretch. Otherwise it is a rather mundane trip.

Nor is there any apparent reason why anyone should become overly excited at the birding prospects of Berlin Road. From its T-junction with the Nanango Maidenwell Road it races, admittedly in a rather roller-coaster fashion for the first three kilometres, to its T-junction with the D’Aguilar Highway. There is only the dogleg by the former Gemstone Museum [long since gone] to break it’s otherwise seemingly unbending route. Even that is an illusion; the road does take slight turns as it traverses what is, primarily, open grazing land. Part of Tarong Energy's pine plantation skirts the road for a kilometre or so. The two small rainforest patches, secured behind fenced-off private property, have yet to be fully explored.

It has however had, and continues to have, its moments. Back in August 2010 we had crippling view of a Brown Falcon Falco berigora hunting the area, its manoeuvres leading us to discover eleven Red-tailed Black-Cockatoos Calyptorhynchus banksii seemingly hiding in a spreading tree. Earlier, in September 2009, we had our first Eastern Barn Owl Tyto javanica for the South Burnett along this stretch of road. In January 2009 it had been the Southern Boobook Ninox novaeseelandiae. The Nankeen [Australian] Kestrel Falco centrchroides perched atop a tall telegraph pole at the dogleg put in an unexpected appearance on 16 August 2009; the Black-shouldered [Australian] Kite Elanus axillaris in the following August. There was a Pallid Cuckoo Cacomantis pallidus in early January 2009 and Ground Cuckoo-shrikes Coracina maxima in January 2010.

However, perhaps the sighting of most merit for the road was back on 2 May 2010 when, returning home, coming out of the Gemstone Museum dogleg, I spotted an adult Brown Quail Corturnix ypsilphora escorting its young chick across the road. Fay and I returned to the spot on several occasions in the following few days but the quail never reappeared.

Following our failure, on Saturday 5 February [see earlier post], to find any signs of crakes or rails along Chippendale Road we turned back into Berlin Road, heading towards the D’Aguilar Highway. We had few hopes of coming across anything exciting. I had the vague notion of bearing right at the approaching T-junction and heading out to Rocky Creek Road, a stretch of dirt road that had, in the past, been very kind to us.

We were barely 50m past the last twist of the dogleg when a small flock of finch-types flew across the road ahead of us. We could immediately rule out Double-barred Finch Taeniopygia bichenovii; they were too dark. I pulled up opposite the bushes we had seen them land in and there, as clear as daylight, were six Chestnut-breasted Mannikins [Munias] Lonchura castaneothorax. Not a first for the South Burnett, we had noted them in the Murgon area back in January 2007, but nevertheless a first for Berlin Road and another addition to the 2011 Year List.

If that rare [for the area] sighting was not enough, in the next bush along, Fay spotted a trio [male with two females] of Superb Fairy-wrens Malurus cyaneus and while Fay was busily adding these to our list, I looked over my right shoulder, to the other side of the road, and observed a Tawny Grassbird Megalurus timoriensis alight atop a tall grass stalk. I then noted the Golden-headed Cisticola Cisticola exilis to the left and a little below the grassbird.

Image from

Zebra Finch

But wait, there was more! As Fay and I basked in the warm glow of so many unexpected new Berlin Road species, a small number of, again, finch-types fluttered down onto the road a little ahead of us. My initial reaction was to call Red-browed Finch Neochimea temporalis; I thought I had detected a flash of red in their faces. A closer inspection, via binoculars, showed them to be Zebra Finch Taeniopygia guttata – another new species for Berlin Road and another addition to the Year List.

Nor was that the end of the surprises Berlin Road held for us that morning. Continuing to the further end [nearer the D’Aguilar Highway] where I had originally noted the “crake-like” bird the previous Tuesday, we simply pulled up inside a farm driveway and waited. Within minutes, a number of Golden-headed Cisticolas appeared, as if out of thin air. They buzzed around, scolded and carried on with whatever it is cisticolas do best.

A pair of Tawny Grassbirds flitted by. We continued to wait. A Grey Teal Anas gracilis flew down onto the small dam. The almost obligatory Australian Magpie and Pied Butcherbird put in an appearance.

We waited a little more. A bird flitted over the vehicle, across Berlin Road and alighted on the fence on the opposite side of the road. One of us, probably me, muttered something along the lines of, “just another bloody grassbird.” It wasn’t. We’d both raised our binoculars to get a better view of the bird and almost simultaneously exclaimed, “No, it’s bloody not!”

Horsfield's Bushlark
Image by Brett Donald

It was a Horsfield’s [Singing] Bushlark Mirafra javanica– only the second we’d seen in the South Burnett and a first for Berlin Road. It was yet another addition to the 2011 Year List.

Our second Pallid Cuckoo for Berlin Road simply rounded off a near perfect morning of birding.

The climatic flood is over; long live the avian flood!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Chippendale Road Birding

The main "escape" route to Brisbane closed to traffic
Back in early January, Fay and I had considered ourselves lucky to have found a small window of opportunity, sneaking off in between rain squalls to survey our local national park, culminating with breakfast at the former Maidenwell Post Office [see previous post]. This last weekend we decided it would be fairly safe to venture forth into the wider South Burnett in our continuing [continuous] pursuit of birds.

Only last Tuesday, on the way to work via Berlin Road, I had a fleeting glimpse of a crake-like bird scurrying across the road from the small dam on the right into pastures on the other side. It had been only the briefest of glimpses, I was negotiating a slight bend in the road, but my best guess at the time would have been the Spotless Crake Porzana tabuensis. Sadly, a careful check through a number of field guides [between us Fay and I own perhaps a dozen, some admittedly a little dated now] brought up the very distinct possibility of juvenile Dusky Moorhen Gallinula tenebrosa.

It was Fay who suggested we try Chippendale Road for the crake/rail. She reasoned that if I had seen one scurrying across Berlin Road [a reasonably well used bitumen road] then there would probably be even better prospects of seeing the species along Chippendale Road, a less used grass and dirt track, especially near the small dam some 150m inside the Berlin Road gate end.

Barker Creek flooded, no way through to Kingaroy
For those unfamiliar with the local geography [and/or don’t have access to Google Earth] from Allen Road, Chippendale Road is readily reached via Berlin Road: right out of our property, a right at the T-junction onto the Nanango Maidenwell Road, heading towards Tarong Power Station, a left just before the bridge over Meandu Creek and right a little after the dogleg at the old museum. There is a gate warning off trespassers but both Fay and I have security passes [and permission] to enter Tarong Energy property for the purposes of birdwatching.

The small dam, where we had hopes off perhaps emulating my experiences of the previous Tuesday lay about 150m further along. We managed 145m. The dam had burst its wall and water was flowing across the dirt road. A week or more of this had clearly damaged the road, making crossing a rather precarious matter. We decided that discretion was the better part of valour [have you ever tried digging out a bogged 4-wheel drive miles from the nearest point of help or where there are no suitable hitching posts for a winch?]. Besides, we had good views of most of the dam while sitting in the vehicle and it provided the added bonus of serving as a very adequate hide.

A few years back our son had presented me with an I-pod for Christmas, thought it was time I joined the 21st century. Australia is poor in modern technological birding aids [no BirdGuides here] but we do have a 10-disc series of Australian bird song, ranging from the Ostrich Struthio camelus to the Australian Raven Corvus coronoides. Along with Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto [in A Major, K.622] I had copied these songs onto aforesaid I-pod. Last Christmas I treated myself to one of those gadgets that enables you to play your I-pod tunes earplug free; that is, a modern old-fashioned tape for attracting birds!

Unsure as to exactly which crake or rail I had seen that Tuesday we played all the possible Rallidae. All to no avail, not a single crake or rail so much as stuck out a beak from among the tall grasses around us.

Not that the outing to Chippendale Road went without some compensations. The female Leaden Flycatcher Myiagra rubecula was a gem. The Eastern Yellow Robin Eopsaltria australis, while welcome, continues to frustrate. As the crow flies we are a mere few miles from Chippendale Road and yet have never recorded the robin along Allen Road. Birding friends of ours, Robert & Colleen Fingland, live more or less the same distance from Chippendale Road, albeit in a different direction, and yet they have recorded both the Eastern Yellow and Red-capped Petroica goodenovii Robins on their property.

From Chippendale Road we ventured further along Berlin Road, towards its junction with the D’Aguilar Highway to where I had spotted that crake-like bird on Tuesday but that will have to wait for a subsequent post.

Today’s Tally: Eastern Whipbird, Pied Butcherbird, Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike, Willie Wagtail [a flycatcher by any other name], Magpie-lark [the perennial taxonomic shifter], Australian Magpie, Torresian Crow, Lewin’s Honeyeater, Pale-headed Rosella, Silvereye, Grey Shrike-thrush, Crested Pigeon, Sriped Honeyeater, Laughing Kookaburra, Eastern Yellow Robin, Bar-shouldered Dove, Leaden Flycatcher, Noisy Friarbird, Little friarbird and Sacred Kingfisher.

Another South Burnett road cut off.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

One South Burnett view.
I’ve no doubt that many, even beyond Australian shores, have by now heard of the BIG WET up here in Queensland. Some areas [e.g. Rockhampton] have been particularly severely affected – 9m of water must be an awesome [and frightening] sight to behold. Certain areas of the South Burnett have also done it the hard way but perhaps not as sorely as they have in, say, Condamine [15m of water]. Parts of the region have at times been cut off. It was difficult to reach Kingaroy from Nanango when the Embrey Bridge over Barker Creek went under . Fay was sent home early from work that afternoon, as sson as the imminent flooding become painfylly obvious.

The continuing wet conditions have put paid to our Tarong Power Station monitoring program. The only spot we could safely reach [in the knowledge that we could return home] is Nobby Smith Drive but then the rain appears to have driven off most, if not all, the waterbirds there. Matters were not helped when last Friday evening I managed to bog the Subaru 20m inside our front gate. We dug it out on Saturday morning but I’ve obviously done something to the wheel balance and that can’t be repaired until tomorrow [Monday] morning- always assuming the current continuous downpour stops. This [Sunday] morning we managed to bog Fay’s 4-wheel-drive.

Excuse the pun, it never rains but it pours!

Throughout the current deluge... images of Noah appearing in the overcast skies… we have managed two humble outings. The first, to Gordonbrook Dam, involved navigating a 90-degree bend with a rather largish hole washed out on the elbow of the turn. That tested the nerves. The second, around the Tarong National Park, was comparatively simple, ending with breakfast at the Maidenwell Post Office [cum rather impressive, for a small country community, cafĂ©]

Gordonbrook was comparatively bare of waterbirds; the odd Black Swan Cygnus atratus out on the distant bank of the dam, a couple of Grey Teal Anas gracilis, along with a pair of Purple Swamphen Porphyrio porphyrio and a similar number of Dusky Moorhen Gallinula tenebrosa . We fared far better with the associated land birds, the Red-rumped Parrots Psephotus hamatonotus being the pick of the sightings that morning.

On a previous trip here we had “discovered” birding joys at the junction of the D’Aguilar Highway, Recreation Drive [leading to the dam] and Oil Seed Road. Then we had picked up Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater Acanthagenys rufogularis and Leaden Flycatcher Myiagra rubecula among others. Pickings were a little more frugal on this occasion! The Eastern [Australian] Koel Eudynamys orientalis, a male, was perhaps the most interesting bird here.

All that had passed on the last day of 2010. For our first [and to date, only] 2011 birding trip we managed to sneak out between rain squalls to tour our local National Park, Tarong [a little more than 6km down the road]. We ended with a tally of 53 species. There was nothing out of the ordinary –other than actually being out there at all. The view of a youngish Wedge-tailed Eagle Aquila audax floating gently just above our heads was well worth the outing.

Start of the Tarong National Park circuit.
Tarong National Park is surrounded by a variiety of habitats and can usually be relied upon to provide a surprise or two. On a previous visit we had crippling views of Emeralde Dove Chalcophaps indica. On this trip, a male Indian Peafowl but sadly, as we are aware of a local famer breeding the species, it can't be counted.

Indian Peafowl, edge of Tarong National Park. As I complete these few words it continues to pour down. Everything, everywhere, is WET but let’s hope we can all get in a good 2011 birding year.