Monday, April 22, 2013

Back From the Brink

It was a close call in the end.  The thought of trying to manage a blog site and compete in the new educational world of the Australian Curriculum assumed rather daunting aspects with birding, or rather, bird blogging, seemingly destined for a resounding defeat.  Staffordshire Stray is already hanging by the merest fingernail.
Then, last week, I found the time and resolve to create a new Birds of Allen Road blog.  It came accompanied by a number of frustrations. On the other hand, they did explain the messages I had been receiving suggesting that I was no longer using a version supported by Google. When I updated as requested the blog was published; in spite of the error message continuing to show!

The main drain remained trying to fathom out what to write about, given a year’s absence from the bloggersphere.  Allen Road   was comparatively straightforward; it is one particular site, bordered by defined geographical limitations.  The task was simply to outline the various species recorded here since the last post.

Birding South Burnet presents a different set of problems.  To begin with, it is not one specific location but rather a conglomeration of 72 different areas and that includes the “South Burnett Strays,’ a collection of birds recorded while travelling to a specific location within the region.   Allen Road is a subset of this broader site; Blackbutt State School is primarily a site of birds “heard only” while teaching in the classroom or out on playground duty.   Fay and I remain the only birdwatchers with security clearance to monitor the birds in and around Tarong Power Station but it actually combines almost a dozen individual sites within the complex.
Habitats vary: dry woodland and wet sclerophyll forests, dense vine scrub; both bunya and hoop pine plantations; open farmland, both grazing pasture and ploughed land; wetlands, primarily dams but also running waterways such as Meandu Creek; disused railway lines and abandoned quarries; sewage plants and mountain tops. 

Distances travelled to reach different sites vary, which directly effects the duration of survey times, as it does the frequency of individual site surveys.   The percentage of bitumen to gravel roads also plays its part – and Fay appears to have a genuine knack at finding us the most atrocious soft surfaces on which to test the Forester.  She surpassed all previous efforts when on 31 December 2012, during a return visit to the Gibson State Forest, she suggested we explore the “top track” a little further.  By the time the track became a narrow, winding goat trail with large boulders strewn liberally across our way we decided that discretion was perhaps after a all the better part of valour.   To add insult to wounded ego, we came away with a miserable tally of eight species.
It would be smugly gratifying to sit here and boast that Fay and I have visited all 72 sites during the past year; we haven’t.  Nowhere near that number!  At last count we have monitored only 37 since April 2012 and that includes newly discovered sites such as the Darley Crossing Road [first noted in August 2012; last revisited in November of that year].

Nor has our monitoring been evenly distributed among those sites we have visited.  Twelve sites were covered on just one occasion, although this paucity was not always of our own making; the attempt to monitor the Kooralgin-Gilla Road on 10 February 2013 nearly ended in a minor disaster when we hit a patch of deep mud from an overflowing creek.  It took some adroit manoeuvring to extricate us out of that dilemma.  The Black-shouldered Kite Elanus axillaris pair appeased the offended spirits somewhat.
A number of former sites remain inaccessible since the January 2011 deluge; not helped by a second, albeit slight less ferocious, downpour this January [2013].   We will have to wait a while longer to finally either confirm or put aside all thoughts of the eastern form of the Star Finch Neochmia ruficauda. 
On the other hand this has forced other sites to become perhaps a little over-represented but when the soul demands birding, access becomes a moot point.   The Nanango Fauna Sanctuary has been monitored on 19 separate occasions; Berlin Road on 22, including yesterday [21 April] when we were blessed with magnificent views of a Spotted Harrier as it slowly glided across the road.