Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Awesome August




In essence August opened with the merest trickle of birds, increased in pace as the month proceeded and finally departed the 2013 calendar with an exciting flurry.  It was the obverse of Allen Road which suffered from the fact that Fay and I ventured further afield around the South Burnett, indeed even further, Beyond the Pale on occasions; the more we wandered, the less time we had to concentrate on Allen Road.
During the month we covered 20 of the 80 identified sites in the immediate region, including new additions David Road [Taromeo] and the Mudlo National Park [Kilkivan].  The former is the home of our good friends [and part-time birders] Richard & Bess Newman.  Hopefully if I can eventually present them with a reasonably comprehensive “backyard” birdlist [they made a start back in the early days] it will encourage them to pay birding more attention.  The latter remains something of an enigma.  We had noticed it on the maps and had always suggested to ourselves that one day we should venture out to explore its birding potential.  We never did and it took a Birds Queensland weekend outing [we joined them for the Saturday] to get us there.  A second trip is now firmly on the calendar.
We ended the month with 127 species, the best tally since records started back in 2001, clearly outstripping the second best total of 109 species in 2012 [the only two years in which August has topped the 100-species mark]. Of those, 49% [59 species] were passerines; parrots and allies managed 9% [12 species] marginally ahead of the pelicans and allies, also 9% but with only 11 species.
One species of particular note to us during the opening week of August was perhaps the White-necked Heron Ardea pacifica.  While by no means a rare species for the area, it is less frequent and less abundant than the White-faced Heron Egretta novaehollandiae; 94 recorded sightings compared to 370 for the latter.  Thus, it is always a little exciting to see a White-necked Heron.
The second week began looking good with our trip to the Tarong Power Station complex [10 August]: the White-throated Treecreeper Cormobates leucophaea, Weebill Smicrornis brevirostris and Rufous Whistler Pachycephala rufiventris put in their only appearance in the area but were all hugely over-shadowed by the Grey Goshawk Accipiter novaehollandiae, last seen in more or less exactly the same spot three months earlier [May 2013].
The following day, on a return to the Power Station, the two finches, Double-barred Taeniopygia bichenovii and Red-browed Neochmia temporalis showed well along one of the tracks around Meandu Creek Dam.
The third week exploded with a flurry of birds, hoisting August from the tally doldrums to become a serious contender for the Best Bird Month of the Year Award.  It squeezed into third place, behind July at 129 and January on 134.  We’d decided to join Birds Queensland on 24 August on their Kilkivan outing.

The Azure Kingfisher Ceyx azureus, only our second sighting of the species since December 1996 [and both in the South Burnett], made the long trip out to Kilkivan worthwhile in itself.  I noted it flying across the road to perch on a strand of wire running across the small creek at the caravan park entrance.  Fay, in the front passenger seat, had initially missed it so I slowly reversed until she too could get a good look at its blazing colours.  It was all pleasingly reminiscent of that beautiful Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis flitting about on rocks by the beach at Marazion, Cornwall, back in January 1994. 

Mudlo National Park provided us with crippling views of a Buff-banded Rail Gallirallus philippensis, cautiously foraging alongside the gravel road; a pair of Glossy Black-Cockatoos Calyptorhynchus lathami only metres above our heads and seemingly within easy reach of an outstretched hand; confirmation that Rainbow Bee-eaters Merops ornatus were back in town; the first Little Shrike-thrush Colluricincla megarhyncha sighting since December 2009; our first Spectacled Monarch Colluricincla megarhyncha since September 2012 and our first record of Leaden Flycatcher Myiagra rubecula since January this year.  As a touching finale, the Australasian Pipit Anthus australis put in its only South Burnett sighting for the month.
And all that before 31 August when we ventured forth to the Gordonbrook Dam for our eighth visit here [the previous one earlier in January 2013].    In keeping with the literary theme  of “awesome” we came away with our best ever tally, beating the former best [43 in October 2010]  with 55 – including the superlative, the crème de la crème, six Freckled Ducks  Stictonetta naevosa a mere stone’s throw from the shoreline.
The first Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus since January 2013 put in an appearance, floating down to join the above-mentioned Freckled Ducks.  The pair of Royal Spoonbills Platalea regia was our first South Burnett sighting of this species since the solitary bird at the Sewage Plant back in April 2013. The four Yellow-billed Spoonbills Platalea flavipes complemented the pair noted at the Sewage Plant a week earlier.  The two White-breasted Woodswallows Artamus leucorynchus added to the growing Trip List, as did the unexpected but welcomed Caspian Tern Hydroprogne caspia.
Aye, an absolutely awesome August.
From the same view point a few hours later