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Mar 18: Australia’s smallest bird


Feeling better each day from the pneumonia and strong enough to get up early today and head out to Lake Manchester, on Brisbane’s far western frontier. It was something of a mop-up mission – a few other birders have had Weebill around the SW corner of the lake in the last couple of weeks, and I missed that species on my epic wander of Feb 18. Australia’s smallest bird, the Weebill weighs in at 6 grams (that’s 15 Weebills to a Brown Quail!) and usually sticks fairly high up in the trees, although fortunately has a distinctive vocalisation. I headed for Dam Break 11, inspired by the recent sighting by Stephen Murray and Ged Tranter. Just as I reached the junction between the lake perimeter track and Dam Break 11, I heard the chirpy chatter of not one but two Weebills – bingo! One of them came within firing range of the camera, and I was very pleased. I continued up Dam Break 11 and heard a third bird 3/4 of the way along the track, and then bumped into another couple of birds as I continued on the circuit to Lake Manchester Road at Cabbage Tree Creek. Truly a bumper day for this diminutive little species.

Weebill is a rare bird in Brisbane. It has been seen in 76 complete checklists in Brisbane between 2005 and 2017, out of a total of 23,890 lists – that’s only 0.32% of lists! Puzzlingly there are scattered records from most bushland areas around the city, but it is only really reliable in the western woodlands. Although sample sizes are low, there is a hint of a seasonal pattern to the records, with a distinct autumn peak. It is also possible that people don’t bird eucalypt woodland much in the heat of summer, but to work that out would need more detailed investigation. One very clear pattern though is a huge decline in reporting rate between 2005 and 2017, with some recent years yielding almost no records at all, and with 2005 and 2006 being bumper years that haven’t been repeated since. I wonder if Weebills are nomadic, or just so scarce that there are spurious patterns in the data?

With one year tick today, my year list rose to 247 species. I spent 3 hours 14 minutes birding, walked 5.092 km and drove 113.0 km.

Monthly reporting rate for Weebill – is there an autumn peak?

Reporting rate each year for Weebill – clearly far fewer records in recent years compared to the heady days of 2005 and 2006. Is this species declining? Or maybe nomadic wanderings bring it into Brisbane in some years but not others?

14 Mar: Celebrating the life of David Milton – a Queensland Ornithological Great


Today I learnt about the tragic recent passing of David Milton, a hugely influential figure in Queensland ornithology, and a highly valued collaborator of our research group over the past 10 years. I’ll leave others who knew him more deeply to write the full tributes and relate the stories of David’s achievements. But David was still very much a man in his prime, recently retired from a successful science career at CSIRO and enjoying a richly deserved series of world birding trips to some of the most exotic locations out there. As well as being a tragic loss to his family and friends, David’s passing is also a huge blow to the Queensland Wader Study Group, in which David has been a central figure for decades. His knowledge of shorebirds and their habitats, and his tireless dedication to their conservation was a true inspiration to those around him, and right until the end he was working closely with the Queensland Government to ensure data on shorebirds is being effectively used in decision-making processes around the state. We owe it to him to continue his wonderful work and to reflect his legacy in effective shorebird conservation in Queensland and around the flyway.

David has worked closely with our research group over the last decade, and was critical to establishing a productive partnership between the University of Queensland and the Queensland Wader Study Group. As well as brokering several collaborative projects, David worked directly with us on five publications, and I list them at the end of this post as a recognition of his contribution. We are currently working on another paper on Moreton Bay shorebirds on which David is a co-author, and we will dedicate the piece to his memory. Rest in peace mate – cut short in your prime, with plenty more birds still to see.

David Milton in action on 28th January 2018, attempting to encourage some shorebirds to move toward a cannon-net set at the Port of Brisbane.















Studds CE, Kendall BE, Murray NJ, Wilson HB, Rogers DI, Clemens RS, Gosbell K, Hassell CJ, Jessop R, Melville DS, Milton DA, Minton CDT, Possingham HP, Riegen AC, Straw P, Woehler EJ & Fuller RA (2017) Rapid population decline in migratory shorebirds relying on Yellow Sea tidal mudflats as stopover sites. Nature Communications, 8, 14895.

Hansen BD, Clemens RS, Gallo-Cajiao E, Jackson MV, Maguire GS, Maurer G, Milton D, Rogers DI, Weller DR, Weston MA, Woehler EJ & Fuller RA (2018) Shorebird monitoring in Australia: a successful long-term collaboration between citizen scientists, governments and researchers. In Legge S, Robinson N, Scheele B, Lindenmayer D, Southwell D & Wintle B (eds) Monitoring Threatened Species and Ecological Communities. CSIRO, Canberra.

Choi C-Y, Rogers KG, Gan X, Clemens RS, Bai Q-Q, Lilleyman A, Lindsey A, Milton DA, Straw P, Yu Y-T, Battley PF, Fuller RA & Rogers DI (2016) Phenology of southward migration of shorebirds in the East Asian–Australasian Flyway and inferences about stop-over strategies. Emu, 116, 178-189.

Clemens RS, Rogers DI, Hansen BD, Gosbell K, Minton CDT, Straw P, Bamford M, Woehler EJ, Milton DA, Weston MA, Venables B, Weller D, Hassell C, Rutherford B, Onton K, Herrod A, Studds CE, Choi CY, Dhanjal-Adams KL, Murray NJ, Skilleter GA & Fuller RA (2016) Continental-scale decreases in shorebird populations in Australia. Emu, 116, 119-135.

Wilson HB, Kendall BE, Fuller RA, Milton DA & Possingham HP (2011) Analyzing variability and the rate of decline of migratory shorebirds in Moreton Bay, Australia. Conservation Biology, 25, 758-766.

With no year ticks today, my year list remained on 246 species. I spent 0 hour 0 minutes birding, walked 0 km and drove 0 km.

Mar 13: We’re moving again!


Checking the alerts mid-morning, I saw that Ged Tranter had seen three Australasian Shovelers at Kedron Brook Wetlands yesterday, presumably the two birds that were at Lytton a few weeks ago, joined up with a third bird. Being only 15 minutes from the house, I hauled myself into the car and headed up to Kedron in the drizzly rain. Sure enough, scoping from the yellow gate I got straight on to a pair of Australasian Shovelers, although I couldn’t see a third bird. This species is reliable in the Lockyer Valley, where reasonable numbers are always present at Lake Clarendon and other sites, but it is rare and erratic in Brisbane, so I was very pleased to connect. While there, I wanted to make the most of it, and wandered through the waterlogged tracks to view other parts of the marsh. A raptor caught my attention – a Swamp Harrier! While not mega rare in Brisbane, this is another species that is not reliable in any one spot, and I was always going to rely on finding one by chance.

With two year ticks today (Australasian Shoveler and Swamp Harrier), my year list rose to 246 species. I spent 55 minutes birding, walked 1.199 km and drove 35.3 km.

Mar 12: Resting


Spent all day inside, mainly resting up.

With no year ticks today, my year list remained on 244 species. I spent 0 hour 0 minutes birding, walked 0 km and drove 0 km.

Mar 11: Just like the good old days


Sunday morning, and I was feeling a little better – I wanted to head out birding just to start to get things back to normal. For old time’s sake, I thought I’d dip on Black Bittern once again. I chose Mookin-Bah for this, and executed the dip perfectly – not even a hint of Black Bittern all morning, although I did hear Spotless Crake and Lewin’s Rail. After finishing at Mookin-Bah I checked out a few sites to the south around Tingalpa Reservoir, mainly stopping roadside and exploring to see if any of the small dams I could see on Google Earth were publicly accessible – sadly they were not.

With no year ticks today, my year list remained on 244 species. I spent 1 hour 11 minutes birding, walked 2.257 km and drove 46.9 km.

Feb 28 – Mar 10: T1D


Sorry, this update is more a health report than  birding report, although I’m happy to report I am now strong enough for some gentle birding again!

I eventually went into the Mater hospital on Friday 2nd March with severe fevers and chest pains from pleurisy, after a chest x-ray showed I had pneumonia. But this wasn’t to be the end of the story – the staff in the emergency department found very high glucose levels in my blood and immediately suspected Type I diabetes. Further tests showed this to be the right diagnosis and I started receiving insulin. After staying in 3 nights, I came out of hospital on 5th March and now inject insulin four times a day – lots of fun! Hopefully this won’t impact birding (or life in general) too much – plenty of people seem to live full lives with T1D (as the trendies call it).

One serious impact of this hospitalisation was missing the Sunshine Coast pelagic on 4th March. This was a cruel twist of fate after securing a spot on the previously booked-out trip. This has heightened my resolve to arrange a Brisbane trip, and either way, I’m booked on the May and June Sunshine Coast pelagic trips.

During this period I was unable to go birding, and my year list remained on 244. The best bird was a cracking adult Wedge-tailed Eagle over the house on 10th March.

Feb 27: Falling behind again


Still very sick today, but desperate to get outside having spent 40 of the last 48 hours in the house, I dragged myself into the car to check Lytton roost for the Australasian Shovelers in the afternoon. No sign of them here, and I also checked the Port Roost and Swan Lake without success. They’re probably at Kedron Brook Wetlands, where all the other birds seem to be at the moment!

Sue Lee and Catherine Hirsch found a cracking male Satin Flycatcher at Bellbird Grove this morning. Will have to try for that if it sticks around.

Falling behind at the moment, with three decent birds showing up in the last 24 hours and I’ve connected with none of them.

With no year ticks today, my year list remained on 244 species. I spent 43 minutes birding, walked 0.825 km and drove 33.6 km.

Feb 26: Sick


Flu! Spent all day in bed – could scarcely move.

Two brilliant sightings of rarities appeared on the wires late afternoon. Ged Tranter had a magnificent Black Falcon at Kedron Brook Wetlands, and Rod Gardner and Paul Clyne had two Australasian Shovelers at Lytton Roost. The Black Falcon would clearly be 1000:1 chance of it hanging around, but the shovelers perhaps might stay. If I could drag myself there tomorrow I might give it a go.

With no year ticks today, my year list remained on 244 species. I spent 0 hour 0 minutes birding, walked 0 km and drove 0 km.

Feb 25: On Top of the World, well Brisbane anyway


Brilliant morning out today. I started at Bellbird Grove, where the main target species is Spotted Quail-thrush. Arriving at the car park, there were 3 walkers’ cars backed up from the creek, which was flooded and running quite fast over the road. They were going to park in the previous car park and walk out to the trailheads. I did the same, parking up and getting my things ready. As soon I opened the door the expected peace and quiet of the middle of nowhere at 5.30am turned out to be loud thumping rave music. There was some sort of party going on in the main car park. Walking past all the hullabulloo I headed up the Link Road and pulled up the hill. Not much was happening, although near where the pylons cross I heard and then saw a White-bellied Cuckooshrike, always a thrill.

I continued up Link Road, and suddenly heard a Spotted Quail-thrush singing on the left just before I reached the junction with Marshall Road. The song is reminiscent of some calls of White-throated Treecreeper, and it would definitely pay to listen to a recording of the quail-thrush call before heading out into suitable habitat, just to ensure you don’t overlook it as a White-throated Treecreeper. I half toyed with the idea of leaving straight away – the year tick was in the bag, and I could try for some other species. Quickly I came to my senses and pushed on up the track to try to see the bird. Turned out it was very close to the track edge, and it showed extremely well (at least for a quail-thrush) allowing some fairly good photo opportunities. I stayed with the bird for about 10 minutes until it eventually wandered off out of sight. A couple of Striated Thornbills were calling overhead, and gave distant views – another year tick.

I walked back down the track and in the rainforest areas around the creek near the car park there was a Spectacled Monarch, 2 Black-faced Monarchs and FINALLY a Golden Whistler! Third year tick of the day.

I jumped straight into the car and headed up to the highest point in Brisbane – the summit of Mount Glorious. I stopped by the Mount Glorious Community Centre to have another look for New Holland Honeyeater, having missed them on the eventful 11 Jan. I got out of the car and wandered around, and out of nowhere a couple of stonking Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoos flew lazily low to the south. Annoyingly I didn’t have my camera, and assessing the distance back to car I wouldn’t have made it anyway before they disappeared. Moral: Never leave camera behind when getting out of the car, even if only walking 20 metres. I walked up to Maiala, always taking care to stay on the Brisbane side of the road; the boundary between Brisbane and Moreton Bay Region runs along the road here. I’d almost given up when finally a New Holland Honeyeater flew over my head as I got back to the car. It disappeared immediately, but at least I’d finally caught up with one. Someone on one of the Facebook groups had mentioned they’d been difficult this year, and I hope it doesn’t mean they’re declining. Just before I left, a splendid female Regent Bowerbird obligingly posed for a picture for a few seconds.

Needing to get home, I headed off down the hill. One of the front wheels was making a ticking noise, but I couldn’t see anything wrong with it. This persisted, and then eventually on the Pacific Motorway just before the Marshall Road turnoff the front passenger side tyre blew out and I ground to a halt on the hard shoulder, with traffic rushing past only inches away. Fortunately the spare tyre was in good condition, and all the tools worked well. I changed the tyre and headed home, extremely satisfied with a great morning’s birding.

With five year ticks today (Spotted Quail-thrush, Striated Thornbill, Golden Whistler, Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoo, New Holland Honeyeater), my year list surged to 244 species. I spent 1 hour 46 minutes birding, walked 4.762 km and drove 113.6 km.

Spotted Quail-thrush, Bellbird Grove, 25th Feb 2018.

Feb 24: Jaeger and Peregrine


I went up to Nudgee Beach early this morning to see if any seabirds were in Moreton Bay sheltering from the remnants of Cyclone Gita. The cyclone passed south from New Caledonia to New Zealand, but we got substantial rainfall and easterly winds from the edge of it. I did a stationary count from the car park, and saw at least two Arctic Jaegers patrolling around quite some distance out, which was good. There are few records of this species from Brisbane, so I was pleased to see them. Lots of terns around, but they were overwhelmingly Little Terns, with quite a lot of Crested Terns, and a few Gull-billed and Caspian. So in the end I was not going to get a year tick here, but I enjoyed seeing the jaegers and the anticipation that something rarer might have been lurking out there.

Later in the afternoon at home, I heard the Noisy Miners giving their raptor alarm call. I grabbed by bins and dashed outside – a handsome Peregrine was circling around! I dashed back inside, grabbed the camera and got a few grainy pics – the bird was pretty far away. I was surprised how lacklustre the reponse was by the Noisy Miners to such a fearsome predator, and looking at the photos it was clear the Peregrine had a full crop. I wonder if somehow the birds knew it wasn’t in hunting mode.

With no year ticks today, my year list remained on 239 species. I spent 1 hour 16 minutes birding, walked 0 km (all of it was stationary counts) and drove 48.2 km.

Feb 23: Ticket to ride


I sulkily watched the wind and heavy rain engulf Brisbane today, imagining the awesome seabird action that must surely be happening at Cape Moreton. However, a significant silver lining accompanied the clouds – I’ve managed to secure a seat on the Mooloolaba pelagic trip on 4th March! This is an important development for the year list. Every chance for pelagic birding or good weather conditions for seawatching is a chance to add unique species to the list that are simply impossible to see any other way. The number of possible species is very large, and the more pelagics or seawatching that I can do, the bigger the final year list total will potentially be. However, as with all pelagic trips, there’s a chance of seeing almost nothing. But nothing ventured, nothing gained.

I will still try to organise a local pelagic out of Redcliffe / Scarborough, but will probably aim for April instead of March.

With no year ticks today, my year list remained on 239 species. I spent 0 minutes birding, walked 0 km and drove 0 km.

Feb 22: Nothing to report 2


All work no play, although I did manage to wander through UQ Lakes (not literally) on the way into the office. I didn’t see anything notable in the 14 minutes, but I really should make more of a habit of doing this. It’s good for the soul.

With no year ticks today, my year list remained on 239 species. I spent 14 minutes birding, walked 0.61 km and drove 0 km.

Feb 21: Nothing to report


Did the school run today, and spent all other time working, so nothing notable to report. The wind was blowing strongly from the east all day, with the occasional shower. I couldn’t help but think about what was going on at Cape Moreton – I bet there was some amazing seabird action today. No reports coming in from Point Lookout on North Stradbroke Island, so I’m assuming no-one has been out seawatching today. Makes it easier to bear – if I’ve missed heaps of birds at least I don’t really know what was out there.

With no year ticks today, my year list remained on 239 species. I spent 0 minutes birding, walked 0 km and drove 0 km.

Feb 20: Six tries and counting


No luck with Black Bittern this morning for the sixth time of trying. I’m lucky the two spots where there are birds (Sandy Camp Rd Wetlands and Mookin-Bah Reserve) are within 15 minutes of my house. Or maybe I’m unlucky and wouldn’t have bothered trying so hard if they were further away. I walked carefully up and down the creek through Mookin-Bah this morning but no sign of any bitterns, Black or otherwise. The best bird was without doubt a branchling Horsfield’s Bronze-Cuckoo being fed by Red-backed Fairywrens – the first time I’ve seen this happening. Absolutely brilliant, I stood captivated for ages!

There were a couple of Peaceful Doves calling and it made me curious about the distribution of this species; I wonder if it is expanding into smaller suburban bushland patches? Certainly, it appears to be increasing in Brisbane (see below) and I wonder if it might follow Bar-shouldered Dove and start to become adapted to a suburban lifestyle.

The weather is looking good for a seawatch off Moreton Island tomorrow, with the remnants of Cyclone Gita being swung our way as the huge storm tracks towards New Zealand. But there’s absolutely no way I can get across to the island, with a full day at work and the morning and afternoon school run to do. I’ll probably have to be content with a pelagic trip in March and / or April, assuming I can get one organised. Must get on the phone tomorrow to see if there’s anyone that might take us out.

With no year ticks today, my year list remained on 239 species. I spent 1 hour 18 minutes birding, walked 2.589 km and drove 21 km.


Peaceful Dove shows a winter drop in reporting rate, but I wonder if this has more to do with calling behaviour than a real change in distribution?


There appears to be a strong increase in Peaceful Dove records in the last decade – when I next do a data download, I’ll add in 2016 and 2017. I wonder if this species will eventually be a common garden bird in Brisbane?

Peaceful Dove at Mookin-Bah Reserve. Coming to a garden near you?

Feb 19: Aching


I felt yesterday’s fully laden 11 km walk today in my ageing frame. A work day, with nothing ornithologically interesting to report, other than finally submitting my grant proposal, hurrah! It’s our son’s second birthday tomorrow so I’ll have the day off work. Not sure what might happen birding-wise during the day, but early morning I’m off to Mookin-bah to have a sixth try for Black Bittern. Wish me luck.

With no year ticks today, my year list remained on 239 species. I spent 0 minutes birding, walked 0 km and drove 0 km.

Feb 18: I love it when a plan comes together


I finally got out birding again this morning, setting the alarm for 0315 and driving out to Lake Manchester, on the far western border of the Brisbane LGA. There is extensive habitat in this area, and I would wager several important birding discoveries to be made. I cut the engine and listened in silence when I arrived in the car park about 0420. A Southern Boobook was calling distantly, and then an Australian Owlet-Nightjar called somewhere fairly close by. I couldn’t find it in the spotlight, and then a White-throated Nightjar started up. I was keen to get moving and donned camera and telescope, water bottle, hat etc etc and started walking around the edge of the lake, clocking another couple of White-throated Nightjars.

The tracks around Lake Manchester are so extensive, and the area so large, that I had decided to use personal locations instead of the Lake Manchester hotspot, and that I would start a new checklist every kilometre. By the second kilometre, it had got light, and I had atmospheric views of the lake through the trees. I scanned the lake through my telescope and found four Great Crested Grebes, a very scarce bird in Brisbane, but reliable here. They were formerly reliable at Gold Creek Reservoir, but surprisingly there has been only one record since 2010. Soon after this a group of Fuscous Honeyeaters began calling away and giving good views, a highly localised species in Brisbane LGA, found only in the woodlands of the far west. The third year tick of the morning so far.

I was undecided whether to try for the circumnavigation of the lake, or to trace out a circular route to the west of the lake along the fire breaks. I decided on the latter course, planning to head west up Dam Break 7 and then south again along the track to Lake Manchester Road.

The third kilometre delivered more Fuscous Honeyeaters but nothing else notable. Things improved on the fourth kilometre with a calling White-bellied Cuckooshrike, a couple of Forest Kingfishers, at least 9 feeding Little Lorikeets and more Fuscous Honeyeaters. Turning west up Dam Break 7, I ran into an area with plenty of bird activity during the fifth kilometre. The first notable birds were a small group of Buff-rumped Thornbills, and there was also a group of Varied Sittellas with them, two more year ticks. By the time I started the sixth kilometre at 0730 it was starting to warm up and bird activity was declining, although as I gained height there were some good views of forested ridges during the seventh kilometre, which I kept an eye on for raptors. The eight kilometre continued the southward journey back toward Lake Manchester Road, and the track skirts the very edge of the park, with farmsteads and paddocks adjoining the forest. On one of these farmstead tracks, no less than four Speckled Warblers were feeding out in the open on ground, something I hadn’t seen before.

A little further along, there was a long steep climb, and I tackled it head down, at speed. This turned out to be a mistake, because instead of spotting the bird as it was feeding on the track, I flushed a Painted Buttonquail and it flew across the track in front of me, but not before I’d noted it’s rufous spangled upperside and strong contrast with plain remiges. Another good quality year tick! More was to come – on the ninth kilometre, and just before the final descent back to Lake Manchester Road, I heard a startlingly loud sound of wind rushing through feathers – some sort of display flight. On the second pass, I saw that it was a Grey Goshawk doing the display, and it made a further three passes before disappearing. The bird would tower high in the air and then rush toward the ground with wings closed, making the noise near the base of the descent – incredible!

There was nothing particularly notable at Cabbage Tree Creek, although I reckon this spot looks really good for turning up a scarcity. There are a few Casuarinas through there, and I wonder whether Yellow Thornbill is a possibility one day. I completed the circuit back to the car park, absolutely delighted with the morning’s birding – one of those days when everything seemed to go my way. Still, there are plenty more species to target in this general area, and I want to cover at least 100 km of tracks in the region between Lake Manchester and Mount Nebo this year looking for Striated Thornbill, Square-tailed Kite, Spotted Quail-Thrush, Crested Shrike-Tit, Yellow Thornbill, New Holland Honeyeater, Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoo, Emerald Dove, Weebill, Jacky Winter, Little Eagle etc.

With a whopping nine year ticks today, my year list surged to 239 species. I spent 5 hours 22 minutes birding, walked 10.3 km and drove 113.9 km.

Feb 17: The Shining


As foreshadowed yesterday, I didn’t do any targeted birding today. The major event of the day was a fantastic find of 3 Shining Flycatchers at Boondall Wetlands by the inimitable Ged Tranter. He saw the birds from kayaking up Nundah Creek, and although I had planned to do this at Tinchi Tamba, this sighting adds urgency and suggest I should try Boondall instead of Tinchi. Ged is one of the best birders in Brisbane – always innovatively searching for new birds, and he is among the most prolific finders of rarities in the city.

My thoughts for tomorrow are distinctly more terrestrial. I’m heading to Lake Manchester. I’m hoping to get an early start and will either circumnavigate the lake, or focus on a circular route to the north-west or north-east of the parking area at the dam. As well as looking for a range of scarce woodland species, I want to scope out the margins of the lake for possible Red-backed Buttonquail habitat. It’ll be a serious morning out, and hopefully I’ll find a few nice birds.

With no year ticks today, my year list remained on 230 species. I spent 0 minutes birding, walked 0 km and drove 0 km.

16 Feb: Work trumps birding again


Talk about work / life balance, I was up at 0330 this morning finishing off a grant proposal – remember I mentioned it a while ago, only breaking for a 5-min stationary count in the back yard. It also consumed my afternoon after the meeting at the lovely 34 Trafalgar Street office of Marine Parks personnel at Manly. They have the best office in Brisbane I reckon. When the meeting finished at 1230 the water level was still super high even though it was 2.5 hours after high tide, so there wasn’t much point in looking for shorebirds. With such a high tide they would all be safely squirreled away in the Manly roost, so I headed home.

On the way home I saw a Dollarbird on wires at the junction of Old Cleveland Road and Mount Petrie Road, and it occurred to me I’ve been seeing more this year than I have been in previous summers. It is, of course a strict summer visitor to Brisbane, and that is reflected very nicely in the monthly reporting rate – see below. Perhaps surprisingly there is no obvious year-on-year decline in Dollarbirds in Brisbane, although I need to add 2016 and 2017 to the plot – I’ll be doing this at the end of February when the new eBird data update is provided.

I’ll probably need a rest tomorrow, and there’s a busy day with kids’ activities, but will then go for a decent trip out Sunday morning.

There’s nothing desperately rare to chase, so this intense work period has come at a good time. Things are looking clearer in the diary next week and beyond.

With no year ticks today, my year list remained on 230 species. I spent 5 minutes birding, walked 0 km and drove 0 km.

Monthly reporting rate for Dollarbird in Brisbane – a clear summer visitor to the city, occurring on about 15% of eBird checklists during the summer months, gone by April, returning in October.




eBird reporting rate for Dollarbirds in Brisbane between 2006 and 2015. No obvious decline, although it should be borne in mind this is a measure of how widespread the species is, not how abundant it is at the sites where it occurs. Also, I guess with a migratory species like this, one has to check whether there has been any change in birder behaviour, e.g. doing more summer birding at time goes by. Lots to figure out!


15 Feb: Looking forward to some birding


Again no birding today, but looking forward to at least a spot of shorebird watching tomorrow around Manly – I have a morning meeting there, and will be looking in the Wynnum-Manly area for Red Knot, seen on three occasions in the past two weeks (Penfold Parade and Elanora Park at low tide, and at the no-public-access Manly Roost at high tide). Red Knot is mainly a passage migrant through Brisbane en route to New South Wales, and summer records are notable.

I’m excited about a couple of trips later in the year. I’m booked onto the Mooloolaba pelagic on May 6th and June 3rd. As we found out a little while ago, the Mooloolaba pelagic is in Brisbane waters when at the shelf, so the birds seen on the far eastern extension of the trip will be countable for my year list. It’s going to be tense moments as we cross the border from Sunshine Coast Regional Council into Brisbane waters.

Secondly, I’m off to Moreton Island on 17th April to help count the shorebird roosts at the southern end of Moreton Island. We’ll go by boat from Manly Harbour, which should be lots of fun. Sanderling will be a key target, but anything’s possible!

With no year ticks today, my year list remained on 230 species. I spent 0 minutes birding, walked 0 km and drove 0 km.

Feb 14: Work again


Just a 5-min stationary count in my back yard this morning, I’ve been using the early mornings for some prime work time, since I’m doing school & daycare drop off and pick ups on Mondays and Wednesdays. As soon I can, I’ll revert back to using the early dawns of summer to go birding, because once winter comes I won’t be able to get out at all before the kids wake up. Winter mornings are working mornings, summer mornings should be for birding!

Mat Gilfedder and Jo Culican had a Swamp Harrier at Oxley Creek Common the day before yesterday, a good bird and another one of those enigmatic raptors that never appears to be reliable in any particular place. It’s probably the bird on Mat’s list I’m most worried about clawing back (we’re having a friendly competition for the 2018 Brisbane LGA year list). Although I chose not to chase it on the day they saw it, I should try to make sure I do chase one down whenever there are future sightings. It’s the sort of bird you just come across when generally birding and don’t think much about until trying to build a year list and you wonder exactly how to track down each species.

With no year ticks today, my year list remained on 230 species. I spent 5 minutes birding, walked 0 km and drove 0 km.

Feb 13: Rinse and Repeat


Nothing to report once again, dear reader. How will I keep you (and me) entertained through the slack times? I have to put in early mornings all this week at work, so birding will be incidental at best. However, my eyes are on the news feed, the weather and the tides all the time, and should some emergency year list birding be necessary, I’m sure I’ll find a way of making it happen. Cyclone Gita will be just south of New Caledonia on Saturday – not sure yet where it’s going or how strongly the SE winds will be felt off Brisbane.

I have a meeting at Manly Harbour on Friday, and it will finish about 12.30 – I’m expecting some degree of ornithological action then.

With no year ticks today, my year list remained on 230 species. I spent 0 minutes birding, walked 0 km and drove 0 km.

Feb 12: Nothing to see here


Nothing to report today. No potential year ticks for me were seen by anyone else in Brisbane today – this is the first time that has happened. Aside from a 5-min stationary count in the back yard this morning, I did no birding; and saw no interesting birds.

With no year ticks today, my year list remained on 230 species. I spent 5 minutes birding, walked 0 km and drove 0 km.

Feb 11: “I thought you meant a real kite Daddy”


After yesterday’s exertions I sat on the sidelines today, with a kids’ birthday party at Colmslie Pool and various domestic duties needing doing. I kept a weather eye on the bird news, but fortunately there was nothing too dramatic. Rounding the corner into our road on the way back from the party, I was surprised to see a raptor flying fairly low west. It was clearly a kite, but I couldn’t get enough on it to see whether it was Whistling, Black or Square-tailed. Much to the consternation of my wife, I raced round the corner and screeched to a halt just as it crossed the road. A dark bird with a nicely forked tail, it was a Black Kite! My daughter thought I was talking about a real kite, and was very disappointed to learn it was “just a bird“. The small number of Black Kites that call Brisbane home seem to wander about and not be reliable anywhere in particular, so I was pleased to have bumped into one. And my apologies for degrading the quality of the Internet in general, and eBird in particular, by adding my smudgy iPhone photo to the checklist. I drove back to the front drive with the bird in view, and it became the 62nd bird on my yard list.

With one year tick today, my year list clicked up to 230 species. I spent 0 minutes birding (the kite was purely incidental), walked 0 km and drove 0 km.

Black Kite seems to show peaks in reporting rate in autumn and spring, but is pretty scarce at any time of year.

Feb 10: Gold Rush


Up at 0256 and in to the car reasonably quickly to pick up Mat Gilfedder in St Lucia at 0330. We drove out to Gold Creek Reservoir with the plan to try for nocturnals and Painted Buttonquail early on and then look for yesterday’s Barred Cuckooshrike after sunrise.

Standing at the car park just after we arrived we heard a sort of grunting noise that was definitely avian but we couldn’t place it at all. It’s amazing how often one hears strange noises at night that are hard to fathom! Probably something common just making an odd noise. Eventually we had Tawny Frogmouth and Southern Boobook calling away, and managed to see the frogmouth. We went up the track south of the dam wall, and heard a splendid calling White-throated Nightjar – it’s one of my favourite bird calls of all time, and Mat managed to get a recording. It was a year tick for me, so I was well-pleased.

As light dawned, we began a new eBird checklist (as per eBird protocol), and almost immediately a White-naped Honeyeater was calling away, a second year tick for me. As we walked down the grassy track toward the SW corner of the reservoir I heard something walking in the undergrowth. It was too dense to have any hope of seeing it, so I moved towards it and the bird flushed with whirring wings. Mat and I both saw it, but our views were so poor that we couldn’t tell if it was a Brown Quail or a Painted Buttonquail. We subsequently stalked it but there was no further sign. The one that got away.

The woodland was reasonably quiet, but we heard another White-naped Honeyeater. When we got back to the dam, a nice pair of Forest Kingfishers suddenly landed on the tower in the water and sat there for about 15 minutes, another year tick. Even with binoculars we could clearly see the overall blue colouration, white flashes in the wings as the birds flew, the clear white underparts, and the round clean white spot above the bill base. Cracking birds! There was no sign of the Barred Cuckooshrike from the dam wall, so we birded along the approach road for a while. At the second creek crossing an Azure Kingfisher was sitting on a branch over the creek, and a Spotted Pardalote called for a while, two more year ticks! I was really getting through the remaining common species that I still hadn’t seen for the year. Eventually we gave up, about 7am and drove up Hillbrook Road to a spot where Mat had seen good bird activity in the past few weeks. There were quite a few birds moving, including another couple of White-naped Honeyeaters, and a Scarlet Honeyeater – the sixth year tick of the day. Golden Whistler is now the last remaining common species I still need for my year list.

With six year ticks today (White-throated Nightjar, White-naped Honeyeater, Forest Kingfisher, Azure Kingfisher, Spotted Pardalote and Scarlet Honeyeater), my year list at the end of the day rose to 229 species. I spent 3 hours 36 minutes birding, walked 5.601 km and drove 69.6 km.

Progress of my year list (green) against all species seen in Brisbane by all eBirders (purple). Certainly looking better than the stock market has recently. There might be a few additional species seen by the (small number of) Brisbane birders that don’t use eBird.

9 Feb: Bald Hills Raptor Watchpoint


Never heard of the Bald Hills Raptor Watchpoint? That’s not surprising, I only minted the hotspot today. The spot, along Buckle Road near the northern border of Brisbane has an amazing panoramic view over a very wide area, and I reckon it’s surely one of the best places to scan for soaring raptors in all of Brisbane. Noticing it as I drove past this morning, I pulled up and spent 20 minutes scanning the skies. In that short time I had 2 Brown Goshawks, 1 Osprey, 1 Whistling Kite and a Brown Falcon. The falcon was a year tick, and I was after that species in particular, having seen it at the nearby Gravel Pits on Linkfield Road last year. A splendid Glossy Ibis was present on the gravel pits today, and I was pleased to have made the effort to look there – the short grass and muddy edges among the horses and camels (yep, camels) looked really good for a rarity of some sort, a Yellow Wagtail maybe. Although that wasn’t to be, I’d enjoyed searching anyway.

Despite having a national distribution all across Australia, Brown Falcon is a scarce bird in Brisbane, perhaps because there isn’t that much truly open country. It is seen on just a few percent of outings. Curiously there is a distinct winter peak in its reporting rate, and I’m not sure if this is associated with breeding, or whether its a winter influx into Brisbane.

I spent the early morning at Sandy Camp looking once again for Black Bittern, and once again without success. I think I’ll give up on that species for a while. It is resident, so I don’t need to see it urgently.

Deb Metters found a Barred Cuckooshrike at Gold Creek Reservoir today, and I’m going to head there early morning with Mat Gilfedder to look for it. We’re going to arrive pre-dawn and have a look around for nocturnal species before searching for the cuckooshrike.

With one year tick today, my year list at the end of the day clicked up to 223 species. I spent 3 hours 30 minutes birding, walked 4.491 km and drove 107.6 km.

Map of Brown Falcon sightings in Brisbane – red flags are sightings in the last month.

The reporting rate of Brown Falcon each month of the year in Brisbane (reporting rate is the % of complete eBird checklists in each month in which the species has been reported). There seems to be a winter peak, but I don’t know why this is.


Feb 8: Treading water


Up at 0430 today, but worked instead of birding. Down from 1,000 emails to 462, and got quite a bit done so can’t be bad. Gearing up for tomorrow, when I’m off work for my birthday and will get the chance to do a couple of trips. I’m going to try Sandy Camp Road for Black Bittern early doors. Yes folks, Black Bittern again – but I need a change of scene from Mookin-Bah. Not sure what I’ll do after that – maybe head to the coast and look for terns / shorebirds, up to Tinchi Tamba to look for Little Grassbird, or head inland for species such as Speckled Warbler or Painted Button-quail. Or something else altogether. But definitely time for another year tick or two.

I’m trying to find a boat that can host a pelagic trip into the waters east of Moreton Island in March or April. Email me if you’re keen (r.fuller@uq.edu.au), with a list of Saturdays in March and April that you are available.

With no year ticks today, my year list at the end of the day remained on 222 species. I spent 5 minutes birding, walked 0 km and drove 0 km.

Feb 7: “You still haven’t seen a Golden Whistler?”


I was showing James Watson the eBird alert system the other day, and he couldn’t believe I still needed Golden Whistler for the year, along with a number of other fairly common species like Scarlet Honeyeater, Spotted Pardalote, Forest Kingfisher etc. It’s true, I have foregone amassing these sorts of species to focus on chasing the trickier birds. But this morning, as I tramped around Mookin-Bah for the third time with not a sniff of Black Bittern I was bemoaning the repetition and slow advancement in my year list birding. Using the target species feature in eBird, here are the top 20 species I still need for the year list, along with the % of lists that each species has been seen on. For example, I still need Scarlet Honeyeater, which is present on 13.5% of all complete eBird lists for the Brisbane area. I only need 16 “1%” birds – those have been seen on more than 1% of eBird lists, but there are some quite common species in there.

 Number Species % lists
1 Scarlet Honeyeater Myzomela sanguinolenta 13.52121
2 Golden Whistler Pachycephala pectoralis 12.71174
3 Spotted Pardalote Pardalotus punctatus 5.65133
4 Forest Kingfisher Todiramphus macleayii 5.25034
5 Rose Robin Petroica rosea 3.45525
6 Varied Sittella Daphoenositta chrysoptera 2.04992
7 Azure Kingfisher Ceyx azureus 1.87003
8 White-naped Honeyeater Melithreptus lunatus 1.6939
9 White-bellied Cuckooshrike Coracina papuensis 1.6077
10 Nankeen Kestrel Falco cenchroides 1.54774
11 Collared Sparrowhawk Accipiter cirrocephalus 1.37536
12 Black Kite Milvus migrans 1.35662
13 White-winged Triller Lalage tricolor 1.34912
14 Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoo Calyptorhynchus funereus 1.31539
15 Restless Flycatcher Myiagra inquieta 1.21046
16 Brown Falcon Falco berigora 1.14675
17 Pacific Emerald Dove Chalcophaps longirostris 0.95938
18 Baillon’s Crake Zapornia pusilla 0.93689
19 Swamp Harrier Circus approximans 0.84695
20 Cotton Pygmy-Goose Nettapus coromandelianus 0.83945

Jane Turnbull and Margaret Robertson had three Painted Buttonquails today at Anstead. I’m not sure exactly where the birds were, and I probably don’t have enough time to search tomorrow morning. I’ve got Friday off work so might go then, or at the weekend.

For tomorrow, what else can I do but search a fourth time for Black Bittern? OK, don’t answer that.

With no year ticks today, my year list at the end of the day remained on 222 species. I spent 1 hour 14 minutes birding, walked 2.17 km and drove 20.2 km.

Feb 6: Is 300 possible?


No birding today. But check back tomorrow, I’ll be trying Mookin-Bah once again for black bittern at dawn. As the days get shorter and dawn gets later it will become harder to fit in any birding before the day’s weekday routine kicks off at home at 0630; birding will depend on weekends, and taking time off work. I’m beginning to feel a little anxious about how many tricky resident species I need to find. There’s about 50 of them that are gettable with varying degrees of effort. This will put me on 272 for the year. With, say, another 15 seabird species from pelagic trips, I would need another 13 unexpected or irregular birds to hit the magic threshold of 300 species…

With no year ticks today, my year list at the end of the day remained on 222 species. I spent 0 minutes birding, walked 0 km and drove 0 km.

Feb 5: All at sea


As foreshadowed yesterday I didn’t go birding today (although I at least managed a 5-min point count in the morning, and had some flyby Little Lorikeets in the evening).

The main event of the day was discovering that the Sunshine Coast pelagic trips run by Greg Roberts out of Mooloolaba are actually within the Brisbane LGA when they are at the continental shelf. I know, right? This extremely nerdy fact is monumental news for my year-listing effort as it means simply attending those pelagics will be a way to put in some substantial time at sea within the Brisbane area. Mat Gilfedder made a nice map, below, that shows the part of the shelf explored by the Mooloolaba pelagic being closer to the northern tip of Moreton Island than to the mainland Sunshine Coast further north.

I still want to do some pelagic birding on the shelf east of Moreton Island and will see if I can arrange one or two. If you know of a skipper who might be interested, please do let me know.

With no year ticks today, my year list at the end of the day remained on 222 species. I spent 5 minutes birding, walked 0 km and drove 0 km.

The white trace shows where the Sunshine Coast pelagic trips normally drift over the shelf, due east of Mooloolaba. Amazingly, this is within the Brisbane LGA, which flares northward because Moreton Island juts out so much.

Feb 4: R&R & GIS


Day with family today after deserting them all day yesterday. Once again I did no birding at all, which is poor form – really I should have done a 5-min point count or something. I made up for it by spending a few minutes on the GIS (Geographic Information System) working out the shape of the offshore portion of the Brisbane LGA. Want to know why? Read Rule 7. The map is below – so far I’ve only done a coarse version, and I will refine this later. But a few interesting features are immediately apparent.

Because of Moreton Island and the shape of the mainland coast north of Brisbane, the LGA flares into the ocean, and encompasses a huge swathe of the continental shelf, albeit well south of where the Sunshine Coast pelagic usually goes. I don’t think there are any regular pelagic trips into the offshore Brisbane area – please let me know if you know otherwise. Elliot Leach and I are hoping to organise one or two pelagic trips in Brisbane waters this year – they used to happen years ago, and there’s presumably plenty of good birds out there. The journey out to the shelf will be a little longer than the Sunshine or Gold Coast pelagics, but certainly doable at least a couple of times this year.

I’m not expecting to do much birding in the next few days as I’ve got heaps on at work. Hopefully no more rarities will show up!

With no year ticks today, my year list at the end of the day remained on 222 species. I spent 0 minutes birding, walked 0 km and drove 0 km.

Offshore Brisbane LGA – the border flares out because of Moreton Island, and a substantial length of continental shelf is in Brisbane LGA.

Feb 3: Water coming from all directions


Up at an unnecessarily early 0500 not wanting to miss the ferry. Turned out to be a good move as I’d lost the car key. Eventually found the spare, which has been missing for weeks, so that was a win already. Once at the ferry launch at Pinkenba, I waited impatiently – I was excited as to what might lay ahead today. The trip is a logistical as well as an ornithological mission, although I’ve now worked out that providing the resort have an available 4WD rental it’s a really achievable day trip, leaving on the 7am ferry from Pinkenba, and returning on the c8pm ferry from Tangalooma, with the freedom to self-drive all day.

There were no interesting birds on the ferry trip until about half way across when I picked up an Arctic Jaeger north of the boat harassing a Crested Tern. Nice! Then in short order a shearwater appeared south of the boat, which proved to be a Wedge-tailed. Arriving at the resort there were lots of people milling about but I eventually found my way to the tour desk and did the paperwork for the car rental. The guy showed me round the car and in a few minutes I was off! He suggested driving up the west beach and across the top to the Cape – the tide was rising fast, and because of the way the tides work it’s about half an hour later on the west beach than the ocean beach. I duly followed this advice, year-ticking White-cheeked Honeyeater in some fine looking heathland along the way (note – look for ground parrot and southern emu wren here one day!!) but the tide was too high and lapping at the dunes around North Point campsite. Rats! It was now 10am (20 minutes after the ocean beach high tide) and I had two choices – I could park the car here and walk to the Cape – about 30 mins in the wind and rain. Or I could detour to the south via Blue Lake and drive north up the ocean beach to the Cape as soon as the tide was low enough. Perhaps I should have chosen to walk it, but I decided to drive around. Arriving at the ocean beach entrance by blue lagoon it was instantly clear I’d be in for a substantial wait. The 2.6m king tide was lapping right against the dunes, and although by now about an hour past high tide the strong onshore wind was going to make it slow to recede.

No point in driving any more, it was time to watch birds. I parked the car, climbed as high as I could onto the dunes and set up my scope for a seawatch, albeit 8km south of the Cape and likely some 2km further from the main passage of birds than the Cape would be. The first birds I got into were a couple of Wedge-tailed Shearwaters flying close in with a smaller Shearwater with a pale underside and smudgy underwings – a Hutton’s Shearwater!! This was a great start, and in short order a Pomarine Jaeger flew south close inshore, followed a while later by 3 Arctics for a nice comparison. The wind was gusting fairly strongly onshore and heavy showers were scudding through. Perfect weather for seawatching, but it was clear already that numbers were significantly down from Thursday when Colin Reid had a brilliant seawatch off Point Lookout (outside Brisbane LGA to the south, at the north end of North Stradbroke Island). Still, there was no question about it – my only sensible option was to seawatch for the entire day. There are a few other species I want to target on Moreton, such as Wandering Tattler and Sanderling, but I can come over in any weather for then. With strong onshore winds I resolved to spend every possible minute seawatching.

Eventually the other cars waiting for the tide to recede gave up and drove off. About 20 minutes after they left I thought I’d give the beach a try. There was just enough room to squeeze through, and because the tide was falling I didn’t need to worry about getting the vehicle inundated.

Arriving at the Cape, I rushed up the footpath and found a spot to seawatch where I could scan between the south east and north east. It was continuously windy with strong squally showers – water was coming from all directions, and it was surprisingly cold for a Brisbane summer’s day. Definitely reminded me of Pendeen on a fresh September day.

There was a steady stream of Wedge-tailed Shearwaters heading south, with smaller numbers of Short-tails among them. Both Pom and Arctic Jaegers passed in small numbers with Arctic outnumbering Pom. It was clear that numbers of birds were low, and wedgies were vastly outnumbering anything else. A couple of Hutton’s eventually passed flying south, and closer in a few Common Terns occasionally passed along with larger numbers of Crested Terns. The Cresteds tried their best to impersonate other species, and I got excited on more than one occasion only to realise it was only a Crested Tern. After a few hours, I suddenly saw an all dark Pterodroma flying north – a Grey-faced Petrel! This was a great bird and I was very happy to see it. It was almost time to leave now, and while I’d seen some nice seabirds I came away pleasantly satisfied rather than ecstatic. I later found out that Colin Reid had had Fairy Prion, Buller’s Shearwater and Kermadec Petrel off Point Lookout this morning! Either the Cape is poorer (possible), or I’m a lesser seawatcher than Colin (certain).

Arriving back at the car, it wouldn’t start. Flat battery. To their great credit, the resort instantly sent out a couple of chaps who came and changed the battery. I seawatched some more while I waited for them to arrive, but it was clear that passage was almost dead now – every shearwater was resolutely a Wedge-tailed. Visibility had improved greatly and I could see all the way to the horizon clearly for the first time today. I did have a Varied Triller on the way back to the car park – not an especially uncommon bird, but a year tick nevertheless.

I boarded the ferry with mixed feelings – it had been a solid trip with some good seabirds – the Grey-faced Petrel is the first eBird record for Brisbane-but I didn’t bag any mega seabirds. Yet in the context of a Brisbane year list, mega isn’t the be all and end all – just seeing any seabirds is an important part of building a decent list. Crucially, though, I had worked out a way of day-tripping Moreton that gives a decent amount of time for birding, providing the tides are favourable for beach driving. Next time there’s good seawatching weather I’ll be on it straight away.

With a whopping 10 year ticks today, my year list jumped to 222, I spent 7 hours 34 minutes birding, and drove 85 km.

Feb 2: I’ll stay and then go


Last night I decided not to attempt the crossing today to Moreton Island. The weather forecast suggests continuous rain showers and overcast conditions all the way until the end of Saturday, and the wind is persistent from the SSE. So I phoned the ferry company this morning and booked a day trip for tomorrow, getting the 7am ferry from Pinkenba and returning on the last ferry, which leaves Tangalooma after the dolphin feeding, about 7.45pm.

Fortunately the resort had a 4WD available for rent, so I booked that, and they will be ready to hand over the vehicle when I arrive in the morning. Moreton Island is almost completely made of sand, the 3rd largest sand island in the world. This makes for some fun driving, but it should be reasonably OK given all the recent rain – the sand will be wetter and harder than usual. The king high tide (2.61 m) will be about 9.40 or so on the ocean beach, so I might be delayed driving up to the Cape, but I’ll see what conditions look like. I can sea watch from any point on the beach and it’ll probably be pretty good, so long as I gain a bit of height by getting into the dunes.

I tried Mookin-Bah again early this morning for Black Bittern, but nothing was moving in the miserable drizzle. I was a bit surprised as I though a murky, drizzly morning would be ideal for herons and crakes – I saw literally none of either. I then checked out the foreshore off Manly just in case there was a raft of wrecked seabirds. I saw literally no seabirds. I gave up and went home.

Short update today – I’m off to pack for a very wet day’s seawatching tomorrow.

With no year ticks today, my year list at the end of the day remained on 212 species. I spent 49 minutes birding, walked 1.889 km and drove 29.0 km.

For Broad Vegetation Type descriptions see here.

Moreton Island, labelled with Broad Vegetation Groups. The island is 37km from north to south. In case you are wondering: 9f is “Woodlands dominated by Corymbia spp. e.g.: C. intermedia (pink bloodwood), C. tessellaris (Moreton Bay ash) and/or Eucalyptus spp. such as E. tereticornis (blue gum), frequently with Banksia spp., Acacia spp. and Callitris columellaris (Bribie Island pine) on coastal dunes and beach ridges” and 29a is “Open heaths and dwarf open heaths on coastal dunefields, sandplains and headlands”

The ferry route between Pinkenba and Tangalooma looks to be safely in Brisbane LGA all along its length. I still haven’t got around to doing the GIS analysis to determine the border of Brisbane LGA in the sea.

2 Feb: Should I stay or should I go?


A Barking Owl didn’t start calling last night, so I did indeed finish January on 210. Six hours into February and I was already to be on 212…

Having picked on the biggest king tide of the year, finally there was extensive mud in Kedron Brook as dawn broke this morning. It took me all of about 2 minutes to find the Common Sandpiper feeding nonchalantly along the creek edge, apparently unaware of all the angst and torment it had caused me. I didn’t begrudge it that of course – it was a stunning little creature, daintily bobbing along the muddy edge. Being originally from the UK I’m fairly blasé about Common Sandpipers, but I’ve seen so few since I moved to Australia 10 years ago, the encounter with this bird reminded me they are very nice birds indeed. I didn’t get a brilliant pic because a cool change had come in, the wind was blowing, it was overcast and drizzly. More on that later.

I spent longer than I should have at Kedron, not really birding, but just admiring the Common Sandpiper. I figured I should eventually move on, and had just enough time to check another spot on the way home. I decided on Kianawah Road Wetlands because Chris Attewell had had a Great Cormorant there yesterday. However, in the event I didn’t even need to stop as one flew low across the road toward the GJ Fuller Oval Lagoons as I was approaching the area.

Later on in the evening, Rob Morris posted the gory details of Colin Reid’s epic seawatch off Point Lookout, North Stradbroke Island. “Buller’s Shearwater and Black-naped Tern, among thousands of Wedge-tailed, hundreds of Hutton’s and a hundred or so Short-tailed Shearwaters, hundreds of Common Noddies, Common and Little Terns, a few imm Sooty Terns and 1 Pomarine Skua”. I was stunned. I’d noticed the cool change coming, but hadn’t really connected it with seawatching. A schoolboy error of sorts, but only an academic one because I couldn’t possibly have gone out birding today.

North Stradbroke Island isn’t in Brisbane remember? (see this post). But Moreton Island is, and I now have the horrible dilemma of deciding whether to invoke a Moreton Island trip tomorrow. The conditions look as if they will continue into the weekend, but it’s probably easiest in terms of all round disruption to the family if I go tomorrow and come back Saturday afternoon. But on the other hand, if we organise a pelagic trip in March, maybe I’ll see all this stuff anyway. I don’t know what to do. If you don’t see an update tomorrow night, no prizes for guessing where I am.

With two year ticks today (Common Sandpiper and Great Cormorant), my year list at the end of the day rose to 212 species. I spent 32 minutes birding, walked 0.774 km and drove 0 km.

Jan 31: Last day of confinement


Well, it’s 8pm on 31st January. Unless a Barking Owl starts calling outside my window I’m going to finish the month on 210 species. Overall I’m very happy with progress, having secured pretty much all of the rarest and transient species that have turned up in Brisbane since the start of the year. The highlights are Musk Duck, Black-necked Stork, Australian Little Bittern, White-necked Heron, Eastern Reef Egret, Glossy Ibis, Australian Spotted Crake, Grey Plover, Broad-billed Sandpiper, Long-toed Stint, Pectoral Sandpiper, Asian Dowitcher, Oriental Cuckoo, Grey-crowned Babbler, Brown Songlark, Rufous Songlark, Common Blackbird and Plum-headed Finch. Quite a roll call!

I haven’t yet started searching in earnest for many of the most difficult resident species, although I’ve missed Black Bittern twice. I’ll start as soon as the Common Sandpiper is bagged. I’m so determined to see it I’ll either get it, or finish the year on 210 trying! The tides look good for tomorrow morning, a 0.19m low tide at 0352 in the morning glancing through the tide chart I think this is the lowest tide of 2018. It’ll start getting light less than an hour after low tide, and surely there will be maximal mud exposed at Kedron. I’ll be there, but need to be back before 0630 as usual to start the kids on morning routine.

Today I was confined to the laptop again, finishing writing my grant proposal. We are hoping to do some research on migratory birds globally, working out how to coordinate their conservation, and I’m delighted to be working with the wonderful Drs Sam Nicol (CSIRO) and Brad Woodworth (UQ) on the proposal. A few years ago Claire Runge, a PhD student at UQ, showed that more than 90% of the world’s migratory birds are inadequately protected, so there is a huge job to be done. I’ll have the proposal drafted by tonight, then I can actually get back to watching birds and not just writing about them.

With no year ticks today, my year list at the end of the day remained on 210 species. I spent 5 minutes birding, walked 0 km and drove 0 km.

Big Brisbane Bird Quest (BBBQ): The List so far

1 Magpie Goose 02-Jan-18 Nudgee Waterhole Reserve
2 Plumed Whistling-Duck 01-Jan-18 Priors Pocket, Moggill
3 Wandering Whistling-Duck 02-Jan-18 Dowse Lagoon (Sandgate)
4 Black Swan 01-Jan-18 Oxley Creek Common
5 Australian Wood Duck 01-Jan-18 Priors Pocket, Moggill
6 Pacific Black Duck 01-Jan-18 Oxley Creek Common
7 Grey Teal 01-Jan-18 Priors Pocket, Moggill
8 Chestnut Teal 02-Jan-18 Luggage Point
9 Pink-eared Duck 01-Jan-18 Priors Pocket, Moggill
10 Hardhead 01-Jan-18 Oxley Creek Common
11 Musk Duck 02-Jan-18 Dowse Lagoon (Sandgate)
12 Australian Brushturkey 02-Jan-18 Woodland Street Park
13 Brown Quail 01-Jan-18 Oxley Creek Common
14 Australasian Grebe 01-Jan-18 Priors Pocket, Moggill
15 Black-necked Stork 13-Jan-18 Tinchi Tamba Wetlands Reserve–First Lagoon, Wyampa Rd
16 Little Pied Cormorant 01-Jan-18 212 Hawkesbury Road (restricted access)
17 Little Black Cormorant 01-Jan-18 Oxley Creek Common
18 Pied Cormorant 02-Jan-18 Luggage Point
19 Australasian Darter 01-Jan-18 Oxley Creek Common
20 Australian Pelican 01-Jan-18 Oxley Creek Common
21 Australian Little Bittern 17-Jan-18 Sandy Camp Road Wetlands
22 White-necked Heron 04-Jan-18 Oxley Creek Common
23 Great Egret 01-Jan-18 Oxley Creek Common
24 Intermediate Egret 01-Jan-18 Oxley Creek Common
25 White-faced Heron 01-Jan-18 Priors Pocket, Moggill
26 Little Egret 03-Jan-18 Lytton Wader Roost and Wynnum Mangrove Boardwalk
27 Eastern Reef Egret 28-Jan-18 Fisherman Island–reclamation
28 Cattle Egret 01-Jan-18 Oxley Creek Common
29 Striated Heron 02-Jan-18 Boggy Creek
30 Nankeen Night-Heron 03-Jan-18 Sandy Camp Road Wetlands
31 Glossy Ibis 26-Jan-18 Dowse Lagoon (Sandgate)
32 Australian White Ibis 01-Jan-18 Oxley Creek Common
33 Straw-necked Ibis 01-Jan-18 Priors Pocket, Moggill
34 Royal Spoonbill 01-Jan-18 Priors Pocket, Moggill
35 Osprey 02-Jan-18 Luggage Point
36 Black-shouldered Kite 01-Jan-18 Oxley Creek Common
37 Pacific Baza 01-Jan-18 Anstead SES Depot (Hawkesbury Rd)
38 Wedge-tailed Eagle 01-Jan-18 Priors Pocket, Moggill
39 Brown Goshawk 01-Jan-18 Anstead SES Depot (Hawkesbury Rd)
40 Whistling Kite 02-Jan-18 Luggage Point
41 Brahminy Kite 02-Jan-18 Luggage Point
42 White-bellied Sea-Eagle 24-Jan-18 Kedron Brook Wetlands Reserve
43 Buff-banded Rail 10-Jan-18 Metroplex Wetlands
44 Lewin’s Rail 27-Jan-18 Mookin-Bah Reserve
45 Pale-vented Bush-hen 06-Jan-18 Sherwood Arboretum
46 Australian Spotted Crake 22-Jan-18 Kedron Brook Wetlands Reserve
47 Spotless Crake 13-Jan-18 Tinchi Tamba Wetlands Reserve–First Lagoon, Wyampa Rd
48 Australasian Swamphen 01-Jan-18 Oxley Creek Common
49 Dusky Moorhen 01-Jan-18 Oxley Creek Common
50 Eurasian Coot 02-Jan-18 Dowse Lagoon (Sandgate)
51 Bush Stone-curlew 03-Jan-18 38 Delaney Circuit
52 Black-winged Stilt 01-Jan-18 Oxley Creek Common
53 Red-necked Avocet 11-Jan-18 Kedron Brook Wetlands Reserve
54 Australian Pied Oystercatcher 03-Jan-18 Port of Brisbane Shorebird Roost
55 Sooty Oystercatcher 28-Jan-18 Fisherman Island–reclamation
56 Grey Plover 28-Jan-18 Fisherman Island–reclamation
57 Pacific Golden-Plover 03-Jan-18 Port of Brisbane Shorebird Roost
58 Masked Lapwing 01-Jan-18 Oxley Creek Common
59 Lesser Sand-Plover 12-Jan-18 Wynnum Esplanade at Penfold Parade
60 Greater Sand-Plover 21-Jan-18 Lota Foreshore
61 Red-capped Plover 03-Jan-18 Port of Brisbane Shorebird Roost
62 Red-kneed Dotterel 01-Jan-18 Oxley Creek Common
63 Black-fronted Dotterel 01-Jan-18 Priors Pocket, Moggill
64 Comb-crested Jacana 02-Jan-18 Dowse Lagoon (Sandgate)
65 Whimbrel 02-Jan-18 Luggage Point
66 Eastern Curlew 02-Jan-18 Luggage Point
67 Bar-tailed Godwit 02-Jan-18 Luggage Point
68 Black-tailed Godwit 05-Jan-18 Off Manly Esplanade
69 Ruddy Turnstone 28-Jan-18 Fisherman Island–reclamation
70 Great Knot 03-Jan-18 Port of Brisbane Shorebird Roost
71 Broad-billed Sandpiper 19-Jan-18 Off Manly Esplanade
72 Sharp-tailed Sandpiper 03-Jan-18 Port of Brisbane Shorebird Roost
73 Curlew Sandpiper 03-Jan-18 Port of Brisbane Shorebird Roost
74 Long-toed Stint 18-01-18 Tinchi Tamba Wetlands Reserve
75 Red-necked Stint 03-Jan-18 Port of Brisbane Shorebird Roost
76 Pectoral Sandpiper 26-Jan-18 Kedron Brook Wetlands Reserve
77 Asian Dowitcher 03-Jan-18 Port of Brisbane Shorebird Roost
78 Latham’s Snipe 02-Jan-18 Dowse Lagoon (Sandgate)
79 Terek Sandpiper 21-Jan-18 Lota Foreshore
80 Grey-tailed Tattler 05-Jan-18 Off Manly Esplanade
81 Common Greenshank 03-Jan-18 Port of Brisbane Shorebird Roost
82 Marsh Sandpiper 03-Jan-18 Kianawah Road Wetland (Hemmant)
83 Silver Gull 02-Jan-18 Luggage Point
84 Little Tern 03-Jan-18 Port of Brisbane Shorebird Roost
85 Gull-billed Tern 12-Jan-18 Lota Foreshore
86 Caspian Tern 12-Jan-18 Lota Foreshore
87 Whiskered Tern 02-Jan-18 Luggage Point
88 Crested Tern 02-Jan-18 Luggage Point
89 Rock Dove 01-Jan-18 Oxley Creek Common
90 White-headed Pigeon 06-Jan-18 Sherwood Arboretum
91 Spotted Dove 01-Jan-18 Oxley Creek Common
92 Brown Cuckoo-Dove 07-Jan-18 Gold Creek Reservoir
93 Common Bronzewing 04-Jan-18 212 Hawkesbury Road (restricted access)
94 Crested Pigeon 01-Jan-18 Oxley Creek Common
95 Wonga Pigeon 07-Jan-18 Gold Creek Reservoir
96 Peaceful Dove 01-Jan-18 Priors Pocket, Moggill
97 Bar-shouldered Dove 01-Jan-18 Oxley Creek Common
98 Wompoo Fruit-Dove 11-Jan-18 2010 Mount Glorious Rd
99 Rose-crowned Fruit-Dove 07-Jan-18 Gold Creek Reservoir
100 Topknot Pigeon 01-Jan-18 Anstead SES Depot (Hawkesbury Rd)
101 Pheasant Coucal 01-Jan-18 Oxley Creek Common
102 Pacific Koel 01-Jan-18 Oxley Creek Common
103 Channel-billed Cuckoo 01-Jan-18 Oxley Creek Common
104 Horsfield’s Bronze-Cuckoo 01-Jan-18 Oxley Creek Common
105 Shining Bronze-Cuckoo 03-Jan-18 Sandy Camp Road Wetlands
106 Little Bronze-Cuckoo 17-Jan-18 Sandy Camp Road Wetlands
107 Fan-tailed Cuckoo 07-Jan-18 Gold Creek Reservoir
108 Brush Cuckoo 01-Jan-18 Anstead SES Depot (Hawkesbury Rd)
109 Oriental Cuckoo 04-Jan-18 Anstead SES Depot (Hawkesbury Rd)
110 Sooty Owl 11-Jan-18 D’Aguilar NP–Lawton Rd
111 Southern Boobook 07-Jan-18 Gold Creek Reservoir
112 Tawny Frogmouth 07-Jan-18 Gold Creek Reservoir
113 White-throated Needletail 01-Jan-18 Anstead SES Depot (Hawkesbury Rd)
114 Pacific Swift 14-Jan-18 Mt Coot-tha Botanic Gardens
115 Laughing Kookaburra 01-Jan-18 Oxley Creek Common
116 Torresian Kingfisher 02-Jan-18 Luggage Point
117 Sacred Kingfisher 01-Jan-18 3–8 Matfield Street, Moggill
118 Rainbow Bee-eater 01-Jan-18 Oxley Creek Common
119 Dollarbird 01-Jan-18 Priors Pocket, Moggill
120 Australian Hobby 01-Jan-18 Oxley Creek Common
121 Peregrine Falcon 06-Jan-18 Oxley Creek Common
122 Galah 01-Jan-18 2255 Moggill Road, Kenmore
123 Long-billed Corella 06-Jan-18 Sherwood Arboretum
124 Little Corella 01-Jan-18 Oxley Creek Common
125 Sulphur-crested Cockatoo 01-Jan-18 Oxley Creek Common
126 Australian King-Parrot 04-Jan-18 Moggill Road at -27.513, 152.933
127 Crimson Rosella 11-Jan-18 D’Aguilar National Park–Westside Track
128 Pale-headed Rosella 01-Jan-18 Priors Pocket, Moggill
129 Little Lorikeet 01-Jan-18 255 Sugars Road, Anstead
130 Rainbow Lorikeet 01-Jan-18 Oxley Creek Common
131 Scaly-breasted Lorikeet 01-Jan-18 Oxley Creek Common
132 Noisy Pitta 07-Jan-18 Gold Creek Reservoir
133 Green Catbird 11-Jan-18 2010 Mount Glorious Rd
134 Regent Bowerbird 11-Jan-18 Joyners Ridge Rd–rainforest section
135 Satin Bowerbird 11-Jan-18 2010 Mount Glorious Rd
136 White-throated Treecreeper 07-Jan-18 Gold Creek Reservoir
137 Variegated Fairywren 03-Jan-18 Sandy Camp Road Wetlands
138 Superb Fairywren 01-Jan-18 Oxley Creek Common
139 Red-backed Fairywren 01-Jan-18 Oxley Creek Common
140 Eastern Spinebill 11-Jan-18 Mount Glorious Road at -27.332, 152.761
141 Lewin’s Honeyeater 01-Jan-18 Oxley Creek Common
142 Yellow-faced Honeyeater 01-Jan-18 Anstead SES Depot (Hawkesbury Rd)
143 Bell Miner 07-Jan-18 Gold Creek Reservoir
144 Noisy Miner 01-Jan-18 Oxley Creek Common
145 Little Wattlebird 13-Jan-18 38 Delaney Circuit
146 Mangrove Honeyeater 02-Jan-18 Luggage Point
147 Brown Honeyeater 01-Jan-18 Oxley Creek Common
148 Blue-faced Honeyeater 01-Jan-18 Oxley Creek Common
149 White-throated Honeyeater 07-Jan-18 Gold Creek Reservoir
150 Striped Honeyeater 01-Jan-18 Oxley Creek Common
151 Little Friarbird 01-Jan-18 Priors Pocket, Moggill
152 Noisy Friarbird 01-Jan-18 Priors Pocket, Moggill
153 Striated Pardalote 03-Jan-18 Sandy Camp Road Wetlands
154 Yellow-throated Scrubwren 11-Jan-18 2010 Mount Glorious Rd
155 White-browed Scrubwren 03-Jan-18 Sandy Camp Road Wetlands
156 Large-billed Scrubwren 07-Jan-18 Gold Creek Reservoir
157 Brown Thornbill 07-Jan-18 Gold Creek Reservoir
158 Yellow-rumped Thornbill 24-Jan-18 Kedron Brook Wetlands Reserve
159 White-throated Gerygone 03-Jan-18 Kianawah Road Wetland (Hemmant)
160 Brown Gerygone 11-Jan-18 2010 Mount Glorious Rd
161 Mangrove Gerygone 02-Jan-18 Boggy Creek
162 Grey-crowned Babbler 04-Jan-18 212 Hawkesbury Road (restricted access)
163 Australian Logrunner 11-Jan-18 Joyners Ridge Rd–rainforest section
164 Eastern Whipbird 01-Jan-18 Oxley Creek Common
165 White-breasted Woodswallow 01-Jan-18 Oxley Creek Common
166 Grey Butcherbird 01-Jan-18 Oxley Creek Common
167 Pied Butcherbird 01-Jan-18 Priors Pocket, Moggill
168 Australian Magpie 01-Jan-18 Oxley Creek Common
169 Pied Currawong 01-Jan-18 Priors Pocket, Moggill
170 Black-faced Cuckooshrike 01-Jan-18 Oxley Creek Common
171 Common Cicadabird 07-Jan-18 Gold Creek Reservoir
172 Little Shrikethrush 07-Jan-18 Gold Creek Reservoir
173 Grey Shrikethrush 01-Jan-18 Oxley Creek Common
174 Rufous Whistler 03-Jan-18 Sandy Camp Road Wetlands
175 Olive-backed Oriole 01-Jan-18 Oxley Creek Common
176 Australasian Figbird 01-Jan-18 Oxley Creek Common
177 Spangled Drongo 07-Jan-18 Gold Creek Reservoir
178 Willie-wagtail 01-Jan-18 Oxley Creek Common
179 Rufous Fantail 07-Jan-18 Gold Creek Reservoir
180 Grey Fantail 03-Jan-18 Sandy Camp Road Wetlands
181 White-eared Monarch 07-Jan-18 Gold Creek Reservoir
182 Black-faced Monarch 11-Jan-18 2010 Mount Glorious Rd
183 Spectacled Monarch 07-Jan-18 Gold Creek Reservoir
184 Magpie-lark 01-Jan-18 Oxley Creek Common
185 Leaden Flycatcher 03-Jan-18 Sandy Camp Road Wetlands
186 Torresian Crow 01-Jan-18 Oxley Creek Common
187 Apostlebird 04-Jan-18 212 Hawkesbury Road (restricted access)
188 Paradise Riflebird 11-Jan-18 Mount Glorious Road at -27.332, 152.761
189 Pale-yellow Robin 11-Jan-18 Joyners Ridge Rd–rainforest section
190 Eastern Yellow Robin 01-Jan-18 Anstead SES Depot (Hawkesbury Rd)
191 Welcome Swallow 01-Jan-18 Priors Pocket, Moggill
192 Fairy Martin 01-Jan-18 Oxley Creek Common
193 Tree Martin 01-Jan-18 Oxley Creek Common
194 Australian Reed-Warbler 02-Jan-18 Luggage Point
195 Brown Songlark 01-Jan-18 Priors Pocket, Moggill
196 Tawny Grassbird 01-Jan-18 Oxley Creek Common
197 Rufous Songlark 01-Jan-18 Priors Pocket, Moggill
198 Golden-headed Cisticola 01-Jan-18 Oxley Creek Common
199 Silvereye 01-Jan-18 Oxley Creek Common
200 Russet-tailed Thrush 11-Jan-18 Mount Glorious Road at -27.332, 152.761
201 Common Blackbird 11-Jan-18 2010 Mount Glorious Rd
202 European Starling 01-Jan-18 Priors Pocket, Moggill
203 Common Myna 01-Jan-18 Oxley Creek Common
204 Mistletoebird 01-Jan-18 Anstead SES Depot (Hawkesbury Rd)
205 Australasian Pipit 01-Jan-18 Oxley Creek Common
206 House Sparrow 03-Jan-18 Port of Brisbane Shorebird Roost
207 Red-browed Finch 07-Jan-18 Gold Creek Reservoir
208 Plum-headed Finch 01-Jan-18 Oxley Creek Common
209 Double-barred Finch 01-Jan-18 Oxley Creek Common
210 Chestnut-breasted Munia 01-Jan-18 Oxley Creek Common
Jan 30: Watching the news feed


My second consecutive day of essentially no birding, the best I managed today was a 5-min stationary count from my back yard. This yielded a calling Little Wattlebird, and I still have no idea where these birds are coming from or why they are mysteriously present here and yet seen nowhere else in Brisbane yet this year. Over the last year or so I’ve tried to get into the habit of always doing a 5-min point count in the morning no matter where I was. I’ve been amazed by how much I pick up that I wouldn’t otherwise see just from the discipline of making myself stop for a few minutes and focus on birds.

I kept an eye on the bird alerts through the day. Mat Gilfedder and Jo Culican had a Spotted Quail-Thrush at Moggill Conservation Park – an excellent find, and a bird that might take substantial effort to claw back. All I can do for the moment is stay put and work on my grant proposal.

Nothing else for today, that’s it.

With no year ticks today, my year list at the end of the day remained on 210 species. I spent 5 minutes birding, walked 0 km and drove 0 km.

Jan 29: Border country


I have a dark confession to make. It is grant-writing season and my mind and body are prostrating themselves as I offer my humble ideas for research funding as a sacrifice to the mighty ARC (Australian Research Council). I am so busy writing grants to keep our research funded that I have had to forgo birding today. It was a calculated misdemeanour, however, as there is only one bird at large in Brisbane at the moment that I really should see, and that is the infernal Common Sandpiper at Kedron. The best tide for my next attempt on this bird is on Thursday morning this week, when there is a whopping low tide at dawn. It must happen this time, it MUST!

Several people have asked about the boundary of Brisbane, so I thought I’d go for a visual update today and put up some maps. I will show the offshore boundaries in a few weeks, once I’ve run some analyses, and I’ll also show the different ecosystems later. For now, just the cold, hard boundary. It’s so binary – you are either in or you’re out!

With no year ticks today, my year list at the end of the day remained on 210 species. I spent 0 minutes birding, walked 0 km and drove 0 km.

This is the whole of the Brisbane LGA – There is the mainland blob, the three small islands (from north to south Mud, St Helena, Green) and Moreton Island. Yes, I’m afraid you’re right, North Stradbroke Island is not in Brisbane.

And going clockwise around the border, here is the north-east.



















The south-east.










The south-west.








And the north-west. The “camel’s head” (Brisbane’s answer to the Vogelkop Peninsula?) of the north-west is a pretty interesting part of the LGA. Along the ridge around Mount Glorious is the rainforest of D’Aguilar National Park. Most of the heavily birded areas, such as Maiala, Browns Road, Wivenhoe Looout, Boombana etc are outside the Brisbane LGA. There is a lot of discovery to be done inside the camel’s head.

There’s plenty of unexplored rainforest, eucalypt woodland and heath inside the Camel’s head!

Same for the camel’s chest – more than 100km of tracks wind through this area between Mount Nebo and Lake Manchester.

Jan 28: “Those sandplovers are moving fast!”


Up at 0315 this morning and off to pick up Micha Jackson, who was coming with me on a Queensland Wader Study Group mission to catch shorebirds at the Port of Brisbane. Micha leads an important project studying the use of artificial habitats by migratory shorebirds in the Chinese Yellow Sea, and is recently back from fieldwork near Shanghai where she documented the largest ever group of Spoon-billed Sandpipers foraging away from mudflats on artificial ponds – an important discovery indeed, particularly if it can established what conditions favour the spoonies, and if those conditions can be created through management. She is hoping to find out during her ongoing PhD studies at UQ.

We arrived at the rendenzous on Curlew Street at 0428 ahead of the main group of folks, and relieved to be on time. A Brown Quail was calling, and House Sparrows were chirping in the artificial light. The Port is one of the last strongholds of House Sparrow in urban Brisbane, a huge decline for the species in the last few decades in the city. They are still common out of the city in rural towns but have largely gone from suburban Brisbane. The rest of the crew arrived presently, including our leader Jon Coleman, stalwart of the Queensland Wader Study Group, and instrumental in efforts to understand the migration routes and local site use by shorebirds in Moreton Bay and elsewhere in Queensland. The QWSG has been monitoring shorebirds for decades, and their meticulously curated data has been central to demonstrating regional and national declines of shorebirds, and showing that the cause of their declines is habitat loss in the Yellow Sea on their migration route. The dedication of the volunteers that tirelessly monitor shorebirds under the count programme organised by QWSG continues to astound me, and I’m so grateful they are doing what they are doing – collecting continuous data even when funding regimes etc change. Such data has been crucial to the shorebird conservation effort. The group recently celebrated their 25th birthday, and here’s to another equally effective 25 years. You can join here and support the work of the group, financially and / or by getting into the field.

Upwards of 10,000 shorebirds roost at the Port of Brisbane, in the newly reclaimed area at the north end of Fisherman Islands. This area is a working part of the Port and unfortunately there is no public access at present. The shallow pools are excellent habitat, and rocky bunds around them also attract species that prefer hard substrate, a rare commodity along the Brisbane mainland coast. The QWSG team had set up cannon nets in two different spots yesterday, and we waited expectantly as Robert Bush and Jon Coleman checked whether birds were close to either net. While they did this, I scoped around looking for birds, and was immediately rewarded with a fine pair of Sooty Oystercatchers on the rocky sea wall, and a brilliant flyby from an Eastern Reef Egret. I was over the moon with the egret – it is an extremely scarce species in Brisbane because of the real lack of suitable rocky shore or reef habitat. I was worried about how to connect with this species, and just delighted to have seen one so early in the year. I desperately hoped a lone tattler on the rocky sea wall would be a Wandering, but it looked stubbornly perfect for Grey-tailed in the telescope no matter how hard I tried. Scoping along the beach where the first net was located, there was a Ruddy Turnstone in the small shorebird flock, a third year tick.

In terms of the cannon-net catch, the news wasn’t great – the lower net had no birds remaining near it, and I helped a few others remove the net from the beach before it got inundated by the tide. See here for a brief explanation of cannon-netting. Up at the other net there were about 1,500 shorebirds in the area, mainly Lesser Sand Plovers, but a real mixed bag. Of particular interest were a group of about 20 Grey Plovers, one of the scarcest regularly occurring migratory shorebirds in Moreton Bay, and another very welcome addition to the year list. Eventually I also picked out a Broad-billed Sandpiper in the mixed flock, associating with Curlew Sandpipers. Despite all the birds in the area, few were close to the net, and Micha Jackson and David Milton were sent in to “twinkle” – very slowly and carefully moving within sight of the birds in the hope they walk towards the catching area. Despite some outstandingly professional twinkling, it just wasn’t to be. The sandplovers started walking slowly towards the net, exactly as planned, but then they began moving fast and eventually took flight and settled on another pond. There would be no catch today. We packed up the second net and left the Port – we would have to come back and try another time.

With a whopping four year ticks today (Sooty Oystercatcher, Eastern Reef Egret, Ruddy Turnstone and Grey Plover), my year list ended the day at 210 species. I spent 3 hours 23 minutes birding, walked 3.763 km and drove 81.3 km.

Eastern Reef Egret, Port of Brisbane, 28th Jan 2018

27 Jan: A Ransome note


I’ve never seen a Black Bittern in Brisbane, despite trying many times at Sandy Camp Road Wetlands. Michael Daley had one yesterday at Mookin-Bah Reserve in the south-east suburb of Ransome. There is a regular bird present at this site, and I had been meaning to go birding there for a while. Michael gave me a few tips, and I set off for a dawn attempt on the bittern. I walked up and down the creek that fringes a nice melaleuca swamp, and had several interesting birds including a juvenile Nankeen Night-heron, 2 Latham’s Snipe, a Pale-vented Bush-hen and a calling Lewin’s Rail. The rail was a year tick, which was nice. Black Bittern was a notable omission of course, but there is a large area of melaleuca swamp that the bird could easily disappear into, and there were a few Intermediate Egrets and Royal Spoonbills flushing that might have scared it off before I saw it. Clearly this is an area that will repay further investigation, and being only 10 minutes from my house it’s an easy dawn trip and I can still be back in time for the kids’ morning routine.

In the afternoon we went shopping on the north side, and I left the family waiting in the car for 10 minutes as I searched for Common Sandpiper at Kedron Brook near the Nudgee Road bridge. It was a neapish low tide and there was very little mud exposed and even less Common Sandpiper exposed. This is getting personal – surely one of these times I’ll bump into it????!!!

With one year tick today (Lewin’s Rail), my year list clicked up to 206 species. I spent 1 hour 53 minutes birding, walked 3.542 km and drove 20.4 km.

Pale-vented Bush-hen, Mookin-Bah Reserve, 27th Jan 2018

26 Jan: Still in the marshes


Seems like I’ve been permanently stuck in the marshes over the past week. Today was going to be no exception. I met Mat Gilfedder and Jo Culican at Kedron Brook Wetland at 0420. Mat Gilfedder has been one of the leading figures that helped to create eBird Australia, working with Richard Alcorn and others to migrate the data from Eremaea a few years ago and now maintaining many aspects of eBird Australia behind the scenes. Without Mat’s efforts, there is a very real possibility that eBird Australia would have foundered.

Mat and I are engaging in a friendly competition to see who can see most species in Brisbane this year, but in many ways this is also a celebration of how eBird has transformed Australian birding. A huge innovation has been the arrival of Local Government Authority boundaries into the system. Australia has no simple county system, and these LGAs are the closest I reckon we have to the counties of the UK or USA so beloved by birders. I’m hoping we can use them to grow local birding even further in Australia – can we learn to love our LGAs? With a click of a button I can see which species are being reported that I haven’t seen in Brisbane this year, or in my lifetime. I can see every checklist from every birder as they come in, and monitor who is seeing what and where. I can also seek out places that aren’t being birded. In case you hadn’t realised, I’m very keen on eBird, and I wrote a while back on 10 things I love about eBird. The most important thing is that your records get used – they end up in global databases used by scientists, birders, or anyone who cares to monitor the state of the world’s biodiversity and argue for its conservation. Much better than having your records in your own private spreadsheet that you take to the grave.

Anyway, back at Kedron we scanned the gradually lightening skies continuously in the hope of Grass Owl, but it wasn’t to be. Grass Owl is present all year at this site, and breeding occurs in autumn / winter, so there’s plenty of time to get this species later in the year. When light dawned, we focused on checking through the shorebird flocks, and instantly found the two Long-toed Stints that had been around for a while now. Andy Jensen joined us, and masterfully picked out a Pectoral Sandpiper in the Sharp-tailed Sandpiper flock. It was not an obvious bird, actually slightly smaller than many of the Sharpies, but with a nice yellow bill base, no chestnut in the cap, no flank streaking and a clean white undertail. A good year tick – Pec is a scarce migrant to Brisbane. Mat and I picked out an Australian Spotted Crake each, and there were 330 Red-necked Avocets there, a decent count.

With a year tick in the bag and not much prospect of anything else on the marsh, we took a quick look for the Common Sandpiper, but to no avail, which wasn’t surprising given the tide was still quite high. I resolved to head up to Dowse Lagoon and look for the Glossy Ibis that had been around for a couple of days, and then pop back in to Kedron on the way back home for one last Common Sandpiper search.

Arriving at Dowse, I couldn’t initially find the ibis, although I bumped in to Gavin Goodyear who had seen it a few minutes previously but wasn’t now on it. Inexplicably I just couldn’t find it around the edge of the lagoon, although the Musk Duck was still there and giving excellent views, which was nice. Eventually I had a final look from the platform on the W side of the lake, and there was the Glossy Ibis straight in front of me. Success!! A final scope around revealed a Plumed Whistling-Duck among the Wandering Whistling-Ducks, quite a good bird for this area. I popped back into Kedron on the way home, parking where Nudgee Road crosses Kedron Brook, but the tide was still really too high (low tide was 11am today). I resolved to try about an hour after a decent low tide later next week.

With two year ticks today, my year list at the end of the day edged up to 205 species. I get the impression every tick is going to be a fight now, and progress will be distinctly incremental. I spent 4 hours 7 minutes birding, walked 6.195 km and drove 71.6 km.

Jan 25: Birding at work


Got up early, but worked instead of going birding. I run a busy research group at the University of Queensland. There are so many wonderful people in the lab producing great work, and it all keeps me pretty busy. And as I neared UQ on the bus today, I thought about how lucky I am to work at what must be one of the most beautiful campuses in the world. There are spreading Jacarandas that kindly flower at exam time to help the students through (or give them recurring nightmares every November). There is a nice set of lakes, and although there are 228 lists in eBird, the site list stands on only 88, which is perhaps a bit surprising. The area is fairly small though.

I used to bird at UQ Lakes quite a lot, but lost the habit as my job got busier and the kids came along. This morning I decided to wander around for a bit, since I wasn’t planning any formal birding today. I spent 15 enjoyable minutes wandering around the lakes, and the best bird was a really nice Nankeen Night-heron feeding along the N shore at the W end of the lakes under a willow. I love these birds – they are rarely enough seen that they are exciting every time. I rested my binoculars on a signpost and took a pic by holding the phone up to them – v poor but at least you can see what it is. I even managed to crop and upload it to the checklist there and then in the field.

Globally there are only two “Nankeen” species – a kestrel and the night-heron, both Australian birds. Nankeen is a type of yellowish-buff cloth originally made from a city in China called Nanjiing, from which the name Nankeen is derived. The birds are named after the yellowish-buff colour of the cloth, imported from China by Victorians and presumably well-known to early taxonomists. So there you go.

With no year ticks today, my year list at the end of the day remained on 203 species. I spent 26 minutes birding, walked 0.532 km and drove 0 km.

Nankeen Night-heron at UQ Lakes, 25th Jan 2018

Jan 24: The not-so-common Common Sandpiper


I had a brief trip to Kedron again this morning, but was again limited by needing to be home at 0630, which gave me little more than an hour on site. The year tick drought was over just before dawn when a majestic adult White-bellied Sea-eagle smashed into a flying-fox that was crossing the wetland minding its own business. The flying-fox was desperately trying to outmaneuver the eagle at all costs, and after about three lunges from the eagle, it got away uneaten. As birding light dawned, I scanned around from the E end of the main pool, hoping for Pectoral Sandpiper, but I couldn’t find it among the Sharpies that were visible – the problem being that there was plenty of tussocks and hidden areas among the pools where the Sharpies could evade my gaze. Typically, after the unseemly rush of the other night, an Australian Spotted Crake nonchalantly paraded around right out in the open, trying to distract me from my Pec Sand search. It would come to nought anyway, and as the minutes ticked by, I needed to get to the creek and look for the Common Sandpiper.

Chris Attewell had very kindly given me the precise location of his sighting yesterday, and I searched the area between the cycleway bridge and the Southern Cross Way bridge. But despite the time of low tide approaching there was not much mud exposed, and I walked up and down the creek for about 50 minutes without so much a sniff of a sandpiper. I had a Yellow-rumped Thornbill right around the Southern Cross Way bridge, and although it’s a good bird for this site, and a year tick, it was scant consolation for missing the Common Sandpiper. Clearly I would have to make a third visit.

The lesson from all of this is that I need to slow down – trying to nail a couple of target species with an hour in the field is just not sensible. With a long weekend coming up I will plan to put in some longer, more relaxed visits where I can really search out what I’m looking for. The only problem with respect to the Common Sandpiper is that there isn’t really a decent low tide in the daytime until about 29th Jan now.

I’m reasonably happy with progress overall, but it is definitely irritating struggling with a few species that require repeated visits back to the same site. I’m gradually closing the gap on all species that have been seen in Brisbane – there are currently 33 species that have been seen in Brisbane this year by others that I have not seen. Of these, I’m not too concerned about any. That will undoubtedly change!

I’ve decided to cancel my trip to Moreton Island this weekend. The winds just don’t look strong enough for land-based seawatching. The pelagic going off Southport will probably turn up something amazing, but I feel determined to use all possible birding time within Brisbane LGA where possible. No doubt I’ll end up spending 17 hours looking unsuccessfully for Common Sandpiper! As soon as there is a stronger weather system I’ll head out seawatching, and I’ll eventually get to Moreton probably in Febuary and April at least. The hope is to do a minimum of 4 trips out there this year.

With two year ticks today (White-bellied Sea-eagle and Yellow-rumped Thornbill), my year list at the end of the day rose to 203 species. I spent 1 hour 53 minutes birding, walked 4.283 km and drove 32.5 km.

Progress of my own year list (green) against all bird species seen in Brisbane collectively by all eBirders. Some additional species might have been seen by people who don’t use eBird, but there’s no easy way to find that out.

Jan 23: A morning off


A slight lull after the excitement of yesterday, I got up early and worked instead of going out birding. I broke briefly at 0526 for a 5-min stationary count in my backyard. A Little Wattlebird calling from somewhere close by but out of sight was the highlight. It was also nice to see a Laughing Kookaburra feeding on grubs in the long grassy “wildlife” border that we have established on the far side of our lawn. The strip has only been left for a few weeks so it’ll be interesting to see what happens over the coming months.

Chris Attewell had the Common Sandpiper again at Kedron and also a Pectoral Sandpiper there. I’ll pop up there briefly in the morning and have a look for the Common Sandpiper in particular as it would be good to have this species under the belt while it appears to be semi-reliable. Pec would be good too, but Common is probably the more difficult bird of the two, and the most difficult bird currently available for me in Brisbane. Once I’ve finished all this twitching I can actually go and look for my own birds!!! Hopefully I can repay some of the kind folks who have helped me with bird updates in the past three weeks.

With no year ticks today, my year list at the end of the day remained on 201 species. I spent 5 minutes birding, walked 0 km and drove 0 km.

Jan 22: A wild crake chase


Up at 0300 and off to Kedron Brook Wetlands. I went early hoping for some interesting nocturnal species, but couldn’t turn anything up whatsoever – not even a brown quail! As dawn broke I found a small grassy pool at the end of one of the grassy rides and saw two waders on it – a Sharp-tailed Sandpiper and a Long-toed Stint! That was nice, although not what I was really after. I scanned around carefully trying to find the Australian Spotted Crakes seen yesterday evening by Rob Morris and Duan Biggs. Try as I might, I just couldn’t locate one, and time was running out – I had to be home by 0630. Chatting with Rob Morris, the best viewing of the area where the crake had been was straight into the morning sun. I gave up and decided to come back in the evening.

After having made the kids a “Spotted Crake Pie” for dinner, I left for Kedron to try another time for the crake. I set up at the west side of the main pool looking east, and within 2-3 minutes had found one working its way along the far bank!!!!! It was much too far for the camera, and my phone-scoping shots were, shall we say less than brilliant. But I was totally over the moon. A small group of other birders had also got onto the bird, which was great.

I left straight away to look for the Common Sandpiper that had been seen yesterday, but the light was fading rapidly and I didn’t hold out much hope. I bumped into Louis Backstrom and had a nice chat while we wandered around dipping Common Sandpiper.

I am way behind with photos – hope to get some uploaded in the next day or two.

Australian Spotted Crake was the only year tick of the day, and my year list at the end of the day was 201 species. I spent 3 hours 49 minutes birding, walked 6.89 km and drove 73.0 km.

Spotted Crake Pie

Jan 21: Inching along, 200 up


Today was a day when I felt like I was going more backwards than forwards. It started well enough. I did my dawn mudwalk at Lota Foreshore and completely enjoyed every second of it. Of the 9 target species I mentioned yesterday, I got 2 – probably about what I expected: Terek Sandpiper and Greater Sand Plover. I had about 28 Tereks – absolutely cracking birds and one of my favourite shorebirds. It was really good to spend time watching shorebirds hard, in particular trying carefully to critically separate Lesser and Greater Sand Plovers. I got some really good scope views of a several birds, and took the time to appreciate the difference in bill shape between the two species in a way I hadn’t fully done before. Greater is generally much rarer than Lesser in Moreton Bay, with roughly 90% of Sand Plovers being Lesser. I feel good that this species was the 200th for my Big Brisbane Year List. I am sorting through photos and will upload them to the checklist soon. The mud was knee-deep and fairly difficult going in several places – beware and take care if you are heading out, and leave plenty of time to reach dry land again before the tide catches up with you.

I checked a few other roosts along the Wynnum foreshore after I’d finished, but couldn’t turn up anything else new for the year. Not even a White-bellied Sea-eagle, which is fast turning into a bogey bird!

Mat Gilfedder texted late morning to say a Long-toed Stint had been seen at Kedron Brook Wetlands, along with a Pectoral and Common Sandpipers. Stint Schmint – I needed the other two! And was particularly keen to connect with Common Sandpiper, which is a very scarce migrant to Brisbane, with fewer birds turning up than Pectoral. Michael Daley kindly described where he had seen the Common Sandpiper that day, suggesting to look on the creek itself at low tide. That settled it, I would go at dawn. Mat later texted to say he’d seen the Long-toed Stint, which was excellent news. He and are having a friendly competition this year – making use of the newly-available Local Government Authority functionality in eBird. Don’t know what I’m on about? Try typing Brisbane here.

Late evening Rob Morris posted to the South East Queensland Birders Facebook group that he had seen two Australian Spotted Crakes on the wetland at the stint spot. This is a mega find – extremely rare in Brisbane, in fact only the third eBird record for the species, which was first seen in 1984 by Tony Palliser and then again in 2013 at Kedron by Roger Jaensch along with a Black Falcon – now there’s a good day out! Forget the shorebirds – I will be on site at dawn and searching for crakes. The only problem is I have to be home at 0630…

With the two shorebird year ticks at Lota Foreshore (Terek Sandpiper and Greater Sand Plover), my year list at the end of the day was 200 species. I spent 4 hours 3 minutes birding, walked 4.312 km and drove 42.4 km.

Jan 20: Another duck


Family day – no birding today. I’ve been birding almost all days since the year began, and wanted to take advantage of having seen all the rarities so far that had shown up. I kept an eye on the Brisbane eBird alert of course, but Glossy Ibis and Varied Triller were the only two birds seen today that would be year ticks. No need for an unseemly chase for them.

There are sustained easterly winds forecast for most of next week, strengthening by Saturday, when there is projected to be some storms as well. This seems like great conditions for a seawatch off Cape Moreton next weekend. The only problem is it’s a very tricky place to get to – I’m considering the ferry from Redcliffe to Bulwer on Friday, walking the 15km to Cape Moreton birding along the way, seawatching late afternoon, evening and morning, then getting a 4WD taxi back to Tangalooma Saturday lunchtime to catch an afternoon ferry back to Cleveland. Something of a mission, but seabirds will be crucial to amassing a decent year list. If anyone has a 4WD, is happy to drive on Moreton Island, and wants to obsessively seawatch next weekend, do get in touch!

More immediately, I’m going for a spring low tide walk onto the tidal flats tomorrow morning at dawn at Lota foreshore. I was inspired by Michael Daley’s walk on 2 Jan, and thought it would be a bit of fun to see what’s down there. Migratory shorebirds and terns are the main targets. Of the former, the key species are Terek Sandpiper, Ruddy Turnstone, Red Knot, Grey Plover and Greater Sand Plover. Of the latter, Common Tern and White-winged Black Tern are the most likely species, but both are quite rare in Brisbane. Other possible targets include Eastern Reef Egret and Sooty Oystercatcher.

With no year ticks today, my year list at the end of the day remained on 198 species. I spent 0 minutes birding, walked 0 km and drove 0 km.

Jan 19: Standing on the shoulders of giants


For the last couple of years I have focused on going birding in places where few others go – to try and fill gaps in our knowledge of bird distributions. For example, I birded Belmont Hills Bushland quite a few times – an unassuming but essentially unbirded large patch of eucalypt woodland near my home. Nothing mega, but a White-bellied Cuckooshrike was a nice highlight in July 2016. I also started going to Buylar Road, a site that looks to have a LOT of potential just south of Lake Manchester – I reckon it’s every bit as good as the well known sites like Priors Pocket and will turn up some brilliant birds over the coming years. I’ve had lots of Speckled Warblers there, Rufous Songlark, Baillon’s Crake and White-eared Monarch nearby at Cabbage Tree Creek.

In contrast to all this, amassing a big year list, at least for the first few weeks, is all about missing as little as possible, particularly the rarest birds. This means going to see birds that other people have found, and most birds get found at heavily visited sites. The top 10 list of sites for Brisbane so far this year are all the usual suspects, and there’s only one I haven’t been to yet this year (Nature Refuge Hawkesbury Road):

1 Tinchi Tamba Wetlands Reserve 131 species
2 Oxley Creek Common 112
3 Sandy Camp Road Wetlands 102
4 Gold Creek Reservoir 86
5 Anstead Bushland Reserve 83
6 Anstead SES Depot (Hawkesbury Rd) 80
7 Priors Pocket, Moggill 77
8 Nature Refuge Hawkesbury Road 76
9 Port of Brisbane Shorebird Roost 73
10 Kedron Brook Wetlands Reserve 70

The plus side of all this is that I have met so many birders I have only known via their eBird records, and that has been truly wonderful. Today was a classic example of following in the footsteps of giants. Mat Gilfedder texted mid afternoon with a photo of a Broad-billed Sandpiper he had just found at Manly. They are not mega rare, but distinctly thin on the ground, not often seen away from roosts, and certainly missable on a year list. A great bird, and because Mat generously got straight in touch I was able to dash down to Manly and re-find the bird. Thanks Mat – this must be the friendliest big year competition ever! I got a very smudgy photo from the phone held up to the telescope – it was a bit far for the normal camera.

I still need a lot of shorebirds for the year list, and they are summer visitors here of course. So I resolved to head onto the tidal flats at Lota Foreshore first thing on Sunday morning, providing there was nothing else that took higher priority. The major high tide roosts along the mainland Brisbane coastline are mostly closed to the public, the most important being the huge roost on the reclamation area at the Port of Brisbane (often 10,000+ birds) and Manly Wader Roost. Someone who regularly visits the Manly Roost for the Queensland Wader Study Group has kindly offered to take me along later this year, but my main chance for finding the shorebirds I need will be low tide walks.

Some of the commonest birds I still haven’t seen this year include White-bellied Sea-eagle, Spotted Pardalote, and Golden Whistler. I’ve been so focused on target birds that I’ve tried to avoid the temptation of using valuable birding time to target the few common birds I still need. But it surely can’t be long now until 200…

Broad-billed Sandpiper was the only year tick of the day, and my year list at the end of the day was 198 species. I spent 44 minutes birding, walked 0 km and drove 32.0 km.


Broad-billed Sandpiper, Manly Foreshore, 19th Jan 2018

Speckled Warbler, Buylar Road, 1 October 2017

Jan 18: All’s well that ends well


I headed north up the M1 in the dim light of dawn, apprehensive because the stint hadn’t been seen for much of yesterday, but also expectant that it might show again in the calm of morning. Arriving at Tinchi Tamba I followed Ged Tranter’s instructions of how to navigate onto the saltmarsh where the stint had been seen yesterday. I’m always deeply grateful for folks that go the extra mile in helping others catch up with birds – it’s a lovely generosity of spirit. Sloshing through the mud, I saw Rob Morris and Elliot Leach already on site, along with Rick Franks and Felicia Chan. There had been no sign of the stint so far, but there were hundreds of shorebirds about, mostly Red-necked Stints, but also Sharp-tailed Sandpipers, Curlew Sandpipers, Eastern Curlew etc. Sharpies and stints were feeding together in several places, and we carefully checked every stint we could see, on the saltmarsh as well as on the small brackish pools in the grassy areas.

There was simply no sign of the Long-toed Stint for well over an hour, but shorebirds were flying about and mixing up, so we remained hopeful. I saw one interesting looking stint land briefly in the one of the brackish pools but it disappeared after a fraction of a second and I was left wondering what I’d seen. I tracked it flying over to the east side of the marsh, and wandered over there. Another 20 minutes checking stints, but nothing different. Eventually Rob Morris picked out the Long-toed Stint, an excellent piece of birding at quite some distance. We edged forward and got reasonably good views of the bird – showing characteristic long-legged, long-necked shape, distinct rufous cap giving it the appearance of a miniature sharpie, yellow legs, dark centred scapulars and, in one grainy pic, I think I can see a very long central toe. It was too far for my 400mm lens, but I got a few pixellated pics by holding the phone up to the scope. I was totally thrilled – this is a great bird, perhaps only the second or third record for Brisbane.

Chris Burwell arrived and got onto the stint. Then Rob had to leave, while Elliot and I chatted about outlandish strategies for finding difficult birds in Brisbane; most notably we decided to organise a pelagic trip off Moreton Island some time later in the year. This got me researching usual protocols for defining county boundaries offshore for birding purposes – I discovered that in the USA they assign each coordinate at sea to the county of the closest point of land. This would probably work OK for us – Mat Gilfedder and I are the first folks (as far as we know) to take on a county-level year-listing challenge in Australia. We get to make up the rules! After leaving Elliot at the first lagoon watching the Black-necked Stork, I headed for work and did no further birding today.

Long-toed Stint was the only year tick of the day, and my year list at the end of the day was 197 species. I spent 2 hours 39 minutes birding, walked 5.746 km and drove 76.0 km.

Now that is a long toe!

Jan 17: A monumental miscalculation?


Yesterday, I confidently predicted that the Long-toed Stint at Tinchi Tamba would give people the run around and take hours to be pinned down. I was half right, but unfortunately the wrong half. I had to be home at 0630, so didn’t have much time this morning. Instead of going for the stint I decided to go to Sandy Camp Road and look for the Australian Little Bittern that Chris Attewell had seen yesterday morning. I reasoned that there would be almost no chance of seeing the stint within the first hour of daylight, which would have been what I’d needed to do, to get back home in time.

Fortunately I was successful at Sandy Camp, tape-recording a calling Australian Little Bittern calling just on dawn about 0435. This is a very tricky species in Brisbane, so I was pretty pleased, although once again I couldn’t find the Black Bittern, which was photographed on 14th Jan and is essentially resident at this site. Still, nearby I had a good but fleeting look at a Little Bronze-cuckoo, a scarce summer visitor. Two high quality year ticks in the bag. On the way back home I saw the first reports on the Long-toed Stint coming over the eBird alerts, Facebook and email. Fortunately for the small crowd who had made the effort to get to Tinchi Tamba, the bird had shown in the early morning with the small Sharp-tailed Sandpiper flock it had been consorting with previously. My fellow year-list competitor Mat Gilfedder was on his way to Tinchi, but I had to get back home, take Tom to day care and then head into work. This was a disaster of monumental proportions…

In the end, Mat texted later in the day to say he hadn’t managed to catch up with the stint – it had become very flighty and vanished before he arrived on site. At least this banquished any thoughts of me dashing up there during the day from work. I decided to go to Tinchi Tamba early tomorrow morning to give the stint a shot before lots of people were about. Late afternoon I heard one or more Little Wattlebirds from the back yard, but couldn’t see it or them.

With the two good year ticks at Sandy Camp (Australian Little Bittern and Little Bronze-cuckoo), my year list at the end of the day was 196 species. I spent 1 hour 46 minutes birding, walked 3.097 km and drove 32.0 km.

Jan 16: A duck


No birding today. Not even a 5-min point count or something. Jolly poor show if you ask me. Jolly poor show.

Luckily some other people were out birding. Chris Attewell saw an Australian Little Bittern at Sandy Camp Road Wetlands. I resolved to head to Sandy Camp for an early session in the morning. With up to four year ticks present (Australian Little Bittern, Black Bittern, Little Bronze-cuckoo and Lewin’s Rail) I could reasonably hope for something!

**STOP PRESS** Ged Tranter found a Long-toed Stint at Tinchi Tamba this afternoon. But it was flighty and might well need a substantial time investment to connect with it. I only have a couple of hours in the morning so won’t go for it tomorrow. Maybe the weekend. But then again the weather is looking awesome for seabirds, with howling southerlies tomorrow and Friday. What to do, what to do??

With no year ticks today, my year list at the end of the day remained on 194 species. I spent 0 minutes birding, walked 0 km and drove 0 km.

Jan 15: Knee-deep in it


I arrived at Nudgee Beach at 0430 just as light was dawning – the shoreline was beautiful and there were plenty of shorebirds and gulls on the extensive tidal flats. But disappointingly the wind had completely dropped and the weather was fine – displaced seabirds seemed an unlikely proposition. The tide was incoming so I decided to walk the tidal flats first and then scope out into the Bay afterwards. I only had 1.5 hours so needed to move fast. I sorted through flock after flock of shorebirds, but didn’t come across anything new for the year. There were good numbers of Curlew Sandpipers, Sharp-tailed Sandpipers, Bar-tailed Godwits, Whimbrels, Great Knots and Red-necked Stints. Among the gulls were a few Little Terns. The tide was coming in quickly and I was knee-deep in it by the time I got back onto dry land.

Scoping into the Bay produced five species of tern (Crested, Caspian, Gull-billed, Little and Whiskered), but nothing rare. Still, it was a lovely morning nevertheless. Back home for 0630 and then off to work – no more significant birding during the day, but received a text message from the wonderful Mat Gilfedder, my primary “competition” in this most friendly of Big Year races that he had found and photographed a Red-browed Treecreeper at Lawton’s Road on Mt Glorious. A great bird, with very few records in Brisbane, although perhaps overlooked because most folks go to a known site beyond the Brisbane boundary at Wivenhoe Outlook. While I didn’t need to rush there immediately, I resolved to look for this bird within a week, as finding it could offset the need for time-consuming searches later in the year. With a busy few days at work ahead, I needed to work an early shift tomorrow, so couldn’t go birding in the morning. I was looking to Thursday morning and then the weekend for my next birding sessions. Any rarities, of course, would need to be accommodated…

With no year ticks today, my year list at the end of the day remained 194 species. I spent 1 hour 34 minutes birding, walked 1.773 km and drove 48.2 km.

Jan 14: Everything’s up in the air


Tragically I slept through my alarm this morning – probably a cry for help from my ageing body. Shame turned to pain when I saw Matteo Grilli’s excellent list from Sandy Camp, where I was planning to go. Photos of Fork-tailed Swift, Black Bittern and Little Bronze-cuckoo!!! He also heard Lewin’s Rail, so that was four year ticks I could have got. Could’a, should’a, didn’t.

Still, after my musings on blue sky thinking, I had my bins round my neck and my eyes to the sky when we pulled into Mt Coot-tha Botanic Gardens car park heading to Jeannie Baker’s exhibition of art from her amazing children’s book Circle, about the migration of Bar-tailed Godwits. I saw a small group of swifts – the first one I looked at was a Fork-tailed – BINGO!!!!!!!! There turned out to be about 4 Fork-tailed with 2 White-throated Needletails. I was elated, as this can be a very tricky species. After we came out of the exhibition we grabbed morning tea at the cafe, and then amazingly I had another good flyover species, a White-necked Heron! Not a year tick, but a great bird to see nevertheless. Several other Brisbane birders had Fork-tailed Swifts today, clearly an influx. Very strong winds picked up in the afternoon. This convinced me to try Nudgee Beach in the morning, to see if any terns or other seabirds have taken shelter in northern Moreton Bay. Black Bittern etc at Sandy Camp could wait for later in the week.

My year list at the end of the day was 194 species. I spent 0 minutes birding (my botanic gardens list was incidental because I wasn’t focused on birding), walked 0 km and drove 0 km (all birding was incidental).

Jan 13: Lazing on a sunny afternoon


Big news last night with the reappearance of the wandering Black-necked Stork at Tinchi Tamba – the bird stayed until dusk on 12th Jan, and so I set off this morning with a good sense of anticipation. Black-necked Storks are rare, but highly detectable – I wasn’t especially worried about missing it for the year, but always good to get these sorts of wandering species under the belt. Young birds have been seen in the Brisbane area, but there haven’t been any nailed down spots where birds are reliable as far as I know.

Two other cars were already present when I arrived – Stephen Murray and Felicia Chan / Rick Franks. I quickly checked the lagoon from the bridge, and sure enough the stork was there, and it appeared to be struggling with eating something quite large, possibly a duck. Its ghoulish breakfast out of the way, it continued foraging on the lagoon. But my attention quickly turned to looking for Little Grassbird, a very difficult bird in Brisbane. Stephen pointed out a couple of spots where he had been seeing birds over the past few months, but mentioned they rarely seem to call. I circuited the main lagoon, but couldn’t turn up a Little Grassbird. I did flush three Latham’s Snipe, which was nice. At the culvert along the road running east of the lagoon I briefly heard two Spotless Crakes, and saw one very briefly.

After more than 2 hours I gave up on grassbird, but returned home pretty happy to have the stork safe and sound on the list. I reckoned I would be spending more time at this site looking for Little Grassbird during the year.

It was a hot, sunny day and we lazed around for much of the afternoon. I was watering the plants in the garden with the kids in the late afternoon, when I suddenly heard the harsh chatter of a Little Wattlebird! I looked up and saw two birds perched in a tree. Grabbing the camera I got a couple of shots. This is a very difficult species on mainland Brisbane – much easier on Moreton Island. I moved in to the present house in June 2017, and have so far had Little Wattlebirds on 1 August, 20 September and 9 October. I’m not sure where they are coming from – perhaps there is a local group of breeding birds somewhere nearby. I’ll have to try and track them down one day. This was the third year tick of the day (Black-necked Stork, Spotless Crake, Little Wattlebird).

My year list at the end of the day was 193 species. I spent 2 hours 13 minutes birding, walked 4.216 km and drove 76.2 km.

Jan 12: Downtime


After yesterday’s exertions I needed a rest, so didn’t get up early this morning. After work, I went ahead of the family to Lota Foreshore, hoping to see a few shorebirds on the rising tide. I arrived a bit too late and the tide had already pushed most shorebirds off towards their roosts, although got the overdue Caspian and Gull-billed Terns for the year list. Clearly I need to try on a falling / low spring tide. I had a little bit more time, so checked the roost on the Wynnum Esplanade at Penfold Place, which had 12 Pied Oystercatchers, 11 Pacific Golden-Plovers, 9 Lesser Sand-Plovers, a Whimbrel, 85 Bar-tailed Godwits, 41 Great Knots and 2 Red-necked Stints.

My year list at the end of the day was 190 species. I spent 54 minutes birding, walked 1.232 km and drove 36.7 km.

Jan 11: Border patrol


Up at 0230, I drove up to Mount Glorious in search of nocturnal species, mainly thinking of Sooty Owl, Masked Owl and Marbled Frogmouth. My first stop yielded only a distant Southern Boobook, and so I headed to Lawton Road where I have seen both Marbled Frogmouth and Sooty Owl in the past. Sure enough, almost straight away I heard a Sooty Owl calling, and eventually got good views, although my pics were rather dark. A nice rainforest speciality under the belt, but the fact that a sooty owl was vociferously calling meant my chances of Marbled Frogmouth were diminished. In any case, light was beginning to pierce the darkness so I headed to the spot where the Common Blackbird had been seen the day before. I set up just on the Brisbane side of the border, about 100m from where the bird had been yesterday and listened expectantly. Almost straight away I heard the Blackbird singing, even though it was well before dawn and only a few other birds had started up. A mix of Green Catbird and Common Blackbird song – strange times indeed. With the bird safely on the year list, I walked over the border into Moreton Bay Regional Council territory and got brief views and a photo of the bird. It flew as close as 50 metres to the border at one point, and I think if one waited long enough it would eventually cross over into Brisbane.

Enough of this shenanigans, I wanted to get into the rainforest. I birded several spots along the road, noting many of the rainforest specialities, and then birded Joyners Ridge Road. There were lots of Rose-crowned Fruit-Doves and Black-faced Monarchs calling, a nice White-headed Pigeon, Paradise Riflebird, Eastern Spinebill, Crimson Rosella, Pale-yellow Robin, Noisy Pitta, Russet-tailed Thrush, Logrunner, and Satin and Regent Bowerbird. I searched fairly hard for New Holland Honeyeater along the road near the Community Centre, but couldn’t find one. This is a localised species in Brisbane and one I’ll need to keep an eye on.

On the way back home, I dropped in at Kedron Brooks Wetland for Red-necked Avocet, and had about 80 birds.

My year list at the end of the day was 187 species. I spent 4 hours 30 minutes birding, walked 4.323 km and drove 119 km.

Jan 10: Year listing vs birding


I had a couple of hours this morning before taking Tom to daycare. From a birding perspective I was keen to go up to Mount Glorious to search for rainforest species. Yet from a yearlisting perspective I knew these species would be available all year and that really I should search for seasonal species. One particularly tricky summer visitor is Australian Little Bittern, which visit from northern Australia / New Guinea to breed. They are rare and irregular in Brisbane, possibly not even breeding every year, and certainly not easy to connect with. I decided on Metroplex wetlands, close to my house, and where breeding probably occurred in 2013/14, although no records since. I thoroughly searched the southern lagoon, but was only rewarded with year-ticking Buff-banded Rail for my efforts.

I had a quick look for the Peregrines on the Gateway Bridge, but the perch was empty.

In the afternoon, Chris Sanderson texted me the news that Chris Attewell had relocated the Common Blackbird at Mount Glorious, first detected on 16th December 2017 when it was recorded by a resident. Common Blackbird is spreading northwards in Australia, and is already fairly common in Stanthorpe. It seems likely to eventually colonise the upper slopes of the Brisbane Forest Park, yet for now it remains very rare in Brisbane – there was an amazing record by Elliot Leach in Moorhen Flats in the city in September 2016. Looking carefully at the maps, I realised Chris Attewell’s bird was actually about 100m outside the Brisbane LGA boundary. For the bird to count for my year list I would need to hear it from within Brisbane LGA. I therefore decided to go for the bird in the morning, when traffic noise would be minimal and the wind would be calm. Blackbirds normally start singing very early, so I was hopeful it would sing before the dawn chorus made it hard to hear from some distance away. I wanted to try for nocturnal species before the blackbird, and the site being an hour’s drive from home I would need an early start, so I set the alarm for 0230.

My year list at the end of the day was 171 species. I spent 1 hour 43 minutes birding, walked 2.89 km and drove 19 km.

Jan 9: Birding in the most unusual places


We arrived back from the Gold Coast and took our daughter to a gymnastics try-out lesson in Mansfield. Looking at Google Maps, I decided to wander along to Bulimba Creek and see what birds I could see. I ended up an an industrial estate, but running through it was a sewage solid waste interceptor, set in a small creek. With a foul smell, this seemed like a good birding spot. I spent half an hour or so, and although I didn’t see anything particularly special this was a place worth visiting while our daughter is in gymnastics class in future.

My year list at the end of the day was 170 species. I spent 32 minutes birding, walked 1.573 km and drove 0 km (birding was incidental).

Jan 8: Going out of town


We went down to the Gold Coast for an overnight stay, so I did essentially no birding within Brisbane today. Best birds were the long-staying pair of Little Friarbirds in the garden. I didn’t even do a 5-min point count in the garden, which was a poor show.

My year list at the end of the day was 170 species. I spent 0 minutes birding in Brisbane, walked 0 km and drove 0 km.

Jan 7: “I’ve never seen so few birds here”


With all of the available rarities under the belt, I decided to put in a big morning at Gold Creek Reservoir, one of Brisbane’s premier bushland birding sites. Centred on an 1885-built reservoir at 95 m above sea-level, the area supports extensive eucalypt woodland interspersed with gullies containing rainforest vegetation. This variety has given it a decent bird list of 198 species so far.

I set the alarm for 0300 and jumped straight in the car, arriving on site at 0345 to listen for nocturnal species, primarily hoping for White-throated Nightjar. Sadly I heard no nightjars, logging only the common Southern Boobook and Tawny Frogmouth for my efforts. As dawn broke I birded the approach road to the reservoir, often the birdiest part of the area. I was pleased to hear a White-eared Monarch, which is a highly localised species around Brisbane, and here at one of its most reliable spots. A couple of Noisy Pittas were calling to each other across the road, and they are presumably now breeding at this site perhaps in part due to rainforest restoration efforts. Just after 0500, Hugh Possingham and Jaramar Rosas arrived as planned. We added Spectacled Monarch to the tally, amongst other common species, and began to walk around the reservoir, noting a couple of calling Rose-crowned Fruit-Doves below the dam. While we were scanning for waterbirds on the dam itself, Hugh picked up a cuckoo flying overhead – it had striking black and white patterned underwings and bars underneath – a splendid Oriental Cuckoo. Only the second record for the site – Chris Burwell had one on 15th Jan 2017.

We were stoked by this and full of excitement for what lay ahead. The excitement proved totally misplaced as there were extremely few birds present along the track around the reservoir. Bell Miners and Eastern Whipbirds dominated, and very few birds were seen or heard – the tally stalled at 59 species. Hugh heard a Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoo, but I didn’t hear it, which was disappointing as it’s a scarce bird and one I’m keen to catch up with. We checked a couple of spots for Painted Button-quail but to no avail. I will come back one morning for a serious effort for that species.

My year list at the end of the day was 170 species. I spent 6 hours 2 minutes birding, walked 7.767 km and drove 67.6 km.

Jan 6: Going the extra mile, and not going the extra mile


Hugh Possingham is Chief Scientist at The Nature Conservancy, and a Professor of Biology and Mathematics at the University of Queensland. In the unlikely event he should find himself out of a job, maybe he should consider bird guiding. He went the extra mile today, meeting me at 0450 at Sherwood Arboretum for a morning’s birding. White-headed Pigeon was the bird I was after, and literally seconds after getting out the car, one called from a tree not far into the park from where we stood. Primarily a rainforest species, they wander widely but are never particuarly common or predictable in their appearance. Hugh had seen one the previous evening so I was keen to connect with the species while the opportunity was there. We eventually saw the calling bird, and then another four flew over, a bumper morning for the species. With the key bird in the bag, I relaxed and enjoyed a lovely morning’s birding in what is essentially a suburban park.

Having birded Sherwood Arboretum many times, Hugh knows the place intimately, and he pointed out a spot where Pale-vented Bush-hen is reliable, and sure enough a bird called briefly. The third year tick was to come in the form of a Long-billed Corella. There was a straggly corella flock around all morning, but they eventually came down to ground and began feeding as a tighter group. There were several larger corellas with lots of pink around the face and on the chest. But most had bills that were rather too short for Long-billed, and were probably Long-billed x Little Corella hybrids. Eventually we got onto one bird that looked really good for pure Long-billed.

On the way back home, I drove past Oxley Creek Common, and half thought about trying for Australian Kestrel and Peregine, both of which had been seen in the past few days but that I still needed for the year. I elected not to take the half hour walk to Jabiru swamp where the birds are usually seen on pylons, but instead lazily decided to scope the pylons from the main road. I was handsomely rewarded with a smart Peregrine sitting on one of the pylons, but couldn’t see any kestrels.

My year list at the end of the day was 151 species. I spent 1 hour 54 minutes birding, walked 2.319 km and drove 31.4 km.

Jan 5: Blue sky thinking


For the first time this year, I didn’t get out of bed at an unearthly hour, although our young son made sure our night’s sleep wasn’t completely peaceful! Spending much of the day at home, I kept an eye on the sky. Luckily we have a reasonably good vista from our house, and something rare flying over is always a possibility, especially in the afternoon when soaring birds seem to drift around, such as two Australian Pelicans yesterday afternoon. Nothing notable today beyond a small group of Straw-necked Ibis, but I’ll keep an eye on the sky whenever I remember.

In the afternoon we took the kids swimming at Manly Pool, and I grabbed 15 minutes to check the tidal flats off Manly Esplanade. It’s usually a good spot for Black-tailed Godwit, and it was nice to see 11 birds on the flats in a loose flock. These, and Grey-tailed Tattler were the only year ticks of the day.

My year list at the end of the day was 147 species. I spent 32 minutes birding, walked 0 km and drove 30 km.

Jan 4: Who gets primetime? And going back to the same place twice


Along with many other places around the world, birding around Brisbane is at its very best just after dawn. This the primetime of birding, a precious half an hour when birds seem at their showiest and most relaxed. This is especially critical on a fine midsummer’s day here when everything heats up so quickly and it is burning hot by 0830. This morning as I headed west at 0400 with two target birds in mind, I mused on who should get the primetime slot – Oriental Cuckoo or Grey-crowned Babbler? I’d tried and failed on 1 Jan for the cuckoos, and needed to force myself to try again. The incredible Rod Gardner had found a couple of Grey-crowned Babblers on 1 Jan at Hawkesbury Road, and I was also keen to try to relocate them. Given their extreme rarity and the real possibility these would be the only gettable birds this year, I decided to go for them first.

I pulled up at the spot on Hawkesbury Road and 0450 in the silence of a misty, dewy morning and almost immediately had a couple of Apostlebirds, a localised species in Brisbane, and heard a Common Bronzewing booming. I wandered a hundred metres up the road enjoying the peace and quiet, and was almost startled when a Grey-crowned Babbler started calling loudly from roadside bushes just by the dam at 212 Hawkesbury Road. Elated, I watched them at close range for about 15 minutes, getting a few pics and a sound recording. This such a rare species in Brisbane I hadn’t really expected to see any this year.

I then drove up the road to Anstead SES Depot, parked and walked to the spot where several folks had been seeing Oriental Cuckoos recently. I walked down the little path the river from the SW corner of the big mown paddock. I had been here before, spending over an hour on New Year’s Day and I had to persuade myself it was the right choice to spend more time here. I was to be rewarded – almost straight away a splendid grey morph Oriental Cuckoo flew in to a tall eucalypt! It didn’t show brilliantly, but I got some passable photos and decided to move on quickly to try for one more target bird before the day really heated up, the last currently available scarcity – White-necked Heron at Oxley Creek Common. On the way back to the car a Plumed Whistling-Duck flew over calling, and a couple of Plum-headed Finches flew through the meadow with tall grass between the car park and the river – an incredible run of 5 birds in three different sites since the year began.

Arriving at Oxley, I walked out to Jabiru swamp and scanned for the herons, up to three of which were seen yesterday. But no joy, they were simply not there. After about 15 minutes of scanning, I looked up and amazingly saw one circling around above Pelican Lagoon – BINGO!! With the three target birds for the day well and truly in the bag, I went home very happy.

No more rarities are currently available for me in Brisbane, so I can relax a little. Maybe target a few resident species, or chase up some of the more enigmatic recent reports, such as Eastern Rosella. Or even do some work or get some sleep.

My year list at the end of the day was 145 species, although of course at this stage of the year the total is not particularly important, rather the fraction of available rare and transient birds seen. Fork-tailed Swift is probably the trickiest bird recorded so far in Brisbane this year that still eludes me – hard to twitch, I’ll just have to hope to find one myself. I spent 3 hours 1 minute birding, walked 6.437 km and drove 77.6 km.

Jan 3: Asian Dowitcher


The alarm set for 0400, I headed to Sandy Camp Road Wetlands to see what was about, vaguely following up on previous reports of King Quail and Australian Little Bittern, but not really expecting to see either. My low expectations were confirmed, but it was nice to bump into a Rufous Night Heron, albeit a rather skinny looking one, on the northeasternmost lagoon. I then went to Kianawah Road Wetlands, picking up 6 Marsh Sandpipers, and a flock of 15 Mangrove Gerygones feeding on the Casuarinas at the back.

After dashing back home to take my young son to daycare, I went to the Port of Brisbane Shorebird Roost to look for the Asian Dowitcher, and after collecting the key from the Port Office, expectantly went into the northern hide about 9.20, an hour or so before high tide. I was utterly despondent as very few shorebirds were present, only a tiny group of Bar-tailed Godwits with no sign of the dowitcher. I wasn’t sure whether to try another roost, or to wait it out. I decided on the latter course of action since there was an hour to go until high tide, and this was a king tide and most of the alternative roosts would be flooded. Luckily this proved to be the correct decision, and about 10 15 minutes later a nice flock of 830 Bar-tailed Godwits arrived and settled in front of the hide. I quickly began scanning though them before they settled and put their bills under their wings. On the second scan through I finally found the dowitcher – BINGO! A nice selection of other shorebirds was also in the flock, helping the year list on, but with the one that really mattered safely under the belt I could relax. I dropped in to Lytton Wader Roost, but nothing was about with the roost being completely flooded by the king tide. Satisfied and happy, I returned home.

My year list at the end of the day was 139 species. I spent 3 hours 39 minutes birding, walked 4.649 km and drove 74.1 km.

2 Jan: Musk Duck


With family commitments I only had a couple of hours in the early morning, so I had to decide whether to go for the Asian Dowitcher, which has been roosting over high tide with Bar-tailed Godwits at the Port of Brisbane Shorebird Roost, or the Musk Duck, which has been at Dowse Lagoon since it was found by Chris Attewell on 13 July 2017. I decided on the latter because the dowitcher seems very well settled with the godwit flock and this is usually a time of year when shorebirds don’t move around much in Moreton Bay. The dowitcher would have to wait until tomorrow, when I will be able to visit over high tide.

I started the morning at Luggage Point, but was dismayed to see that about half of the site has now been destroyed by the building works for the new cruise ship terminal. I looked out over the river and carefully checked through the Whiskered Terns and assorted shorebirds, but could turn up nothing out of the ordinary. After about an hour I moved on to Dowse Lagoon and after much searching eventually connected with the Musk Duck after it was located by another birder at the site. It put on a good show feeding actively in the south-west corner of the lagoon. A Latham’s Snipe there was nice too – they’ve been a little scarce around Brisbane in the last few years.

My year list at the end of the day was 116 species. I spent 2 hours 39 minutes birding, walked 1.869 km and drove 77.6 km.

Luggage Point – great birding site being replaced with a ferry terminal

1 Jan: Hat trick on day one!


After agonising about which lingering rarities from 2017 to target first, I decided on the Plum-headed Finches that had recently been found at Oxley Creek Common. This species usually occurs to the west of Brisbane and is rare and erratic within the city boundary. Up to 8 birds had been seen feeding on thistle heads near Pelican Lagoon, and Rae Clark had very kindly provided me with details on exactly where to search. So, at 0347 on New Year’s Day I walked to the spot on Oxley Creek Common under cover of darkness and waited expectantly for dawn. A calling Horsfield’s Bronze-cuckoo was a good bird, not common in Brisbane, although Oxley is a reliable spot for them. Double-barred Finches and Chestnut-breasted Mannikins began to show in small groups. After about 40 minutes of searching at the known spot, a cracking Plum-headed Finch suddenly appeared on the track in front of me and gave brilliant views for about five minutes before disappearing. A great start to the new year with a very tricky species under the belt.

I decided not to dally, walked briskly back to the car, and drove to Priors Pocket Road, where both species of songlark had been long-staying. Both are from drier country to the west, and Brown Songlark is extremely rare in Brisbane. I was keen to see these two. At the farm dam, I heard a Brown Songlark singing almost straight away, although I couldn’t see it. On the dam itself were 6 Plumed Whistling-Ducks and 16 Pink-eared Ducks, both scarce species that were pleasing to connect with. Scanning the fence line beyond the dam, I was amazed to see a pair of Plum-headed Finches! They gave distant views at first from about 0740, them came quite a bit closer and eventually flew onto the power lines by the road, calling, and then flew off high SE at 0803. Always a thrill!

With no Rufous Songlark yet heard, I tried further down the road by the old quarry. After quite a bit of searching and waiting, I eventually heard the characteristic notes of a Rufous Songlark, and also briefly a Brown Songlark (probably the same individual as heard from the dam). I was delighted with this hat trick of difficult Brisbane rarities.

On to Anstead, where I tried for Oriental Cuckoo, unfortunately in vain, before retreating back home for the day. A good start to my Brisbane Biggish Year. I finished the day on 93 species. I spent 6 hours 12 minutes birding, walked 8.521 km and drove 85 km.

Oxley Creek Common – beautiful start to the year

Intro: Big Brisbane Bird Quest 2018


Rich Fuller is doing a big year of birding within the boundary of Brisbane City – trying to see as many species as possible within the geographical limits of this amazingly biodiverse city! Brisbane has rainforests, heathlands, various coastal and freshwater wetland habitats as well as extensive eucalypt and other woodlands. This makes for a very rich bird fauna, with 383 species recorded so far in eBird – a citizen science website where birdwatchers can record their sightings. Attempting to see as many species as possible in a year is chance for a bit of friendly competition, and also highlights the very rich birdlife of the River City. All my sightings will be entered into eBird, taking advantage of the new Local Government Authority boundaries made available in eBird Australia in late 2017.

My target for the year is 253 species, but I’m secretly hoping for something a little higher.

To make year listing efforts comparable among observers, I’m working to a few basic rules:

  1. Bird sensibly – the bird’s welfare is paramount.
  2. A bird’s occurrence at the time and place of observation must not be because it, or its recent ancestors, has ever been transported or otherwise assisted by humans for reasons other than for rehabilitation purposes. “Established” is determined by adherence to the ABA rules at http://listing.aba.org/criteria-determining-establishment-exotics/. Note that records of domestic and escaped birds are welcomed by eBird Australia – any species only represented by such records will need to be substracted from your year list total at the end of the year.
  3. Each observation must constitute a valid record in eBird.
  4. Each observation must be submitted to eBird, and checklists must be submitted promptly after the observation has occurred. If submission cannot happen within a reasonable timeframe (e.g. by the evening of the day of the observation), observers should endeavour to contact other year list competitors or otherwise disseminate any records of particularly noteworthy species.
  5. Sensitive records can still be counted in official totals, but observers are encouraged to suppress records from eBird Australia only in the most extreme of circumstances. We encourage observers to work with the review team to display records in eBird Australia a way that recognises any sensitivities involved.
  6. Records that are invalidated by eBird reviewers will not be countable in official totals. As per usual process, photographs, sound recordings or detailed field notes should be provided to eBird for noteworthy records to minimise the risk of invalidation of a good record.
  7. Birds must be seen in or from the official LGA boundary. At sea records will be assigned to the closest point of land up to a limit of 200 nautical miles. Observers are relied upon to use honesty, transparency and good judgement. The best course of action is to report the precise circumstances of an observation and then the record can be cogitated upon later.
  8. If a valid location is erroneously assigned to another LGA, notify the eBird Australia review team and they will endeavour to rectify the issue.
30 Dec 2017: The species list for Brisbane Biggish Year


I’ve been through the eBird records for Brisbane City Council area, and I reckon about 253 species are possible in my Biggish Year. I’ve compiled the list below, and to make it more exciting I’ve emulated the USA code system, where Code 5 are the rarest, and Code 1 the commonest. From the total of 378 species recorded in eBird for Brisbane so far, I have classified them as follows:

Code 1: 166 species

Code 2: 65 species

Code 3: 40 species

Code 4: 37 species

Code 5: 70 species

This is a work in progress – comments to r.fuller@uq.edu.au welcome! And of course, if you find any Code 5 rarities and tell me about it, I would be delighted!

Common Name Chance Code
Magpie Goose 100% 1
Plumed Whistling-Duck 90% 2
Wandering Whistling-Duck 100% 1
Freckled Duck 20% 5
Black Swan 100% 1
Radjah Shelduck 5% 5
Cotton Pygmy-Goose 80% 5
Australian Wood Duck 100% 1
Australian Shoveler 40% 5
Pacific Black Duck 100% 1
Grey Teal 100% 1
Chestnut Teal 100% 1
Pink-eared Duck 85% 3
Hardhead 100% 1
Musk Duck 5% 5
Australian Brushturkey 100% 1
Brown Quail 100% 1
King Quail 1% 5
Stubble Quail 1% 5
Australasian Grebe 100% 1
Hoary-headed Grebe 20% 5
Great Crested Grebe 95% 4
Yellow-nosed Albatross 10% 3
Black-browed Albatross 1% 3
Southern Giant-Petrel 1% 3
Cape Petrel 1% 3
Kermadec Petrel 1% 3
Providence Petrel 1% 3
White-necked Petrel 1% 3
Gould’s Petrel 5% 3
Fairy Prion 1% 3
Antarctic Prion 1% 3
Slender-billed Prion 1% 3
Tahiti Petrel 1% 3
Streaked Shearwater 1% 3
Flesh-footed Shearwater 1% 3
Wedge-tailed Shearwater 10% 3
Buller’s Shearwater 1% 3
Short-tailed Shearwater 10% 3
Hutton’s Shearwater 1% 3
Fluttering Shearwater 10% 3
Wilson’s Storm-Petrel 5% 3
White-faced Storm-Petrel 1% 3
White-bellied Storm-Petrel 1% 3
Black-bellied Storm-Petrel 1% 3
Black-necked Stork 90% 5
Lesser Frigatebird 5% 3
Great Frigatebird 1% 3
Masked Booby 1% 3
Brown Booby 20% 3
Red-footed Booby 1% 3
Australasian Gannet 100% 3
Little Pied Cormorant 100% 1
Great Cormorant 95% 2
Little Black Cormorant 100% 1
Pied Cormorant 100% 1
Australasian Darter 100% 1
Australian Pelican 100% 1
Australian Little Bittern 90% 4
Black Bittern 50% 4
White-necked Heron 75% 5
Great Egret 100% 1
Intermediate Egret 100% 1
White-faced Heron 100% 1
Little Egret 100% 1
Eastern Reef Egret 75% 2
Cattle Egret 100% 1
Striated Heron 100% 1
Nankeen Night-Heron 90% 2
Glossy Ibis 90% 5
Australian White Ibis 100% 1
Straw-necked Ibis 100% 1
Royal Spoonbill 100% 1
Yellow-billed Spoonbill 60% 5
Osprey 100% 1
Black-shouldered Kite 90% 2
Black-breasted Buzzard 1% 5
Square-tailed Kite 60% 3
Pacific Baza 90% 4
Little Eagle 20% 3
Wedge-tailed Eagle 40% 3
Swamp Harrier 30% 4
Spotted Harrier 15% 4
Grey Goshawk 50% 3
Brown Goshawk 100% 1
Collared Sparrowhawk 100% 2
Black Kite 70% 4
Whistling Kite 100% 1
Brahminy Kite 100% 1
White-bellied Sea-Eagle 100% 1
Buff-banded Rail 100% 1
Lewin’s Rail 95% 2
Pale-vented Bush-hen 100% 2
Australian Spotted Crake 5% 5
Baillon’s Crake 95% 4
Spotless Crake 95% 4
Australasian Swamphen 100% 1
Dusky Moorhen 100% 1
Black-tailed Native-hen 1% 5
Eurasian Coot 100% 1
Brolga 20% 5
Bush Stone-curlew 100% 1
Beach Stone-curlew 100% 2
Black-winged Stilt 100% 1
Red-necked Avocet 100% 2
Australian Pied Oystercatcher 100% 1
South Island Pied Oystercatcher 5% 5
Sooty Oystercatcher 90% 2
Grey Plover 75% 4
Pacific Golden-Plover 100% 1
Banded Lapwing 5% 5
Masked Lapwing 100% 1
Lesser Sand-Plover 100% 1
Greater Sand-Plover 80% 2
Double-banded Plover 80% 2
Red-capped Plover 100% 1
Red-kneed Dotterel 100% 1
Black-fronted Dotterel 100% 1
Australian Painted-Snipe 10% 5
Comb-crested Jacana 100% 1
Whimbrel 100% 1
Little Curlew 5% 5
Eastern Curlew 100% 1
Bar-tailed Godwit 100% 1
Black-tailed Godwit 100% 1
Ruddy Turnstone 80% 2
Great Knot 100% 1
Red Knot 80% 2
Ruff 20% 5
Broad-billed Sandpiper 40% 4
Sharp-tailed Sandpiper 100% 1
Curlew Sandpiper 100% 1
Long-toed Stint 5% 5
Red-necked Stint 100% 1
Sanderling 50% 4
Pectoral Sandpiper 50% 4
Asian Dowitcher 80% 4
Latham’s Snipe 100% 1
Terek Sandpiper 80% 2
Common Sandpiper 75% 4
Grey-tailed Tattler 100% 1
Wandering Tattler 80% 2
Common Greenshank 100% 1
Lesser Yellowlegs 1% 5
Marsh Sandpiper 100% 1
Wood Sandpiper 75% 4
Red-backed Buttonquail 10% 4
Black-breasted Buttonquail 20% 4
Painted Buttonquail 40% 4
Red-chested Buttonquail 1% 5
Australian Pratincole 1% 5
Pomarine Jaeger 10% 3
Arctic Jaeger 10% 3
Long-tailed Jaeger 2% 3
Silver Gull 100% 1
Franklin’s Gull 1% 5
Pacific Gull 1% 5
Kelp Gull 1% 5
Common Noddy 10% 3
Black Noddy 3% 3
Sooty Tern 5% 5
Bridled Tern 3% 5
Little Tern 100% 1
Gull-billed Tern 100% 1
Caspian Tern 100% 1
White-winged Black Tern 90% 2
Whiskered Tern 100% 1
Common Tern 80% 2
Crested Tern 100% 1
Lesser Crested Tern 70% 2
Rock Dove 100% 1
White-headed Pigeon 70% 2
Spotted Dove 100% 1
Brown Cuckoo-Dove 100% 1
Pacific Emerald Dove 70% 2
Common Bronzewing 100% 1
Crested Pigeon 100% 1
Wonga Pigeon 100% 1
Diamond Dove 5% 5
Peaceful Dove 100% 1
Bar-shouldered Dove 100% 1
Wompoo Fruit-Dove 90% 2
Superb Fruit-Dove 40% 2
Rose-crowned Fruit-Dove 100% 2
Topknot Pigeon 100% 2
Pheasant Coucal 100% 1
Pacific Koel 100% 1
Channel-billed Cuckoo 100% 1
Horsfield’s Bronze-Cuckoo 100% 2
Shining Bronze-Cuckoo 100% 1
Little Bronze-Cuckoo 100% 2
Pallid Cuckoo 50% 4
Fan-tailed Cuckoo 100% 1
Brush Cuckoo 100% 1
Oriental Cuckoo 70% 4
Sooty Owl 100% 2
Australian Masked-Owl 100% 1
Australasian Grass-Owl 100% 2
Barn Owl 60% 4
Powerful Owl 100% 1
Barking Owl 20% 4
Southern Boobook 100% 1
Tawny Frogmouth 100% 1
Marbled Frogmouth 100% 2
White-throated Nightjar 80% 2
Australian Owlet-nightjar 100% 2
White-throated Needletail 100% 1
Australian Swiftlet 5% 5
Pacific Swift 20% 2
Azure Kingfisher 100% 2
Laughing Kookaburra 100% 1
Blue-winged Kookaburra 1% 5
Red-backed Kingfisher 1% 5
Forest Kingfisher 100% 1
Torresian Kingfisher 100% 1
Sacred Kingfisher 100% 1
Rainbow Bee-eater 100% 1
Dollarbird 100% 1
Nankeen Kestrel 100% 2
Australian Hobby 100% 2
Brown Falcon 100% 2
Black Falcon 5% 5
Peregrine Falcon 100% 2
Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo 5% 5
Glossy Black-Cockatoo 5% 5
Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoo 80% 2
Major Mitchell’s Cockatoo 100% 2
Galah 100% 1
Long-billed Corella 90% 2
Little Corella 100% 1
Sulphur-crested Cockatoo 100% 1
Cockatiel 5% 5
Australian King-Parrot 100% 1
Red-winged Parrot 5% 5
Turquoise Parrot 1% 5
Swift Parrot 5% 5
Crimson Rosella 100% 1
Eastern Rosella 5% 5
Pale-headed Rosella 100% 1
Red-rumped Parrot 10% 5
Budgerigar 5% 5
Musk Lorikeet 70% 2
Little Lorikeet 100% 1
Rainbow Lorikeet 100% 1
Scaly-breasted Lorikeet 100% 1
Noisy Pitta 100% 1
Green Catbird 100% 1
Regent Bowerbird 100% 2
Satin Bowerbird 100% 2
White-throated Treecreeper 100% 1
Red-browed Treecreeper 70% 2
Brown Treecreeper 5% 5
Variegated Fairywren 100% 1
Superb Fairywren 100% 1
Red-backed Fairywren 100% 1
Eastern Spinebill 100% 1
Lewin’s Honeyeater 100% 1
White-fronted Honeyeater 1% 5
Yellow-faced Honeyeater 100% 1
Yellow-tufted Honeyeater 10% 4
Bell Miner 100% 1
Noisy Miner 100% 1
Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater 1% 5
Little Wattlebird 100% 2
Regent Honeyeater 1% 5
Red Wattlebird 1% 5
Mangrove Honeyeater 100% 1
Fuscous Honeyeater 100% 1
Dusky Honeyeater 1% 5
Scarlet Honeyeater 100% 1
Brown Honeyeater 100% 1
New Holland Honeyeater 100% 1
White-cheeked Honeyeater 50% 2
Blue-faced Honeyeater 100% 1
White-throated Honeyeater 100% 1
White-naped Honeyeater 100% 2
Brown-headed Honeyeater 10% 4
Black-chinned Honeyeater 10% 4
Striped Honeyeater 100% 1
Painted Honeyeater 1% 5
Little Friarbird 100% 1
Noisy Friarbird 100% 1
Spotted Pardalote 100% 1
Striated Pardalote 100% 1
Yellow-throated Scrubwren 100% 2
White-browed Scrubwren 100% 1
Large-billed Scrubwren 100% 1
Speckled Warbler 100% 2
Buff-rumped Thornbill 100% 2
Brown Thornbill 100% 1
Yellow-rumped Thornbill 100% 2
Yellow Thornbill 40% 4
Striated Thornbill 100% 2
Weebill 40% 4
White-throated Gerygone 100% 1
Brown Gerygone 100% 1
Mangrove Gerygone 100% 1
Grey-crowned Babbler 10% 4
Australian Logrunner 100% 2
Eastern Whipbird 100% 1
Spotted Quail-thrush 60% 2
White-breasted Woodswallow 100% 1
Masked Woodswallow 10% 5
White-browed Woodswallow 10% 5
Black-faced Woodswallow 5% 5
Dusky Woodswallow 10% 5
Little Woodswallow 2% 5
Grey Butcherbird 100% 1
Pied Butcherbird 100% 1
Australian Magpie 100% 1
Pied Currawong 100% 1
Ground Cuckooshrike 1% 5
Barred Cuckooshrike 50% 4
Black-faced Cuckooshrike 100% 1
White-bellied Cuckooshrike 100% 2
White-winged Triller 90% 2
Varied Triller 100% 1
Common Cicadabird 100% 1
Varied Sittella 100% 1
Crested Shrike-tit 30% 4
Little Shrikethrush 100% 1
Grey Shrikethrush 100% 1
Golden Whistler 100% 1
Rufous Whistler 100% 1
Olive-backed Oriole 100% 1
Australasian Figbird 100% 1
Spangled Drongo 100% 1
Willie-wagtail 100% 1
Rufous Fantail 100% 1
Grey Fantail 100% 1
White-eared Monarch 100% 1
Black-faced Monarch 100% 2
Spectacled Monarch 100% 2
Magpie-lark 100% 1
Leaden Flycatcher 100% 1
Satin Flycatcher 30% 4
Restless Flycatcher 60% 4
Shining Flycatcher 10% 4
Torresian Crow 100% 1
Australian Raven 1% 5
Apostlebird 100% 2
Paradise Riflebird 95% 2
Jacky-winter 10% 4
Scarlet Robin 5% 5
Red-capped Robin 10% 5
Rose Robin 90% 2
Hooded Robin 5% 5
Pale-yellow Robin 100% 2
Eastern Yellow Robin 100% 1
Australasian Bushlark 10% 4
Welcome Swallow 100% 1
Fairy Martin 100% 1
Tree Martin 100% 1
White-backed Swallow 1% 5
Australian Reed-Warbler 100% 1
Little Grassbird 50% 2
Brown Songlark 1% 5
Tawny Grassbird 100% 1
Rufous Songlark 1% 4
Golden-headed Cisticola 100% 1
Silvereye 100% 1
Russet-tailed Thrush 100% 1
Common Blackbird 1% 5
European Starling 100% 1
Common Myna 100% 1
Mistletoebird 100% 1
Eastern Yellow Wagtail 5% 5
White Wagtail 1% 5
Australasian Pipit 100% 1
European Greenfinch 1% 5
European Goldfinch 1% 5
House Sparrow 100% 1
Red-browed Finch 100% 1
Plum-headed Finch 20% 5
Zebra Finch 5% 5
Double-barred Finch 100% 1
Scaly-breasted Munia 1% 3
Chestnut-breasted Munia 100% 1