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    • Jas Scotia3
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.