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Jul 29: Barking up the wrong tree
 

The run on night birds, presumably associated with the onset of the breeding season for many species, continued in the past week or so, culminating in Rod Gardner hearing a probable Barking Owl at Shelley Road Park. So I decided to put in a major session for night birds. My plan was to stay up all night!

I left home about 10pm last night, with the first stop being Pinjarra Hills, where I wanted to try again at the spot where Will Hemstrom heard a Barking Owl on 14th July. It was a warmish (for the time of year) and very bright night with a full moon. I heard nothing from the car park, so moved on to a spot near the junction of Moggill Road and Pinjarra Rd, where one can walk down the slope to view from the boundary fence over the area where Will heard the bird a couple of weeks ago. Suddenly I saw a flash of white – an owl was heading straight for me! It diverted at the last second, and swooped up to land. A cracking Barn Owl! There are rather few records of this species in Brisbane, and it is very erratic, with blank years in 2008-2005, 2010-2012, and 2014. It’s hard to work out whether it is an overlooked resident, and / or an occasional visitor from beyond the Brisbane boundary. The various records in unlikely parts of the city (see these corkers from Matteo Grilli and Michael Daley for example) suggest there are definitely wandering birds, but the records in good breeding habitat along the western margin of the city (Lake Manchester, Kholo, Pinjarra Hills) suggest to me there is an overlooked breeding population.

Despite a couple more stops on Pinjarra Rd, I just couldn’t hear a Barking Owl even though I put in quite a bit of time. I gave up and moved on to Upper Brookfield Rd, where I wanted to put in a few stops. Southern Boobooks were now calling non-stop almost everywhere. Several kilometres up the road, at one of the points where Moggill Creek crosses the road, a Powerful Owl was giving its full territorial song. Long bouts of the double-hoot call. Spellbinding stuff. Although I recorded the bird only to find out I had the microphone settings wrong and succeeded only in recording silence! I also heard a White-throated Nightjar at the same spot, continuing the recent run of unseasonal records. As previously discussed, this is mainly a summer visit to Brisbane (or at least birds are mainly detected in summer), but clearly there are appreciable numbers remaining through winter. Tonight I was to hear no fewer than 6 individuals at various stops.

After finishing Upper Brookfield, I circled back (fortuitously the Powerful Owl had started calling again and I got a recording this time) and did Haven Rd – plenty of birding opportunities all throughout this area. This whole region will deserve some careful attention next year when we’ll be building up eBird records for the Brisbane Bird Atlas (more on that soon). I ended up at Shelley Road Park about an hour before dawn, and patrolled around hoping for Barking Owl, but to no avail. The most notable birds were a small group of Wandering Whistling-Ducks flying around in the darkness.

I enjoyed the night – it was very clear to me that activity was greatest in the evening until about 2am, after which it began to quieten down as the temperature dropped. So my future efforts (at least in winter) will probably focus on going out in the evening rather than doing early morning starts. Overall I had:

1 Barn Owl
1 Powerful Owl
19 Southern Boobook
6 White-throated Nightjar
2 Tawny Frogmouth
16 Bush Stone-curlew
1 Australian Owlet-nightjar

+assorted other species

With no year ticks today, my year list remained on 291 species. I spent 5 hours 32 minutes birding, walked 2.5 km and drove 150.8 km. My chronological year list is here.

Powerful Owl records in western Brisbane. Surprisingly, there were none from west of Upper Brookfield township until this week, with birds found at Lake Manchester by Ged Tranter, Steve Murray and Rick Franks, (large red flags) and one by myself tonight (small red flag to the east of Lake Manchester). This area is seriously underbirded as I would expect Powerful Owls to be all through this forest.