• lab30
    • Jas Scotia
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?