• lab25
    • Jas Scotia
Sep 9: Woodswallows a go-go
 

Up at an enthusiastic 0400, I jumped in the car and set off for Shelley Road Park. I arrived at the corner of Kholo Rd and Lake Manchester Rd at dawn, and decided to spend a while there listening for King Quail since it was foggy and cool, and woodswallows wouldn’t be moving for quite some time yet (eBird list here). Sure enough, at least two birds were vocal, periodically giving the four-note call. They were fairly close to the road edge, but remained hidden in the rank grass. A calling Eastern Yellow Robin was the 100th species for this eBird hotspot. Just a corner of two roads – 100 species in 50 checklists!!

After half an hour, I drove round to Shelley Road Park in the thick fog, and set out across the main paddock prepared for a serious birding session (eBird list here). The weather forecast was for wall to wall sunshine, and I knew it wouldn’t be too long before the fog burnt off. As I got down to the bank of the Brisbane River, the sky cleared and it was a gloriously beautiful scene. Plenty of birds around, and evidence of migration in abundance, with many soaring birds overhead and Yellow-faced Honeyeaters streaming south in groups of 10-20. Presently, I picked up two large black and white birds that I assumed were pelicans, but followed them a while just to make sure. Then I suddenly noticed in my binoculars a really distant flock of woodswallows, about 100 birds! They were too far away to identify in bins, and I frantically set up my telescope. I began sorting through them, and had only identified White-browed by the time the flock had drifted out of view. I was excited, but also frustrated that I hadn’t had time to sort through the whole flock. White-broweds often move with Masked Woodswallows, and I couldn’t help thinking I’d missed a golden opportunity.

I hastily texted Louis Backstrom, who was also on site, in the main paddock. He came racing over, but the birds were long gone by the time he joined me. We walked south along the river bank and looped around via the edge of the farm back under the pylons. There were plenty of birds around, and we clocked up a decent list of species, but simply couldn’t locate any more woodswallows. Arriving back at the main paddock we had a flyover Peregrine, but by this time were a little down in the dumps.

Walking back across the main paddock towards the cars, I looked up at a soaring bird that turned out to be a pelican, and in a re-run of earlier events I suddenly noticed a flock of woodswallows very high overhead, this time even bigger numbers – about 250 birds in total. This is pretty big flock by Brisbane standards, although chicken feed compared to the 2,000 birds over Moggill on 26th August 1972! The vast majority of the birds were White-browed, but a few had pale underparts and were surely Masked Woodswallows. Yet in an almost identical fashion to the previous flock, they had disappeared by the time I got my scope up and started to scan them more closely. Louis had to leave at this point, but I stayed on, and after a while eventually relocated what was probably the edge of this big flock. Joyfully, I managed to pick out a couple of Masked Woodswallows. I left more exhausted than elated, after five hours of trudging about scanning the skies for a few brief looks at extremely distant woodswallows.

With two year ticks today (White-browed Woodswallow and Masked Woodswallow), my year list rose to 298 species. I spent 6 hours 36 minutes birding, walked 8.301 km and drove 113.4 km. My chronological year list is here.