Saturday, February 12, 2011

Tarong Power Station

Image from Courier-Mail

There are those birding occasions when you get a tantalizing glimpse of a particularly magnificent bird. In a perfect world, or given a magic wand, you’d no doubt prolong that agonizing brevity into an endless moment of bliss but the reality is that there are no fairy godmothers and you have to make do with what Father Time allots you.

Such was our dilemma on Saturday [12 February] when Fay and I decided to put in another visit to the nearby Tarong Power Station.

Fay and I, the only birders with security clearance, and permission, to enter Tarong Energy property, have now been covering the power station for just less than two years. I’ll need to present them with a preliminary report in April 2011.

It was at the end of the session. We’d driven as close to the woodland area as the prevailing track conditions allowed. Water continues to lie around; deep ruts warn of previous unfortunates who had ignored the muddy conditions. We walked, as we had done in the early years of our birding career together back on Cannock Chase in Staffordshire.

The birding was good if not particularly spectacular. The Little Crow Corvus bennetti was a first for the Tarong area. The distinctive call of the Fan-tailed Cuckoo Cacomantis flabelliformis was a keen reminder that this parasitic bird is still around. Views of Speckled Warbler Chthonicola sagittata and White-browed Scrubwren Sericornis frontalis are always welcome. Both the White-throated Treecreeper Cormobates leucophaea and Eastern Yellow Robin Eopsaltria australis again failed to be in an appearance but sang their little hearts out.

Having walked around the woodland, duly recorded the 31 species present, we made our way back to the car. A rather gorgeous butterfly momentarily distracted us and it was while I was photographing it that we heard the unfamiliar call. It was not a new call; we’d heard it on previous occasions but not in the South Burnett and not for a very long time. Its name was on the tip of the tongue when I caught the merest glimpse of a bird skulking in some thickets.

Photo by D.A. King
Immature Black-faced Monarch, note absence of facial black markings.

As we often do, we approached the bird from slightly different angles to maximise our chances of getting good enough views to put a name to the quarry. With binoculars focused on the bird it was readily identified as a Black-faced Monarch Monarcha melanopsis: grey upper parts contrasting sharply with the rich rufous underparts. The absence of any facial black [forehead and throat] earmarked it as an immature specimen.

We ended the morning’s outing by pulling up at the Meandu Creek bridge crossing which on the prvious visit had provided us with a bagful of gems, including crippling views of a Tawny Grassbird Megalurus timoriensis. This was not a repeat occasion. We came away without a single sighting and the merest of calls from Little Friarbird Philemon citreogularis, Australian Magpie Cracticus tibicen and Striped Honeyeater Plectorhyncha lanceolata.

Meandu Creek, a little past the bridge, continues to be turbid and muddy.

Breakfast beckoned.

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