Sunday came. It was overcast, dull, grey and grim but there was no rain. We decided to do at least something towards our continuing survey of the birds of the Tarong Power Station.
Given Saturday’s heavy downpour it was decided to go out to Nobby Smith Drive [the road leading to the Tarong Coal Mine], to monitor the birds on and immediately around the small western bay of Meandu Creek Dam. As we left the front gate visibility along Allen Road was no more than 20m; it fared little better once we turned onto the Nanango-Maidenwell Road. It was almost oppressive.
The birding matched the surrounding mood. The only waterbirds noted on the dam itself was a solitary Australasian Grebe Tachybaptus novaehaollandiae and a pair or forlorn Pacific Black Duck Anas superciliosa.
The woodland across the road was more fruitful but it really was a case of bird-listening rather than watching. The three Torresian Crows Corvus orru calling and flying by overhead could nearly have been the day’s most outstanding feature, matched only by the three Willie Wagtails Rhipidura leucophrys cavorting on the road edge a few metres from us – perhaps they too were finding the visibility challenging. Thankfully, the sudden appearance of a Nankeen Kestrel Falco cenchroides floating out from somewhere beyond the trees to glide overhead made the otherwise desultory trip worthwhile. Not that Fay and I are particularly raptorphilic but their presence always seems to add a note of drama to the settings.
We abandoned the western bay and opted to take a narrow dirt track leading off Nobby Smith Drive. The four Speckled Warblers Chthonicola sagittata were a welcome sighting. The White-browed Scrubwren Sericornis frontalis showed well, as did the usually more elusive Lewin’s Honeyeater Meliphaga lewinii.
A single Grey Shrike-thrush Colluricincla harmonica put in an appearance but the remainder of the list was a record of “heard only” species - that is until we approached the other end of the track [exiting back onto the Nanango-Maidenwell Road].
Fay spotted several small birds dart across the track some metres ahead of us; I was otherwise occupied avoiding deep ruts and potholes, the vestiges of January’s floods. We pulled up, lowered the windows, watched and listened. Three long-tailed birds flitted into view. Fairy-wrens. Females of the species and difficult to distinguish from other fairywrens. I squeaked. Does anyone else out there still have [and use] the old Audubon bird squeaker? A male responded by alighting atop a nearby bush. We had Superb Fairy-wrens Malurus cyaneus.
Given the miserable conditions, that would have served as a grand finale for the day but Fay, who has amazing hearing, picked up the faint call of a robin. We scoured the nearby treetops but lighting was poor. A bird shot through from one tree to a neighbouring tree. It was only the briefest of glimpses but enough to direct our binoculars in the right direction. A Rose Robin Petroica rosea! The first for this area.
On the way back home we pulled up onto the hard shoulder, it hardly qualifies as an entire lay-by, by the bridge over Meandu Creek [just south of the Berlin Road junction]. It has proved fruitful on past visits but then we have usually birded here in good light conditions. The list was, as expected under the circumstances, meagre but watching the Australian Magpie Cracticus tibicen strenuously attempting to pull a long worm out of the ground was interesting. The six Yellow-rumped Thornbills Acanthiza chrysorrhoa were that locality’s highlight on this occasion.
The hot coffee at home was marginally better.