Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Have Car Will Bird [Part 1]

Some might say that we made a meal of it.  Fay wrote off her Toyota in January, I followed, albeit with a lesser accident, in February.  We’d replaced Fay’s almost immediately with a little Suzuki  Swift – perhaps an appropriately named vehicle for a petit birder.  The longer saga of my Forester was hinted at in the previous post.

Fay’s new vehicle was totally unsuitable for all but the simplest of birding; we could, for example, pull off the road at Meandu Creek, close to the junction between the Nanango-Maidenwell and Berlin Roads, a spot which has in the past provided us with some adequate birding.  We could drive to the Brooklands Road Water Reserve, park in the layby and walk in.
On Easter Sunday, with the Forester back in action, we ventured forth once more to the Tarong [now officially the Stanwell] Power Station.  Fay and I remain the only birders with security clearance to enter the premises, collect keys for various locked gates and monitor the birds still extant on their 1500ha property.
We long since divided the area into various habitat types to facilitate comprehensive coverage, including open, vine scrub and hoop pine woodlands and of course the two major dams as well as the lesser waterholes. While access to many of our designated sites has improved since the January 2011 floods, the approach roads [mostly gravel tracks] to many remain problematic and definitely not something we would attempt in a Swift.
Our goal on Sunday morning was the open woodland below [behind] the wall of Meandu Creek Dam.  We’d covered this area on a number of occasions, usually following one of two well prescribed tracks- to the left which followed the creek itself or to the right which ran parallel to Nobby Smith Drive.  The former turned to bring us back to the gate while we had only ever explored the latter to the top of the first steep rise, at which point the track turned away from the road.
The track leading to the woodland as it was several months after the 2011 flooding

The White-throated Treecreeper Cormobates leucophaea and White-throated Gerygone Gerygone albogularis almost immediately rewarded our decision to venture to the right; the gerygones even showed themselves a little later along the track.  The usual plethora of small birds was quickly added to our list in those first few metres: Lewin’s Honeyeater Meliphaga lewinii, Grey Fantail Rhipidura albiscapa, White-browed Scrubwren Sericornis frontalis, Yellow-faced Honeyeater Lichenostomus chrysops and the always welcome Spotted Pardalote Pardalotus punctatus, a species we associate more with the Bunya Mountains.
On reaching the furthest point we had previously explored along this track a pair of Fan-tailed Cuckoos Cacomantis flabelliformis suddenly showed themselves on an open branch a few metres from where we stood.  Before we could blink a collective eye, a third one appeared, seemingly to argue with one of the original two and all three then vanished into the blue yonder.  It was also at this point that a trio of gerygones entered into a public debate before also disappearing up the track.  Could this be taken as a clear sign that we should follow their example and explore the track beyond this rise?
We accepted the challenge and proceeded.
Accepting the dare provided us with good views of four White-throated Honeyeaters Melithreptus albbogularis, three Variegated Fairy-wrens Malurus lamberti and good views of both Golden Pachycephala pectoralis and Rufous Pachycephala rufiventris Whistlers.  The panicked Australian Brush-turkey Alectura lathami was the comic relief of the moment.
However, the gem of the day had to be the totally unexpected Spangled Drongo Dicrurus bracteatus.  The species is fairly uncommon in the immediate area at the best of times.  Since the initial record on 25 September 2005, Fay and I have recorded only ten sightings and one of those was at Crow’s Nest which is pushing the South Burnett boundaries by a few kilometres.  That does not preclude that the species was more abundant in pre-drought days nor that it continues to flourish in other South Burnett strongholds BUT here, in the immediate vicinity the drongo is a rarity.
They are summer migrant throughout most of their Australian range; they come, they remain awhile and they go.  There are however records of drongos that have made corners of Queensland their permanent home.  Could it be that this drongo has found the conditions here, in the open woodland below the Meandu Creek Dam a desirable residence?  We’ll keep an eye on the creature.
By the time it came to return home – there are always chores to be attended to on a 7½-acres property- we had recorded our best ever tally for Tarong woodland bird, 35 species; the previous best had been 32 species back in February 2011 [our post-flood venture].
                               The woodland track still partially under water.

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