With the Forester back we gradually reintroduced it to the ardours of birding, one step at a time. On Good Friday, the morning after its return late on Maundy Thursday, we drove across to the Nanango Fauna Sanctuary [see appropriate blog], a destination we could, of course, have quite easily managed in Fay’s little Swift. It involved only minimal off-road driving on a relatively flat and well-maintained dirt track. On Easter Sunday we ventured further, into the open woodland below the Meandu Creek Dam which again was comparatively easy driving but the remaining ruts and potholes [see photograph accompanying Part 1] would definitely have been beyond the Swift.
Easter Monday was its ultimate test in this current series of trials for the regenerated Forester; the decidedly more challenging Gibson State Forest, a 430ha Hoop Pine Araucaria cunninghamii with vine scrub and open woodland fringes. Shortly after entering the forest, from the Yarraman end, the dirt track rises steeply – low first gear stuff. The gradient is not in itself too much of a problem, it’s more the gravelly base of the track as it climbs steeply in a comparatively short distance. The surface was badly damaged during the January 2011 floods and only part of the track has been regraded and improved. To enhance the dangers, on our previous trip here [24 July 2011] a large tree had fallen across part of the western section the road.
Today we managed it in a breeze! All the way around! The steep rise made both driver and vehicle think and work a little more diligently than on any other part of the circuitous track but with some nifty manoeuvring around the remaining ruts the navigation was straightforward – even the fallen tree had been removed.
The early stages of the forest drive didn’t produce any particularly outstanding birds, the usual crop of Torresian Crow Corvus orru, Australian Magpie Cracticus tibicen, Willie Wagtail Rhipidura leucophrys and, naturally given the setting, Lewin’s Honeyeater Meliphaga lewinii. It was the number of specimens involved that astounded. We counted as many as ten Lewin’s in a short space and in excess of 50 Red-browed Finch Neochima temporalis cavorting around the road edges or flitting between track and bordering bushes. Six Yellow Thornbills Acanthiza nana added spice to the growing list of familiar but more abundant species.
For the second time over the long Easter weekend we spotted another Spangled Drongo Dicrurus bracteatus. Three to be precise. The presence of one alone on the previous day at the Meandu Creek Dam woodland [see previous blog] caused us to pause, consider and comment; three in the same immediate vicinity to each other at Gibson was almost mind-boggling.
Nor were the drongos the only welcomed sighting that morning. Up to three Golden Whistlers Pachycephala pectoralis were heard and seen at the first stopping point [where we indulged in bacon sandwiches and black coffee]. A Varied Triller Lalage leucomela [new to the 2012 Year List] put in not one but two fleeting appearances. A solitary Grey Shrike-thrush Colluricincla harmonica and one Black-shouldered Kite Elanus axillaris added jest, as did the three Eastern Yellow Robins Eopsaltria australis and the female Regent Bowerbird Sericulus chrysocephalus.
However, the ticks of the day came as we were leaving Gibson State Forest. A hundred metres from the gate we spotted a pair of Brown Falcons Falco berigora atop a Hoop Pine. At the gate itself, four Wonga Pigeons Leucosarcia picata foraging on the ground; they flew into nearby trees on our approach.
A little way beyond the gate –and strictly speaking outside the forest boundaries- we had the sighting of the entire long weekend, a Spotless Crake Porzana tabuensis. It raced out from longish, green grass [suggesting a source of nearby water] and ran across the road to disappear in yet more longish, green grass. It was our first for the South Burnett region and yet another addition to the Year List.
Spotless Crake. Photiographed at Werribee in Victoria [Aug. 2011] bu Vik Dunis
The Forester had proved both its mettle and worth.