Sunday, April 1, 2012


When asked to write a piece about birding in the South Burnett region, I opted to encourage potential birdwatchers to look around their immediate neighbourhood in search of promising spots for birds. I threw in a couple of examples; one a mere spit from my own home, the second much further but nevertheless a possibility for someone living in that part of the region.

Fay and I continue to do just that ourselves, look around for possible birding sites. Some we immediately adopt and add to the ever expanding itinerary, others are usually given a second [occasionally a third] chance before being relegated to the column labelled “Unsuitable.” Boondooma Dam was such a reject while Gordonbrook Dam [approximately in the same vicinity] has become a regular spot. Indeed, given the opportunity and timeframe, we plan to take a pair of UK birders, currently making their way west and north through Queensland, heading for the Northern Territory and Western Australian, to this dam.

Closer to home, at the end of July last year [2011] we discovered The Quarry. Well, more a small, disused gravelpit surrounded by open woodland and Hoop Pine Araucaria cunninghamii. This weekend we made our third trip to the spot to be rewarded by an increased bird tally [17 on our inaugural trip; 20 on the second in August 2011].

Track to The Quarry.  D'Aguilar Highway visible in foreground.
We’d been intending to explore a number of forestry tracks leading of the D’Aguilar Highway between the Tarong Power Station and the small township of Yarraman. Somehow there never seemed to be the opportunity. Whenever we found ourselves on the highway [no more than a typical British “A” road and a seeming haven for abandoned cars] we were en route to somewhere else – Brisbane or simply a dinner party at Blackbutt.

The opportunity finally presented itself at the end of July 2011 and we were immediately impressed by its potential as a future birding site. The initial tally may have been rather limited but it was late in the morning when we arrived and nowhere can be bad if it offers you such gems as the Regent Bowerbird Sericulus chrysocephalus, Scarlet Honeyeater Myzomela sanguinolenta, Golden Whistler Pachycephala pectoralis and Eastern Yellow Robin Eopsaltria australis all within the space of few minutes: a White-headed Pigeon Columba leucomela, Emerald Dove Chalcophaps indica , Shining Bronze-cuckoo Chrysococcyx lucidus and a Varied Triller Lalage leucomela on the occasion of our second trip a fortnight later.

Two weeks later, in mid-August, we tried a second of the forestry tracks leading off the highway, this one a little further along, closer to Yarraman itself. It was a broader track and infinitely easier driving. It was of course edged by Hoop Pine. As is our custom when exploring less used by ways and dirt tracks we pulled up every hundred or so metres to both look out and listen for birds. It appeared less lively that the original forestry track of 31 July but nevertheless we persevered 

At what was clearly a major Forestry intersection we were faced we a small dilemma- which way to proceed? In fact we tried all three possibilities and each one petered out either into impassable goat tracks or, as in the case of the last one, we came to the actual forestry working site festooned with warning signs and dire threats to any who dared ignore these signs.

The entrances were no more than a couple of hundred metres apart; they traversed the same Hoop Pine forest and had been created by the same Forestry Department. Yet, in birding terms they proved to be fathoms apart.

We will, when the opportunity arises, give this second track another chance to prove its birding mettle but in the meantime there remain another two or three as yet unexplored avenues leading off the D’Aguilar Highway and, of course, The Quarry has already proved its worth.

Without the trusted Forester, or indeed Fay’s old 4-wheel drive Toyota, we limit ourselves; further exploration is currently on hold until the vehicle is returned [promised for Thursday 5 April as long as one outstanding part is delivered on time]. The Quarry we know and is accessible by conventional vehicles.

It became part of our weekend target, along with another look at a long-established favourite, the Rocky Creek Circuit. Nor did The Quarry disappoint us. If nothing else, the tally came in at 27 species, a 53% increase on the first count and a 30% increase on the mid-August tally. But it was the quality of the birds that impressed most and who could fail but be impressed with stunning views of a Grey Goshawk Accipiter novaehollandiae!

We were turning to leave, Rocky Creek beckoned, when Fay looked up at the tallest pine on the skyline. It was an unmistakable tree with a few dead limbs protruding from its crown. The same tree on which, only moments earlier, we’d noted the more humble Bar-shouldered Dove Geopelia humeralis. There, admittedly perched in a somewhat squat position, looking slightly out of sorts was the Grey Goshawk. Fay initially called Black-shouldered Kite Elanus axillaris; certainly as a white raptor it seemed to fit the bill. But the jizz was wrong; too big, too bulky and more a pearl white in colour than a bright white. As soon as it moved to fly away, the wings told the complete tale.

We will return to The Quarry, as we will return to several other odd birding spots we have located in the six years we have called the South Burnett our home region.

Grey Goshawk.  Photograph from

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