Saturday, December 28, 2013


While birding along Allen Road may have been a little disappointing during November, this was far from the case for the South Burnett in general.  It wasn’t the highest monthly tally for the year to date – that honour goes to the 126 species recorded in August- but at 125 it comes a close second.  Further, November 2013 has seen the best monthly tally since the inception of regular records in 2001; there remains the November 1996 aberration from the days before our move to the region but it involves only the one visit to the Palms National Park with a humble tally of fourteen [14] species.

As an aside, that was in fact our second incursion into the South Burnett during 1996; we had ventured here in March of that year, to Yarraman State Forest [in search of Black-breasted Button-quail].

The only comparable November tally was last year’s 113 species, recorded from sixteen [16] separate sites across the South Burnett region.  As a matter of coincidence, that was the exact number of locations visited during November 2013.   Nine of those overlapped both 2012 and 2013; six sites surveyed in 2012 were omitted in 2013 and conversely, seven sites covered in 2013 had not been surveyed the previous year.

There were of course all the regular species one comes to expect and where would we be without them!  No one wants to venture down the road of the unfortunate North American Passenger Pigeon Ectopistes migratorius or the humble British Tree Sparrow Passer montanus.  As one of my former birding mentors once quipped, “We’re all too busy chasing the uncommon species; it’s the common birds you no longer see that should concern you.”

There was no shortage of Australian Wood Duck Chenonetta jubata nor of the Pacific Black Duck Anas superciliosa; both the Crested Pigeon Ocyphaps lophotes and Bar-shouldered Dove Geopelia humeralis maintained their strong showing; Rainbow Lorikeets Trichoglossus haematodus, Galahs Eolophus roseicapilla and Sulphur-crested Cockatoos Cacatua galerita turned up in almost every location surveyed.  Among other regular birds of the region, the Noisy Miner Manorina melanocephala continued to dominate checklists, as did the Australian Magpie Cracticus tibicen and Torresian Crow Corvus orru.

It was however the one-offs, those birds appearing only once during November that really established the month’s credentials; its character.  Even during the first week, three species,
Brown Quail Coturnix ypsilophora, Tawny Grassbird Megalurus timoriensis [both showing well on the 4th] and the Australian Brush-turkey Alectura lathami [7th] that started the ball rolling.  Another four species appeared as one-offs during the second week – all on the 13th: Varied Sittella Daphoenositta chrysoptera, White-headed Pigeon Columba leucomela, Crested Shrike-tit Falcunculus frontatus and Rufous Fantail Rhipidura rufifrons.

November hit the jackpot in the third week when, as part of the Birds Queensland planned outing to Blackbutt, we visited Din Din Road, Yarraman Weir and the Gibson State Forest - it had become our habit to join BQ on a number of their weekend campouts as Saturday morning visitors only.  What an avian Mecca!  In the space of an hour or so we tallied thirteen [13] species. 
Along Din Din Road we recorded:  Rainbow Bee-eater Merops ornatus; White-throated Treecreeper Cormobates leucophaea; White-throated Honeyeater Melithreptus albogularis; Dusky Woodswallow Artamus cyanopterus [first South Burnett sighting since December 2011]; Jacky Winter Microeca fascinans [first sighting in the South Burnett since August 2011], Rufous Songlark Cincloramphus mathewsi [a first ever record for the South Burnett and the first Queensland sighting since September 2000] and Double-barred Finch Taeniopygia bichenovii.
During a morning tea break at the Yarraman Weir we added Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo and then, post tea break, in the Gibson State Forest a last minute flurry gave us: Superb Fairy-wren Malurus cyaneus; Brown Thornbill Acanthiza pusilla; Varied Triller Lalage leucomela; Australian Raven Corvus coronoides and Red-browed Finch Neochmia temporalis.
Three days later [19th] we added the Red-winged Parrot Aprosmictus erythropterus to the monthly tally.

                                                                 The best shot I could get in the circumstances.

The last days of the month would have been hard pressed to maintain the flow of one-off species experienced during the previous week but nevertheless it was not a total failure.  Far from it; the 22nd saw our only Black Swan Cygnus atratus for the month while two days later, the 24th witnessed the sole sightings of Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus, Yellow-billed Spoonbill Platalea flavipes and White-throated Needletail .  Four Scaly-breasted Lorikeets Trichoglossus chlorolepidotus presented themselves for viewing on the 28th and the last day of the month, at the local Refuse Transfer Plant Sewage Plant, brought Black Kite Milvus migrans [much reduced in numbers since earlier days]; the Grey Street Sewage Treatment Plant provided good views of Intermediate Egret Ardea intermedia and one Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus.

In and amidst all that, the last weeks of November were among the most hectic I’ve ever experienced in 43 years of teaching; besides the tests, marking and report cards I had to prepare my room for the new staff member replacing me in 2014 – can you imagine how much assorted litter and plain junk one rather obsessive middle-aged teacher can gather over a lifetime at the Chalk Front?

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