In another place I wrote:ecember was going to be a month of two halves.
Up to and including Friday 13th birding was to be decidedly patchy in birding terms; final report cards to compose – how do you tell a doting mother that her beloved daughter is decidedly a sandwich short of a full picnic, or, how do you find a way of pointing out to the obviously unwashed father whose every other utterance is a four-lettered expletive that he can’t really hold the school responsible for the decidedly foul language used by his macho 9-year old son? Not that it’s all that way inclined; for the vast majority it’s just finding another way of repeating more or less what you maintained at the end of the first semester. Leopards and spots?
From Saturday 14 December it was to be a decidedly more birdy period. I was effectively retired after 43 years in teaching. Summer vacation and long-service leave would keep me out of the classroom until my actual retirement on 25 April 2014. My time was my own and birding was decidedly on the horizon.
While Allen Road failed to adhere to the script, the South Burnett in general came very close to performing its part word perfect. Our computer records clearly indicate that during the first working week of month [1st – 6th December], apart from the trip to Dusty Hills Winery for my official retirement lunch, all other Bird Journal entries revolved around Allen Road and birds noted at Blackbutt State School; the latter very casual observations either first thing in the morning on arriving [between 0600 and 0630 hours as a rule], heard from the classroom or while out on playground duties.
The first real foray into birding the South Burnett came on Saturday 7 December; by then the bulk of report cards had been finalized, merely waiting to be edited by the Principal. It came as a welcome break from the graft although our initial sortie involved only the local Sewage Treatment Plant in Grey Street and the Nanango Fauna Sanctuary. The latter was again disappointing, as it had been on previous visits in September and November. The Sewage Treatment Plant [23 species] was more promising, with the solitary Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus a gem.
On Sunday 8th we ventured forth to investigate the Darley Crossing Circuit followed by a quick visit to the L-shaped track [bordered by open woodland] running between the Nanango-Tarong Road and Nobby Smith Drive. The pick of the 35 recorded species along the Circuit had to be the two Fairy Martins Petrochelidon ariel while the woodland offered fabulous views of a male Satin Flycatcher Myiagra cyanoleuca.
Thereafter, as predicted, the second week of the month [8 – 13th December] fell away into a humdrum routine of clearing years of accumulated “junk” [and I’m an old hoarder from way back; a relative [Western] Jackdaw Corvus monedula or, in Australian terms, perhaps a male Satin Bowerbird Ptilonorhynchus violaceus]. There were class parties to organize, end-of-year concert items to perfect and various goodbyes to make.
Again, as I penned in that other place:
On the other hand - and no doubt Papa Hemmingway would have penned it in a far more appropriate style, something about the best laid plans of mice and men- there was always the unexpected; the long list of chores that had somehow slipped below my radar while my head was buried in schoolbooks and report cards: the verandahs needed ceilings; the bannister rails needed repairing and painting; the henhouse leaked; there was a carpet snake housed under the pigeon loft; there was weeding to be done and holes to be dug for new plants and of course the house needed cleaning up in preparation for Christmas. Did I mention Christmas cards to write and post and presents to be wrapped?
However, unlike Allen Road, the birding did not completely evaporate under the pressure of mundane household chores. It wasn’t quite as prolific as I had perhaps expected when first contemplating my post-teaching life but birding in the third week of the month [14th – 21st December] showed promising signs of a brighter birding future just over the horizon. Actually the glory of the entire week rested on the shoulders of our excursions on 17 December. Fay gleaned a trip to the Bunya Mountains with the Nanango Information Centre volunteers; one of the staff, a former working colleague, was unable to convince her spouse of the potential pleasures of being aboard with a busload of nattering old women so offered his place to Fay. She could see the potential of birding the Bunyas and that brought her the Crimson Rosella Platycercus elegans, Satin Bowerbird, Eastern Spinebill Acanthorhynchus tenuirostris and Nankeen Kestrel Falco cenchroides.
The real promise lay in the fact that shortly after Fay’s return from the Bunyas we agreed to call in at the Nanango Fauna Sanctuary and Grey Street Sewage Treatment Plant – our second visit to both locations that month. As before, the Sanctuary [five species] rather disappointed while the Sewage Works, with 28 species, was far more gratifying.
From thereon in birding in the South Burnett hummed, or at least it clamoured with excitement on both 22nd and 31st of the month. In an attempt to locate a packet of mace [a traditional spice used in the making of Cumberland sausage] we travelled into Kilcoy, which, strictly speaking, lies well beyond the South Burnett and should be featured in Birding Beyond the Pale. Suffice to say that we hit both Yowie Park [good coffee and fine birding] and the newly-discovered Winya Road dams.
On our return, with mace secured, we called in on the Tarong Power Station, via Berlin Road. The Cooling Water Dam brought us good views of three Musk Duck Biziura lobata – one bird behind the four recorded during 2010 but entirely surpassed by the 20 seen in 2009. Yet these were completely eclipsed by the fourteen  Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus on the dam.
Berlin Road had one of its quieter days.
By the end of the year, the December tally stood at 110 species, one behind the December 2012 all-time record and only one ahead of the December 2009 score.
We made a last attempt to improve the numbers by visiting Tarong National Park on 31 December. Our tally included: Australian Brush-turkey Alectura lathami, Brown Quail Coturnix ypsilophora, Brown Cuckoo-Dove Macropygia phasianella, Rainbow Bee-eater Merops ornatus, Noisy Pitta Pitta versicolor, Green Catbird Ailuroedus crassirostris, Regent Bowerbird Sericulus chrysocephalus, Yellow-throated Scrubwren Sericornis citreogularis, Brown Gerygone Gerygone mouki, Yellow Thornbill Acanthiza nana, Brown Thornbill Acanthiza pusilla, Black-faced Monarch Monarcha melanopsis and Red-browed Finch Neochmia temporalis.
And that, for the more mathematically minded amongst you, came to a total of 13 species, thrusting the final December 2013 tally to 123 birds.
From possible obscurity the month capped all previous December tallies [since 2001] to establish a new record for that month.