Twitcher’s Ton #1


Big Day #1 – an attempt to see (and where possible, photograph) 100 bird species in a day – the Twitcher’s Ton.


Sunday, Nov 15th 2015.

Guest post by Steven Pratt

[4:00am]

Up at 4am to check the radar; the storms of the previous day had cleared overnight.  It’s ON.

Out on the road by 4:30am and aiming for a 5:10am start at the Metroplex lagoon, just on the southern side of the Brisbane River near the Gateway bridge.  It was cloudy and dull, but fine (not raining at least).  Pleasant drive in from Cleveland – it’s nice being up early!  About 7 species sighted on route but it doesn’t really ‘start’ until Metroplex.

I got to the lagoon just before Mal despite him living just across the river.  [I found out later that he’d slept through his alarm and only woke when I texted the weather update at 4:45am.]  It was still quite dark around the “wetlands” – too dark for me as I was trying to stick to the f/8 sweet spot of my Sigma lens, which meant really cranking up the ISO.

[5:10am]

First official sighting was the Dusky Moorhens (with chicks).  As gloomy as the light was, this was a nice way to start the day and the tally.  1 down, 99 to go!

1 - Dusky Moorhen

Metroplex also contributed Straw-necked and Australian White Ibis’, and other water birds, including Purple Swamphen, Eurasian Coot, Intermediate Egret, Pacific Black Duck, Little Black Cormorant, and an Australasian Grebe (that little spot in the shadows below).

6 - Little Black Cormorants and Australian White Ibis 2 - Purple Swamphen 3 - Intermediate Egret 4 - Pacific Black Duck 5 - Australasian Grebe

We also heard and then sighted the Olive-backed Oriol (photo from later in the day) and a quick look down near the water surprised with White-throated Needletail sightings – a bonus – we’re ahead of the count.

7 - Olive-backed Oriole 8 - White-throated Needletail

On the way back to the car we saw Sacred Kingfishers (tracked them down thanks to their chatter) and a Brown Honeyeater (tracked down thanks to its screaming).  Noisy Miners were also seen (here, there and everywhere throughout the day).

9 - Sacred Kingfisher 10 - Brown Honeyeater

[5:30am]

On route to Nudgee Beach (via Mal’s to drop my car off – where we could hear an Eastern Koel from the street but too hard to locate it) we saw a Masked Lapwing, Crested Pigeons and a Brush Turkey (Mal missed the turkey while driving but didn’t live to regret it as he saw one soon after).  The clouds were clearing now and it was getting quite bright.  There were White-breasted Woodswallows straight out on the beach but they scattered as soon as the cameras were raised.  We walked out onto the sand flats – a few Whimbrels first up and of course plenty of Silver Gulls.

11 - Whimbrel 12 - Silver Gull

I could hardly see a thing but Mal found birds all over the place (he claims it was just local familiarity), although most were almost completely washed out by the glare.  A raptor (White-bellied Sea Eagle) was seen fishing in the distance – landed on the beach on the other side of the mouth of the Kedron Brook Floodway.  Australian Pelicans, Australian White Ibis, a Striated Heron, and an Australasian Darter on the far side too.

14 - Australian Pelican 13 - Striated Heron

[6:30am]

I’ve already resorted to shooting at all sorts of distant silhouettes hoping for some surprises with a closer look later.  A cormorant flew over that was assumed to be a Little Pied – turned out to be a Pied, one such nice surprise.  Then Rainbow Lorikeets in flight to the west and Eastern Curlews (hopefully not more whimbrels) in flight to the east.

[Certainly curlews on closer inspection of those very long bills; female in front (longer bill) and male behind).]

15 - Pied Cormorant  16 - Rainbow Lorikeets  17 - Eastern Curlews

Collared Kingfisher, Rainbow Bee-eaters and Welcome Swallows back in/over the Casuarina and Mangrove trees.

18 - Collared Kingfisher 19 - Rainbow Bee-eater 20 - Welcome Swallow

Caspian Tern and later a Gull-billed Tern.

21 - Caspian Tern 22 - Gull-billed Tern

Also Pacific Golden Plovers and Bar-tailed Godwits scattered over the flats – but hard to get any clear shots against the sand.

23 - Pacific Golden Plover 24 - Bar-tailed Godwit 25 - Bar-tailed Godwits

Time to move on… then raptor alert. Brahminy Kite in the distance drifting towards and then straight over us.  His mate joined in.  Both eventually moved on by Australian Magpies.

26 - Brahminy Kite 27 - Magpie and Brahminy Kite

Left the flats.  A Little Egret was zig-zagging and darting around like a headless chook.  Also saw a Grey Fantail, Willy-Wagtail, Brown Honeyeater, and Tawny Grassbird around the little “beach”.

28 - Little Egret 29 - Grey Fantail 30 - Brown Honeyeater 31 - Tawny Grassbird

[7:10am]

Back to the car to head to the boardwalk.  Popped back out to the flats – but nothing.  Back through the dunes to the path.  Stop!  Grass Snake eased between us.  Red-backed Fairy-wrens, Mangrove Gerygone and a ‘small yellowish bird’ (turned out to be a juvenile Mangrove Gerygone) on the way to the hide.  Also a silhouette of a White-faced Heron on the flats.

32 - Mangrove Gerygone 33 - White-faced Heron

Nothing at the hide – until an Eastern Osprey with fish flew in from the bay and up the river.

34 - Osprey

Tracked him to his tree where a Torresian Crow interrupted his meal.  Distracted by Black-winged Stilts and another (same?) Brahminy Kite (and some dude asking about our cameras) so missed him launch towards us from his perch.  More Rainbow Bee-eaters, a distant Dollarbird, and a Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike.  Clear White-bellied Sea Eagle (well, clear considering it was about 2km away) and a Cattle Egret, then heard and tracked down a Bar-Shouldered Dove and Mal ticked off an Australian Brush-turkey that he missed earlier.

35 - Osprey and Crow 36 - Black-winged Stilt 37 - Dollarbird 38 - White-bellied Sea Eagle 39 - Cattle Egret 40 - Bar-shouldered Dove 41 - Brush-turkey

Seen ‘everything’ expected at Nudgee Beach – well, no Royal Spoonbill (yet) and no Grey Shrike-thrush – so it was time to move on.

[8:20am]

I opened up the Michael Morcombe Australian Bird app to log what we’d seen (probably spent too much time looking at the iPhone and not enough looking at the sky) while Mal drove us back along Nudgee Road.  Very solid start.

Quick stop at the Nudgee Waterhole Reserve for a few more: Northern Mallards and (oil slicked) Little Pied and Little Black Cormorants; and the impressive sight of young Australasian Darters “feeding themselves” by ramming their heads down their mum’s long neck.

42 - Northern Mallards 43 - Little Pied Cormorant 44 - Little Black Cormorants 45 - Darter

A Grey Butcherbird next to the car, while a Laughing Kookaburra flew past and a Straw-necked Ibis probed for food on the grass.

46 - Grey Butcherbird 47 - Straw-necked Ibis

[8:45am]

Time for breakfast (two bacon and egg burgers for me and deep fried potato for Mal) and petrol at the Nudgee servo.

Half Century smashed before 9am.  Karen was texting asking for an update – and saying she’s sick but we should ‘carry on’.  Had a closer inspection of the list. Uh oh – Crested Pigeon logged three times?!  Count revised down – but still low 50s – and maybe higher seeing I’d likely forgotten some.

Time for a road trip.  Oxley Creek Common (OCC) first and then west to Gatton.  Mal spotted a ‘new’ bird on the powerlines.  What on earth was it?  I got out of the car to check.  A magician’s dove?!  I guess it goes down as a Rock Dove (feral pigeon) – plenty of them, and plenty of Common Mynas.

48 - Magic Dove

[9:30am]

Took the tunnel and popped out near Greenslopes to tick-off a relatively uncommon yet near certain Bush Stone Curlew at the Busway.   Sure enough, he was there – sitting on his nest peering over the ridge.

49 - Bush Stone Curlew

[9:50am]

On to Oxley Creek Common needing plenty of fairy-wrens and insect eaters.  But silence.  Nothing!  The day was really heating up and sightings were dying right off.  Got a Lewin’s Honeyeater while looking for some fairy-wrens down near the creek.

50 - Lewins Honeyeater

Then more nothing!  Morale was dropping.  80 was looking a long way off, let alone 100.  But then the scoreboard started to tick along.  A few Variegated Fairy-wrens and Double-barred Finches, plus more Red-backed Fairy-wrens that we’d ticked off at Nudgee Beach earlier (but didn’t photograph).

52 - Double-barred Finch 51 - Red-backed Fairy-wren 53 - Red-backed Fairy-wren

And a Silvereye – with a dot way way above him in the sky.  I couldn’t even see it, but Mal and the camera could – a Whistling Kite!  Great for OCC – but we’d get much better WKs later on.

54 - Silvereye 55 - Whistling Kite

Then another Red-backed Fairy-wren building a nest.  And right on cue, a Yellow-rumped Thornbill – exactly where we’d seen him in the past.

56 - Red-backed Fairy-wren 57 - Yellow-rumped Thornbill

The ship was steady(ing).  Things got even better when a shape darted into the grasses.  It must have been a quail, but we hadn’t really seen it – could we count it?  But no problem, a closer look and a big Brown Quail was seen scurrying from clump to clump.  And a Black Swan in the pond!  OCC had more than delivered.

58 - Black Swan

Nice seeing a Pacific Black Duck encouraging her little ones in for a swim.  And great seeing a raptor (Black Kite) in the distance– swooping down and collecting something.  A quick look at the big pond, but nothing new.  Time to head back. Ticked of some grassbirds (Golden-headed Cisticola, Australasian Pipit and another Tawny Grassbird).

59 - Pacific Black Duck 60 - Black Kite 61 - Golden-headed Cisticola 62 - Australasian Pipit 63 - Tawny Grassbird

A call from Karen – Liam has news: scored his first ever try!  Right, morale was back up – especially with a Superb Fairy-wren on the walk back out (and the first decent photo of a Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike)

64 - Variegated Fairy-wren 65 - Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike

The species count was up over 60 now.  Time to hit the road for some raptors.

Re-fuelled (ice coffee) just past Ipswich, then took the backroads through Rosewood.  Cricket on the radio – Taylor and Williamson piling on the runs, only slowed by the sight-screen getting stuck.  Not much to see, although a couple of Pale-headed Rosellas flew by.  And a Dollarbird on the power lines.

66 - Dollarbird

[1:15pm]

Peaceful drive though – so much so that Mal missed the Laidley turn and we were headed down towards Mulgowie before we knew it.  Bit of luck though – Plumed Whistling Ducks by the road (lifer for Mal) and then a White-necked Heron in a paddock (another lifer for Mal).  Stopped for a shot.

67 - Plumed Whistling-ducks 68 - White-necked Heron

A suspicious old women popped out to enquire about our activities – but she seemed happy enough to hear we were just admiring the birdlife.  Then a raptor – a Black Kite – circled over.  Good (accidental) side trip.  Checked the count.  Touching 70.

69 - Black Kite

[1:40pm]

Up through Laidley to find the spot where the Black-shouldered Kite lives.  Well surprise surprise, he wasn’t home.  BUT, a kingfisher was up on the powerlines.  Stopped to have a look, hoping against hope that it was a Forest Kingfisher.  Distracted by a Whistling Kite right overhead.  Best shots of the day.  But bad news, the kingfisher wasn’t a Forest Kingfisher; it was another Sacred.

70 - Whistling Kite

On to Gatton.  Driving through Forest Hill, lamenting the dearth of raptors and commenting to Mal that there should be kestrels hovering over these fields, when he pointed and said “like that?”.  Heck.  Nankeen Kestrel hovering over the field!  Mal pulls up fast.  Should have been easy to get some good shots but autofocus wouldn’t lock on.  Kestrel landed on the post right next to us.  Mal got sun-side but still no great shots.  Then he flew off – and was soon combating a Black Kite who’d joined us.  Great to see the kestrel but disappointing we couldn’t get any top shots of him.  (Although Mal ended up getting him the following week – same spot).

71 - Nankeen Kestrel 72 - Kestrel and Kite

[2:30pm]

Next stop, Lake Apex.  Getting hot in the sun and starting to tire but found Little Corellas and a Little Friarbird at the carpark.

73 - Little Corella 74 - Little Friarbird

Ok, let’s walk around the lake to crack 80. Birds everywhere – but few news ones.  The Galahs, Cattle Egrets, Cormorants, Darters, and even the Whistling Kite (which was close overhead), were all dismissed as ‘seen’.

75 - Galah 76 - unknown

Just Magpie Geese, distant Hardhead, and a Royal Spoonbill were added to the tally (and first photos for the day of Masked Lapwings, Australian Wood Ducks, Australasian Figbird, and Noisy Miners).  100 was looking a long way off.  Stopped at the café for a break and checked the count.  Near 80 – I think.  Checked a flowering gum on the way to the car and sure enough, a Scaly-breasted Lorikeet!

77 - Magpie Geese and Masked Lapwings 78 - Magpie Geese and Pink-eared Ducks 79 - Magpie Geese 80 - Hardhead 81 - Royal Spoonbill 82 - Australian Wood Ducks 83 - Figbird 84 - Noisy Miners85 - Scaly-breasted Lorikeets

[A closer look at the photos of the Magpie Geese by Mal when he got home uncovered a surprise addition – a pair of Pink-eared Ducks! …see second photo above.]
[3:40pm]

And a really close look at the bird next to the car revealed it was a (pretty small) Eastern Great Egret (note the lores projecting well behind the eye)!

86 - Great Egret

But 100 was too far off – even factoring in ‘Domestic White Goose’ waddling around the car (and the magician’s dove!).  We’d lost our way a little and headed for home.  Eyes remained peeled for Black-shouldered Kites – and sure enough, got one right next to the road – at 100km/h!  Late in the day, but still dreaming of 100.  Tried a back road through Colleges Crossing.  Wrong turn – but wow, a Currawong on the off-ramp;  the second lucky accident of the day.  Across the river and heading for home.  Tossed up the idea of a side trip to Mt Coot-tha but it was time to face facts:  100 was not going to happen.  Still, got a Blue-faced Honeyeater at Kenmore.

[5:00pm]

Back to Mal’s to get the car and then off home for the final count.  I saw a King Parrot at Chandler but the Big Day was already officially over.  Must be about 90.

Final count once the photos were reviewed was 93 (excluding goose and white dove).

Big Day #1 List:

1.                   Dusky Moorhen

2.                   Noisy Miner

3.                   Straw-necked Ibis

4.                   Purple Swamphen

5.                   Eurasian Coot

6.                   Intermediate Egret

7.                   Pacific Black Duck

8.                   Australasian Grebe

9.                   Olive-backed Oriol

10.               White-throated Needle Tail

11.               Sacred Kingfisher

12.               Brown Honeyeater

13.               Masked Lapwing

14.               Crested Pigeon

15.               Australian Brush-turkey

16.               White-breasted Woodswallow

17.               Whimbrel

18.               Silver Gull

19.               Australian Pelican

20.               Australian White Ibis

21.               Striated Heron

22.               Australasian Darter

23.               Eastern Curlew

24.               Pied Cormorant

25.               Little Pied Cormorant

26.               Collared Kingfisher

27.               Welcome Swallow

28.               Rainbow Bee-eater

29.               Caspian Tern

30.               Gull-billed Tern

31.               Brahminy Kite

32.               Australian Magpie

33.               Pacific Golden Plovers

34.               Bar-tailed Godwit

35.               Grey Fantail

36.               Willy Wagtail

37.               Tawny Grassbird

38.               Red-backed Fairy-wren

39.               Mangrove Gerygone

40.               White-faced Heron

41.               Eastern Osprey

42.               Black-winged Stilt

43.               White-bellied Sea Eagle

44.               Bar-Shouldered Dove

45.               Northern Mallards

46.               Little Black Cormorant

47.               Grey Butcherbird

48.               Laughing Kookaburra

49.               Rock Dove (feral pigeon)

50.               Common Myna

51.               Bush Stone-curlew

52.               Lewin’s Honeyeater

53.               Variegated Fairy-wren

54.               Silvereye

55.               Double-barred Finch

56.               Whistling Kite

57.               Yellow-rumped Thornbill

58.               Brown Quail

59.               Golden-headed Cisticola

60.               Australasian Pipit

61.               Black Swan

62.               Black Kite

63.               Superb Fairy-wren

64.               Australasian Figbird

65.               Australian Pied Oystercatcher

66.               Australian Wood Duck

67.               Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike

68.               Black-shouldered Kite

69.               Blue-faced Honeyeater

70.               Cattle Egret

71.               Little Egret

72.               Eastern Great Egret

73.               Red-necked Stint

74.               Dollarbird

75.               Galah

76.               Hardhead

77.               Little Corella

78.               Little Friarbird

79.               Magpie Goose

80.               Magpie-lark

81.               Mangrove Gerygone

82.               Masked Lapwing

83.               Nankeen Kestrel

84.               Pale-headed Rosella

85.               Pied Butcherbird

86.               Pied Currawong

87.               Pink-eared Duck

88.               Royal Spoonbill

89.               Scaly-breasted Lorikeet

90.               Spotted Dove

91.               Sulphur-crested Cockatoo

92.               Torresian Crow

93.               Great Knot (discovered in photos a month later)

94.               White dove

95.               Goose

Even counting those last two we fell 5 short.  Next time … bring on Big Day #2!

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