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
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.
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!
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).
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.
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).
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.
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.
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).]
Collared Kingfisher, Rainbow Bee-eaters and Welcome Swallows back in/over the Casuarina and Mangrove trees.
Caspian Tern and later a 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.
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.
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”.
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.
Nothing at the hide – until an Eastern Osprey with fish flew in from the bay and up the river.
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.
Seen ‘everything’ expected at Nudgee Beach – well, no Royal Spoonbill (yet) and no Grey Shrike-thrush – so it was time to move on.
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.
A Grey Butcherbird next to the car, while a Laughing Kookaburra flew past and a Straw-necked Ibis probed for food on the grass.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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).
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
Next stop, Lake Apex. Getting hot in the sun and starting to tire but found Little Corellas and a Little Friarbird at the carpark.
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’.
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!
[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.]
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)!
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.
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
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
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
77. Little Corella
78. Little Friarbird
79. Magpie Goose
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
Even counting those last two we fell 5 short. Next time … bring on Big Day #2!