Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Inskip Point, finally

Through no conscious choice, I had managed not to visit one of my main target sites for the year: Inskip Point. There are a number of species that are on the fringes of my search area, and Inskip Point has four of them, all rare and most extremely difficult to find. These birds are: Fairy Gerygone (at the southernmost extent of their range), Ground Parrot, Southern Emu-wren and Brush Bronzewing (all at the nothernmost extent, but not found elsewhere in SEQ). Throw into this mix a resident pair of Beach Stone-curlews and the easiest place in the world to find Black-breasted Button-quail and you have a must-visit site for a big year like mine.

On Wednesday this week I ducked out for the day with Andrew Stafford to finally do some justice to this birding location. We started extremely well, with a Grey Goshawk on the streetlights as we drove up the highway past Nambour. Our first stop for the day was at the Thomas and Thomas site for Ground Parrots in Cooloola National Park. I thought we were being extremely hopeful here, but we were looking for Ground Parrot, Southern Emu-wren, and Brush Bronzewing, all of which had been seen here recently. We had a fantastic morning at this site, with good views of a host of woodland birds, including Andrew's first White-cheeked Honeyeaters and Forest Kingfisher for the year.

In the heath we were extremely fortunate and flushed a Ground Parrot basically from our feet. This is a new bird for me, and #651 for Australia. I had such great views I didn't even need my binoculars to see the black streaking in the plumage. Sadly the bird flew off into the heath, so our sighting was only very brief. Later on we flushed a second bird which gave more distant but longer views. We did hear what we are sure was Southern Emu-wrens, but were unable to get close to them as the heath was completely sodden, with water flowing across the ground in most places. We did manage to find some Wallum Rocket Frogs and Wallum Froglets, which were a highlight of the morning for me, though nothing quite compares to the thrill of seeing a new bird.

From our success in the heath we moved to the sandy peninsula of Inskip Point. Within about ten minutes of arrival we were watching a pair of Black-breasted Button-quail scratching their circular platelets into the middle of the walking track. Honestly, it's ridiculous that such a shy bird could be so easy in just one place in their entire range. However, I'm not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, so down they went as bird #311 for the year. One of the main reasons for doing this trip was the Sanderling reported from a few days earlier by Steve Murray, a bird I had for the year but Andrew didn't. We saw a handful of shorebirds out on one of the sandbars and, while dubious of the chances of them being Sanderling, we grabbed my scope out of the car and trekked back to have a look. And beyond all reason, the first bird I put my scope on was a Sanderling. I may have said a few bad words in my hurry to get Andrew onto the bird, but I needn't have worried, as there was not one, but five Sanderlings out on the sandbar, in various stages of colouring up for migration. Who knows if they will stay or go, as five is a very small number of sandpipers for a migration flock. Maybe they will overwinter in the area? Along the track on the way back to the car we also had crippling views of a pair of Beach Stone-curlews, which had finally deigned to make an appearance. They were on the landward side of the peninsula, tucked away in the mangroves, though Andrew picked one up in flight initially. While we were disappointed at missing Fairy Gerygone, which really should have been easy on the day, and Southern Emu-wren, which we must have only been metres from seeing at one point, we just can't be sad at how the day turned out! A lifer for me, four yearbirds all up (seven for Andrew), and a couple of new species of frogs, it is hard to ask for anything more than that from a site which is a three hour drive from my front door.

Total birds to date: 312

Photo 1: Wallum Rocket Frog, Litoria freycineti, Cooloola NP
Photo 2: Wallum Froglet, Crinia tinnula, Cooloola NP
Photo 3: Female Black-breasted Button-quail, Inskip Point
Photo 4: Pair of Beach Stone-curlews, Inskip Point

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