Thursday, 23 February 2017

Summer Spots Around Inglewood

Breaking records here, there and everywhere, the hot spell that this part of the world experienced from near the end of January until around the middle of this month was a testing time for all, birds and people alike, and seemed as though it was without end. We were regularly experiencing days over 35 degrees, without a break, and the rain clouds that irregularly stole upon the area some afternoons and evenings promised without delivering, taunting on each occasion. We desperately need some rain.

The countryside is very dry and in dire need of a drink. Even many of the migrant birds that are usually present at this time of year seem to have moved on, seeking better living conditions elsewhere. Either that, or they are lying low and conserving energy. Koels are no longer calling and it has been weeks since I have seen a dollarbird. Needless to say, these were hardly ideal times to go birding. 

When the temperatures did finally drop, however, it was quite the relief..., and we even got a little rain which quickly re-greened the countryside, at least for the time-being, and the first available opportunity was sought to go birding somewhere out west. The decision was made to visit a handful of spots around the town of Inglewood, namely Mosquito Creek Road (pictured below), Yelarbon State Forest and Coolmunda Dam, and pick up some of the slightly more inland bird species that prefer drier habitats.

White-winged Fairywren habitat -Mosquito Creek Road.

The drive out along the Cunningham Highway was uneventful, as it was overcast for almost the entire way -many birds were slow to rise and those that were seen were the usual roadside candidates. I can't even recall seeing a single kangaroo or wallaby, which is unusual along this stretch of the highway, only a couple collected by vehicles the night before.

Mosquito Creek Road -looking n/w.
Just after 6am I entered the first of the day's birding destinations, Mosquito Creek Road -it was still reasonably cool and I thought this an excellent sign. Almost immediately birds began putting in an appearance, among the first a small number of White-throated Needletail picking over the remnants of the previous nights' storm, flying low over the adjacent paddocks. There were even a couple of Latham's Snipe flushed from near the roadside..., unusual, but not the first time I have encountered these birds here -on a previous visit a tightly-knit group of around eight were clustered together in spare grass around a small dam and were sent flying in every direction when I unknowingly ventured too close. 

Both Noisy and Yellow-throated Miners were scattered thinly along the southern stretch of road, no clear distinction between where either species' territory begins or ends. The small amount of available eucalyptus blossom was shared between the two, each frequently within very close reach of the other. A solitary Jacky Winter was observed, likewise several Red-winged Parrot, an Inland Thornbill, good numbers of Pied Butcherbird and Magpie-Lark, a couple of Pale-headed Rosella, some Apostlebird, two Brown Quail and a small group of Zebra Finch (pictured below).

Zebra Finch (male).
Other excellent records along the few kilometres of road explored were the Horsfield's Bushlark, Blue Bonnet and four or five White-winged Fairy-Wren. The latter's habitat appeared as if it had seen better days, like much of the region's vegetation, and as such there were no males in breeding plumage to light up the sad paddocks and expanses of sparsely scattered small shrubs. 

From here it was on to the next location, Yelarbon State Forest, a large native reserve south and west of Inglewood. It had been many years since my last visit here and I had been wanting to re-visit some spinifex habitat known to occur there. But it was by then getting a little warm and exposed areas such as these can be "graveyards" in the heat. So, rather than risk driving further than was ideal, the first accessible track into the woodland was taken, one to the east, which was tracked to a place amongst ironbark-dominated woodland and where water had emptied out across the width of the road from the overnight rain.

Yellow-faced Honeyeater
As it was a little later in the morning, the birding was a little tougher here... the birdlist not-so-substantial... the decision was made to bird along another track that reached out to the south through some woodland that was slightly more sheltered. Before long, it soon became evident that Fuscous Honeyeater were by far the dominant species, their fluid call interrupted from time to time by the occasional Yellow-faced Honeyeater (pictured left), and both the Brown-headed and White-eared Honeyeater. A solitary Grey Fantail hawked a shallow and almost undetectable creek that ran through the forest; normally at this time of year this species decamps its inland haunts and migrates to the cooler woodland and forests closer to the coast... however, like the Pied Currawong this season, the odd bird has remained in some winter habitats despite the record-breaking heat of this summer.

Feeling more positive about the next destination, Lake Coolmunda, I headed back through Inglewood and drove back towards the east -it'd be interesting to see how much water remained in the lake. Some of the missing waterbirds might be found, hopefully -they have to be somewhere.

Grey-crowned Babbler
After getting permission to visit a section on the northern side, I jumped the fence and began making my way to the shoreline, hopping from the shade of one tree to the next. As I did so, a Spotted Bowerbird flushed from a nearby tree and made off to the west -unfortunately, it was not seen again after that. A small party of Tree Martin were spending a good deal of time circling the upper parts of a tall, dead tree in the centre of the location, whilst perched in the branches below was a Nankeen Kestrel and two Cockatiel were busy inspecting a hollow. Calls of the Red-rumped Parrot were audible in the vicinity, whilst additional records were of a small group of Grey-crowned Babbler (pictured above) and Apostlebird, an Australian Hobby and a group of nine White-winged Chough closer to the boundary. 

Sheltering beneath a squat tree, I was soon joined by a group of seven Yellow-rumped Thornbill and a pair of Superb Fairy-Wren who proceeded to noisily hop about and vie for attention in the midst of the foliage. I began scanning the margin of the large lake, where in the distance on the bank some Black Swan, Straw-necked Ibis and Eastern Cattle Egret were feeding at the feet of some horses and cattle -in the dead trees above, several hundred Little Black Cormorant were roosting. A mere two Pink-eared Ducks were observed, whilst additional discoveries consisted of several Australasian Darter and Australian Pied Cormorant, a handful of Glossy Ibis, Black-fronted Dotterel, large numbers of Australian Maned Duck and, in the furthest parts of the distant haze, a Little Egret, its rapid, jerky movements betraying its presence.

The last spot visited for the day was Durikai State Forest. As it had rained overnight, and there was likely many pools of water lying about on the floor of the reserve, I figured it might be best to visit here a little later in the day on the return trip. In theory, this would be a better time, when birds visited the highway dam in spits and spurts to drink and bathe. And this they did.

Rainbow Bee-eater
During the forty or so minutes spent at this location, and another slightly shorter stint at another spot on the western boundary, a good many species were encountered despite the time of day. Among these were numerous Tree Martin hawking in a group over the woodland, in association with a small number of White-browed Woodswallow and the Rainbow Bee-eater (pictured left). As with Yelarboron SF earlier, here too there was a Grey Fantail present during the summer.

Honeyeater species, as is usual for Durikai, were present in healthy numbers and high diversity. Among the many were the Brown Honeyeater, Fuscous Honeyeater, one or two White-plumed Honeyeater, the Yellow-faced Honeyeater, Brown-headed, Black Chinned and White-naped Honeyeaters, and the ever-present and abundant Yellow-tufted Honeyeater. Larger nectar feeders included the Striped Honeyeater, Noisy Miner, Noisy Friarbird and, the surprise for the location, a solitary Bell Miner. This adult bell miner was first heard calling briefly at the dam and a short while later was noticed with its head buried in a mistletoe clump. (A few years ago there was also a bird recorded here, on this occasion an immature..., a long way from their usual haunts, the tall, wetter forests and woodlands of the ranges to the east.)

Despite the dry nature of all the habitats visited, and the vegetation as yet being able to take advantage of the overnight rain, 107 bird species were recorded during the day.   

Day's Birdlist: 

Australian Pipit, Zebra Finch, House Sparrow, Mistletoebird, Common Starling, Common Myna, Tree Martin, Horsfield's Bush Lark, Jacky Winter, Eastern Yellow Robin, Apostlebird, White-winged Chough, Torresian Crow, Restless Flycatcher, Leaden Flycatcher, Magpie-Lark, Grey Fantail, Willie Wagtail, Grey Shrikethrush, Rufous Whistler, Varied Sittella, Black-faced Cuckooshrike, Dusky Woodswallow, White-browed Woodswallow, Australian Magpie, Pied Butcherbird, Grey Butcherbird, Grey-crowned Babbler, Yellow Thornbill, Yellow-rumped Thornbill, Buff-rumped Thornbill, Inland Thornbill, White-throated Gerygone, Weebill, Speckled Warbler, Brown Honeyeater, Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater, Striped Honeyeater, Noisy Friarbird, Little Friarbird, White-naped Honeyeater, Brown-headed Honeyeater, Black-chinned Honeyeater, Blue-faced Honeyeater, Yellow-throated Miner, Noisy Miner, Bell Miner, White-plumed Honeyeater, Fuscous Honeyeater, Yellow-tufted Honeyeater, White-eared Honeyeater, Yellow-faced Honeyeater, White-winged Fairywren, Superb Fairywren, Variegated Fairywren, White-throated Treecreeper, Spotted Bowerbird, Rainbow Bee-eater, Sacred Kingfisher, Laughing Kookaburra, White-throated Needletail, Pacific Koel, Red-winged Parrot, Red-rumped Parrot, Bluebonnet, Pale-headed Rosella, Little Lorikeet, Scaly-breasted Lorikeet, Rainbow Lorikeet, Cockatiel, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Little Corella, Galah, Crested Pigeon, Whiskered Tern, Silver Gull, Latham's Snipe, Black-fronted Dotterel, Masked Lapwing, White-headed Stilt, Eurasian Coot, Australian Hobby, Nankeen Kestrel, Whistling Kite, Black Kite, Australasian Darter, Australian Pied Cormorant, Little Black Cormorant, Little Pied Cormorant, Australian Pelican, Little Egret, White-faced Heron, Great Egret, White-necked Heron, Eastern Cattle Egret, Glossy Ibis, Straw-necked Ibis, Australian White Ibis, Great Crested Grebe, Australasian Grebe, Hardhead, Grey Teal, Pacific Black Duck, Maned Duck, Pink-eared Duck, Black Swan, Brown Quail

1 comment :

  1. Great blog, Mike. Looking really good!


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