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26 Jan: Still in the marshes

Seems like I’ve been permanently stuck in the marshes over the past week. Today was going to be no exception. I met Mat Gilfedder and Jo Culican at Kedron Brook Wetland at 0420. Mat Gilfedder has been one of the leading figures that helped to create eBird Australia, working with Richard Alcorn and others to migrate the data from Eremaea a few years ago and now maintaining many aspects of eBird Australia behind the scenes. Without Mat’s efforts, there is a very real possibility that eBird Australia would have foundered.

Mat and I are engaging in a friendly competition to see who can see most species in Brisbane this year, but in many ways this is also a celebration of how eBird has transformed Australian birding. A huge innovation has been the arrival of Local Government Authority boundaries into the system. Australia has no simple county system, and these LGAs are the closest I reckon we have to the counties of the UK or USA so beloved by birders. I’m hoping we can use them to grow local birding even further in Australia – can we learn to love our LGAs? With a click of a button I can see which species are being reported that I haven’t seen in Brisbane this year, or in my lifetime. I can see every checklist from every birder as they come in, and monitor who is seeing what and where. I can also seek out places that aren’t being birded. In case you hadn’t realised, I’m very keen on eBird, and I wrote a while back on 10 things I love about eBird. The most important thing is that your records get used – they end up in global databases used by scientists, birders, or anyone who cares to monitor the state of the world’s biodiversity and argue for its conservation. Much better than having your records in your own private spreadsheet that you take to the grave.

Anyway, back at Kedron we scanned the gradually lightening skies continuously in the hope of Grass Owl, but it wasn’t to be. Grass Owl is present all year at this site, and breeding occurs in autumn / winter, so there’s plenty of time to get this species later in the year. When light dawned, we focused on checking through the shorebird flocks, and instantly found the two Long-toed Stints that had been around for a while now. Andy Jensen joined us, and masterfully picked out a Pectoral Sandpiper in the Sharp-tailed Sandpiper flock. It was not an obvious bird, actually slightly smaller than many of the Sharpies, but with a nice yellow bill base, no chestnut in the cap, no flank streaking and a clean white undertail. A good year tick – Pec is a scarce migrant to Brisbane. Mat and I picked out an Australian Spotted Crake each, and there were 330 Red-necked Avocets there, a decent count.

With a year tick in the bag and not much prospect of anything else on the marsh, we took a quick look for the Common Sandpiper, but to no avail, which wasn’t surprising given the tide was still quite high. I resolved to head up to Dowse Lagoon and look for the Glossy Ibis that had been around for a couple of days, and then pop back in to Kedron on the way back home for one last Common Sandpiper search.

Arriving at Dowse, I couldn’t initially find the ibis, although I bumped in to Gavin Goodyear who had seen it a few minutes previously but wasn’t now on it. Inexplicably I just couldn’t find it around the edge of the lagoon, although the Musk Duck was still there and giving excellent views, which was nice. Eventually I had a final look from the platform on the W side of the lake, and there was the Glossy Ibis straight in front of me. Success!! A final scope around revealed a Plumed Whistling-Duck among the Wandering Whistling-Ducks, quite a good bird for this area. I popped back into Kedron on the way home, parking where Nudgee Road crosses Kedron Brook, but the tide was still really too high (low tide was 11am today). I resolved to try about an hour after a decent low tide later next week.

With two year ticks today, my year list at the end of the day edged up to 205 species. I get the impression every tick is going to be a fight now, and progress will be distinctly incremental. I spent 4 hours 7 minutes birding, walked 6.195 km and drove 71.6 km.