• SunsetatScotia (Custom)
    • Jer Big Red
Aug 15: Chasing spring migrants

The last few days had seen the first of the arrivals of Baillon’s Crakes and White-winged Trillers. These two species are pretty much exclusively spring migrants to Brisbane, most common in September and October, but with a few vanguards usually showing up in August. This year spring seems to have started early, and both species have been recorded at Oxley Creek Common in the past few days. I had been playing it cool, since they are both fairly easy to see in spring, and I’m keen to spend time with my family prior to leaving for Vancouver on Saturday.

However, when Ged texted mid-morning today to let me know him and Steve Murray had seen White-winged Triller and Baillon’s Crake at Oxley Creek Common early morning, I was definitely keen to get down there. Fear of missing out has been the primary motivator that keeps me going out day after day in my Big Year effort. My wife and I decided to take the kids down and we would all wander from the car park to Jabiru Swamp, where both birds had been seen. We were encumbered with a push chair, scooter and tricycle, and made slow noisy progress, but I was just happy to have a shot at the birds without having to slink away from my family.

Presently, we saw two birders coming the other way – Ged and Steve, finishing their 5-hour marathon birding session at the common. They passed on details of exactly where they’d seen the triller and crake, and our party pressed on. Ged had mentioned the triller had been really difficult despite several people looking, so I didn’t hold out much hope, especially since it was now about midday. But eventually we arrived at Jabiru Swamp, and I began checking the big isolated gum tree. Incredibly, I located the White-winged Triller almost immediately, unobtrusively feeding in the tree. It didn’t show especially well, remaining quite high up and often obscured, but no matter – I was delighted to have this species under the belt. While not super rare, they certainly aren’t common either – perhaps best described as a scarce spring migrant. Oxley Creek Common and Sandy Camp Rd Wetlands are the most reliable sites. I then turned my efforts towards the crake, and intently scanned the floating vegetation on the northern side of Jabiru Swamp. No luck.

After about 30 minutes I needed to break the boredom, and wandered up to check the edge of Pelican Lagoon. Approaching it, I saw a biggish bird out of the corner of my eye, skulking about in the bushes. Luckily, I could see where it had perched up, and beheld a cracking Pallid Cuckoo! This appeared to be a different bird to the one earlier in the year, a rather spangly adult dark rufous morph bird. I hadn’t really been following records of this species, since I’d already seen it earlier in the year on 7th June, but checking eBird this evening, I see that Oxley has hosted what is presumably this second bird since 28th July, when Andrew Cameron found it. Poor Steve Murray still needed for his Brisbane year list, and although I’d texted them immediately on finding it, Steve had long since departed the common.

By this time, the kids had understandably gotten a bit bored of waiting around, and we walked back to the car park, happy that White-winged Triller was in the bag. Baillon’s could wait for another day, perhaps an early morning wander to Sandy Camp Rd on Friday, before heading off to Vancouver on Saturday. Even if I have to wait until September or October, I won’t be especially concerned (although the FOMO is always strong whatever rational thought says).

With one year tick today (White-winged Triller), my year list incremented to 295 species. Within five of the magic 300!!! But with only one more “easy” species remaining – Baillon’s Crake. I spent 2 hours 21 minutes birding, walked 2.9 km and drove 29.0 km. My chronological year list is here.

Female White-winged Triller feeding unobtrusively in the big gum tree by Jabiru Swamp today. This tree has hosted multiple scarcities and rarities over the years.

Adult Pallid Cuckoo. At first sight I thought this was an immature bird, but the secondaries appear to be all adult, with buff instead of white notches. This resembles a “dark rufous morph”, with extensive brown hindneck extending onto mantle, and rufous-spangled upperparts and wing coverts.

White-winged Triller – a scarce spring migrant to Brisbane.

Baillon’s Crake – also a spring migrant, but with a more prolonged passage, and with birds lingering into early summer.