• 20130120_Whites Hill_Blue Skimmer-900
    • lab10
Aug 2: Brolga dreaming

Every year or so, we have a lab retreat, and we all began arriving yesterday afternoon at a nice big house on the Sunshine Coast, where we were to spend the next three nights as a group. Despite my excitement about the retreat, I was naturally a bit nervous leaving the borders of Brisbane behind, and my nervousness was proved justified when Michael Daley sent a text message in the evening telling me that a photo of a Regent Honeyeater taken at Enoggera reservoir on 31 July had just been put on the Brisbane Birders Facebook page!!

I couldn’t believe it, and as Ann Cheesman, the wonderful and kind observer, provided details of the location, it dawned on me we had to send a party down to search for the bird in the morning. After fevered discussions, six people from the lab group decided they wanted to come along and try for the bird. After all, it’s a Critically Endangered species that is nearing extinction, and for several folks this was a lifer. So we agreed to leave in the morning at 0500.

Folks began emerging from their slumber about 0430 and we tried to breakfast quietly but failed spectacularly, waking up most of the other people sleeping in the house – sorry….. Shortly after 0500 we piled into two cars and struck off down the motorway. Arriving at Walkabout Creek we gradually spread out along the track around to the spot where the bird had been seen, and were pleased to see that around 15 birders had shown up to take part in the search. A good turn out, and a real demonstration that Brisbane Birding is alive and kicking – there was a real sense of community among the birders there, which was really nice to experience. But the Regent Honeyeater declined to join the party. By 1030 we had been searching for four hours without so much a sniff of it, although we had a couple of White-bellied Cuckoo-shrikes including a nice dark morph bird, a female Regent Bowerbird, and 50 flyover Topknot Pigeons. Somewhat crestfallen, we retreated and retraced our steps north along the motorway, reasoning that the honeyeater could be anywhere by now. Or even just 50 metres off the track. It might conceivably show up again, and searching the area thoroughly over the next few days and weeks would possibly repay itself. We should keep looking!

As we passed Tinchi Tamba I mused to Micha Jackson and Brad Woodworth in the car about the fact a couple of Brolgas had been seen recently at Dohles Rocks Rd, just north of South Pine River just outside the Brisbane LGA boundary. I’ve never seen one in Brisbane and I was hoping that one of the birds might hop over the border and visit Tinchi Tamba one day. In an almost unbelievable coincidence, Ged Tranter phoned just as we were arriving back into Mooloolaba and said that Rick Franks had just found a Brolga at the First Lagoon at Tinchi Tamba and that he was watching it from the Wyampa Rd bridge right now!! Energised despite the early start, we immediately turned around and powered back down the motorway. I was deeply grateful to Rick and Ged for spreading the news so quickly of this bird – once again the grapevine was working fast. Would we get something out of the morning after all?

Heart rates were rising as we ascended up onto the bridge at Wyampa Rd, but I was already punching the air before I’d stopped the car. I could see a distinctively crane-shaped blob standing in the wetland. And sure enough there it was. Just standing there, oblivious to the excitement its mere presence was causing in the human world. Blurry photographs and whoops ensued all round, although we were especially careful not to cause the bird to flush, as Ged still hadn’t seen it, and was on his way. We got back onto the motorway and headed once again north back to the Sunshine Coast, another year tick under the belt, and some excellent consolation from what was a frustrating start to the day.

Arriving back at the house, the others were about to hit the beach, so we lunched and joined them. A sand castle competition was in full swing when we got there, and ours was going to be a late entry. Brad had a red frisbee with him – there was only one thing to do with it. He planted it in the sand and we began our sand sculpture…

With one year tick today, my year list moved up to 292 species. I spent 4 hours 30 minutes birding, walked 3.85 km and drove 349.4 km. My chronological year list is here.

“Brolga Dreaming” by yours truly, Brad Woodworth and Micha Jackson. What do you mean it looks more like a button-quail???

And the real thing, as found by Rick Franks this afternoon. Massive thanks Rick!