• SunsetatScotia (Custom)
    • lab15
Feb 18: I love it when a plan comes together

I finally got out birding again this morning, setting the alarm for 0315 and driving out to Lake Manchester, on the far western border of the Brisbane LGA. There is extensive habitat in this area, and I would wager several important birding discoveries to be made. I cut the engine and listened in silence when I arrived in the car park about 0420. A Southern Boobook was calling distantly, and then an Australian Owlet-Nightjar called somewhere fairly close by. I couldn’t find it in the spotlight, and then a White-throated Nightjar started up. I was keen to get moving and donned camera and telescope, water bottle, hat etc etc and started walking around the edge of the lake, clocking another couple of White-throated Nightjars.

The tracks around Lake Manchester are so extensive, and the area so large, that I had decided to use personal locations instead of the Lake Manchester hotspot, and that I would start a new checklist every kilometre. By the second kilometre, it had got light, and I had atmospheric views of the lake through the trees. I scanned the lake through my telescope and found four Great Crested Grebes, a very scarce bird in Brisbane, but reliable here. They were formerly reliable at Gold Creek Reservoir, but surprisingly there has been only one record since 2010. Soon after this a group of Fuscous Honeyeaters began calling away and giving good views, a highly localised species in Brisbane LGA, found only in the woodlands of the far west. The third year tick of the morning so far.

I was undecided whether to try for the circumnavigation of the lake, or to trace out a circular route to the west of the lake along the fire breaks. I decided on the latter course, planning to head west up Dam Break 7 and then south again along the track to Lake Manchester Road.

The third kilometre delivered more Fuscous Honeyeaters but nothing else notable. Things improved on the fourth kilometre with a calling White-bellied Cuckooshrike, a couple of Forest Kingfishers, at least 9 feeding Little Lorikeets and more Fuscous Honeyeaters. Turning west up Dam Break 7, I ran into an area with plenty of bird activity during the fifth kilometre. The first notable birds were a small group of Buff-rumped Thornbills, and there was also a group of Varied Sittellas with them, two more year ticks. By the time I started the sixth kilometre at 0730 it was starting to warm up and bird activity was declining, although as I gained height there were some good views of forested ridges during the seventh kilometre, which I kept an eye on for raptors. The eight kilometre continued the southward journey back toward Lake Manchester Road, and the track skirts the very edge of the park, with farmsteads and paddocks adjoining the forest. On one of these farmstead tracks, no less than four Speckled Warblers were feeding out in the open on ground, something I hadn’t seen before.

A little further along, there was a long steep climb, and I tackled it head down, at speed. This turned out to be a mistake, because instead of spotting the bird as it was feeding on the track, I flushed a Painted Buttonquail and it flew across the track in front of me, but not before I’d noted it’s rufous spangled upperside and strong contrast with plain remiges. Another good quality year tick! More was to come – on the ninth kilometre, and just before the final descent back to Lake Manchester Road, I heard a startlingly loud sound of wind rushing through feathers – some sort of display flight. On the second pass, I saw that it was a Grey Goshawk doing the display, and it made a further three passes before disappearing. The bird would tower high in the air and then rush toward the ground with wings closed, making the noise near the base of the descent – incredible!

There was nothing particularly notable at Cabbage Tree Creek, although I reckon this spot looks really good for turning up a scarcity. There are a few Casuarinas through there, and I wonder whether Yellow Thornbill is a possibility one day. I completed the circuit back to the car park, absolutely delighted with the morning’s birding – one of those days when everything seemed to go my way. Still, there are plenty more species to target in this general area, and I want to cover at least 100 km of tracks in the region between Lake Manchester and Mount Nebo this year looking for Striated Thornbill, Square-tailed Kite, Spotted Quail-Thrush, Crested Shrike-Tit, Yellow Thornbill, New Holland Honeyeater, Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoo, Emerald Dove, Weebill, Jacky Winter, Little Eagle etc.

With a whopping nine year ticks today, my year list surged to 239 species. I spent 5 hours 22 minutes birding, walked 10.3 km and drove 113.9 km.