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Jan 19: Standing on the shoulders of giants

For the last couple of years I have focused on going birding in places where few others go – to try and fill gaps in our knowledge of bird distributions. For example, I birded Belmont Hills Bushland quite a few times – an unassuming but essentially unbirded large patch of eucalypt woodland near my home. Nothing mega, but a White-bellied Cuckooshrike was a nice highlight in July 2016. I also started going to Buylar Road, a site that looks to have a LOT of potential just south of Lake Manchester – I reckon it’s every bit as good as the well known sites like Priors Pocket and will turn up some brilliant birds over the coming years. I’ve had lots of Speckled Warblers there, Rufous Songlark, Baillon’s Crake and White-eared Monarch nearby at Cabbage Tree Creek.

In contrast to all this, amassing a big year list, at least for the first few weeks, is all about missing as little as possible, particularly the rarest birds. This means going to see birds that other people have found, and most birds get found at heavily visited sites. The top 10 list of sites for Brisbane so far this year are all the usual suspects, and there’s only one I haven’t been to yet this year (Nature Refuge Hawkesbury Road):

1 Tinchi Tamba Wetlands Reserve 131 species
2 Oxley Creek Common 112
3 Sandy Camp Road Wetlands 102
4 Gold Creek Reservoir 86
5 Anstead Bushland Reserve 83
6 Anstead SES Depot (Hawkesbury Rd) 80
7 Priors Pocket, Moggill 77
8 Nature Refuge Hawkesbury Road 76
9 Port of Brisbane Shorebird Roost 73
10 Kedron Brook Wetlands Reserve 70

The plus side of all this is that I have met so many birders I have only known via their eBird records, and that has been truly wonderful. Today was a classic example of following in the footsteps of giants. Mat Gilfedder texted mid afternoon with a photo of a Broad-billed Sandpiper he had just found at Manly. They are not mega rare, but distinctly thin on the ground, not often seen away from roosts, and certainly missable on a year list. A great bird, and because Mat generously got straight in touch I was able to dash down to Manly and re-find the bird. Thanks Mat – this must be the friendliest big year competition ever! I got a very smudgy photo from the phone held up to the telescope – it was a bit far for the normal camera.

I still need a lot of shorebirds for the year list, and they are summer visitors here of course. So I resolved to head onto the tidal flats at Lota Foreshore first thing on Sunday morning, providing there was nothing else that took higher priority. The major high tide roosts along the mainland Brisbane coastline are mostly closed to the public, the most important being the huge roost on the reclamation area at the Port of Brisbane (often 10,000+ birds) and Manly Wader Roost. Someone who regularly visits the Manly Roost for the Queensland Wader Study Group has kindly offered to take me along later this year, but my main chance for finding the shorebirds I need will be low tide walks.

Some of the commonest birds I still haven’t seen this year include White-bellied Sea-eagle, Spotted Pardalote, and Golden Whistler. I’ve been so focused on target birds that I’ve tried to avoid the temptation of using valuable birding time to target the few common birds I still need. But it surely can’t be long now until 200…

Broad-billed Sandpiper was the only year tick of the day, and my year list at the end of the day was 198 species. I spent 44 minutes birding, walked 0 km and drove 32.0 km.


Broad-billed Sandpiper, Manly Foreshore, 19th Jan 2018

Speckled Warbler, Buylar Road, 1 October 2017