• BridledNailTail (Custom)
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    • Jer Big Red
Jul 16: All-a-flutter

Today was the day for my fourth trip to Moreton Island of the year so far. Another wonderful trip with the Queensland Wader Study Group, who conduct quarterly surveys of southern Moreton Island, Amity Banks, Goat Island and Sandy Island on the Monday after the main count weekend. I had one of those journeys to Manly boat harbour where every traffic light was on red, and I only just made it in time for our scheduled 8.30 departure aboard the Spoonbill, complete with our very own 4WD ute, which we were going to land on Moreton Island and use to drive to Mirapool.

The journey over to Kooringal was reasonably uneventful, although we logged a total of 15 different Australasian Gannets, which is a good number for just a single transect across the Bay. A juvenile Brown Booby appeared, but at that moment we were in Redland waters. Nearing the beach, we noted a nice roosting flock of shorebirds and terns, containing 11 Grey Plovers, a scarce species at any time of year in Brisbane, and seeing 11 together in midwinter was especially noteworthy. The captain nudged the barge into the beach near Kooringal and Peter Rothlisberg, Brad Woodworth Wayne Matthews and I bumped along the sandy tracks towards Mirapool, on the south-east corner of Moreton Island. The recent high tides had washed away some of the tracks, and many dead trees had fallen onto the beach and were being consumed by the sea along the southern shore of the island.

Arriving at Mirapool, we were disappointed to find that almost no roosting shorebirds were present. This was probably because of the extremely high tide, but there were also recent vehicle tracks through the roost, so there might have been some disturbance. I could resist peering out to sea through my telescope whenever the opportunity afforded, and almost straight away I had a small shearwater flying south – either a Fluttering or Hutton’s, but frustratingly too distant to ID. We wandered down to Mirapool lagoon itself, where there was a splendid Beach Stone-curlew, but again no roosting migratory shorebirds. On the way there I stole another chance to seawatch from the dunes, and had another small shearwater this time much closer in. It had extensive white on the underwing and noticeable white saddlebags – a Fluttering Shearwater! On the way back to the car, a final few minutes seawatching revealed a Fairy Prion flying south very close in. All this suggests that seawatching could be worthwhile off Moreton Island whatever the weather, perhaps especially in winter when these sorts of birds are around.

We called in at Dead Tree Point, where we had 48 Eastern Curlews, and then met the others back at the barge. Loading the vehicle onto the boat, we soon set off into Redland waters, where we had a Sanderling, 140 Double-banded Plovers, 8 Grey Plovers and 11 Lesser Crested Terns amongst a big mixed flock of terns, cormorants and shorebirds on Amity Banks, 11 Eastern Reef Egrets (including a white phase bird) on Goat Island, and a nice mixed shorebird flock on Sandy Island, including a satellite-tagged female Eastern Curlew AAJ. It had been a whirlwind trip, but a very nice morning motoring about on the Bay, and we arrived back at Manly very satisfied with an enjoyable day surveying shorebirds.

With one year tick today (Fluttering Shearwater), my year list incremented to 290 species. I spent 1 hour 32 minutes birding, walked 1.727 km and drove 20 km. My chronological year list is here.

Beach Stone-curlew at Mirapool Lagoon. Moreton Island is the last Brisbane stronghold of this species, which is listed as Vulnerable in the state of Queensland.