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Jun 26: Disappearing ducks, and shorebirds that won’t disappear

Arthur Keates had very kindly agreed to let me tag along on his visit to Manly Wader Roost this morning. Arthur is a long time member of the Queensland Wader Study Group, and is probably the most prolific resighter of colour-marked shorebirds in Moreton Bay. His knowledge of shorebirds is immense, yet he is so humble with it – a truly wonderful and likeable man. We met along the approach road to the roost at 0700, and Arthur unlocked the heavy chain that secured the giant metal gates together. Gazing up, I registered the layers of razor wire, and felt it was a bit over the top, although in a previous incarnation of the security system, the site had been continually disturbed by anglers and dog walkers, so I suppose I was on balance grateful.

We made our way down the grassy pathway and looked onto the far pan. Several hundred mixed shorebirds were scattered around the roost, and we set to work picking through them with telescopes, looking for leg flags and counting the birds. Arthur beat me hands down (in the nicest possible way) in both endeavours. But I was preoccupied – I was looking for the Red Knots that had been frequenting the roost in recent days. The birds seem to feed at Thornside (outside Brisbane) at low tide, and then come on to the Manly roost at high tide. Presently, we found the birds in with a flock of Bar-tailed Godwits and Great Knots. Six splendid Red Knots, three of them in decent breeding plumage, and one in simply resplendent colours – Arthur explained this bird was probably of the subspecies piersmai while the others were rogersi.  Regardless of subspecies, I had another year tick in the bag, and I was well satisfied, and grateful to Arthur. It’s a little surprising that several of the Red Knots are in full breeding plumage. Usually non-migrating birds stay in non-breeding plumage, but perhaps these birds had terminated their migration late, after the point of no return plumage-wise.

We checked the wall at the end of the roost, and there were 118 Grey-tailed Tattlers, but Arthur couldn’t conjure up a Wandering Tattler. That’s a project for much later in the year… My money is on Cape Moreton. In the end, our shorebird tally was 123 Pied Stilts, 1 Red-necked Avocet, 44 Pied Oystercatchers, 35 Pacific Golden Plovers, 31 Double-banded Plovers, 13 Red-capped Plovers, 8 Whimbrel, 4 Eastern Curlew, 231 Bar-tailed Godwits, 2 Ruddy Turnstones, 52 Great Knots, 6 Red Knots, 4 Curlew Sandpipers, 45 Red-necked Stints and 118 Grey-tailed Tattlers. Not bad for the middle of winter!

Just as we were leaving, we noticed a couple of splendid Lesser Crested Terns on the northern end of the island, and a leg-flagged Red-capped Plover ‘JH’ turned out to have been banded in 2011 – quite an oldie for a red-cap. We left the roost well satisfied, clanging the gate behind us.

I dashed home, and then decided to pop in to Thompson Estate Reserve in Greenslopes where there had been a report of a possible Blue-billed Duck, which would be a first record for Brisbane. I had checked it Saturday, and had another look today just in case, but there was no sign. It’s a great little pool, with really nice fringing vegetation. Someone has done a good job with restoration here.

With one year tick today (Red Knot), my year list rose to 286 species. I spent 2 hours 2 minutes birding, walked 2.478 km and drove 32.0 km. My chronological year list is here.

A splendid red Red Knot, rarely seen in this plumage in Brisbane. A lingering non-migrating individual – why leave the Sunshine State?

A fine pair of Lesser Crested Terns, a scarce winter visitor to Brisbane.