• Boyd's Forest Dragon-900
    • Jer Big Red
Jun 9: Best bird of the day was… at least a bird!

We woke from a well deserved sleep at a very civilised 0730 or so, and didn’t really have any time to go birding before heading to the jetty to catch the ferry back to Pinkenba. The boat was arriving as we neared the jetty, we climbed aboard and manned the back of the boat, bins and cameras at the ready. Soon after we set off Louis and Elliot called out they were watching an interesting tern, and Brad and I rapidly got onto it. The bird was a little smaller and cleaner than the many Crested Terns we’d seen over the past 24 hours, and had noticeably paler upperwings and a distinctly orange bill – a Lesser Crested Tern! This was extremely welcome – the first record of this species in Brisbane this year, and it brings to 300 the total number of species recorded in Brisbane in 2018 by all birders.

There are Lesser Crested Tern records from all months in Brisbane, but it is distinctly a winter visitor, presumably from Great Barrier Reef breeding grounds further north. The main peak of records is from May to August, but it is a rare bird even in winter. And apparently becoming rarer in the last few years, with a distinct drop in reporting rate between 2005 and 2017. Although there hasn’t been a blank year in this period, it has come very close, and for whatever reason, the species now appears to have become very rare in Brisbane.

The rest of the crossing produced a Brown Booby and 6-7 Australasian Gannets. We arrived back at the jetty noting a few Striped Toadfish around the mooring posts, and dispersed to our homes. It had been a frustrating trip that had not been as exciting bird-wise as it could have been, although I was pleased to come away with two good quality year ticks. Only 19 species left to hit the magical target of 300 species.

With one year tick today (Lesser Crested Tern), my year list rose to 281 species. I spent 21 minutes birding (at least that is the total of the eBird checklist durations), walked 0 km and drove 15.6 km. My chronological year list is here.

Lesser Crested Tern off Tangalooma this morning. Obviously a heavy crop from a distant photograph, but showing bright orange bill, pale upperwing, tidy appearance and more graceful proportions than Crested Tern.

Although never common, Lesser Crested Tern is primarily a winter visitor to Brisbane, with records peaking between May and August.

Lesser Crested Tern is rare, and apparently becoming rarer as the years go by, with just a handful of records since 2013.