• lab31
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    • Jas Big Red
Nov 4: Murder most fowl

I was keen to try Archerfield airport again, since it has been quite a while since anyone went there. It’s got huge potential (see my discussion from September 16th), being one of the largest open grassy expanses in Brisbane that is accessible to the birding public. I arrived at the corner of Boundary Rd and Ashover Rd and scoped around the airfield, noting a big count of 123 Australian Magpies, and a flyover Magpie Goose (eBird list here). Suddenly I heard a burst of the unmistakable twangy song of a Brown Songlark due east of where I was standing – somewhere out on the airfield. It sang just once, and I desperately searched to try see it. But try as I might, I just couldn’t find it – indeed, they can be quite hard to find if they are singing from high up in the air. I was certain of the identity of the bird, but very disappointed not to have any photographic or audio evidence. Brown Songlark is a decidedly rare species in Brisbane, with just a handful of records each year, although there are currently birds present at Oxley Creek Common and Priors Pocket, and it has been an unusually good year for them in coastal south-east Queensland. I waited awhile, not finding any other uncommon birds while scanning the airfield, and eventually decided to move on.

I drove around to the corner of Balham Rd and Barton St, and almost the first bird I saw when scanning the airfield was a magnificent Brown Songlark!! It was too distant for pics with the proper camera, but I got some smudgy phone-scoped pictures and was mighty relieved – a first for Archerfield (at least as far as we know). Eventually it flew up and gave a few bursts of song in the air, and obligingly landed on a fence, and I took the chance to get some more pics. It was very distant, but phone-scoping at least gave me some useable shots to document the record (eBird list here)

Lastly, I moved down to Rockwell Drive (eBird list here; Archerfield airfield can be reasonably well covered from the three spots I visited today). It was interesting to see 8 Pacific Golden-Plovers on the southern runway, and I minutely grilled them just in case something else was in there, but to no avail. A Starling was carrying food to a nest cavity in a building, and it was nice to get a breeding record for this species.

I wasn’t going to stay out much longer, but wanted to try Norma Croker Park before heading home (eBird list here). I parked on Beatty Rd where it crosses Oxley Creek, and immediately noticed a Laughing Kookaburra attacking something. I couldn’t see what it was pecking at, but I assumed it was a skink or something. I set up, got my camera out, and then realised it was still stabbing and hacking away at its victim a couple of minutes later. Suddenly I realised that it was attacking another Kookaburra, and that the victim was not looking very well at all. The attacker was violently stabbing at the victim’s neck, holding it down with flexed wings, and clearly trying to kill it. Eventually the victim succumbed and after it was dead, the assailant flew up into a nearby tree next to another Kookaburra and began singing. Despite being a biologist, I must confess to being a bit horrified by witnessing this cold-blooded murder. But then, it all appeared in perspective when I turned to walk across the bridge over the creek, and noticed a dead Torresian Crow in the middle of the road, with another crow desolately wondering what had happened to its mate. I knew which death was the more senseless of the two. A series of pictures is below, with apologies to the squeamish.

Nothing mega in Norma Croker Park, although plenty of Black-faced Dotterel and a nice flyover Black Kite.

With no year ticks today, my year list remained on 301 species. I spent 2 hours 41 minutes birding, walked 1.209 km and drove 43.4 km. My chronological year list is here.

Brown Songlark this morning at Archerfield Airport, viewed from the corner of Balham Rd and Barton St. The bird was showing well, albeit distantly, and song-flighting on and off.

The assailant spent much of the time with its bill clamped around the victim’s neck.




The victim is pretty weak by this point.

The assailant held the victim down with flexed wings.

I wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of that bill.

Sequence of shots showing a Kookaburra killing another Kookaburra. Disturbing, but fascinating. Presumably this was some kind of territorial dispute.

Another, much less natural avian death just 50 metres from the kookaburra brawl. Always sad to see a “grieving” bird puzzling over what just happened.