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Sep 16: Archerfield Airport

With Australian Pratincoles turning up not far to the west of Brisbane in the last 24 hours, I decided to finally check out Archerfield Airport, after months of putting it off. A study comprising 36 monthly surveys between 1995 and 1998 by Peter Woodall revealed Banded Lapwings in reasonable numbers between 1996 and 1998, together with vagrant Australian Pratincoles and Little Curlews. An astounding run of records resulting from a dedicated search of the area from the perimeter fence. There have been very few records of any of these three species anywhere in Brisbane LGA since, and today I went to look. I made a mental note to try to make a habit of regularly spending a morning at the airfield. I can send a PDF of Woodall’s study to anyone interested – email me.

Access is reasonably easy, and one can survey pretty much the entire 200 hectare airfield from various points on the perimeter fence, especially anywhere along Barton St, Balham Rd, Ashover Rd (the corner of Ashover Rd and Boundary Rd is a particularly good vantage point), on foot from Beatty Rd toward the east end of the main runway (no roadside parking allowed here), and–importantly to cover the south end of the airfield–from the perimeter fence on Rockwall Dr. All these spots seemed to be OK from a security perspective – I didn’t feel uncomfortable and wasn’t approached by anyone wondering what I was doing, even though at Rockwall Dr I was in sight of the control tower. A telescope is essential as many birds are distant.

Sadly I didn’t find any rare birds (eBird lists 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. I spent about 2.5 hours looking, and enjoyed a flyover flock of Topknot Pigeons, a Black Kite, two White-bellied Sea-eagles, a Black-shouldered Kite and a small flock of Starlings. Of especial note was the huge number of Australian Magpies on the field – 118 was my highest count from one spot, and I reckon up to 140 birds were probably present across the whole site. I wouldn’t have expected so many in September, when breeding has well and truly commenced in the suburbs, and I would have thought most birds would be dispersed on breeding grounds. Indeed, the highest count in Woodall’s surveys was 106, and numbers were mostly well below 80, although they varied markedly between months. A quick look at the nearby Archerfield Wetlands didn’t produce anything spectacular – it looks like a great spot, but much of the wetland itself seems to be inaccessible on foot.

With no year ticks today, my year list remained on 298 species. I spent 2 hours 2 minutes birding, walked 1.294 km and drove 54.0 km. My chronological year list is here.

Breeding records of Australian Magpie in Brisbane. The y axis shows the percentage of eBird records of Australian Magpie in which breeding was noted. Although the data are still rather sparse, the main time for breeding in Brisbane is clearly during spring. This is an example of the kind of data that will be become available through the forthcoming Atlas of the Birds of Brisbane project. More details soon.