Friday, February 7, 2014

January 2014: Farewell

Welcome to 2014.  May all those elusive birds you have strived hard to see [but not yet succeeded in seeing] dance before you binoculars or telescope during this year.

I did have ambitious plans for the new year; a new format, a different way of keeping any remaining public audience interested in the Birds of Allen Road.  It hasn’t come about so far.  All that additional time that virtual retirement was supposed to bestow on me just fizzled out, like a wet squib at a fireworks display.

Having the time on your hands does not necessarily equate to more time for writing.  So far, most of our additional time has been squandered in increased birding!  As someone once quipped, you can’t have your cake and eat it.

Looking through the January 2014 birding statistics for Allen Road it seems glaringly apparent that while Fay and I continue to be in earnest about our “backyard birds”, there is little new data to report that wasn’t covered back in January 2013; nor, for that matter, are the 2014 stats that much different to those in January 2012.  As an example:

January 2012                      61 species

January 2013                      70 species

January 2014                      61 species

To add further pressure to an already anxious mind, I am desperately attempting to maintain three blogs: Birding the South Burnett and Birding Beyond the Pale in addition to Birds of Allen Road.  Each has a reason for being there but combined they create a formidable challenge and in the end I cannot use any one of them to give the full birding picture.

Take January 2014 as a pointer.  The Allen Road tally amounts to 61 species; the South Burnett tally runs to an impressive 146 species.  However, the overall January tally is actually             170 species; a record in itself, clearly over-hauling the previous best January score of 145 in 2007.  Birding Beyond the Pale, designed primarily as an outlet for all those planned trips beyond the South Burnett, including overseas jaunts, ended January with a meagre 42 species. 

Mice and men!  There were only three trips beyond the pale: on 7 January to Toowoomba; 14 January when we raced across to our former stomping grounds, Redcliffe, to consult our tax accountant and the weekend of 17-19 January, our annual foray to Book Fest on the South Bank.

To complicate matters, Allen Road is of course really only a subset of the South Burnett so those birds are doubled up.  All three together amount to simple subsets of the Queensland folder – which does register 170 species for the month!

As loathe as I am to pull myself away from an enjoyable pastime – and you have to understand my deep-rooted passion for writing to fully appreciate the enormity of the wrench- I have decided that the time has arrived to put Allen Road to bed.

This will be the last blog for Allen Road.  Farewell.

Keep an eye out for developments at:

Friday, January 10, 2014



Farewell 2013.  Long live 2014.

The tail end of 2013 was a struggle for all three of my blogs.  Birds of Allen Road and Birding the South Burnett were weeks behind schedule for the last three months of the year; Birding Beyond the Pale barely managed to raise its head above the maelstrom.  It was hustle and bustle from all quarters – all seemingly designed to keep me away from one of my favourite activities.
Matters should improve during 2014.  To begin with, as I’ve mentioned on previous occasions, I am now effectively retired; a long career in teaching, stretching back to the UK in September 1970 has more or less closed.  Here, Down Under in Australia, it is the long summer vacation which, at least for teachers at Blackbutt State School, ends when they return for “pupil-free days” on 24 January; I’ll take long-service leave from that point until 25 April [ANZAC Day] when I officially retire.

Plans are already afoot to change the day-to-day format of the blogs.  The monthly reports could be increased to weekly reports, or better still!  Birding Beyond the Pale should become more prominent during the year.  Hopefully my meagre photographic endeavours should improve; I have a new SIGMA 120-400mm APO DG OS lens which on my SONY [A100 and/or A55] should effectively give me a 500mm+ telephoto lens.  I might even delve into digiscoping.
Never having attempted to give an overall review of a year’s birding at one specific location I may not get this right but will, nevertheless, persevere.  Random thoughts of a random birder at his Backyard Patch [made in or out of heaven] may be of some interest to others.

On the whole, at 101 species, 2013 was not a particularly outstanding year at Allen Road, nor, conversely, was it the worst year on record.  It fell well below the all-time record year of 2006 [110 species] or 2002 [102 species] but it was equal to 2011 and 2007 [both also coming in at 101] and surpassed all other years since 2001.

 The high of 2006 [110 species] is at least partly explained by the fact that it was the first year in which Fay and I moved to Nanango, rather than used Allen Road as a temporary weekend/holiday hideaway; Fay, having secured employment with a small research company subcontracted to the Peanut Company of Australia [PCA], had moved here on a permanent basis in March 2005.  I had to await the confirmation of my transfer to nearby Blackbutt State School and moved here at the end of that school year.

The low of 2008 [87 species] can be partly accounted for by my knee replacement.  In the months leading up to the operation I had become virtually housebound, unable to walk from the front door to the front gate without experiencing excruciating pain.  Concentrated birding was not a viable option and there are only so many species one can “tick” from the front verandah.

In terms of monthly tallies during the year, January [70 species] outshone all the other months.  Indeed, in three of the past eight years [2006-2013] January has topped the monthly tallies; December has equalled this while in 2009, in which only four tallies exceeded a count of 50,  October [58] was the highest month and 2006 [the record year] saw November top the months with 72 species [a record in itself].

Obviously all 70 of the species tallied in January were new to the 2013 Year List and it would be cumbersome to attempt a comment on each and every one of them.  It would however border on ornithological negligence not to mention that the Leaden Flycatcher Myiagra rubecula [8 January] and Black-eared Cuckoo Chrysococcyx osculans [15 January] put in their only appearance for the year but both were over-shadowed by the humble Pale-vented Bush-hen Amaurornis moluccana.

It had been a wet day.  It had been steadily raining for several days; thoughts of January 2011, when Fay and I became marooned on our own property for three days, loomed large.  During a respite in the rain we sipped a glass of wine [almost invariably an Australian shiraz] on the east verandah, overlooking the oval garden patch we refer to as the ”Doughnut,” when simultaneously we spotted movement in behind the rose bushes.  A moment later the bush-hen emerged, a juvenile happily foraging amongst the leaf litter.  We froze, awed.  How could there be a Pale-vented Bush-hen here, on the southern outskirts of Nanango and more specially, in our front yard?

Almost immediately the bird raced off to crash into the Middle Compound fence and that’s when we saw the adult, foraging among discarded chicken and duck feed.  They remained together long enough for the shiraz in our glasses to warm up, demanding a cooler refill. 
And then they were gone.

February produced two species that made only one appearance during the year.  The Caspian Tern Hydroprogne caspia, last seen at Allen Road in February 2005, a gap of eight years, was noted flying by over the property, traveling SW-NE, on 4 February.  A pair of Ground Cuckoo-shrike Coracina maxima, last seen here in October 2012, was observed flying over the property and like the tern, travelling SW-NE.

The Brown Goshawk Accipiter fasciatus put in two appearances during the year, one in February, the other in March.  Both the Common Myna Acridotheres tristis and Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo managed three appearances during 2013, in each case the initial showing was in February.
The mega addition to the Year List in March was the Intermediate Egret Egretta intermedia.  Not only was it new to the Backyard List but it put in only the one appearance during 2013: noted on small dam along Allen Road.  While not new to Allen Road, the Powerful Owl Ninox strenua, on 19 March was the first since September 2011 and only the fifth since originally noted here in October 2008.
Like the Intermediate Egret, the Zebra Finch Taeniopygia guttata on 10 March was new to the Allen Road Backyard List but unlike the owl lingering doubts remain as to its veracity: our near neighbour, an ex-Vietnam veteran, used to keep caged Zebra Finches. He released them all some time ago but continues to feed them in his backyard.  The jury is still out on this one.
April, in comparison, was somewhat duller.  Admittedly the Red-rumped Parrot Psephotus haematonotus showed well on 5 April, it’s first visit since January 2012 and although numbers have never regained the glorious seven appearances in May 2003 [three in March 2008 the nearest to that] they have shown, albeit in dribs and dabs, on a fairly regular basis since 2003.  Similarly, the Collared Sparrowhawk Accipiter cirrocephalus graced the skies above us on 25 April, its first visit since December 2012; it came again on 28 April and yet again on 16 August and 1 September.
The Whistling Kite Haliastur sphenurus did put in its second showing for 2013 [the first being in February] on 26 April.
May was the month of the Black Kite Milvus migrans.  Up until August 2011 the species had never been recorded in South Burnett, let alone Allen Road, since our records started back in 2001.  Nor did local, long-time birder, Colleen Fingland, have any record of Black Kite in or around the immediate area.  In 2011, while at Blackbutt, I wrote “On Nanango side of Nukku turn-off.  Being "escorted" by pair of Torresian Crows”.  Almost exactly a year later to the day [August 2012] Fay and I spotted one at the Tarong Power Station being harassed by Whistling Kites.:
Nothing more was seen of them until 24 March of this year when we were returning from Kingaroy: my notes record “Stopped to have a good look as the bird flew off towards Nanango.  Forked tail quite clear.”  We spotted the kite again at almost the same spot, near Horse Creek, on 30 March.  It appeared here again on 20 April.
By the end of April it was becoming increasingly clear that we were experiencing an irruption of Black Kite into the area.  On 28 April I wrote: “Circling overhead.  Further evidence that the species is entering the area…”
By May the species was being recorded from Blackbutt to Nanango to Kingaroy.  On 5 May 2013 Fay and I noted Black Kite flying around top end of Allen Road and appeared to be associated with a pair of Whistling Kite.  It was the first record of the bird for Allen Road!
The Wedge-tailed Eagle Aquila audax showed on the same day, reappearing on 22 May.  The humble Rufous Whistler Pachycephala rufiventris, last heard here in August 2012, called sweetly on two consecutive days, 11th and 12th.
June was as dull as dishwater.  July fared only marginally better.
Birding improved a little during August.  The Collared Sparrowhawk put in its penultimate appearance on the 16th.  The Red-winged Parrot Aprosmictus erythropterus put in its first showing for 2013, on 29 August; it went on to reappear once again in September, twice in October, once in November and finally on 4 December.
The Olive-backed Oriole Oriolus sagittatus provided some food for thought.  Having arrived with a bang last August 2012 and delighting the Dawn Chorus almost non-stop for the next nine months, it suddenly disappeared from the scene during June and July 2013.  Not that this disappearing act was totally unexpected, in the previous season [2011-12] the oriole had arrived towards the end of September to vanish by mid-March and reappeared in August.  It repeated the performance this season.
Why?  Where does the oriole go for those two or three months?
And then suddenly it was September; oddly enough one of my favourite times of the year [autumn] when I was domicile in the UK and remains so Down Under when it is spring.  The Year List blossomed.  On 12 September the Tawny Frogmouth Podargus strigoides put in its first appearance since January 2013; it called again on 29 September and again in each of the following months – calling twice in December.  Two days later, having last called on 29 January 2013, the Australasian Figbird Sphecotheres vieilloti was heard calling loudly from just beyond the house; it called again on 14 September, missed out October but was present in November and December.
The Plumed Whistling-Duck Dendrocygna eytoni absent since early February 2013 flew by overhead on 15 September; it returned on three occasions, both in October and November but only twice in December. 
The Sacred Kingfisher Todiramphus sanctus returned to theses southern climes on 18 September and three days later the Leaden Flycatcher was seen for only the second time [it had called on 18 January] since 2011.  A week later the Oriental Dollarbird Eurystomus orientalis made its way back to this area and a Spotted Pardalote Pardalotus punctatus called on 28 September, its first visit to Allen Road since January 2011.
September was always going to be a hard act to follow.
October tried.  As early as the 4th the Great Cormorant put in the last of its three appearances for the year; its first on 2 February and its second on 9 March.  A last appearance for the year was also put in by the Little Lorikeet Glossopsitta pusilla on 30 October.
The Brush Cuckoo Cacomantis variolosus followed its established pattern; it appears in this area around October or November each year, although in 2005 and 2008 it arrived as early as September and in 2009 it was delayed until December.  In 2013 it was recorded on 9 February [its last appearance for the 2012-13 season] and reappeared [for its 2013-14 season] on 2 October.   A truly summer migrant.
It would be a rank fallacy to accuse November 2013 of being a sluggish month; it came in with a final tally of sixty [60] species, in equal 2nd place with February and December.  Nevertheless few species not already mentioned elsewhere in this review stood out. 
The Australasian Grebe Tachybaptus novaehollandiae, putting in only its fourth ever appearance and its first since December 2006, showed well on our own small dam, as distinct from viewing the bird elsewhere along Allen Road.  It was a magic moment.
The Scarlet Honeyeater Myzomela sanguinolenta bettered this.  It showed for only the third time along Allen Road on 27 November; its first showing since September 2012, following its original visit in March 2004.
By December the Allen Road Year List stood at 99 species and mounting school work in the first two weeks of the month left little time in which to seek out that looked for 100th bird.  In the end the century came up while Fay and I were sitting up in bed enjoying an early breakfast and cup of tea.  The Little Bronze-Cuckoo Chrysococcyx minutillus came to us on 7 December, its visit here since October 2012.  The Australian Pied Cormorant Phalacrocorax varius on Boxing Day was the first since July 2012.
As indicated at the outset of this review, 2013 was not among the more prolific of recorded years but neither was it the sparsest.  Given the mounting classroom pressures of the Australian Curriculum in Education Queensland it is hardly surprising that birding opportunities, both in 2012 and 2013, became rather restricted.  It is difficult to appreciate the finer nuances of a male Australian King-Parrot perched on the verandah rail while trying to mark a dozen or more semi-legible essays written by 9-year olds on the geo-political significance of “first contact” between early Europeans and the indigenous peoples of Australia.
If it has any significance above and beyond the norm, it is that 2013 marks the end of my 43-year long teaching career and opens the gate towards extended birding activities.  Roll on 2014.
BIRD OF THE YEAR: Pale-vented Bush-hen in January.

Saturday, January 4, 2014



December was going to be a month of two halves. 
Up to and including Friday 13th birding was to be decidedly patchy in birding terms; final report cards to compose – how do you tell a doting mother that her beloved daughter is decidedly a sandwich short of a full picnic, or, how do you find a way of pointing out to the obviously unwashed father whose every other utterance is a four-lettered expletive that he can’t really hold the school responsible for the decidedly foul language used by his macho 9-year old son?  Not that it’s all that way inclined; for the vast majority it’s just finding another way of repeating more or less what you maintained at the end of the first semester.  Leopards and spots?
From Saturday 14 December it was to be a decidedly more birdy period.  I was effectively retired after 43 years in teaching.  Summer vacation and long-service leave would keep me out of the classroom until my actual retirement on 25 April 2014.  My time was my own and birding was decidedly on the horizon.
On the other hand - and no doubt Papa Hemmingway would have penned it in a far more appropriate style, something about the best laid plans of mice and men- there was always the unexpected; the long list of chores that had somehow slipped below my radar while my head was buried in schoolbooks and report cards: the verandahs needed ceilings; the bannister rails needed repairing and painting; the henhouse leaked; there was a carpet snake housed under the pigeon loft; there was weeding to be done and holes to be dug for new plants and of course the house needed cleaning up in preparation for Christmas.  Did I mention Christmas cards to write and post and presents to be wrapped?
It wasn’t the lowest December on record [46 in 2002] but it was decidedly not among the best and fell ten [10] short of the 70 species tallied in December 2011.  At 60 species it equalled the 2009 tally; in 6th place over thirteen [13] years of records. 
The three regularly nocturnal raptors maintained their presence: White-throated Nightjar Eurostopodus mystacalis [1st, 2nd and 24th]; Southern Boobook Ninox boobook [1st and 7th] and the Tawny Frogmouth Podargus trigoides [5th, 14th and 15th].
The cuckoos also put in a reasonable showing with the Brush Cuckoo Cacomantis variolosus [26th, 28th and 29th] making the largest contribution.  The Fan-tailed Cuckoo Cacomantis flabelliformis and Little Bronze-Cuckoo Chrysococcyx minutillus both showed on 7th December.  The Red-winged Parrot Aprosmictus erythropterus made a solitary appearance on 4th December.
That left the month’s limelight to the Black-Cockatoos.  The Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoo Calyptorhynchus funereus [16th, 17th, 18th and 19th] and the darlings of our Backyard Birds, the Glossy Black-Cockatoo Calyptorhynchus lathami [14th, 16th, 28th and 29th], put in some decidedly spectacular appearances, seeming to time their arrival as Fay and I sat on the verandah sipping a glass or two of Australia’s decidedly finest reds.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013


Again, preparing the notes for a November report on Allen Road ran into the same brick wall as October had done – school, tests, marking and the accursed report cards which nowadays follow a set [long] format.  It blighted any hope of having the October or November reports out into the bloggersphere on time.  I had considered abandoning the whole project until the end of December or even waiting until the beginning of the new year, 2014.  The urge to write, to record and report overpowered any lingering hesitations.
Overall, incorporating all our birding for the month around Queensland [we didn’t venture Beyond the Pale], November has turned up trumps; at 138 species it even topped the previous overall 2013 high of 135 in October.  In broad terms, November was a good birding month.
However, this did not filter down to Allen Road itself- no doubt at least partly because I spent much of my time indoors, poring over the aforementioned school work.  At 59 species, November 2013 fell well short of the all-time Allen Road November monthly tally record of 72 species [set in November 2006].  In terms of November species tallies since the inception of Allen Road records [2001], November 3013 crawled into 6th overall place; neither the worst [45 in November 2004] nor even second worst [52 in November 2008 and 2012].
Not that the birds themselves let us down.  The regulars were always there: Torresian Crow Corvus orru, Laughing Kookaburra Dacelo novaguineae, Australian Magpie Cracticus tibicen, Grey Butcherbird Cracticus torquatus and Pied Currawong Strepera graculina.  Along with the smaller fry – Noisy Miner Manorina melancephala, Apostlebird Struthidea cinerea, Galah Eolophus roseicapillus, Rainbow Lorikeet Trichoglossus haematodus, Bar-shouldered Dove Geopelia humeralis and Crested Pigeon Ocyphaps lophotes they formed the backbone of the Allen Road natural diurnal aviary.

Their nocturnal counterparts held up their end of the avian spectrum although the Australian Owlet-nightjar Aegotheles cristatus disappeared altogether during November [last reported on 25 September this year].  On the other hand, both the White-throated Nightjar Eurostopodus mystacalis [5 appearances] and Southern Boobook Ninox novaeseelandiae [7 appearances] shone brightly on the tally list. The touch of cream topping the avian cake came in the form of the Tawny Frogmouth Podargus strigoides which put in two appearances during the month.  The Bush Stone-curlew Burhinus grallarius, albeit considered more crepuscular than truly nocturnal by some observers, managed to put in four appearances during the month.
Of particular note was the Grey Shrike-thrush Colluricincla harmonica on 10th November, the first of six appearances during the month; it equalled the six in December 2004.  The history of the species along Allen Road has a rather chequered history.  There were no recorded observations during 2001 and only the single record in April 2002.  During 2003 two were noted, in July and September [the only time the species has appeared in those particular months].  There was a relative population explosion in 2004 with one bird in February and March, three in June, one in November and a previously unheralded six during December; a total of twelve [12] for the year.
The 2004 tally was halved the following year, 2005, with only six Grey Shrike-thrushes putting in a show: four in January and one each in February and April.  There was a total drought in 2006 followed by four appearances over the next two years [three during 2007 and only one in 2008] before 2009 and 2010 came in with zero scores. Matters improved with a solitary observation in August 2011 and two shrike-thrushes noted in 2012.
As of at the end of November 2013, there had been observations in February [1], March [1], October [1] and November [6].
To keep us on our toes, November did provide a number of one-off sightings well worth the recording.  The early part of the month was slow in showing anything but the day-to-day regulars however on the 17th a White-faced Heron Egretta picata flew by overhead; it never returned.  Two days later a pair of Red-winged Parrots Aprosmictus erythropterus flew across the property, travelling from west to east.  On 23 November a Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater Acanthagenys rufogularis put in a brief appearance while on the 25th a Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoo Calyptorhynchus funereus called loudly as it passed by.  Finally, on 27th November we tracked down and saw the raucous Brush Cuckoo Cacomantis variolosus; it was only the second observation since February [one had called in October].
In many respects November could be seen as a rather disappointing moth but given the constraints imposed upon both Fay [who always poor-reads my work] and I it gave of its best.  The silver lining along this particular black cloud is that I effectively retired on 13 December which means no more testing, marking or writing report cards; more birding and no doubt a glass or two of addition red wine awaits- once I’ve started on that long list of chores around the place that Fay has compiled for me!
To the Christian amongst you, a very Merry Christmas.
To all the others, a Merry Winter [northern hemisphere] or Summer [southern hemisphere] Solstice.



Tuesday, December 17, 2013


Given that it is now mid-December, some might well consider this monthly report a mite on the tardy side.  Yes.  However, going on the premise of better late than never, it is present here with an brief explanation as to why it has taken this long to emerge.  It was actually written by the end of the first week in November and awaited a few textual adjustments and the addition of the photographs.  Piece of cake; like falling off a log.  Then the enormity of the new Australian Curriculum dropped on me like the proverbial lead balloon.  Testing, marking and of course report writing.  Gone are the days when teachers could simply comment “worked well” or “could do better.”  November and early December [when the November report would normally be prepared] became lost in a mountain of schoolwork.  I drowned in a deluge of data that had to be prepared and transferred to varius computer files – and then forwarded to various areas.
‘nough said.  The October report for Allen Road is here.

In a blog designed primarily to record bird species noted along Allen Road over a given calendar month, this month I’ll start by referring to a species not actually observed during October 2013.  The idea for the anomaly was originally suggested by the unexpected appearance of the Superb Fair-wren on the 23rd of the month; the Variegated Fairy-wren had already put in two separate appearances [12th and 13th] by then and showed well again on the 26th.
The latter fairy-wren was recorded almost without a twitch; it’s an Allen Road regular and even inhabits the bushland area around our dam on the southern edge of the 7½-acre property.  The Superb on the other hand did raise the proverbial eyebrow – its previous sighting had been back in December 2011!

This led us to wander a little down Memory Lane.  In our early, pioneering, days on Allen Road we had often experienced the pleasure of having the magnificent fairy-wren trinity on display; the Variegated, Superb and the Red-backed Fairy-wren.
It wasn’t so much that the Red-backed had not put in an appearance during October 2013 [it last showed in January 2013] but the realization that the Red-backed Fairy-wren has NEVER been recorded in any October since the commencement of Allen Road records back in April 2001.  That inspired us to delve a little deeper.  The species has also failed to put in a showing during any May, June or July, with only a solitary appearance during August, over all those years.


Not that the Red-backed Fairy-wren has ever been a prolific species along Allen Road.  In total we have only ever recorded the Red-backed on 29 occasions.  Compare that to the 55 computer entries for the Superb and 356 for the Variegated.Over October 2013 we recorded 24 daily entries [a little less than a birding trip per day] for a total of 59 species, ranging from the 37 species noted on the 6th to the solitary Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater on the 18th.  At 42% [71 species] the passerines again dominated the species order tally; in second place, on 9% [15 species], are the parrots and allies with the pelicans and allies and raptors sharing third spot on 7% [12 species each].
Among the passerines, the honeyeaters continue to dominate the charts with fifteen species [9%]; a little ahead of the raptors on 12 species [7%].

And speaking of honeyeaters along Allen Road brings to mind the anomaly of the regular triumvirate of backyard Meliphagidae: the Yellow-faced, Blue-faced and Striped Honeyeaters; particularly the battle between the two coloured face species. 
By the end of our first year at Allen Road, 2001, the Yellow-faced Honeyeater was clearly the dominant species; 56 appearances compared to the 26 records for the Blue-faced Honeyeater. In 2002 the gap was even more glaring, 62 to 18 sightings.

Thus the mindset was established, the Yellow-faced was our most prolific honeyeater.  The thought continued for many a year before the proverbial penny dropped.  The old, perceived wisdom rankled in the back of the mind.  There was clearly something amiss with the concrete tale of the Yellow-faced dominance.  Weren’t we in fact seeing more Blue-faces?
A cursory review of our handwritten records confirmed the accuracy of the gnawing misgivings; in 2006 we had recorded only 12 Yellow-faces compared to 159 sighting of the Blue-face.  The arrival of the Bird Journal software soon added substance to the suspicions: in 2003 we had recorded both species on 56 occasions [a tie] but thereafter the Blue-faces simply soared ahead of the Yellow-faces.  In 2010 the tally was 9-133 in favour of the Blue-faces and even last year [2012] the disparity glared at 9-106.

At some point in the debate someone queried the Striped Honeyeater.  Back to Bird Journal.  Yes, this species was there in 2001, on 53 sightings compared to the 56 for Yellow-faces and 26 for Blue-faces but by 2002 it had unassumingly passed both its Meliphagidae rivals; 83 sightings compared to 62 Yellow-faces and a mere 18 Blue-faces.  It retained its undisputed leadership until 2006 when, at 142 separate entries, it slipped beneath the 159 for the Blue-faces – Yellow-face records lingered at 12 sightings that year.

Striped Honeyeaters made a brief resurgence in 2008 and 2009, 155/148 and 108/107 respectively] but from thereon lagged behind the Blue-faces until 2012 when they suddenly re-emerged as the leading Meliphagidae with 124 sightings compared to the 106 for Blue-faces [9 Yellow-faced appearances].
Was there more to say?

Saturday, October 12, 2013

September Sundries

This report has been a little longer than usual in going to press.  The end of September is again one of those busy times for teachers and even though there was a holiday in the last week of the month there was also the need to prepare for the last term of school.  And it will be the last term!  Retirement beckons.
There is of course no retirement among the avifauna of Allen Road.  All the usual species, the resident or at least frequent visitors to Café Avian, remained a constant.  The Torresian Crows Corvus orru continue to patrol the Middle Compound and Orchard, always on the lookout for opportunities to steal our chicken eggs; the male Australian Magpie Cracticus tibicen risks life and limb in attempting to surreptiously share Boz’s bones and/or his dry biscuits; the Grey Butcherbirds Cracticus torquatus [the older of the two juveniles appears to have left the family circle] habitually demand their morsels of cheese; the Aposlebirds Struthidea cinerea and Grey-crowned Babblers Pomatostomus temporalis still dominate the scene, the former on the verandah and the Drian[n] area, the latter in and around the Doughnut  birdbath.  And now we are blessed with a one-legged male Australian King-Parrot Alisterus scapularis.

At 58 species September 2013 surpassed the 50 of September 2012, although it lags behind the 61 of September 2006 [which topped the previous best of 60 in September 2002].
As in all previous recorded years, the passerines, at 48% of total September sightings, overshadowed all other species orders.  This group, ranging from a low of 46% [2012] to a high of 61% [2010] has never been topped in the species order distribution charts for Allen Road; their nearest rivals, the parrots and allies, managed only an impoverished 14% of sightings.

Among the passerines of Allen Road, September is always a good month for the honeyeaters. In eleven of the past twelve years [91.66%] this group has dominated the species family distribution charts.  They have topped the September records in all but one of the past duodecuple years, ranging between 10 and 18% of total sightings and even in the year they were not exclusively dominant it was not that they faltered, the pigeons and dove group simply equalled them on 10% of sightings [five species each].

September was good for the local nocturnal species.  The Tawny Frogmouth Podargus strigoides called on two occasions [the first since January 2013]; the White-throated Nightjar Eurostopdus mystacalis called on four occasions during the month; the Australian Owlet-nightjar Aegotheles cristatus managed to call only once [25th of month] while the Southern Boobook Ninox novaeseelandiae put in frequent vocal performances.
Diurnal raptors were less numerous but the Pacific Baza Aviceda subcristata, our first since July 2013, was a welcome addition to the  monthly lists as was the Collared Sparrowhawk Accipiter cirrocephalus which showed magnificently on very first day of  September.  Following a minor flurry of activity in and around Allen Road since May 2013, the Black Kites Milvus migrans put in a solitary appearance in September; their unexpected heyday is waning in the South Burnett region.
The arrival of the first Sacred Kingfisher Todiramphus sanctus along Allen Road heralded the arrival of spring, even if the weather itself vacillated between winter and mid-summer.  The Australasian Figbird  Sphecotheres vielloti  played its usual antics, it arrived on the 14th, called throughout the day and then promptly disappeared before Fay and I could mount an organized search for the bird.  It did more or less the same in 2012, putting in three brief appearances before going elsewhere.  In 2009 it failed altogether.
Other less than common birds included the Plumed Whistling-Duck Dendrocygna eytoni which flew overhead on 15 September, their first flyby since February 2013.  The Little Lorikeets Glossopsiita pusilla showed well on the 4th and 28th while the Shining Bronze-Cuckoo Chalcites licidus seems to have taken a liking to the place, remaining in the immediate vicinity through the month and even into October.  The Leaden Flycatcher Myiagra rubecula was heard once during the month, on the 24th while the Spotted Pardalote Pardalotus punctatus called only on the 28th.


Friday, September 6, 2013

All Quiet on the Home Front

All Quiet on the Home Front

Oddly enough, while August, with 137 species, went on to top the eight-month tally board, avian matters at Allen Road itself remained somewhat on the quiet side.   The 46 species recorded here was a whisker below the current 46.8 average; equal to Augusts in 2010 and 2009, above the 39 of 2004, the 44 of 2005 and the 45 of 2008 but below August 2012 [47], 2003 and 2001 [48 each] and the 49 species of 2011 and  2002.  August 2006, with 53 species, remains the only year in which the monthly tally exceeded the 50 mark.
Perhaps not really that odd.  It was a month in which Fay and I spread out our wings a little further and while not quite reaching the frenzied heights our halcyon birding days during the 1990s we did put in more bird outings than in the immediate past.  Our South Burnet August tally reached new records.  We ventured even further afield, Birding Beyond the Pale in the Lockyer Valley and along the Wambo Bird Trails.
All this gallivanting around the ridges had its repercussions on Allen Road.  To reach other birding destinations we had to sacrifice at least one of the two days of the weekend.  Our habit became to sneak off on Saturdays, leaving Sundays for work on and around the house and property.  Further, to enhance our chances of good birding at the intended venue we set off early, usually before sunrise and that immediately impacted on our EARLY BIRDS [part of the Allen Road tally] surveys.

Nevertheless August did manage to provide us with a few species outside the norm.  The month opened with the return of the Olive-backed Oriole Oriolus sagittatus 2 August.  Not that the bird ever really went away; with a few exceptions it was noted throughout the year, even if only rarely in some months or elsewhere in other months.
The Straw-necked Ibis Threskiornis spinicollis is an infrequent visitor to Allen Road during August.  This year it put in its solitary appearance on 10 August; the first August sighting of this species in two years and only the seventh August sighting since 2004 – three of those coming in August 2008.  It flew across the property, travelling east to west, proffering the narrowest of glimpses.
Two days later the Australian Owlet-nightjar Aegotheles cristatus called.  With a notable absence in July, this year the owlet-nightjar has called at least once every month since March. 
On 16 August the first of only two raptors to appear over Allen Road during the month, the Collared Sparrowhawk Accipiter cirrocephalus, [its third appearance of the year] seemed to be experiencing a few difficulties as it was persistently harassed by a small flock of Noisy Miners Manorina melanocephala.  It eventually beat a hasty retreat to the northwest.  A week later the Brown Falcon Falco berigora put in its first appearance in almost exactly two years, having previously graced our local skies on 7 August 2011- and that had been only its sixth ever showing at Allen Road.

Matters improved marginally towards the end of the month.  Fay saw a single Red-winged Parrot Aprosmictus erythropterus on 29 August.  The following day the Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater Acanthagenys rufogularis made its presence known for the first time since early May but the grand finale of the month had to be the Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoo Calyptorhynchus funereus of 30 August.
As I said at the outset, August was rather a quiet month on the birding front.