Tuesday, January 3, 2012


Yes, it’s been a long time between drinks. There is of course the usual array of excuses, primarily centred on an increasing workload at school and the coming of the Australian Curriculum to Queensland in 2012. The quinquennial colonoscopy put paid to a few days before Christmas.

Nevertheless, throughout, birding along Allen Road has continued where circumstances permitted, with the unexpected arrival of a Black-eared Cuckoo Chalcites osculans as one of the season’s highlights.

Photograph by Graeme Chapman. http://graemechapman.com.au

Frustratingly, while we have heard it call from all points of the compass around the property all our efforts to actually locate the bird, with the exception of one fleeting view as the bird raced away, have proved fruitless.

We console ourselves with the knowledge that the same was true of its relative, the Brush Cuckoo Cacomantis variolosus which, in a similar manner, eluded our binoculars for months. Then, on Thursday 29 December 2011, during one of our customary early morning walks along Allen Road, we spotted the bird calling from a smallish tree to our left. The walk was suspended for a few moments while we savoured the view.

Photograph by Ian Montgomery. birdway.com.au

That’s all part and parcel of birding along Allen Road. On a daily basis you see and/or hear the regular residents, the Torresian Crows Corvus orru and Noisy Miners Manorina melanocephala, the Australian Magpies Cracticus tibicen and Striped Honeyeaters Plectorhyncha lanceolata but every now and then you come across the more unusual – the Australasian Bittern Botaurus poiciloptilus [4 November 2001] flying over your head, the Black-faced Monarch Monarcha melanopsis [new to the Backyard List in December 2011],

Similarly, summer has its regulars. The Sacred Kingfisher Todiramphus sancta and Channel-billed Cuckoo Scythrops novaehollandiae, the Little Friarbird Philemon citreogularis and Olive-backed Oriole Oriolus sagittatus but again, there can be the unexpected – the Rainbow Bee-eater Merops ornatus and Australasian Figbird Sphecotheres vielloti which comes, remains a day or two and disappears to occasionally put in a rare repeat visit in the one season.

And then of course there are always the part-time birding neighbours who simply floor you with a totally unexpected revelation.

It was back in July 2009 that Les, an ex-Vietnam Veteran two blocks away, first informed us of the aberrant flock of Budgerigars Melopsittacus undulatus he’d noted along Allen Road a number of years earlier By the time he appreciated that Fay and I were more than simply interested, more akin to obsessed, he could recall few further details. The report is duly entered in our computer records in the hope that the birds return to Allen Road one day.

We were in for an even greater surprise during the last weeks of 2011 when we walked over to our neighbours, Denis & Jeanette, both avid backyard bird feeders with a tabletop fieldguide but who play little part in active birding. It was the evidence of the photographs that stunned us.

The Rose-ringed Parakeet Psittacula krameri, clearly an escapee and therefore probably failing to meet the “viable population” criterion, had, on and off, been visiting their backyard birdtable for the past two or three years. Jeanette photographed it on one of those occasions. Its continued presence over that period leaves many unanswered questions.

Photograph by Jeanette McBryde.

As if the parakeet wasn’t enough of a jolt to the system, Jeanette then proudly handed over her photograph of a “strange bird” she had photographed on the morning of 5 December 2011. She had spotted it skulking on the edge of their small front dam, under the pipe leading from pump to water – a Striated Heron Butorides striata!

Photograph by Jeanette McBryde.

Happy 2012 to one and all. May the new year bring you all those as yet unticked species and may all your birding experiences be pleasant but challenging.