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 , 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  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 , March , October  and November .
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  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
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%  to a high of 61%  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
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 , 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.
Thursday, August 8, 2013
July was cold. Given that this is winter it is hardly surprising but the thing about winter is that the days become shorter, the nights longer and the temperatures lower. Marry this to the fact that I’m usually on the road to school by 0545 hours [before sunrise] and can on occasions return home at around 1745 hours [near, if not always after] sunset, it is never a month of great avian expectations. We have not, for example, ever topped the half century  species in the total July tally [compare that to the 70 species recorded in January this year].Nevertheless, for a July the tally reached a reasonably respectable 46; the best tally since the 46 of 2004- and the 46 of 2003 and 2002!
We had to wait until the end of the first week of the month to report anything out of the ordinary for Allen Road; a Fan-tailed Cuckoo Caacomantis flabelliformis calling on the morning of 7 July. The Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoos Calyptorhynchus funereus appeared the following day. Indeed, it seemed to arrive on an almost weekly basis thereafter, presenting good views on 13, 21 and 28 July. On 13 July the White-faced Heron Egretta novaehollandiae put in the first of its two visits for the month; it also appeared at the edge of Denis’s small front dam [its favourite haunt in the immediate vicinity] on 28 July.
The recently-arrived Black Kite Milvus migrans graced Allen Road on 14 July, the same day as the Little Lorikeets Glossopsitta pusilla.By the third week of the month matters seemed to be taking a turn for the better. The Little Friarbird Philemon citreovulgaris suddenly called on 21 July: the Southern Boobook Ninos novaeseelandiae returned for its only performance on 23 July. The Bush Stone-curlew Burhinus grallarius called on 29 July, with a repeat performance the following day.
During the last week of the month we scored the Glossy Black-Cockatoo Calyptorhynchus lathami on 31 July, the same day as the magnificent Pacific Baza Aviceda subcristata!
Winter can be a quiet period along Allen Road.
Tuesday, July 2, 2013
June was never going to be a record-breaking month for birds along Allen Road. Here, Down Under, in the austral half of the world, it’s winter but equally important – at least for birders whose profession centres on teaching- it heralds the approach of the end of the first school semester: a time for report cards; a time to burn the midnight oil; to spend weekends at school rather than out in the field watching birds.
Throughout June, Fay and I managed a mere eleven outings along the road, gathering a tally of 41 species and not a rarity amongst them all.
Of the nocturnal stalkers, the Australian Owlet-nightjar Aegotheies cristatus put in three appearances, or rather was heard calling from quite close to the house on three separate occasions. The Bush Stone-curlew Burhinus grallarius called on the one occasion only.The diurnal raptors were equally slack in flying over or around the road. The Whistling Kite Haliastur sphenurus appeared once on 15 June, soaring high above the dam. The Wedge-tailed Eagle Aquila audax [22 June] soared even higher.
The Glossy Black-Cockatoos Calyptorhynchus lathami held up their end, a pair appeared over Scott’s property [next-door neighbour]. Their counterpart, the Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo Calyptorhynchus funereus , was a “heard only” bird on two occasions during the month.The White-winged Choughs Corcorax Melanorhamphus appears to be making something of a comeback.
Overall, a disappointing month for birding BUT those report cards have been completed, signed, proverbially sealed and delivered into the loving hands of loving parents.July could be better.
Monday, June 10, 2013
It was always going to be rather doubtful that May would produce anything outstanding, or indeed come up with any real species diversity or abundance in numbers of any given species. May is late autumn in the southern hemisphere and we have already experienced some rather chilly evenings. It does not auger well for the rapidly approaching austral winter. And birds tend to be scarcer during the colder spells.
Not that May 2013 was numerical retarded on previous Mays. The 49 species was admittedly well below the 63 of May 2003 [the current record] but only one behind the 50 species of May 2004. It was one better than the 48 of 2010 and two ahead of the 47 species in May 2009. It clearly overshadowed the 30 species of May 2006 [still the lowest May on record for Allen Road].
There were, as always, the regular faces, or should that read, ”the regular feathers”? They were there each and every day: the Laughing Kookaburra Dacelo novaeguineae and Torresian Crow Corvus orru; the Australian Magpie Cracticus tibicen and Magpie-lark Grallina cyanoleuca; the Galah Eolophus roseicapillus and Grey Butcherbird Cracticus torquatus; the Rainbow Lorikeet Trichoglossus haematodus; the Apostlebird Struthidea cinerea and Noisy Miner Manorina melanocephala; the Crested Pigeon Ocyphaps lophotes and Bar-shouldered Dove Geopelia humeralis; etc.
They were accompanied by the less frequent but nevertheless reasonably well-presented regulars: the Australian Wood Duck Chenonetta jubata; the Masked Lapwing Vanellus miles; the Sulphur-crested Cockatoo Cacatua galerita and Australian King-Parrot Alisterus scapularis; the Blue-faced Entomyzon cyanotis and Striped Honeyeaters Plectorhyncha lanceolata; the Striated Pardalote Pardalotus striatus; etc.
On the other hand, a number of species managed to put in only the one appearance throughout the entire month. The Australian Owlet-nightjar Aegotheles cristatus [never known to outstay its welcome] called on20 May; the Bush Stone-curlew Burhinus grallarius early in the month, on 2 May; the Scaly-breasted Lorikeet Trichoglossus chlorolepidotus on 5 May; the Fan-tailed Cuckoo Cacomantis flablliformis, while in evidence all around us in the broader South Burnett, visited us only on the 24th of the month; the Pied Butcherbird Cracticus nigrogularis, always in the shadow of its smaller cousin, the Grey Butcherbird, called only on the last day, 31st May.
Then there was the Black Kite Milvus migrans on 5 May. It was the first new addition to the Backyard List in a long time. We’d walked to the “top” end of Allen Road [to its junction with the Nanango-Maidenwell Road. I spotted the “crow” flying across; Fay corrected the call to Black Kite on seeing the distinctive forked tail. Oddly enough, two Whistling Kites, perhaps a breeding pair, were in the same airspace at the same time and to all intents and purposes it appeared as if the Black Kite was “associating” with the Whistling Kites.
Photograph from www.birdway.com.au
The sudden appearance of the Black Kites in and around Nanango is a tale for another place at another time.
Friday, May 3, 2013
On a number of occasions throughout the month it appeared to be a real struggle to survive April – in birding terms. Much of our monitoring was restricted to the weekends but with several major projects in hand [e.g. completing the new pigeon loft; lining the inside of the garage to prepare for a brewing area] at times the tallies became quite meagre [only two species recorded on 26 April]. Nevertheless we managed 19 surveys which produced a tally of 53 species; our lowest average [2.78] species-per-survey score since 2008 when we finished April with an average of 1.60 species per survey [45 species over 28 surveys].
It was our third lowest species-per-survey average since Allen Road records began in 2002 [2007 came in at 2.63, 50 species over 19 surveys].
There were nevertheless some notable highlights, not the least of which being the sudden and unexpected return of the Olive-backed Oriole Oriolus sagittatuswhich we thought had made its swansong appearance in the area back on 22 February 2013. It surprised with a brief vocal entrance on 6 April at the Nanango Fauna Sanctuary, followed by four whirlwind encores at Allen Road on 21, 25, 27 and 28 of the month.
The Australian Owlet-nightjar Aegotheles cristatus, which had first reappeared on 16 March [following an absence since 16 September 2012] called on three occasions during April; 21, 25 and 28. The Southern Boobook Ninox boobook called on 4 and 27 April.
The Pacific Baza Aviceda subcristata put in two consecutive appearances; 13 and 14 April. On 25 April we were graced by a Whistling Kite Haliastur sphenurus and a Collared Sparrowhawk Accipiter cirrocephalus; the latter returned on 28 April.
A pair of our “Backyard Darlings”, the Glossy Black-Cockatoos Calyptorhynchus lathami, was noted flying east to west across our property on 8 April. The Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoo Calyptorhynchus funereus called towards the end of the month [28th].
Six Little Lorikeets Glossopsitta pusilla, their first visit since 24 March, flew over on 4 April. The following day we noted a trio of Red-rumped Parrots Psephotus haematonotus at the Andrews Road end of Allen Road.
A Fan-tailed Cuckoo Cacomantis flabelliformis was prominent on 21 April; a week later [28th] the Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater called for the first time since 23 January. The Grey Fantail Rhipidura albiscapa on 25 April was its first appearance here since July 2012!
Yes, April may have felt slow but there was quality in the species that put in an appearance. May is an entirely new month.
Friday, April 19, 2013
PALE RIDERS – AVIAN STYLE
Allen Road. Look for the circular dam surrounded by woodland.
Well, it has been a long weekend! For those unfamiliar with this between-wars expression it refers to the long break between the two World Wars; in this case I note with some horror that my last blog was on 4 April 2012- a year ago! I did hint at the possibility in a couple of past blogs. Pressure of work since Education Queensland took on board the Australian Curriculum; 10- to 12-hour days are not as uncommon as some may believe. Squeezing the proverbial quart into a pint pot. Not bad for a bunch of nerds who only work 9 to 3, get ten weeks a year paid holidays and do little more but throw out prepared worksheets for their students to complete while “Sir” sits back to read the sporting pages of the local rag!
Still, that’s education, this is birds. If I wanted to talk education I’d start a more appropriate blog.
Not that readers have missed much during the interim. April 2012 saw a monthly tally of 44 species for Allen Road with only the trio of night visitors [Tawny Frogmouth Podargus strigoides, White-throated Nightjar Eurostopodus mystacalis and Australian Owlet-Nightjar Aegotheles cristatus] being worth the mention.
Neither May [32 species], June [36 species] nor July [38 species] fared much better, although the Owlet-nightjar turned up again in the first two of those months and the diurnal Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoo Calyptorhynchus funereus in May along with the crepuscular Bush Stone-curlew Burhinus grallarius [July] did cause a momentary flutter of the heart.
It took until September to break the half century mark and until December to spill over the 50 mark . August [47 species] brought forth some avian beauties: the Pacific Baza Aviceda subcristata, a Brown Goshawk Accipiter fasciatus and one of the locally iconic Wedge-tailed Eagle Aquila audax. Both the Bush Stone-curlew and Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoo put in another appearance. The Olive-backed Oriole Oriolus sagittatus became the first of the summer migrants to announce that warmer days were upon us.
Among a few other notable worthies, September 2012 produced only the sixth Eastern Barn Owl Tyto delicatula for Allen Road [although up until recently it was considered no more than a subspecies of Tyto alba]. The second [and third] of the summer heralds, the Channel-billed Cuckoo and Eastern Koel Eudynamys orientalis appeared. The Little Bronze-Cuckoo Chrysococcyx minutillus was present on three consecutive days, something it had not done since November 2007.
October 2012 was the month of the cuckoos. The Little Bronze and the Channel-billed had already been here a month but now it was the turn of the Black-eared Cuckoo Chrysococcyx osculans, Horsfield’s Bronze-Cuckoo Chrysococcyx basalis and Shining Bronze-Cuckoo Chrysococcyx lucidus to have us draw in breath. The first appearance of the Ground Cuckoo-shrike Coracina maxima since September 2011 was a pleasant bonus- outstripped only by the Australian Hobby Falco longipennis, last seen here in June 2006!
November and December were somewhat truncated months while Fay and I gallivanted and birded our way across Goa in India. Nevertheless before our departure in late November we managed to add Fan-tailed Cuckoo Cacomantis flabelliformis and Brush Cuckoo Cacomantis variolosus to the growing Cuculid list. The raptor list was further graced by the Collared Sparrowhawk Accipiter cirrocephalus and Grey Goshawk Accipiter novaehollandiae.
And so 2012 came to an end. For those interested in such matters, the final Year List for Allen Road was 96 species, our fifth best year [with 2006, at 110 species, still reigning supreme].
January 2013 opened with the axiomatic bang in more ways than one. To begin with the monthly tally reached 70 species, our highest ever January count in 12 years of monitoring; it surpassed the previous record [January 2007] by three.
Both the Wonga Pigeon and Yellow-rumped Thornbill put in their first appearance since December 2010. As if having the Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo fly by on 10 January wasn’t exciting enough, the bird re-appeared on the 20th. But wait, there was more; the Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoo also put in a duet of appearances during the month. And still more, the darlings of our Backyard List, the Glossy Black-Cockatoo, were here on the 6th and 7th of January. Little surprising therefore that in January we felt that our Calyptorhynchid cup runneth over.
Towards the end of the month we had our Allen Road megatick!
Photograph taken by tytotony.blogspot.com
We weren’t even seriously birding, simply enjoying a cup of tea on the east verandah overlooking The Doughnut and observing a small troupe of Apostlebirds Struthidea cinerea frolicking about in the Middle Compound. There is no doubt some perfectly sound scientific explanation as to what the birds were actually engaged in [birds don’t have a sense of humour, nor do they “play”] but one of them grabbed a small length of yellow tape in its beak and somersaulted over itself. It repeated this unusual behaviour a number of times.
Fay was the first to notice the strange birds among the weeds, towards the front of The Doughnut. She immediately drew my attention to it and after a moment’s hesitation – we’d last seen it back in January 1995 at Noela Marr’s and Cyril Hembrow’s Kin Kin property- identified them as Pale-vented Bush-hen; an adult with a juvenile. It was the first ever record of the species for Allen Road and new ticks no longer flow as they did in the early years.
Almost in the same breath, the pair raced off east towards the Middle Compound; one immediately passed through the mesh wire, the second bounced off the fence before succeeding on its second attempt. In the blink of an eye they disappeared in the long grass, never to be seen again.
That was, remains, a hard act to follow.
Nor did February manage to rival its predecessor; a more humble tally of 60 species. March continued the downward trend, reaching only 58 species, As I pen these few words together, the current month’s tally [at 16 April] stands at 47 species but that does include a magnificent flyover by a pair of Glossy Black-Cockatoos a week ago.