Friday, April 19, 2013


                                        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 [63].   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

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.