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?