Saturday, August 23, 2014


There was a bit of excitement within the birding community last month, with the identification of a very rare vagrant from Asia. The bird, previously mistaken for a female Little Bittern, was actually a Yellow Bittern and seen at a suburban wetland in the suburb of North Lakes, half way between Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast. A friend and I went down to check the site and were rewarded with excellent and prolonged views of this mega-rarity as it clambered through the reeds searching for prey.

Yellow Bittern - photo by Vince Lee

This particular individual probably overshot the destination of Papua New Guinea or Indonesia on its summer migration from further north in Asia. Thanks to the sharp eyes of some local birders it was spotted recently in this quiet location and may have been here for quite some time.

Yellow Bittern

It is possibly only the second record of a Yellow Bittern on Australia's mainland, along with a few unconfirmed sightings since the late 1960's. It always pays to be on the lookout for anything different when birding, you never know what may turn up!

Yellow Bittern

This wetland is also the hangout for a Little Bittern, an uncommon species, with a patchy distribution in the wetter areas of Australia. This male was showing well too, contrary to it's normal skulking behavior and like it's close relative above, seemed oblivious to the fascinated observers along the edges of the lake.

Little Bittern - photo by Vince Lee

North Lakes wetland

Also reported, earlier this month at a bush land suburban park south of Brisbane, were around a dozen Swift Parrots. An endangered species that breeds in Tasmania, it migrates to the mainland for winter, seeking the flowering gums for sustenance and coming as far north as southern Queensland. It is thought there are only around a thousand pairs left, and the population may be declining.

Swift Parrot

I had the opportunity to visit Gould Adams Park at Kingston and was thrilled to observe these rare visitors in my home state. After half an hour of neck straining searching, with Rainbow, Scaly-breasted and Little Lorikeets all vying for my attention, I latched on to a couple of birds feeding about twenty metres up in a blossoming gum. Others were heard nearby and most likely they will hang around here till early September before heading south. Long may they continue their annual pilgrimage!

Swift Parrot

A much better image of a swiftie below, taken at Bruny Island Tasmania.

Photo by J J Harrison (Wikimedia Commons)

Another bird not often seen in these parts is the Asian Dowitcher. This particular wader, possibly a young bird and not yet ready to head back to the breeding grounds in Siberia, has been overwintering in Moreton Bay. It has been seen by many observers since about mid June, at a man made, high tide wader roost at Toorbul, just south of the Sunshine Coast. I have only observed this species once before at Broome in Western Australia where it is a regular visitor, albeit in small numbers only.

Asian Dowitcher - photo by Vince Lee

My friend Vince and I snaffled this rarity on our way back from the successful twitch of the aforementioned Yellow Bittern. By the way, the word dowitcher comes from the English translation of the Iroquoian (North American Indian) name for this rare long distance traveller.

Asian Dowitcher - photo by Vince Lee

Cheers & Happy Birding

Monday, August 18, 2014


Our travelling has come to an end, at least for the short term, as we intend to settle down back on the Sunshine Coast if things go according to plan. Meanwhile, based in the hinterland at North Arm, we are enjoying our stay in the backyard of my sister and partners seventy acre bush property.   

View to Mount Ninderry

The bird list has grown rapidly to 78 species in the few weeks that we have been here, including some corkers such as Powerful Owl (heard), Peregrine Falcon, Spotted Harrier, Pacific Baza, Rose Robin, Crested Shrike-tit and Satin and Regent Bowerbirds.  

Our humble abode among the gum trees.

At least three of these Fan-tailed Cuckoos are making their presence known with their mournful calls. Others of the family here include the Brush and Shining-Bronze Cuckoos and Pheasant Coucal. 

Fan-tailed Cuckoo

Along with a couple of Laughing Kookaburras, a pair of Forest Kingfishers don't seem to mind sharing the same hunting grounds.   

Forest Kingfisher

Laughing Kookaburra

Half a dozen Brown Cuckoo-Doves are present most days. These large and conspicuous pigeons are attracted to the fruit of the wild tobacco plants that grow in the more open areas of the property. Big flocks of Topknot Pigeons have been observed flying low over the trees, accompanied by the susurration of their wings as they pass by. The monotonous call of the Wonga Pigeon has been heard on occasions, with Peaceful, Bar-shouldered and Emerald Doves also seen.

Brown Cuckoo-Dove

While walking the fence line I disturbed a roosting Tawny Frogmouth, that flew a short distance away. It had quite a rufous wash to the plumage, which one of my field guides suggests is sometimes characteristic of the female.

Tawny Frogmouth

A pair of Pacific Bazas have been active around the property since we arrived and I assume would be resident. These stunning raptors hunt together in close proximity, leap frogging through the foliage of the mid to upper canopy of the trees, pouncing on unsuspecting stick insects and frogs. Their flight is almost silent as they weave their way through the branches and leaves.   

Pacific Baza

The name baza apparently comes from the Indian word for goshawk. Originally known as the Crested Hawk, the moniker I prefer, it was officially changed in the late 1970's.

A misty morning at North Arm.

Cheers & Happy Birding