birds australia bird guides guiding birding birdwatching brisbane queensland birds australia bird guides guiding birding birdwatching 


Current happenings - What's About?....

31 December 2003 -  Bush-hen at Abberton

At Abberton, for the last week or so we've been hearing a new to us nocturnal call; an insistent, repetitive call coming from the creek bank, or close to it. Research through our bird call tapes and cds suggested it was a Bush-hen - new for Abberton, and for the Lockyer Valley!

White-necked Heron
Azure Kingfisher
White-necked Heron and Azure Kingfisher - 
both regulars in the creek.

Since then, the bird has been calling  for most evenings and nights, and has been clearly audible from 
the bedroom at 4am! It has allowed us
good views on several occasions - we even had a sighting 
from the verandah the other afternoon.Bird #202 for the Abberton list.

Our first clear sighting was very brief, just a few seconds as this secretive rail walked along a short open 
length of creekbank, before disappearing into the thick vegetation from which it usually calls.

But, our disappointment at losing sight of the Bush-hen was mitigated when we realized a platypus was 
floating on the surface of the creek just in-between us and the now disappeared rail - and when the 
platypus rolled under the water and out of view, we were further compensated by an Azure Kingfisher
dropping onto an adjacent frond, before zooming away upstream.

Then, just minutes later, as we scanned the creek in case the Bush-hen had reappeared further
along, we were rewarded with an immaculately nankeen and black-capped Rufous
Night-heron standing in the shallows closer to the house. A fantastic 10 minutes!

Abberton from the house
An Abberton scene, 
late afternoon looking towards the creek.

25 Dec 2003 - Christmas morning

A hot day, but outside there's quite a bit of gentle action. Striped Honeyeaters are calling away, 
and visiting the bird bath, as are White-throated Honeyeaters a couple of Eastern Whipbirds are 
duetting close to the house, and Superb Fairywrens are foraging around on the verandah.

Brown Honeyeater and Chestnut-breasted Mannikin
Brown Honeyeater and 
Chestnut-breasted Mannikin 

Double-barred Finch
Double-barred Finches are here every day.

Heaps of Fairy Martins are cruising about, Chestnut-breasted Mannikins, Zebra Finches, 
Double-barred Finches and Red-browed Finches are at a couple of handfuls of seed spilled 
conveniently just in front of my window. Lewin's and Brown Honeyeaters are noisily active, 
and a Willie Wagtail is rushing around scolding all of the above. 
But no-one takes him seriously, and the mood really is one of goodwill.


Ground Cuckoo-shrike
click image to enlarge
A local Ground Cuckoo-shrike.

Two Little Curlew have turned up at Lake Atkinson , Ground Cuckoo-shrikes nesting at a new (for us)
location not far from home, and an hour in Ravensbourne National Park turned up Noisy Pitta, 
Wompoo Fruit-doves, Regent Bowerbirds, plus several other rainforest pigeons and passerines.

November, 2003 - Nearly Summer.

click image to enlarge
Dollarbirds are hawking over the creek and the gardens.


Azure Kingfisher Fairy Martins
click image to enlarge
Azure Kingfishers feed on the fish in the creek, while Fairy Martins gather mud for 
their nests from the margins.


Chestnut-breasted Mannikin Speckled Warbler
Chestnut-breasted Mannikins are regulars 
in the bird baths.
Speckled Warblers forage around the 
garden all day.


25 November 2003

Little Curlew   Little Curlew

  We found a couple of Little Curlew in the valley on Saturday - just 2 birds in a stubble paddock, 
with their beaks continually open, seemingly panting in the heat of the day.  

Just a few days before, we watched a Greenshank standing alongside a Marsh Sandpiper (which used to be
known as  Little Greenshank), at the edge of a local farm pond - providing an interesting 
reinforcement of the similarities and also the striking differences between these two, 
apart from the major differential of size. 

Plum-headed Finch

This Plum-headed Finch popped up while we were watching the Greenshank, 
let me take his photograph, then moved on. 


Lace Monitor with Tawny Frogmouth prey
click image to enlarge
Tawny Frogmouth youngster
click image to enlarge
A Lace Monitor on its way up a tree carrying a young Tawny Frogmouth while its sibling watches on.

I saw an amazing sight the other day. A Tawny Frogmouth seemed to be zooming up the side of a tree alongside 
a gateway where I'd stopped! What I couldn't see initially was the big Lace Monitor that had the poor thing by the scruff of its neck, as it did its usual escape trick of scaling the tree on the side furthest from the intruder - me, with the young frogmouth dangling to one side from its mouth, the bird alone being just visible from where I was standing, scooting quickly and smoothly up the side of the trunk! 

Parent Tawny Frogmouth
click image to enlarge
One of the parent Tawny Frogmouths in a nearby tree.

The parent birds were watching all this, in that apparent frogmouth daze that they display during the day - 
eyes wide open, but no movement. Meanwhile, a big sibling was flapping around on the dirt road, 
almost flying but never quite getting off the ground. It seemed sensible to shift this endangered youngster somewhere out of sight of the monitor, but in sight of the parents, though I don't know that anywhere 
would be safe from one of those big predators with its mind made up. The monitor had meanwhile let go 
of the lifeless frogmouth as it made its way higher up the tree. We left the dead bird where it was on the 
ground at the foot of the tree in the hope that he might return to it and perhaps feast on it rather than 
anyone else in the family. 


click image to enlarge
click image to enlarge
An unusually active daytime Koala, not far from Abberton.


Plenty of cuckoos are about. I've been seeing young Brush Cuckoos and Horsfields Bronze Cuckoos 
being fed, while adult Pallid, Brush, Shining, Horsfields and Little Bronze are all around as well as Koels 
and Channel-bills. That only just a cuckoo, the Pheasant Coucal, is calling a lot at present, as they 
always do after a bit of rain. 

A pair of Ground Cuckoo-shrikes which have been nesting locally appeared to be off the nest ten or so days 
ago, though I didn't see any young - but on Sunday one was sitting again, with the other very attentive.
 In the same tree Striped Honeyeaters were feeding offspring in their dangling purse of a nest, with a 
Magpie-lark sitting tight on a mud-cup on another adjacent limb. There just had to be a Willie Wagtail 
nesting in there somewhere! But I couldn't explore closely with three active nests so close together, 
all on the same side of the one tree. 

Rainbow Bee-eater
click image to enlarge
Rainbow Bee-eaters are around in large numbers.

Rainbow Bee-eaters have had a great nesting season in umpteen local creekbanks. White-backed Swallows 
often nest in the same locations as bee-eaters, and at one bee-eater colony we visited on Sunday a party 
of five White-backed Swallows was busily feeding above Rainbow Bee-eaters, 
Welcome Swallows and Fairy Martins. 

27 October 2003 

A wonderfully rainy few days at Abberton. Black Falcon here yesterday (Sunday), a strongly coloured 
adult Collared Sparrowhawk has been making passes at local finches for a few days, our first 
White-throated Nightjar of the season has been hawking along the creek at dusk, and White-backed 
Swallows have joined Rainbow Bee-eaters in their exploration of creek-bank nest sites. 

Cotton Pygmy-goose   Eurasian Coot and Great-crested Grebe
On the same lake, Cotton Pygmy-goose, Eurasian Coot and Great-crested Grebe.

The Ground Cuckoo-shrikes further up the valley are off the nest now, while the nearby Tawny Frogmouth 
is sitting up high on top of two big white chicks in her twiggy nest. Cotton Pygmy-geese still at Lake Dyer 
on Friday, and three Red-necked Stints and a couple of Black-necked Storks at Lake Atkinson 
(along with everything else of course). 

October 20 2003

Blue-billed and Musk Ducks at Lake Coolmunda on Thursday. All up, a week of marvellous birding, with 
over 180 species - more than 130 just on Thursday. When I go out Inglewood/Texas way I'm always 
hopeful of picking up a few special 'extras' in addition to the expected assortment of more inland 
honeyeaters and other species that are to be found there. 

Hooded Robin  White-winged Fairywren
Hooded Robin and White-winged Fairywren, in the Traprock region this week. 

Emu family
A family of Emus, the adult male bird in charge.

But on Thursday the specials just kept coming and coming - until we had just about all of them, viz:. 
a family of Hooded Robins alongside us at our roadside lunchtime pull-over; Diamond Firetails and 
Plum-headed Finches throughout the day; good looks at Emus, including one shepherding nine big chicks; 
2 each of Bluebonnets and Turquoise Parrots; 6 Blue-billed and 5 Musk Ducks; multiple nesting 
Banded Lapwings; and 15 honeyeater species all up. 


click image to enlarge
Whiptail Wallaby
click image to enlarge
Wallaroos (above left) are seen on our more western trips, but Whiptail Wallabies (above right)
are the most common macropod around here - along with Eastern Grey Kangaroos.

   White-naped Honeyeater
click image to enlarge
White-naped Honeyeater feeding on eucalypt blossoms.

On a recent visit to friends at Mount Tamborine, we found rainforest pigeons and an assortment of parrots in their garden all day long.

.Wonga Pigeon    
   click image to enlarge

Scaly-breasted Lorikeets
Clockwise from above left: 
Wonga Pigeon, Scaly-breasted Lorikeets, Emerald Dove and Rainbow Lorikeets -
all in the same garden.

Rainbow Lorikeets Emerald Dove
click image to enlarge
- and at Abberton, a Scaly-breasted Lorikeet lunching with a Galah.

8th October, 2003 - Some rain at last!

Leaden Flycatcher
click image to enlarge
Leaden Flycatchers are singing noisily 

Lots of activity in the garden and throughout the valley now that some spring rain has arrived.

Male Mistletoebird  Male Mistletoebird

This Mistletoebird was so intent on harvesting a rich source of food from a roadside vantage point 
that he allowed an unusually close approach.

Buff-banded Rail

Saw-shelled Turtle

We've seen several Buff-banded Rails 
over the last few days. 
A Saw-shelled Turtle has claimed this log just across the creek from the verandah as a 
regular basking spot.

Golden-headed Cisticola

Plumed Whistling-ducks

Golden-headed Cisticola and Plumed Whistling Ducks
at the same lake in the Lockyer Valley last week.


Eastern Whipbird

This Eastern Whipbird spent several hours in the garden beds close to the house, but remained obstinately difficult to photograph.

Male Nankeen Kestrel

Female Nankeen Kestrel

Male and female Nankeen Kestrels are paired up and home-making 
- as are Cockatiels (below). 


28th September, 2003 - All the Spring migrants are back

Not quite the end of September, and all our spring migrants are back at Abberton. Koels have been around for more than a week, on Friday we heard our first returning Channel-billed Cuckoo, and to cap it all off
two Dollarbirds swept past the verandah late yesterday afternoon.

In the garden this-morning, Torrresians Crows are chasing noisy Channel-bills as if there had been no 
off-season at all to their sport; pairs of Sacred Kingfishers are calling to each other - not only the loud 
"Here I am" announcements which we will be hearing each and every day for months to come, 
but also softer churring communications, doubtless of a more intimate nature. 

Eastern Yellow Robin  Rufous Whistler  
click images to enlarge
Eastern Yellow Robin and Rufous Whistler
both photographed in the garden in the last week.

Rufous Whistlers are similarly paired up, and very noisy about it; a Horsfield's Bronze Cuckoo 
is repeating his thin call incessantly from a creekside tree, whereas Koels are still mostly early-morning 
'singers' at present, and although Pallid Cuckoos are about, they've gone quiet here over the last week 
or two. There are several pairs of Rainbow Bee-eaters here all the time; I'm fairly sure they're nesting 
in a steep bank close to the creek, but I'm keeping out of the way for now.

Pallid Cuckoo
Pallid Cuckoo
newly returned from the inland.


Scaly-breasted Lorikeets
click image to enlarge

Long-billed Corella and Galah

Scaly-breasted Lorikeets have taken to visiting the birdbaths during the current dry spell.

Long-billed Corella and Galah -
two cockatoo species in the same tree. 

Yellow-billed Spoonbill

Royal Spoonbill
click image to enlarge

Yellow-billed Spoonbill and Royal Spoonbill

Australia's two Spoonbill spp are both regular in the Lockyer Valley, each about as common as the other.
A mixed party of three Royals and one Yellow-billed has been dropping dropping into Abberton 
most afternoons lately.


Yellow-tufted Honeyeater              Speckled Warbler

There are a couple of locations in the valley where
Yellow-tufted Honeyeaters occasionally turn up . 
This one was photographed about two hours west of here, on an inland day-trip from Abberton that 
yielded 147 species.

 Speckled Warblers are a year-round bird at Abberton. They mostly rummage quietly around in the litter, 
being often quite hard to distinguish from their background, as this picture will attest.


17th September, 2003 - Australian Pratincoles

Australian Pratincole

This is the time of year when Australian Pratincoles are on the move, down from the north into their breeding locations in the south-east of Australia. These photographs show some of a small party 
that turned up at Lake Atkinson today.


Black-winged Stilt and Australian Pratincole

Australian Pratincole

Australian Pratincole

Australian Pratincole

September, 2003 - another exciting Spring!

Rainbow Bee-eater
Rainbow Bee-eaters are here and nesting

What a marvellous time of year! Birds everywhere!  I've managed to get in quite a bit of birding during the 
first two weeks of Spring - finding 178 spp in the Lockyer Valley with just one day-trip 
up the

Toowoomba Range.

So many birds are breeding - and a lot are already raising fledged young, with

White-naped Honeyeaters and 
Brown Thornbills both feeding young

Horsfield Bronze Cuckoos.

 Ground Cuckoo-shrike at the nest     Banded Lapwing
Ground Cuckoo-shrikes and Banded Lapwings are nesting
These were photographed just last week

Double-banded Plover

One bird ready for breeding, but in the wrong place, was this
Double-banded Plover which should really 
be on its way to New Zealand by now instead of feeding at an inland lake in Queensland in the company of Sharp-tailed Sandpipers newly arrived from the Arctic, Marsh Sandpipers from the inland Palearctic, 
Pacific Golden Plovers from Northern Asia and a handful of Red-capped Plovers 
(a full-time Aussie wader for the most part). 

 Sharp-tailed Sandpiper
click image to enlarge
Sharp-tailed Sandpipers are back from the northern hemisphere

Male and female Black-necked Stork were

nearby, with Swamp Harrier, White-bellied Sea-eagle 
and Whistling Kite cruising the lake, frequently coming low enough to scatter everything

smaller than a pelican or a stork.

Australian Brush Turkey  Pale-headed Rosella
click images to enlarge
Australian Brush-turkey and Pale-headed Rosella  
photographed in a friend's garden 

Friends of ours who have just moved to a new home alongside the rainforest are 
enjoying views of a whole range of exciting species from their back patio, including 
Pale Yellow Robin, Satin and Regent Bowerbirds, and regular visits from an Albert's Lyrebird! 

I hear that sparks fly on occasion between the lyrebird and the local Brush-turkey patriarch, 
- I'm hoping to get some photos soon.

Spotted Pardalote    Crimson Rosellas
A freshly washed, but not quite dry, Spotted Pardalote and a pair of Crimson Rosellas
- from the same exciting garden

Azure Kingfisher   

Red-backed Fairywren
click image to enlarge

Back at Abberton - an Azure Kingfisher and a splendid male Red-backed Fairywren 
Two birds that still take my breath away every day!

Two of a party of nine Emus 
located on a trip to the west of the Great Dividing Range


An unusual Koala
click image to enlarge
An unusual Koala, not far from home

We see Koalas nearby from time to time, but this is the first time I've seen a white one. 
Its pink muzzle and ears indicate an albino. 

Letter-winged Kite

This photograph is of the only Letter-winged Kite which has, to my knowledge, been recorded in the
Lockyer Valley. The bird was found by Stephen Harper in a distressed condition on the highway
near Gatton in March 1995. Stephen did a great job bringing it back to health,
as evidenced by the photograph.

Letter-winged Kite
click image to enlarge
Letter-winged Kite 
(Photo: Stephen Harper)

The most obvious feature that everyone looks for to separate the rare Letter-winged Kite from the more common Black-shouldered Kite is the Letter-wing's distinctive underwing pattern. This photograph shows some of the
other characteristics that mark them out, notably, the absence of black behind the eye, and the creamy-white
legs and feet which contrast with the bright yellow of the Black-shouldered Kite.

Many thanks to Stephen, firstly of course for saving the bird, but also for sharing this photograph with us.
It's a rare thing to get a good close look at a Letter-winged Kite!

Late July - mid-winter birding

Our local winters are a bit cooler than Brisbane or the coast, about 100km away, and although only a handful
of our summer birds actually migrate out of Australia, we do lose just a few others for a month or two each
year, presumably because the pickings are that little bit easier elsewhere for that period. 

However, even in the very mid of mid-winter, we've had a couple of those semi-migrating species recently, 
Rainbow Bee-eaters and a Sacred Kingfisher just the other day.

Sacred Kingfisher
Sacred Kingfisher
(Photo: John Samuels)

Rainbow Bee-eater
Rainbow Bee-eater
(Photo: Ron Hill)

July is the only month when we haven't recorded Sacred Kingfishers at Abberton, but they're mostly
here from September to April. Rainbow Bee-eaters are usually somewhere around the valley
even in the middle of winter, but they're spectacular regulars here from July to March. 

We found 120 species around Abberton and the local roadsides and lagoons over the last couple of days.

Great Cormorant
click image to enlarge
Great Cormorant
Photo: Frank Vitale)

Plenty of raptors - including Swamp Harriers, Spotted Harrier, Wedge-tailed Eagles and a White-bellied Sea-eagle at the nest. Other good waterbirds included 2 Black-necked Storks and plenty of Red-necked Avocets at a local lake (Tawny Frogmouth and a koala there too), plenty of Australasian Shovelers all over the place,
three Hoary-headed Grebes, Great-crested Grebe, all three Australian ibis species (White, Straw-necked 
and Glossy) and both Australian spoonbills (Royal and Yellow-billed).

I saw my first Rose Robin of the winter, months later than usual, while a resplendent Fan-tailed Cuckoo 
which had been trilling away nearby came and sat as close to us as he could get. The Fan-tailed Cuckoo has appeared at Abberton in every month of the year, though peaking in winter and fewer in summer -
but we can depend on at least seven other cuckoo spp here in the summer.

18 July 2003 - A winter's day

Red-backed Fairywren
Red-backed Fairywrens at Abberton

(Photo: Frank Vitale)

A gloriously warm and gentle English summer's day - but it's really mid-winter in Queensland!
We do get a winter, but in truth it only sidles in, creeps about for a bit and then it's off before anyone
from almost anywhere other than Queensland would notice it. Mind you, as a long-standing
Queenslander, I still expect to shiver in August.

Three Speckled Warblers have been chasing around and around through the trees this-morning, 
it's about as high off the ground as I've ever seen them, something exciting must be going on. 
Variegated, Red-backed and Superb Fairywrens are all in the brightest plumage and singing 
seemingly all day, every day. Half a dozen butterfly species are still active every day. 
This is the first year I've kept a monthly butterfly list, it will be interesting to see 
which ones go right through. 

When I popped down the road to get the Sunday paper, I realised after a kilometre or so that 
I hadn't got any binoculars with me - a very strange and uncomfortable feeling! Briefly I pondered the 
perverse hope that maybe I wouldn't see any birds in the ten or fifteen minutes I'd be binocular-less, 
but I soon recognised that as a silly thought on several grounds.

In the event, I met a great row of Cockatiels on some wires just up the road from home; then, as I crossed 
Lockyer Creek at a ford near the fruit shop where I buy the paper, three Red-tailed Black Cockatoos 
who were chomping away in a roadside White Cedar allowed me to pull up alongside them and we 
eyeballed each other at close quarters for a minute or so, with no pause in their feasting; as I crossed the 
creek at water-level, a couple of glistening wet Hardheads and three or four drying Little Black Cormorants 
were just a handful of metres from me through the still open window. 

Bar-shouldered Dove
click image to enlarge
Bar-shouldered Dove
(Photo: Neil Bowman)

Peaceful Dove
click image to enlarge
Peaceful Dove
(Photo: Clare McLean)

When I arrived at the fruit shop a handsome Black-shouldered Kite was sitting on a post adjacent, close 
enough for me to see his red eye without any optical aids; and, as I opened the gate back at Abberton not long after, there was a male Mistletoebird, red chest puffed out not much above arms length away, while three or 
four Striated Pardalotes buzzed me as they sped around after each other, chip-chip-chipping non-stop.

People-wise, it was a quiet Sunday morning, maybe that was a crucial part of the experience, but it seemed as though a suspension of normal relations had been declared, and I was being allowed to wander through the day invisible to the birds - while they remained visible to me, even though I'd forgotten my binoculars.

Yesterday afternoon, I smelled burning and went out to the verandah to find a thick tongue of smoke extending 
over the creek, originating from a neighbour's up-wind burn-off - while in between the house and the creek an opportunistic Black Kite was wheeling and tail-twisting right in front of me, at eye-level; quite a sizeable 
bird close up and much less common here than Whistling Kites or harriers, 
or even Little Eagles at this time of year. 

6 June 2003 - Tawny Frogmouth

As we got in the car at Abberton around 8pm this-evening and turned on the lights - 
this is what we saw directly in front of us -

Tawny Frogmouth
click image to enlarge
Tawny Frogmouth in the garden
Tawny Frogmouths are usually very obliging when disturbed on a post. 
They tend to look straight at the camera, wait for you to compose the shot, 
and allow two or three exposures before they flit off.

3 June 2003 - Early winter raptors

When Bob Bennett was here a couple of weeks back, we had a remarkable day in the valley, during which 
we saw a total of nine Ground Cuckoo-shrikes! Bob came back for another visit this-morning,
and lo and behold, two Ground Cuckoo-shrikes turned up at Abberton within 30 minutes of his arrival! 

We've had some really good rain over the last few days, from which the garden and the birds have 
benefited no end. This morning, we were treated to views of all three local fairywrens in full plumage, 
Superb, Red-backed, and Variegated, each one more magnificent than the last.

Square-tailed Kite
click image to enlarge
Square-tailed Kite hunting low over Gatton.

A Square-tailed Kite was patrolling over the high-school and adjacent houses in Gatton yesterday afternoon. 
When Square-tailed Kites show up in the valley, this is a regular location for them - presumably feeding from 
the tree-tops in the well-wooded gardens in that part of town. I spent five tricky minutes following it from the 
car as best I could, keeping one eye on the bird, and one on the road - but gave it up as too dangerous an exercise when I looked down from the kite to find myself outside the high school just as it was emptying 
into the street. I took the photograph above at the same location a couple of years ago.

The same morning, we had been enjoying a couple of cuppas on the verandah when a lone Whistling Kite 
came by over the house; there had been a lot of whistling and interaction between two that were here the 
other day, but this one just cruised about looking down at the creek and twisting first his head, 
then his tail in typical kite-like manner. 

Only five minutes later, a strikingly patterned Little Eagle harassed a White-faced Heron away 
from a tree-top snag. And no more than five minutes after this, a strikingly handsome 
White-bellied Sea-eagle cruised low over the centre of the creek, heading upstream. 

Wedge-tailed Eagle
click image to enlarge
Wedge-tailed Eagle at Abberton,
being pursued by an Australian Magpie
(Photo: Frank Vitale)

Remember to click on any photo for a larger image

Although the other raptors were around on and off for a while, the White-bellied Sea-eagle was very 
much on passage somewhere, and the whole sighting from go to whoa would have been maybe 
15 seconds at the most. As we mulled this brief moment of excitement, we suddenly noticed a 
Wedge-tailed Eagle thermalling its way upwards over the other side of the creek. 

Four big beautiful raptors in the course of two cups of tea! 

21 May 2003 - Good day for raptors

We took a look around between Toowoomba and Oakey today, and met with a
large numbers of raptors. Not a particularly big species count, but a lot of individuals. 

Pallid Cuckoo
A few Pallid Cuckoos are still around
(Photo: Ron Hill)

During the course of the day, we estimated at least 30 Nankeen Kestrels, either hovering over paddocks 
or sitting on roadside power poles. Black-shouldered Kites were in similar numbers, doing the same 
sort of thing, though their hovering looks much harder work and is in a different plane to the kestrels. 

There must be a lot of suitable food out there on the Darling Downs at present. Not much doubt about 
what the Black Kites and Whistling Kites swarming around the ponds and yards behind the 
Oakey Abattoirs were after. There were at least 15 to 20 of each of those scavengers. A few 
Brown Falcons were soaring above them, and we met with 5 Wedge-tailed Eagles at 
various locations during the day. 

We encountered one lightly-wooded paddock with more than 100 White-winged Choughs working through it. 


 We couldn't miss a Tawny Frogmouth at a surprising daytime roost - a 4 inch long stem of a broken branch, sticking out at right angles from the bare trunk of a eucalypt, just 8 feet or so from the ground. 
My mailbox is better hidden! 

Tawny Frogmouth

Above: Tawny Frogmouth at roost.

Right: same bird ignoring Bill Jolly
(Photo: Bob Bennett)

At Lake Atkinson there were 5 Black-tailed Godwits along with several Red-necked Avocets, 
a host of Yellow-billed Spoonbills, a few Whiskered Terns, Caspian Terns and large numbers of both 
Great and Pied Cormorants, as well as all the ducks and other waterbirds one would normally 
expect to find there, including lots of Australasian Shovelers. 

20 May Black Bittern again 

A good couple of days at home. We had two Wedge-tailed Eagles low and huge over the creek yesterday, 
with a White-bellied Sea-eagle in a nearby tree later in the day, and around 5pm the Black Bittern 
reappeared in exactly the same spot as I saw it some days back, but this time it stayed long enough to be 'scoped, and Eileen got a good view. This-morning, an influx of Fairy Martins was accompanied by seven White-backed Swallows, and also during the morning Black Kite and Brown Goshawk. 

Bob Bennett from England arrived just too late to see the White-backed Swallows. He's been to Australia 
many times, and his 'want list' is a bit daunting, but he managed four lifers this-afternoon; Diamond Dove, Speckled Warbler and Red-tailed Black Cockatoo, all at home, and Australasian Shoveler (about a dozen) 
on a nearby pond. 

Welcome Swallow
click image to enlarge
Welcome Swallow

I wonder if Autumn is the best season for butterflies? I've been seeing so many different butterflies at 
Abberton lately, that I've been making the effort to put names to them - and to my amazement I've 
identified 34 species during April and May. I might have a go at photographing some of them.

10 May 2003 Black Bittern, Glossy Black Cockatoos, Peregrine Falcon

Late on Wednesday afternoon, a Peregrine Falcon dropped onto the highest exposed limb of a dead tree 
just across the creek, and stayed and stayed while I went back up to the house and got the 'scope. 
He stayed even longer and allowed me great close-up views of him turning his head this way and that 
as he surveyed the place. Then, of course, I looked away for just a second, and he was gone 
by the time I got my eye back on the 'scope. 

Yesterday, a great racket from the birds outside suggested that a raptor was around, and we got out to the verandah in time to watch an exhilarating display as two very agitated and noisy Masked Lapwings harried 
the Peregrine, which every so often would twist in the air so as to get on the tail of one of the lapwings which 
he would then chase fiercely for a moment or two, before breaking off to cruise around above them as they struggled to gain height to harry him again. It really did seem for all the world as if the Peregrine was playing 
with them, but they weren't really enjoying the game. 

Glossy Black Cockatoo   Glossy Black Cockatoo
Male & female Glossy Black Cockatoos feeding 
(Photos: Neil Bowman)

We've had parties of up to ten Glossy Black Cockatoos flying over this week. They are much less regular 
here than the Red-tailed Black Cockies, (which have also been around) and they stand out from them 
quite distinctly when they occasionally show up, not least by their call which always announces them 
some way ahead of their arrival. 

But our highlight this week occurred while we had non-birding friends here. 
We were chatting on the verandah when I glimpsed something dark drop into the shadows of the 
narrow muddy margin across the creek. I grabbed my binoculars without pausing to apologise, and 
focussed on a Black Bittern! Brilliant views of a beautiful bird! Then the scramble began, as I yelled 
"Black Bittern" at Eileen, she dived for her binoculars, I yanked the 'scope into line between me 
and the bird, and our visitors looked on open-mouthed. A typical scene in any birder's household, 
but amusing for the uninitiated looker-on. 

The bittern flew across to our side of the creek, and a little upstream before I could get the 'scope on it, 
and before Eileen got her glasses on it. Out of our line of vision from the house! Frenzied moment over, 
we struggled to regain our composure, to explain what a beautiful and dramatic bird the Black Bittern is, 
to apologise for our seemingly cursory dismissal of our guests for a minute or so, and to continue as 
polite hosts - all the while knowing that the Black Bittern was just along the creek, and we had every 
chance of getting some good close up views, and maybe even a decent photograph, if were just to 
take a short walk up the garden. But, we somehow suppressed all this in the cause of hospitality. 
And it wasn't easy. 

We used to get Black Bitterns here quite often before the last big drought came along, 
but this was our first sighting at Abberton for three years. 

1 May 2003 - Bird 201 for the house list 

April has swept out of Abberton with a flourish. A Pink-eared Duck was here on 26th and 27th April, 
bringing the house list to 201, (and the verandah list to 196). 

Eastern Yellow Robin Red-browed Finch
Eastern Yellow Robin
(Photo: Frank Vitale) and Red-browed Finch (Photo: Barry Miller)
Since the rain, the garden has been alive with passerines, Golden and Rufous Whistlers, 
Leaden Flycatchers, Eastern Yellow Robin, Yellow Thornbills, plenty of honeyeaters - too much to list. 
Wedge-tailed Eagles have been low over the house and garden regularly for the last few days, 
and Little Eagle is becoming frequent too, as it does every Autumn and Winter. 

Elsewhere around the valley the other day, there were six fairly red Black-tailed Godwits, Pacific Golden 
Plover and a heap of Sharp-tailed Sandpipers, a few Pallid Cuckoos and Swamp Harrier. 

But as I said, the month finished with a flourish here yesterday, when a short walk around the garden in the late-afternoon was rewarded with four Ground Cuckoo-shrikes, a party of Plum-headed Finches dropping in 
to roost, and finally, in the gloom, an Australian Hobby hurtling down to sweep up a Double-barred Finch. 
Back on the verandah we 'scoped the Hobby on a tree across the creek as it ripped into its final meal 
for the day - and what a stunning bird it was, pausing from time to time to stand boldly upright, 
its rufous underparts highlighted by the setting sun. 

Azure Kingfisher
click image to enlarge
Azure Kingfisher 
(Photo: Neil Bowman)

And the new month has begun in similar style, with an Azure Kingfisher glistening in the early-morning sun 
on a mid-creek post as I snuck my first look at May through a window around 6am on the 1st. 

26 March 2003 - An autumnal week 

White-winged Fairy-wren 
 Male White-winged Fairy-wren
(Photo: Barry Miller)

Signs of autumn for us in southern Queensland have included an early Little Eagle and our first two 
Red-capped Robins of the season. Our garden list stands at 102 spp for March thus far, with 
Plum-headed Finches back in numbers in the grasses, Red-tailed Black Cockatoos once again on their 
regular circuit of fruiting White Cedars, and Nankeen Night-herons boldly active in the late afternoons. 
Spangled Drongos are seen and heard a lot lately, predominantly a spring and autumn bird here, 
and Eastern Yellow Robins have moved into the garden. 

Squatter Pigeon
click image to enlarge
Squatter Pigeon in the Traprock
(Photo: Jeff Chapman)

Down in the Traprock country the other day, we found some Squatter Pigeons, a family party of five Emus, 
eight raptor spp, a host of the more inland and exciting (for us) honeyeaters, including Spiny-cheeked 
and Yellow-tufted, and those two stunningly beautiful little birds, Diamond Firetail 
and White-winged Fairywren. 

Around the Lockyer Valley, all three Australian grebe spp are about, also Red-necked Avocets, Ground Cuckoo-shrikes, Fan-tailed and Pallid Cuckoos, Wedge-tailed Eagle, White-bellied Sea-eagle, Little Eagle, 
Black Kites, lots of other raptors too. John Hadley came across two Diamond Firetails locally, 
just north of Gatton, last week, and Dan Williams who was birding here from Friday till yesterday 
picked up 146 spp in all, topping it off with a Black-necked Stork yesterday morning. 

5 February 2003 - A windy morning 

Australian Pelican
Australian Pelican at Abberton

(The red smudges in the foreground are the flowers on the Callistemon I was hiding behind)

An interesting morning on Monday, despite high winds courtesy of the tropical cyclone/depression 1000km 
away, up off Mackay. Trevor Ford and Neil Bowman were here, and Neil got a lifer early on when a 
Black Falcon soared across the garden and over the house. In the next hour or so, we had Black Kite, 
Australian Hobby, Nankeen Kestrel, and a Spotted Harrier, which carried out a systematic survey of the 
paddock just across the creek from us. (They had Brown Goshawk just up the road earlier, 
and we had Black-shouldered Kite in the afternoon). The winds were a bit strong for tree-top passerines, 
but Plum-headed Finches came and went in small parties to and from creekside herbage. Another lifer 
for Neil, so he and Trevor walked along a dry section of the creek bed, and found a group of about 
50 busily feeding. They estimated 80 Plumheads in all; and later we had one in the birdbath. 

1 February 2003 - Busy bird baths

This is the fourth consecutive day that Plum-headed Finches have come to the birdbath outside my 
office window. We've had a flock of sixty or so up and down the creek and around the garden for the last 
week or so. They disperse to feed in the creekbank vegetation or to or drink at the creek's edge, spilling 
over into the 'garden' around the house, and just recently discovering the birdbath. Every so often, 
they will unite in a loose but compact flock to head to another part of the creek, or just to another part 
of the garden - then they'll spread out again until the next communal relocation. These small flocks 
in flight are very distinctively Plum-heads, as is their chattering call which marks them out immediately 
from any of the other finches hereabouts. 

White-throated Honeyeater
White-throated Honeyeaters love the Grevilleas

John Hadley dropped in for a yarn on Thursday morning, while one of these Plumhead visitations was 
underway. We sat with a pot of coffee on the verandah and didn't leave our chairs, except for the occasional 
look through the 'scope. We fixed up the Middle East pretty well, and worked out how to deal with quite a 
few social problems that are in need of attention, and in the meantime saw 51 species of birds. 

The bird bath was busy at intervals throughout, and we counted 20 species that visited it during the morning. Pale-headed Rosellas made a half-hearted attempt to get a drink, but they're always timid, and if so much 
as a Yellow Thornbill turns to look at them they give up. When they do manage get to the water, it's the 
culmination of a cautious progressive strategy. A quiet approach to an empty bird bath, incremental moves 
from nearby branch, to adjacent branch, to even more adjacent branch, all the while pausing for a good look 
round before venturing on. When they do eventually get there, I always feel like letting out a cheer, 
but I'm afraid of scaring them off. 

Double-barred Finches   
Double-barred Finches at Abberton
(Photo: Frank Vitale)

At the other end of the scale, Lewin's Honeyeaters take over the bath against all-comers, 
sharing it with only the most determined such as Brown Honeyeaters and White-throated Honeyeaters 
(which usually arrive in numbers). For the rest, the Double-barred, Zebra, and Red-browed Finches are all 
regulars who bathe happily together, often along with Silvereyes, Yellow Thornbills and Yellow-rumped 
Thornbills - and more recently Plum-heads. Speckled Warblers are good mixers, usually arriving in twos, 
and Willie Wagtails manage to occupy a lot of space for their size, with a disproportionate amount 
of splashing compared with the others. 

Bar-shouldered Doves, and Crested Pigeons are so much bigger than the regular passerines 
that they usually take over completely when they come in. Peaceful Doves come and go, daintily, 
but Spotted Turtle-doves (which we don't see very often) have a tendency to camp in the bath, 
shutting everything else out for as much as an hour at a time. 

We've got four birdbaths around the garden, and I've run a hose to all of them from a tap on the verandah. 
This makes topping-up a cinch, and I think that's the secret. A dry birdbath is a forlorn sight, for me it's 
a bit like that movie cliché of a screen-door on a run-down house, flapping in a hot dry wind. 

22 January 2003 - Swifts and much more

Silver Gull & Laughing Gull
click image to enlarge

Trevor Ford's 8 January 2003 photograph of the Bribie Island Laughing Gull - 
still in full plumage, with a Silver Gull on the left for comparison

Trevor Ford and Ron & Sue Johns visited on Monday and we got in some birding in the afternoon, followed 
by a bit of a look around the next morning. Our tally for a less than 24 hour visit was a respectable 110 species, 
including Fork-tailed Swifts, White-throated Needletails, Speckled Warblers in the birdbath at Abberton 
and Latham's Snipe, White-bellied Sea-eagle, Spotted Harrier and Swamp Harrier.

A highlight for me was to discover that Ron and I had shared several individual birds in Norfolk in the 1960s 
and that R J Johns and W H Jolly were juxtaposed in print in old bird reports from that time and place. 
This birding lark isn't just a bridge between countries, every so often it proves to be a bridge 
between the decades too!

Wedge-tailed Eagle at Abberton

Bill Jolly & Ron Johns

Wedge-tailed Eagle at Abberton
(Photo: Frank Vitale)

Bill Jolly and Ron Johns
with a Norfolk Bird and Mammal Report from the
1960s to which we were both contributors
(Photo: Trevor Ford)

2 January 2003- Bird 200 for Abberton!

This-morning a party of twenty or so Musk Lorikeets swept across and around Abberton, calling loudly 
and flashing their green underwing coverts in unison as they twisted in flight, bird # 200 for Abberton!.
 So, one round number target bites the dust. It will be a long, long time before we get to 250, 
so we'll have to focus on another local challenge - the verandah list. Of the 200 species on our 
house list, only 196 have either been seen initially, or confirmed later, from the verandah. 

Right, 4 to go!

Please feel free to CONTACT US with any questions !
We are always pleased to answer any queries and to help 
you in any way we can to plan your trip to Queensland.

email us at:

Bill Jolly, Abberton, Helidon, Qld
(27º 34' 21' S; 152º 08' 21' E)