The 2016 Queensland Ornithological Conference 9 July 2016
The Conference was held at the University of Queensland on July 9. Over 200 registrants
enjoyed a full day of lectures and presentations from world renowned experts in their particular field of study. One of the main highlights of the day was Dr Steve Murphy sharing his latest discoveries on the Night Parrot.
As has been the tradition of all Queensland Ornithological Conferences a separate section was devoted once again to hearing from current PhD student’s outcomes from their
research. This year over half the students came from outside Australia.
In conjunction with the Conference a Photographic Competition was held. Over 174 photographs from across mainland Australia, Tasmania, Antarctica and Australian Islands were received. There were many stunning entries with a total of 54 photographs being short-listed across two different categories – Best Rare Bird Photo and Overall Best Photo. Shortlisting and judging for both categories was done
by a panel of respected avian photographers, The 54 shortlisted entries, as well as details about the photograph such as location, date and photographer, were printed and displayed at the Queensland Ornithological Conference. This allowed conference participants the opportunity to vote for their favourite in the People’s Choice category. Winning photographs will be displayed over the coming weeks on the Birds Queensland and BirdLife Southern Queensland websites &/or Facebook pages.
Evaluation feedback from the 200 delegates exceeded the Conference Committee’s expectations. With over a years planning and a very hardworking organizing committee the Conference became the largest and most successful ornithological conference ever held in Queensland. Special thanks are extended to our sponsors. David Exton for the Organising Committee
For a more detailed account of the conference please follow this link to the
Southern QLD newsletter The Warbler.
BirdLife Australia’s National Campout 10 – 14 July 2016
The Queensland Ornithological Conference was over, the AGM was done and dusted, and Conference walks on the Sunday had been and gone. All were a great success and a credit to the organisers of each event. But Sheena Gillman and I had other duties to attend to as we had agreed to coordinate and lead BirdLife Australia’s National Campout in the Lockyer Valley.
We had chosen Murphy’s Creek Escape for the campout. In the two weeks prior we had done our reccies, with the help of locals Mick Atzini from the Toowoomba Bird Observers, Rod Hobson from Queensland National Parks Service, and Jocelyn and Robert Wilson from ‘Friends of Lake Apex’, with some sound advice from Grahame Rogers for good measure.
I will admit that we were both on tenterhooks. I had never organised a campout before and Sheena’s experience was limited to a grand total of one! Plus, summer rains in the valley had been scant, and the drenching that came with both ‘East Coast Lows’ to other parts of SEQ in June produced just the odd splot in the Lockyer Valley! All our beautiful ephemeral lakes – Seven Mile Lagoon, Janke’s Lagoon, Pechey’s Lagoon – were weed covered wildernesses. Fears that the dry spell would end just in time for the camp also pervaded our dreams.
Fast forward to the actual event…we had a wonderful time and the birding was excellent! This was a small affair when compared with the hugely popular Byfield campout organised by our Capricornia cousins, but it made for a most enjoyable event, and all of us came away knowing that friendship bonds had been forged. A total of 31 people participated in the event with 21 staunch birders prepared to brave the cold nights in tents at MCE. Well, maybe we should make that 19. Sheena and I shared one of the lovely on site ‘glamps’ with a heater, hot showers, feather doonas and electric blankets. No, make that 17 because two others had the same idea!
Some of our group braving a cold Lockyer night
The joint facilities were very good and made an ideal gathering place for the nightly bird call, and the camp site was well laid out and spacious. Should I mention that MCE happens to be on the main Toowoomba -Brisbane train line and that coal trucks traversed close by in an unseen gully at all hours of the day and night? Maybe not, but had we known a bigger supply of ear plugs would have come in handy!
On the Monday the entire group went to Cooby Dam, Crows Nest and Ravensbourne National Park, being ably assisted by co-leaders Mick Atzini and Gavin O’Meara. Cooby Dam produced a pair of Must Duck – always the target species for this site. Nesting Grey-crowned Babblers, Striped Honeyeaters, Brown Quail, and a variety of other waterbirds. On the way out to the main road searches for recently sighted Ground Cuckoo-shrikes and a Diamond Firetail proved unsuccessful.
Crows Nest National Park was jumping with birds. Phew! Our reccie had produced very few, but now flowering spotted gums were dripping with birds: Yellow-faced, White-naped, White-throated and (a single) Tufted Honeyeater were present near the car park. Striated Pardalotes were nesting in the creek bank. The circuit track was just as productive with large numbers of Silvereye and, in an ideal rocky section, we all got great views of the SEQ race of the very yellow Buff-rumped Thornbill. However, the ‘spot’ of the day went to Joel when he found a very confiding Brush-tailed Rock Wallaby on the cliffs opposite the track. This mammal is now considered uncommon in the park and was a mammal ‘tick’ for just about everyone on the outing!
The group gets excited about…..
A Brush-tailed Rock Wallaby Photos courtesy Eric Wheeler
We then high-tailed it up to Beutel’s Lookout at Ravensbourne National Park. This is a small but often very productive patch of remnant rainforest. One Green Catbird showed for some. Gavin then found a male Paradise Riflebird foraging low in the trees. Again, everyone was able to get good views of this often elusive bird, voted by many as the number one sighting of the campout. Everyone, of course, immediately forgot about the Rock Wallaby – what Rock Wallaby??
We had lunch and spent some time willing a Red Goshawk to sail past the lookout! But we had to be happy with great views of very cute Brown Gerygones – a bird that some had not seen before and many had not had close up views.
Day one ended with a gentle journey back to the campground via 17 Mile Road, spotting Striated Thornbills and White-bellied Cuckoo-shrikes along the way. The tally called out that evening came to a respectable total of 101 species.
Day two and day three saw the group split up into two. On day 2 Margaret Cameron joined my group and off we went to northern and central parts of the valley, including Adare Road, Lockyer National Park, Lake Clarendon and the usual spot for Banded Lapwings. Sheena, joined by Neil Humphris and Jocelyn and Robert Wilson headed off to Glenrock National Park, which lies in the southern-most part of the valley at the foot of the Main Range National Park. The next day, everyone swapped around. Mick Atzini joined us again for the northern and central section, and Nerida Wardrope assisted Sheena for the Glenrock excursion.
In the northern and central part of the valley, both days produced some cracking birds. Ground Cuckoo-shrikes were found on consecutive days on Haslingden and Boyce’s Road – almost certainly the same pair. Great views for everyone!
Ground Cuckoo-shrike – such smart birds! Photo courtesy Eric Wheeler
Honeyeaters were in plentiful supply. We saw a total of 17 species over the two days – not a bad effort! Black-chinned, White-naped, White-throated, Scarlet, Brown and Yellow-faced honeyeaters were seen at Adare. On a track off Redbank Creek Road we were surprised to find a small flock of Spiny-cheeked Honeyeaters. Other bird seen included the most confiding Rose Robin that any of us had ever seen!
Male Rose Robin, Adare Road Photo courtesy Jeni Mackenzie
A low Little Lorikeet inspecting a nest hollow also gave some of us the thrill of a fantastic view of this species that normally remains well hidden. A flock of Red-tailed Black Cockatoos were feeding by the road not far from the paddock where Banded Lapwings were back in residence after an absence of a couple of months. A pair of White-backed Swallows, a real rarity in the valley these days, showed well for a couple of the group at Lake Clarendon. Birds of prey were few on the ground but good views were had of both species of harriers, White-bellied Sea-Eagles soared overhead and the usual Black and Whistling Kites were seen at a variety of locations. Lockyer National Park gave our nostrils a run for our money with the wind wafting strong scents of the chicken farm over us. We toughed it out and saw Crested Shrike-tit, Speckled Warblers and Fuscous Honeyeaters for our troubles.
Feeding Red-tailed Black Cockatoos Photo courtesy Jeni Mackenzie
Late in the afternoon on both days we found a small group of Yellow Thornbills – again uncommon in the Lockyer. Thousands of Plumed Whistling Ducks with four Wandering Whistling-Duck hiding in the middle of the flock were given a fright by a fast flying Black Falcon and were a sight to behold!
Plumed Whistling-Ducks Photo courtesy Jeni Mackenzie
But the Pink-eared Ducks stole the ‘duck’ show!
Photo courtesy Eric Wheeler
Another fabulous treat was watching thousands of corellas coming in to roost. We stuck a scope on them which soon revealed the odd Long-billed Corella amongst the flock. A ‘lifer’ for many.
An iridescent male Red-backed Fairy-wren Photo courtesy Jeni Mackenzie
Meanwhile the Glenrock teams also had great highlights. Plenty of honeyeaters and all three local species of Fairy-wrens were seen – Superb, Red-backed and Variegated.
Brown Honeyeater Photo courtesy Jeni Mackenzie
The road south of Gatton to Glen Rock National Park, crosses Tenthill Creek many times. The route follows the most beautiful valley supporting highly productive vegetable farms and certainly the group amused one farmer loading lettuce for the market, when they stopped to view a flock of Welcome Swallows skimming the water surface on his farm dam. Tenthill Creek was running and provided pools along the way.
Where there was a flush of birds the group stopped and were rewarded with beautiful Azure Kingfisher, Rose Robin, Tawny Grassbird and, most reliably, Double-barred Finches in abundance. A lone Restless Flycatcher was heard, and finally tracked down, by Sheena. Red-rumped Parrots were another highlight. As were great views of Spotted and Swamp Harriers. But everyone’s favourite seemed to be the Chestnut-breasted Mannikins. Missing from the tick list was Brown Falcon which became the priority species for Wednesday and to Sheena’s relief, three obligingly soared over the rock art site, providing joy to all. Apparently they live there!
Indigenous rock art/petroglyphs Photo courtesy Eric Wheeler
Two non-birding events on these trips were highlights for all involved. The first was a visit to view some wonderful indigenous rock art and petroglyphs near Mt Sylvia.
Photo courtesy Sheena Gillman
The second occurred after a chance encounter with a local landholder, Guy, who mines an unusual and uncommon mineral Diatomite; a fine white chalky substance proving beneficial as a soil additive. Guy was amused to discover the group were bird-watchers, as he himself loves watching birds and kindly invited us to walk up his hill. Good views of the mine were enjoyed by all as well as a very learned introduction to the story of the mine, diatomite and the geology of the Lockyer Valley. That truly added to the fun of the day, and even Grahame and Donalda made the hill top!!
Photo courtesy Sheena Gillman
The total species tally for the three days of birding was 156. For winter, this was an excellent number. To put it into perspective the Toowoomba Bird Observers Club does an annual bird census in the Lockyer during the peak season of September. Their tally over a four or five-day period is approximately 160 species. What it would have been if we had had good rainfall with full ephemeral bodies and running creeks – who knows! But our winter tally holds up very nicely. Just about everyone got new species and one, Michael Day got over 30 lifers!
This campout would not have happened without the support of many. Thanks to Gavin O’Meara, Mick Atzini, Margaret Cameron, Jocelyn and Robert Wilson, and Neil Humphris for assisting with ‘leader duties’. Thanks to Rod Hodson for helping with the reccie of the Crows Nest and Ravensbourne areas; Judi Gray for helping at Cooby Dam and Crows Nest; the staff at BirdLife Australia; and the editorial team of the BirdLife Magazine. A HUGE thank you to my ‘partner in crime’, Sheena Gillman – I do not know how I would manage without her across so many domains!
But the biggest thanks goes to the people who joined us:
Pam Kenway Julie Kennelly Eric and Margaret Wheeler
Jeff Petifer Sue Burgess Ros and John Beeston
Jeni Mackenzie Michael Day Chris and Andrew Galbraith
Kathryn Kelly Nerida Wardrope Faye Smith
Faye Smith Sarah Phillips Grahame and Donalda Rogers
Joel Connell Cynthia Jones Steven and Dayana Barker
To each and every one of you: THANK YOU for sharing the experience!
Judith Hoyle and Sheena Gillman, July 2016