A few hours in Brisbane

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Subject: A few hours in Brisbane
From: "Norm Canton" <>
Date: Thu, 14 Jun 2001 14:20:06 +1000

On 12 June I flew into Brisbane to attend a meeting, staying overnight in Spring Hill, just up the road from the office. With only limited time between the meeting and the return flight I decided to maximise birding time with a pre-breakfast stroll through the nearby Roma Street Parkland development. My first bird was a Noisy Miner, followed in close succession by other hardy endemics - Torresian Crow, Magpie Lark, Wood Duck and Pacific Black Duck at the lake, Australian White and Straw-necked Ibises scavenging the picnic areas and Crested Pigeons in the gum trees retained within the perimeter. Construction is still underway but I was very impressed with both the design and the plantings – especially in the Fern Gully section where I found a solitary Black Duck shepherding 2 very young chicks. I am sure given time these gardens will provide habitat for a wide range of species close to the CBD.

Back in my hotel room I paused between mouthfuls of scrambled egg to fix the binoculars on the wildlife visible through the window. City traffic is an ungiving environment but at rooftop level several species have found surrogate perches and safe feeding grounds. I found the inevitable Common Starlings and a Spotted Turtle Dove but was intrigued to see a Laughing Kookaburra on a TV aerial and a Masked Lapwing foraging between the cooling vents on a flat inner-city roof.

The meeting concluded I hastily changed from business clothes into casuals and ordered a taxi out the front. At the entrance I heard Silvereyes in a street tree opposite the office. Silvereyes have numerous races in different locations, and as is usualy the case I had just got used to one set of names when the whole lot came under review. Silvereyes found in the monsoon scrub and rainforest edges in North Queenland are Zosterops ramsayi (now called Z. vegetus) whereas the Brisbane birds were probably the cosmopolican Z. familiaris (now renamed Z. cornwalli), found in gardens and parks from Southern Victoria to SE Queensland, however I had no time to check this out as the taxi arrived.

When I heard I would be in Brisbane I sent a posteding to birding-aus, asking if the South Island Pied Oystercatcher (SIPO), spotted at Clontarf on the southern side of the Redcliffe Peninsula back in April was still around. Indeed it was, and the tide was favourably high in the mid afternoon. A flurry of emails were exchanged and I arranged to meet up with the SIPO’s "finder" Bob Inglis at Sandgate Railway Station. After a brief tour of the beach front we headed across the causeway and positioned ourselves on the rocky groyne near the boat ramp at Clontarf’s Pelican Park awaiting the high tide. A group of Australian Pied Oystercatchers (OZPO) were lounging on a natural rock outcrop not far off shore, accompanied by Little Pied Cormorants, a darter and a few Crested Terns, whilst Ruddy Turnstones seemed to favour the man-made groyne. The show-stoppers were the Pelicans, serenely gliding in a group near the boat ramp whilst Common Dolphins broke the surface close inshore. Being a week day there were no jet skiers and the few boaties seemed at peace with their surroundings and did not disturb the wildlife. There was time to look at Bob’s photos of the bird and grasp the distinguishing features of the SIPO and the OZPO.

As the tide peaked the OZPO’s moved onto the groyne and Bob slowly surveyed them through the telescope. As I waited a Great Egret landed at the far end and stood in classic pose for a few moments before flying off. Bob gestured towards the telescope, asking "What do you think?" I focussed the view-finder and watched for several minutes, describing the features as they came into view, first the white in the wing bar and short stocky legs, then as the bird moved its head and preened the longer bill which seemed paler towards the tip. I compared the bill and legs to the OZPO’s within the same frame and they were noticably different. I gave a silent cheer whilst trying to remain outwardly calm.

As the afternoon wore on Bob showed me a few of the wetland sites set aside by Brisbane City Council on the south side of the Pine River, first the Tinchi Tampa Wetlands, not far from the Gateway Arterial, where we saw Chestnut Teal, Pied Stilts, a Glossy Ibis, Hardhead and a pair of Brolga in the nearby grasslands, then on to Deep Water Bend Reserve where we saw Ibis, a Brahminy and a Whistling Kite from the bird hide. Lastly we called in briefly at the Boondall Wetlands before Bob dropped me at the airport.

A magical few hours in which the SIPO was a hoped for but unexpected bonus. I cannot thank Bob enough for generously giving of his time to show me around and for putting me onto the SIPO; but credit must also go to Brisbane City Council for setting fragile areas aside as ‘recreational open space’ and for the work going into redeveloping the old Roma Street yards into parkland.

Alex Appleman, Townsville, NQ.

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