Sat morning saw me up at 4 am to catch the 6 am Combie Trader to Bulwer
at the northern end of Moreton Island [~27 S, 153 E] to do some winter
The barge was a tad late departing, but that didn?t stop the early birds
cracking the tinnies at the crack of dawn [I don?t know what it is about
travel to and from Moreton Island, but there is always a lot of drinking
There was bugger all flapping over the water on the way over, apart from
the s gulls and c terns which followed the barge in the early stages,
and the pied cormorants hanging around the beacons. Twice I could see
flocks of black birds flying low over the water in the distance, and a
sea eagle flew overhead as the boat neared the island.
Moreton Island this time of year is honeyeater heaven ? the banksias and
leptospermums are in flower ? the old telegraph track was so densely
flowered it felt like I was walking along the Bibbulmun Track in WA.
[The fact Moreton Island is a sand island probably had something to do
Basically Moreton had more brown honeyeaters than you could even think
about pointing a stick at. It was like they outnumbered all the rest of
the avian species on the island combined. They were at each of the
dozen 500 m areas I atlassed. Noisy friarbirds and white-cheeked
honeyeaters were also common.
There wasn?t a lot of avian diversity on the walk across the island to
the eastern beach ? the main birds of interest were a varied triller,
rufous fantail [not many about this time of year on not a species I
would have expected on Moreton] and the tawny grassbird.
I set up camp on the backside of Blue Lagoon at lunchtime. The lagoon
is a lovely freshwater lake near the surf beach and has a popular camp
ground on the beach side. A trio of aus grebes appeared to be the only
water fowl in attendance, and there was an equal scarcity of fowl on the
nearby Honeyeater Lake.
However, there was one duck on the lake and it was the only duck I saw
for the whole trip. It was a male musk duck [don?t go choking on your
chips JAG]. Musk ducks are a bit thin in the water round here, so I was
rather surprised to see one on Moreton. Then again Moreton is a bit
like Perth, where musk ducks are somewhat more common, so perhaps this
was another sand lover.
There wasn?t a lot happening out on the beach, apart from the odd pair
of pied oystercatchers, red capped plovers, crested tern and beach
thick-knee [lurking behind the dunes where it wasn?t expecting the
I straggled back to camp late in the afternoon, had a quick dip [its not
that cold in Qld this year] and settled down to enjoy the tranquility [I
could hear individual waves breaking on the beach over half a kilometre
away]. Perfect conditions for a good night?s kip.
Sunday morning I was again up at dawn, packed and wading round the lake
[shortcut] to the beach and then 8 km up the beach to Cape Moreton. A
few km up the beach, I stopped for the first raptor of the day. It was
perched on a dune, and my first impression was that it was an osprey,
but it lacked the eye stripe. My second impression was that it was a
brahminy kite, but it had a wedgetail?s wing colouring. My third
impression was that it was a whistling kite, but it had a light
underwing pattern and a bit of an overwing bar. So I spent a bit of
time looking at it. It had dark eyes, a pale head, grey bill, distinct
trousers yellowish legs and looked quite like that drawing of a little
eagle in Pizzy and Knight. However I?m sure little eagles aren?t in the
habit of sitting on beaches, and P&K did note that immature brahminys
can be confused with little eagles [though they don?t include a drawing
of an immature]. In the end I concluded it was indeed an immature BK,
and the process of identification would have been easier if I?d had a
copy of Simpson & Day as their rendition of a pale morph little eagle is
rather different to what I saw.
While I was up on the dune I had a look out to sea and saw a couple of
whales about half a kay off shore ? the spray of their exhalations went
about 5 metres into the air and there was a bit of splashing going on [I
think its humpback travel time].
Further along, I came across an osprey flying up the beach. That seemed
to provide the basis for another atlas site, so I poked my nose over the
dunes and found a sea eagle and three whistling kites perched together
in a tree.
On the ascent of Cape Moreton, I ventured off the road and climbed
through the coloured sands. This was a good move as I came across a
pair of peregrines in a tree near the helipad [I think they were a mated
pair since one was noticeably larger than the other]. That made five
species of raptors in a couple of hours of beach walking. I did some
more whale and dolphin watching over lunch [away from the lighthouse and
The shortcut to North Point was closed as QPWS have been in the process
of dismantling the fishing shacks below the old lighthouse. In going
the long way round I went through a patch of scarlet honeyeaters and
mistletoebirds. I heard some rustling in the bush, which unfortunately
turned out to be a few pigs [obviously some dim wit had taken them to
the island ? possibly the same one who released the horses and goats ?
I set up camp at the southern end of heath island ? an extended fringe
of casuarinas in front of a 2 km wetland sandpatch, bisected by a
channel. This is a good birdwatching site, as it has a tern roost,
pelican and spoonbill roost, has resident beach thick knees and plenty
of raptor activity. There were a pair of female jabirus in the back
blocks, a lone eastern curlew and a couple of double banded plovers
[tick] in amongst a group of red capped plovers [one appeared to be
pretty much in breeding plumage]. There were also a Russian doll set of
egrets in the channel ? little, intermediate and great.
The good thing about camping on Moreton on a Sunday night is that most
of the four-wheel driving primates had left the island, so I got to
watch the sun set over the bay and to the north of the glass house
mountains in solitude. There were a few fishing boats moving about, the
odd plane flying into the airport and a planet not far from the back of
This morning, I sauntered down the west beach to catch the 10.30 boat
home. Coming round Comboyuro Pt, I noticed a brown duck like bird
preening in the water about 20 metres off shore. It proved to be a
juvenile aus gannet [not the brown or masked booby I?ve been looking
I also noted that parts of Comboyuro are falling into the sea [signs of
recent erosion] and found it interesting that there was a barge dredging
sand a kay to the south.
There were even fewer birds to be seen on the way back, with the one
sighting of interest being a group of 20 small black birds following a
fishing boat about 20 mins from the harbour. They were flying less than
a metre above the water and looked considerably smaller than the gulls /
terns. All I could see was that they were dark on top and light
underneath and guess they were shearwaters.
The last empty beer can hit the bin with minutes to spare as the 4WD
types readied themselves to drive off.
All up ~50 species, a tick, and a dozen atlas sheets to fill in when I
get a fresh supply off Roy S.
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