Along with a visiting birder from the USA (Alan Grenon of Isabelline
Wheatear fame) I headed north on the great BBQ (Black-breasted Button Quail)
chase this past weekend. It was one bird Alan had NOT seen, and had not
expected to, so my planned camping expedition was an unexpected surprise. I
didn't PROMISE anything, but did suggest that it was 'as definite a
possibility as it could be'!! (as I hadn't seen them either I wasn't feeling
We arrived in the camping area well after dark on Friday night with
a new (Australian) bird under my belt already - so to speak! Barn Owl high
in a tree at the side of the road - looking starkly white in the car and
torch light. Pitched the tent only - deciding to leave the newly acquired
extension tarp until daylight as I wasn't confident of success with it's
first real test.
Up at 5.30 and eager for the chase - a quick coffee or 2 for me -
Alan had a carrot & water - (I guess there's no accounting for taste!!) and
off to the recommended site where all others have gone before. Quietly
stalking through the woods, examining platelets much as new parents examine
the first of their offsprings nappie contents, discussing possible age and
An hour it took and Alan saw a movement under some thick scrub, a
few quick fleeting glimpses and then, finally, a female making a platelet,
seen through several layers of branch and leaf. Not very satisfying, but a
definite ID none the less. We spent the next 3 hours sitting quietly or
moving slowly through the area ears pricked, eyes straining, to be rewarded
only with, yet another, 10 second fleeting glimpse.
We looked for Beach Stone Curlew (none seen) and checked out the
waders - a few Curlew, Red-necked Stint, Red Capped Plovers, Whimbrel,
Bar-tailed Godwit, 1 Golden Plover, a few Great Knot and 1 Greenshank - and,
of course the bush birds - Mistletoe bird, Rufous Whistler, Yellow Robin,
Peaceful Dove, Brown Thornbill, Lewin's HE, Brush Turkey, White-browed Scrub
Wren, Mangrove Honeyeater & Gerygone, Noisy Friarbird, Varied Triller, heaps
of Bee-eaters, 1 Leaden Flycatcher and 1 Little Shrike-thrush.
There were 100s if not 1000s of Wedge-tailed Shearwaters shearing
around the bay inside the point and 1000s of Terns - mostly Common, with
good numbers of Gull-billed and Little, Crested and Caspian among them
constantly flying overhead from bay to surf.
A little disappointed (with our sighting of the BBQ) we headed back
to camp for a late breakfast ('elevenses' at this stage) and an attempt at
putting up the shade tarp. After one false start we succeeded, much to my
delight, and then relaxed under it's welcome shade to sit out the heat of
In the afternoon we moved into the shade of the Casurinas on the
beach and watched the terns come back from fishing. A White-breasted Sea
Eagle soared overhead and a very large turtle (Loggerhead?) raised his head
just off the beach.
We had considered trying for Ground Parrot and Grass Owl in the
nearby National Park - but had found the access road CLOSED for some
unexplained reason. Should we try for more BBQs or go for the wader roost on
the other side of the bay - a round trip of approx 180 kms? We plumped for
more BBQs but decided to concentrate on the immediate area rather than going
down to the recognised spot. We were ground breaking here - no 'follow the
herd for us!' We soon found some more platelets near the road and then
began walking down the bitumen road casually watching and observing other
species in the late afternoon light. We added White-cheeked and Brown HEs
and Forest Pigeon to our list and more Varied Trillers and Leaden
After a few hundred meters we turned back and, finally, were
rewarded in our patience, about 20 meters from our camp 'turnoff' with,
firstly, a female turning platelets, then a male, then another male leading
3 tiny chicks through the ritual. YAHOOO!! Great views from the road, all
birds about 15 meters away seemingly oblivious to us, and the occasional
4WD, passing by!
We returned to camp, happy and elated.
Just on dusk and we drove to the end of the point to look for Beach
Stone Curlew again - we had heard a whistling (non-Curlew) call near our
campsite, but nothing on the beach. Despite checking all possible spots we
didn't succeed in seeing anything of any consequence, but, returning to our
'home', I nearly ran over a couple of big eyed Bush Thicknees, one of whom
obliged us by standing still beside the car for a few moments before running
off into the bush.
Up at 5.15 Sunday morning and a quick conference over coffee and
carrot - we would pack up, go for the wader roost 90 kms away, then return,
and try the road through the national park to head home via the beach.
An hour later and we were leaving our campsite to, eventually, reach
Tuan via Booneroo (thanks for the directions, Tom) without incident and
still close to high tide. At first glance we could see no waders, but poking
around the area we came across them just North of the main 'town'. In the
process I scored another new bird - Red-winged Parrot at the bottom end of
it's coastal range - great views as it sat on some convienent electricity
We searched through the waders - hoping for Asiatic Dowitcher or,
for Alan, Broad-billed Sandpiper (actually for both of us, but one has to
maintain a certain poise!) Terek Sand 110, Curlew 60, Bar-tailed Godwit
1000, Red-necked Stint 50, Common Greenshank 15, Black-winged Stilt 30,
Red-capped Plover 10, Great Knot 20, Grey-tailed Tattler 5 - but no AD or
So... back to town for fuel and then off into the forest to try for
the beach. A beautiful Emerald Dove on the side of the track was the only
joy - we had to back off, and come back out, after encountering heavy sand
and a mutual agreement to 'give it a miss'. So a long relatively boring ride
home with no traffic problems until we reached the dreaded Bribie Island
turnoff (it should be a rule - either get off the island and go home before
3 pm or stay, and go home, after 10pm!!!)
Oh well, back to the insanity of 'civilisation' with memories of
quiet little birds moving through the bush, chicks in tow.
> Colin Reid
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