Little Bittern and more at Mt Coot-tha, Brisbane

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Subject: Little Bittern and more at Mt Coot-tha, Brisbane
From: "Andrew Stafford" <>
Date: Tue, 7 Jan 2003 21:32:24 +1100
Hi all,
Have just returned from a wonderful hour spotlighting around JC Slaughter Falls, just off Mt Coot-tha Road in Brisbane's inner north-west. I was joined by David and Sue Harper from Adelaide, both of whom were eager to find their first White-throated Nightjar. This is an old and very reliable location for this species, and can also be good for Powerful Owl, although it had been a long time since I looked for the latter at this location and was unsure as to their current status.
It's a perfect night here for spotlighting in Brisbane - still, clear and with the moon in its first quarter. Arriving about half an hour before dusk, we pottered up the trail from the carpark to the clearing at the falls themselves. Next to the clearing above the falls is a small pool fringed at the rear with a small but dense reedbed. At the pool were a couple of Pacific Black Duck and an Australasian Grebe. It was while trying to see a bird obscured by pond vegetation (sorry, I'm botanically challenged) that a third and completely unexpected bird shot out and flopped into the reeds behind - a male Little Bittern!
I was amazed: not only was this the second time I've seen the bird in barely over a week and the first time I've seen it away from Sherwood Arboretum (where I had also notoriously dipped on the birds so often before), but the location was so unexpected and the apparently suitable habitat so small. If they can be in places like this, I wonder just how common the birds really are.
Dusk came at around 7.15 and after an anxious wait (they always leave it until seemingly the last minutes before dark), the first nightjar appeared over the clearing, its red/orange eyeshine brilliant in the spotlight. We were entertained for the next 10 minutes as it swooped around like some weird kind of giant swift. A Tawny Frogmouth was also found sitting quietly on a dead branch.
During this period I had been giving my ever so lame imitation of a Powerful Owl call and was amazed again when after a time I heard a distant response. A sojourn up the hill failed to find the bird responsible, and eventually the owl went silent, although both a Boobook and the nightjar started calling, the latter a kind of amused/amusing chuckle.
We started back to the carpark and as we drew close we heard a Powerful Owl again, this time much closer, a clear double hoot, the second note higher than the first. The bird was found easily calling in a tall eucalypt near the edge of the carpark and was a perfect finish to the evening, although it was a shame we couldn't travel further up the road to Mt Glorious - it was one of those nights where it seemed everything was out and about.
A great way to kick off the year and a year list, too, although I doubt 2003 will be much chop in that regard for me. Still, quality not quantity...
Cheers, AS
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