Waders on the move, SEQld

To: birding-aus <>
Subject: Waders on the move, SEQld
From: jilldening <>
Date: Fri, 12 Sep 2003 08:05:41 +1000
Hi Everyone,

I've been offline for a week, during which time I've been doing field
surveys in the Bundaberg area, about 400km north of Brisbane. Jill
Chamberlain of the Qld Wader Study Group was with me, and on two of the four
days we were with QPWS rangers from Mon Repos.  I must say it was very

Last Sunday we surveyed the Elliott river mouth, and found nesting Beach
Stone-Curlew and nesting Sooty Oystercatcher, as well as a range of
migrating waders. Three Whiskered Terns appeared amongst the Crested Terns
on the intertidal sandbanks late in the afternoon, and as we were heading to
shore at sunset, a flock of 41 Whiskered Terns flew over from upstream,
heading for the sandbanks. There are no shorebird records for the area in
the QWSG or QPWS databases, and so we were trying to work out the key spots
for waders.

During the Burnett River surveys we found a flock of 85 migrating waders at
the Barrage, just upstream from the town. I identified them at distance and
through heat haze as Curlew Sandpiper, but there is a slim chance they could
have been Sharp-tailed Sandpipers - it was a hard call. The feeding
behaviour said Curlew Sandpiper to me. They were there the following day
when we repeated the surveys.

On the pond at the north head we found roosting Eastern Curlew with a few
Whimbrel. In the boat harbour we found a pair of breeding-plumaged Little
Terns engaged in courtship behaviour, and my blood pressure rose
accordingly. Also on the rock wall at the river mouth we found a lone Common
Sandpiper foraging amongst the wave-splashed rocks. I had never seen this
species in this habitat before, so I learned something new. Other migratory
species were present in small numbers.

On the fourth day we went with QPWS rangers into the old northern estuary,
which is now cut off from the river, and accessible only by boat.  On the
Barubbra Is spit we found a minimum of 39, and possibly more than 50, Little
Terns engaged in the preliminaries to breeding. This is an experience I have
long awaited, because for all the tern work I have done, I had never seen
Little Terns at the breeding grounds. We saw courtship, feeding (one partner
wooing the other with a fish catch), nest scraping. No mounting, and no eggs
seen. Some of the females appeared to be keen to mate, but would then avert
when the male approached. There is a word for that in human behaviour. Some
birds sat in one place for long periods, but several, which might have been
incubating eggs, proved not to be doing so when they stood up. We kept our
distance, and there was no way I wanted to walk into the colony just to
prove that eggs were present. It was clear what was happening.

Also in the estuary we saw migrating Lesser and Greater Sandplover, and
Red-necked Stint. Crested and Lesser Crested Tern are acquiring breeding
plumage. A few other waders were present in modest numbers (Eastern Curlew,
Whimbrel, Grey-tailed Tattler, Bar-tailed Godwit). And then on the way back,
we saw three Beach Stone-Curlew, different from the two we saw at the
Elliott. The QPWS rangers are rapt about having five Beach Stone-Curlew on
their patch (they're not migratory).

It's all happening out there. And now to face a week of emails.



Jill Dening
Sunshine Coast, Qld
26º 51'  152º 56'
Ph (07) 5494 0994

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