Baird's Sandpiper on the Gold Coast, SE Qld

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Subject: Baird's Sandpiper on the Gold Coast, SE Qld
From: "Ian Gynther" <>
Date: Wed, 12 Nov 2003 20:04:24 +1000
Hi there,

For your possible interest, a single Baird?s Sandpiper is presently at the
Coombabah Wastewater Treatment Plant near the northern end of the Gold
Coast. The bird is using the artificial habitats provided by the settling
ponds and sludge pits. But before anyone screams off there to look, please
read the paragraph below about access because the site is not open to the
public without special arrangement.

The individual was first seen and recognised as something unusual on the
afternoon of 5 November 2003 when I was with an organised group visiting the
treatment plant as part of the annual O?Reilly?s Bird Week program.
Unfortunately, none of the party had a camera with a suitable lens. I took
notes and field sketches at the time but was unable to consult suitable
reference books until my return to Brisbane the following Sunday evening (9
November). After this, a tentative identification as Baird?s Sandpiper was
made but because I had failed to note the diagnostic character of the wing
tips projecting well beyond the tail I exercised some caution about the

Yesterday (11 November) I returned to the site with David Stewart
(Brisbane). We were able to relocate and photograph the individual and
confirm the identification. In case Tony Palliser is wondering, photos and
details of the sightings will be submitted to BARC shortly!

The individual, probably a first year bird, is rather plainly plumaged with
streaked and mottled brown and buff upperparts and a narrow, faintly
streaked breast band. The underparts are a clean white. On both sighting
occasions the bird was roosting or feeding with Sharp-tailed Sandpipers. The
first time it was with just five other Sharpies but yesterday the flock
numbered at least 200. The target bird stands out by its smaller size
(approx. two-thirds the height of the Sharpies), plainer plumage, straight,
entirely black bill that comes to a fine point and dark slate-grey legs.

The best views were obtained on both occasions when the Baird?s SP was
feeding on the abundant flies (or some other flying insect) in the shallow
pits that hold dried sludge. However, because this material is heavily
rutted by vehicles, the bird frequently disappeared from sight in the ruts
and was often hard to detect. Compounding the difficulty in making an
observation is the fact that all the waders appear to get a regular stir-up
from the local falcons. On 5 November an Australian Hobby buzzed the flock
and put an end to observations. Yesterday a Peregrine Falcon flew right over
the flock at only a metre off the ground. Both times the result was that
almost the entire flock took to the wing and departed. Yesterday they
disappeared over the adjacent mangroves and presumably settled on the muddy
shoreline of Lake Coombabah. They hadn?t returned to the ponds or sludge
pits by the time we left an hour later.

Please note that the wastewater treatment plant is not open to the general
public without special permission. The Manager has made it clear that
because of safety requirements and liability issues he does not want people
entering whenever they please. Furthermore, the facility is closed on
weekends and the access road to the plant is not open 24 hours ? it has a
gate that is locked from late afternoon to early morning but the period of
opening varies on different days of the week. Consequently, access to the
site for birders is a problem. It?s not all doom and gloom though because
members of the Gold Coast Bird Observers group have a standing arrangement
with the facility managers permitting the group to enter the site to
birdwatch on their outings. The best option may be for interested people to
contact the Gold Coast birders and, providing this group is happy about the
concept, to visit the wastewater treatment plant as part of one of these
organised trips. I hope those concerned in the Gold Coast bird group won?t
resent this suggestion!


Dr Ian Gynther
Senior Conservation Officer
Conservation Services
Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service
Southern Region
PO Box 64, Bellbowrie QLD 4070
Tel: (07) 3202 0250; Fax: (07) 3202 6844


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