Buff-breasted Button-quail search 11-13/12/11

To: Carl Billingham <>
Subject: Buff-breasted Button-quail search 11-13/12/11
From: Gary Wright <>
Date: Wed, 21 Dec 2011 15:15:20 +1030
Hi Carl

On 8/11/11 in Dinden national park, which is eucalypt woodland with grassy
understorey I flushed a button quail off of the roadside while driving and
it flew up into woodland.  My notes at the time were buff breasted button
quail?-cinnamon, appeared larger than other quail with long pointed wings.I
remember thinking at the time that it didn't have or I didn't see dark
wingtips.   The habitat there is certainly appropriate.   Another mystery
to throw into the ring!


On 21 December 2011 09:16, Carl Billingham <>wrote:

> Here is a revision of an email I sent to those involved in the previous
> weekends search for BBBQ at Mt Molloy.  Because of the constraints of
> Birding-Aus I have not attached the map I mention in my email, however, if
> anybody wants a copy please feel free to contact me off line.
> Cheers,
> Carl
> Fellow BBBQ paddock bashers,
> Thanks so much to the hardy souls that joined us on Sunday, Monday and
> Tuesday in the search for the elusive BBBQ and to those that provided
> information on where to look and, just as importantly, what to look for.
> The conditions were very hot and humid, making the experience most
> uncomfortable for those of us that had grown soft residing in an
> air-conditioned office most of the time (ie me).
> A number of Brown Quail were flushed along with numerous Painted
> Button-quail.  The big question is did anyone see BBBQ?  The answer is yes,
> probably...
> I have attached a printout from GPS of some of our travels showing where
> the previous sightings had been made.
> From Peter Marsh we had BBBQ1 (S16 49 23, E145 22 15), BBQ2 (S16 49 00,
> E145 22 19) and BBQ3 (S16 49 12, E145 22 19). Additional information and a
> photograph of the first location BBBQ1 from Bob Way, helped confirm we were
> looking in the right area, however, this area seemed to be the least
> productive in terms of BQ or any other seed eating birds (eg Peaceful Doves
> and Pale-headed Rosellas).  It looked to me as if this patch had finished
> seeding and I suspect the birds had all moved on to 'pastures new'.   I
> have marked up the areas where the grass still seemed to be seeding heavily
> in green on the attached map.
>  Six of us, Michael Kearns, Dominic Chaplin, Martin Cachard, Phil
> Gregory, and Adam Arnold, covered the area thoroughly on the Sunday
> morning, although with the benefit of hindsight I suspect we were searching
> too high up the hillside.  All that was flushed was one very golden Brown
> Quail (only sighted by myself) and half a dozen Painted Button-quail,
> although it is most probable that these included multiple sightings of the
> same PBQ's.
> The Sunday afternoon it was just Michael and I.  We spent more time on the
> lower slopes and adjacent flats that had grass seeding. We quartered the
> areas where BBBQ had been seen previously, thoroughly, without success.  We
> then concentrated on the areas where the grass was still seeding which were
> north of the dense vegetation (melaleucas marked in blue on the map)
> between the powerlines and the base of the hills.  It was in this area we
> had our most likely candidate for BBBQ.
> Michael flushed two Quail from right under his feet which wheeled away
> behind him. Michael's first comment was that they were a different colour
> to the PBQ and BQ we had  been seeing in the area being a lighter buff
> colour.  Both birds flew about 30-50m and landed some distance apart. I
> concentrated on where the furthest one landed and chased after it while
> Michael went for the closest.  I had only got a brief look as they flew
> away and agreed they were a paler buff colour and were lighter underneath.
> Walking up to the area where the second one had landed I was surprised
> when it flushed about 3m behind my right shoulder - I had walked right past
> it!  By the time I had turned around and got a bead on where it was, it was
> well on its way toward the hills at about tree top height (6-9m) before
> banking behind a tree and disappearing from sight.
> It was considerably larger than the PBQ we had been seeing but wasn't huge
> as some had described the female BBBQ in previous recordings on
> Birding-Aus.
> My first impression was of a uniform pale buff bird of similar colour to
> the clay in the area with pale/cream flanks and a series of darker bands
> down the middle of the back. It was considerably lighter on the rump and
> back than the PBQ's we had been seeing which appeared to have a uniform
> dark-grey colour as they flew away (occassionally with an orange patch
> visible on the shoulders if you got your binoculars on to them in time).
> This bird also appeared much plainer buff without any of the overall black
> flecking which gives the Brown Quails a more uniform and richer colour (the
> Brown Quail we saw in the area ranged from plain mid-brown to a
> golden colour and one which was almost orangey rufous - similar to the
> illustration in Morecombe).  No markings were noted on the underside of the
> BBBQ candidate, nor the contrasting darker primaries that I expected to see
> based on others recorded sightings.  I immediately thought I had seen a
> BBBQ but the lack of the last diagnostic (noticably contrasting darker
> flight feathers) started me doubting what I had seen later on.
> Unfortunately Michael did not see this second bird take off and so couldn't
> add anything to put my mind to rest.
> The following morning we returned with Kay Parkin and commenced our search
> at the spot where we had had the last flushing (marked as BBBQ4 on my map,
> co-ords S16 49 7 E145 22 15) with almost imediate success.   At almost
> exactly the same location where I had flushed the bird the second time, Kay
> managed to flush one as well.  Her initial impression was of a pale buff
> coloured bird but as neither Michael nor I saw it and she wasnt experienced
> at picking BBBQ from PBQ she has been left with a most unsatisfactory
> 'possible sighting'.  In hindsight we should have been walking closer
> together.
> Kay left us to catch her flight home at about 9.00am and Michael and
> I carried on, sighting only a couple of PBQ's, until 11.30 when we called a
> halt to proceedings due to the heat.
> We returned later in the afternoon just as a storm broke overhead with a
> torrential downpour.  We noticed Martin Cachard's 4WD pulled up on the side
> of the road and were impressed that he was still out birding in the
> downpour while we were struggling to keep our hire car on the road!   We
> caught up with Martin just as the rain was easing and set out to spend more
> time scouring the line around the base of the hills from BBBQ2 around to
> BBBQ1. At this stage Dick Jenkin also joined us having hightailed it
> straight from getting off his plane in Cairns.
> The search proved fruitless aside from one very small PBQ from the BBBQ4
> site and one Brown Quail flushed further south from the BBBQ1 site.  We
> then came back and checked north of BBBQ2 which appeared to be much more
> suitable habitat as at least the grass was seeding in this area, however,
> we didn't see any quails there.
> The following morning 6 of us, including Dominic Chaplin, Phil Gregory,
> Dick Jenkin and Jun Matsui, set out once more.  We flushed a number of PBQ
> and a Brown Quail but alas the only possible candidate was a button-quail
> that flushed at some distance away from us up the slope.  Opinions as to
> what this was were mixed with Phil and Dick noting a much paler underside.
> I was the only 'nay sayer' as I didnt see anything different to what I had
> been seing on PBQ's in the area over the last couple of days.  After
> referring to our collection of different illustrations of Button Quails
> back at the car (were the artists really looking at the same birds as
> us???;-) we agreed on an 'open verdict' on the last sighting.
> It was thus time to head for the airport after a quick shower at Cassowary
> House on the way.
> Lessons learnt:  In future I would concentrate on areas where the grass
> was seeding and look for other seed eating birds in the area such as
> peaceful doves and pale-headed rosellas.  In this instance, the grass
> seemed to be seeding most prolifically where the ground cover had been
> burnt back underneath the powerlines.
> Two further observations:  we never heard any Quails calling either on the
> ground or when flushed, and none of us noticed any platelets over the 3
> days.
>  On behalf of Michael and I, I would like to thank Dominic Chaplin, Martin
> Cachard and Phil Gregory for taking the time to join us in the search (more
> than once which amazed me!).  I would also like to thank Keith and Lindsay
> Fisher for taking us spotlighting at Kingfisher Lodge on the Monday night.
> Thanks again to all participants and good luck with future searches - I
> will be back!!!
> Cheers,
> Carl Billingham
> Taringa, Brisbane
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