Chestnut Rail recorded in Queensland's Wet Tropics.

To: Del Richards <>
Subject: Chestnut Rail recorded in Queensland's Wet Tropics.
From: Laurie Knight <>
Date: Sat, 5 Nov 2011 14:17:24 +1000
G'day Del,

That's interesting news on the Chestnut Rail movements.

Can you please fill us in on the Spotted Whistling Duck observer misbehaviour at Wonga Beach? I don't recall reading any reports about the misbehaviour - I assume you are referring to the ducks that were reported there a couple of months ago.

Were there many birders involved or was it just a couple of insensitive types barging onto private property?

Regards, Laurie.

On 05/11/2011, at 1:06 PM, Del Richards wrote:

In recent years I have been involved with a radio programme "Bird Talk", monthly with ABC Far North in Cairns. Responses come from a wide range of people and locations and are often very interesting. In the days prior to the October programme I was contacted by locals Kerry Coleman and Graham Bell about a large bird which they believed to be a Chestnut Rail. After giving the report due caution, they said that they would quite happily send me an image of the bird which they did, taken in ideal habitat north of Cairns. With Martin Cachard I later visted the location and the narrow creek where the bird had been photographed at neap tide in heavy red mangrove habitat. I then enlisted the help of Lloyd Nielsen with regard to the eastern records of the species known to be north of Karumba in the Gulf. This led me to speak to Russell Holt who for many years ran the "Ferryman Cruises" there who in turn had seen the species on the Staaten and Mitchell River deltas to the north. Should the record have been infuenced by a major weather event, "Cyclone Yasi" came in from the Coral Sea and passed over sothern Cape York Peninsula in early February remaining a category "3" even as it passed Georgetown. Around Mossman we had severe NNW winds for thirty hours and storm rain of around 500mm in the ensuing days. It's real impact on birdlife can only be guessed at. (At the time there were two reports of Elegant Imperial-Pigeon in the Wet Tropics, one at Mt. Molloy, (very competent observer) and another in the Kennedy Valley near Cardwell before and after the cyclone respectively. This bird previously had not been encountered in the region. Which other species were here, who know?) I have established that chestnut rails have not been kept at Cairns Zoo and Hartley's Creek Crocodile Farm. To the north Sean Dooley (pers. comm.) saw one in a Port Douglas resort a year ago which had escaped from "The Wildlife Habitat". however within two hundred metres the are two thousand hectares of ideal mangrove habitat. To make the journey to the environs of Cairns this bird would need to proceed over forty kilometres on rocky mountainous terrain. John Seale (pers. comm.) received an unconfirmed report about two years ago from Lake Tinaroo on the Atherton Tableland. Local Jack Leighton followed this up without result. Since the photograph was taken there has been no further sighting of the bird in question. Those birders involved are loathe to give out the location, having learned some serious lessons from the preceeding fiasco which happened at Wonga Beach with regards to the Spotted Whistle-ducks. Those wishing to tick those birds showed scant regard for the birds and the residents to whom we are still apologising. Keith Fisher (pers. comm.) I would sincerely like to thanks all of the above local observers for their help along with Denise Goodfellow for her experience with the species. In the meantime all observers should be aware of possible sightings of Chestnut Rails in north Queensland.
Del. Richards, Fine Feather Tours, Mossman, NQ>


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