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?
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
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
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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