Had this brief report been aimed at a more pre-pubescent, bling-wearing, target audience then I would probably have been tempted to open my remarks with the customary WOW! What a week to open up our 2014 birding Year List – and yes, now that I have a piece of extraordinary software that keeps such lists automatically I find myself bitten by the bug; nay, worse still, during 2013 I found myself comparing monthly tallies both along Allen Road and in the wider South Burnett region.We started off the new year with what has become our traditional breakfast at the Boat Mountain Conservation Park, in the former North Burnett region. Or, to be more precise, we indulged in our cold bacon butties [sandwiches for the uninitiated] and hot coffee in the car park at the foot of the mountain prior to ascending to the peak. It is a long-standing tradition of three years.
We originally “discovered” Boat Mountain in our early days of residency in the area when reading a well-intentioned but rather unsatisfactory brochure about birdwatching in the South Burnett. It took some time but in May 2010 we finally managed to make our first visit to the mountain. We came away with a meagre tally of 21 species but that did include the Horsfield’s Bronze-Cuckoo Chrysococcyx basalis and rather stunning views of a Black-shouldered Kite Elanus axillaris.
I can’t now recall why we decided to return on New Year’s Day 2012 but we did and enjoyed ourselves tremendously; the tally improved marginally to 22 species. We were back in 2013 when the count soared to an impressive 36 species! We were hooked; the tradition was established.We found ourselves at Boat Mountain on New Year’s Day 2014, again with cold bacon sandwiches and hot coffee. The walk to Daniel’s Lookout, taking the longer route, was exhilarating, all the more so as we added our second only sighting of Black-breasted Button-quail Turnix melanogaster to the tally – the only previous record being at Yarraman State Forest back in March 1996!
The day improved as we progressed along the walking trail. As we reached an open area some 25 White-throated Needletails Hirundapus caudacutus appeared overhead. A pair of Wedge-tailed Eagles Aquila audax were almost within arm’s reach as the younger of the two [a juvenile?] called softly to the older [the mother?].
Four of the cuculidae graced our outing: Pheasant Coucal Centropus phasianinus, Channel-billed Cuckoo Scythrops novaehollandiae, Fan-tailed Cuckoo Cacomantis flabelliformis and Brush Cuckoo C. variolosus. The Noisy Pitta’s Pitta versicolor “walk to work” call stopped us in our tracks but it never actually showed. Moments later the Varied Triller Lalage leucomela had us craning our necks to it bring into view. We had more success with both the Little Colluricincla megarhyncha and Grey Shrike-thrushes C. harmonica.
As we were leaving, the Rufous Fantail Rhipidura rufifrons and White-eared Monarch Carterornis leucotis showed well, bringing the day’s tally to 29 species, our second best score from Boat Mountain.
At the end of the first week we ventured forth into relatively uncharted waters. No brochures or tips from other local birders here. We “discovered” and explored this trail on our own volition.
Back in January 2011 heavy rainfall had caused the road up the Blackbutt Ranges to collapse, completely blocking off any access from that direction. Indeed, with the flooding in and around Gympie to the north and the internal tsunami that raced through Toowoomba, going on to wipe out Grantham, Nanango became isolated from the outside world for several days.
In the immediate aftermath, the Government instigated major remedial work on the Ranges which took some 18 months before limited traffic was permitted to travel up and down in a one-way system alternating in fifteen-minute time intervals. It was while we were travelling along the road here that we first noticed the Site Camp [parking for the earthmovers, toilets for the workers, etc.] at the top of the Ranges. That put it just beyond the South Burnett region and squarely into our “SE Queensland” computer folder [i.e. Birding Beyond the Pale].
Its potential as a new birding site was discussed but left on the backburner until a more suitable opportunity presented itself. That opportunity arrived on 5 January when we found ourselves with time to spare from home renovations and other more mundane household duties.
The drive to the turn-off itself was straightforward enough; it was a drive we had made on many occasions, in both directions. It was gratifying to find that the workers had kept the old forestry track in good condition and that it was navigable by ordinary vehicle. We parked and walked for a mile or more before returning to the Forester. Even as we walked, a longer term plan evolved; on our next outing here, we would drive to our turn-around spot and walk on from there for a mile or and repeat this until we came down to the bottom of the Ranges – always assuming that the track exists that far].
Our birding opened with good views of a male Pacific Koel Eudynamys orientalis, perched on a dead limb calling to all and sundry but try as we might we could see no evidence of the female. A Channel-billed Cuckoo called from nearby, as did a male Eastern Whipbird Psophodes olivaceus.
Our tally mounted the further we proceeded along the track: a male Satin Bowerbird Ptilonorhynchus violaceus and moments later a female Regent Bowerbird Sericulus chrysocephalus; a pair of Mistletoebirds Dicaeum hirundinaceum; both the Rufous Pachycephala rufiventris and Golden Whistler P. pectoralis; a Green Catbird Ailuroedus crassirostris and then, the bird of the trip, glorious views of a Brown Falcon Falco berigora as it flew over the Rangers.
We came away with a tally of 36 species but given the poor light conditions we felt well vindicated for having ventured forth Birding Beyond the Pale.