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Birds Of Nudgee

Nudgee Beach Autumn update.

Rating: 3 votes, 5.00 average.
Autumn has certainly arrived here, the scent of particular flowering plants, the air temperature and change in humidity, the bird behaviour, fish behaviour. Less mosquitos, but they are still hanging in there after recent rains.
The most noticable change is the courting behaviour of the Brown Honey-eater. Quiet (but present) for the last few weeks of Summer, Autumn finds the little 'Browns' playing games of chasey and chatting to each other over short distances. Birds appear mainly in pairs (sometimes several metres apart at times *3-15m?) or individually. Banksia and Callistemon blooms become a part of the diet, and less active insects amongst the mangrove leaves might mean insects occupy a smaller portion of the birds' diet at this time. Boy chases girl at breakneck speeds, pulling radical manoeuvres between the Eucalyptus, Banksia, and Casaurina branches - both of them stopping suddenly to feed for several seconds before the mad chase is on again. In several weeks their song will evolve and so will their behaviour. They are a different bird when nesting, and better photo opportunities are possible as the adults get busy. I have found that Brown Honey-eaters will land within metres of your face and belt out a variety of songs to some unseen rival or mate, while perched atop a shrub out in the open. This seems to happen more often during later Winter and throughout Spring - at least at Nudgee Beach. The Browns will quieten down again come mid-Summer as they deal with the kids.

Striped Honey-eaters have returned. I see them here fairly often, but they seemed to be practically absent for most of Jan/Feb. They are harder to approach and won't approach me, but sometimes I seem to accidentally surprise one (or vice versā), and at that point you have precisely 2.9 seconds to aim-focus-shoot before the bird noiselessly vanishes into thin air. They tend not to perch at eye level, but can sometimes be caught lurking among the sprawling native Hibiscus and you can get a few chances to peg them through the gaps.

Mangrove Honey-eaters are still present but apparently dwindling as the days grow cooler. This species has been common here for several months now, in groups of up to perhaps six or seven birds. Now they are pairs, individuals and the odd trio. I might have had my eyes closed last year, but I recall these guys being absent for several months, so I'm keen to see if that reoccurs this year.

White-throated Honey-eater occasionally among the lower branches of tall shrubs and small trees. Fast, fairly bold, but don't seem to stay in one tree for too long. Quick, efficient browsing then move on.

Leaden Fly-catchers starting to be seen after many months not spotted (seen, that is - not covered in spots!). Very shy and not at all curious.

Migrants have been absent for 2-3 weeks, apart from some teenagers holding over for the season. Some Whimbrel, one or two Bar-Tailed Godwit (non-breeding plumage), a Curlew or so (small). No plovers. Black-winged Stilts ever-present but in lower numbers, though still in large flock. Pied Oystercatchers (pair).

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Updated 02-05-2014 at 04:59 AM by Matt Dunn



  1. John Daniels's Avatar
    Thanks for the update Matt. Am going there 1st thing Sunday, so hope there's still a few birds left for me
  2. Louis Backstrom's Avatar
    Thanks also Matt. Hope to get out there soon.
  3. Geoff Gates's Avatar
    Good reading...
  4. Matt Dunn's Avatar
    After having slept only six hours in two days, I found myself hitting the Nudgee mudflats at dawn yesterday morning. It was the coldest morning of the year so far - anything under 16℃ is cold for a Queenslander like me, and anything under 12℃ is bloody freezing. I think it was 6 or 7℃ when my alarm punched me in the brain at 4:50AM. I'm not an early riser, yet birding sees me up and out the door before dawn one or two days every week. Nothing could ever get me up before dawn in the last twenty years, and before that only the call of the surf would be a sufficient motivator, especially in the colder months. I am so glad I made the effort though because my reward came early - even before I could get my gear out of the car. I had just finished nuking myself with pesticide and was taking a swig from my juice bottle before heading out, when I saw two dark shapes approaching from above the nearby park. Two immature White-bellied Sea-Eagles flying low (10-12m) and close together, almost touching.... and then they did touch. The bird above inverted and rolled underneath the other bird. They locked talons and propped their wings and turned half a lazy cartwheel, effectively switching positions on-the-fly. They seperated and continued on their way, occasionaly 'elbowing' each other playfully. If my camera were in my hand it would have been almost a frame-filler with my 400. So close. No photo, but what a sight!

    The sun is coming up. My old boots aren't quite waterproof, so despite arriving half an hour before dead low tide my socks begin to dampen as I make my way through large puddles 2cm deep, and with that went the warm feet. Black-winged Stilts are scattered in loose groups for hundreds of metres, and in the distance a group of five Bar-tailed Godwit work the sandy creek bank with a young White-faced Heron in close company.

    A Collared Kingfisher perches atop a low barnacle-encrusted stump which looks a bit like a boat anchor but isn't. These guys are fairly tolerant, so I advance carefully in a stooping walk, stopping and looking around innocently now and then. He's not fooled one bit of course, it must be hilarious to watch my approach from his point of view. Anyway, I take some shots and creep closer for some more. I'm only fifteen or twenty paces away from him, but I know that's going to be the limit. I get ready for the BIF shot and then muff it when the bird launches. It flies more or less straight at me and I make all sorts of useless attempts to focus and shoot. I caught up with the bird a further 50m on, it had perched on a large log that angled out of the sand. I managed to get a bit closer this time and got some good shots in warm light.

    Various species of Tern arc and wheel in the distance near the mouth of the estuary, following the length of a sandy strip, propping and diving on the small fish and crustaceans at the waters edge. To my left Nudgee creek curves its way into the mangrove forest where I can hear more Stilts, Brown Honey-eaters in the distance, Great Egrtets prowling the fringes. I avoid the estuary and head for the Terns, out to the open mudflats, hoping to see the pair of Brahminy Kite that often take watch over this section of the reserve at low tide. Terns are so predictable and they don't seem to mind if you place yourself directly in their flight path, crouched at the waters edge with the sun at your back with your camera aimed and ready. The warm sun on my back helped me to remain patient as my comfort level creeped up, and I got some great Tern shots.
    A pair of Pied Oystercatchers zoom past at knee height, too fast for me. I triggered a burst of shots but they were too far past for good eye contact. I photographed probably this very pair the week before, but am still to get a good photo of them together.

    The Brahminy kites showed up. Wary. Too far away for good photos, but I took some decent ones anyway, Shorncliffe in the background. A pair of adult Sea-Eagles flew overhead, caught me by surprise, no eye contact. I saw them later to the east, too far away to shoot from here, several seconds later the horizon claimed them and the sky was empty again. At that point I pondered the differences between birding in the mangroves and birding on the flats. The mangroves offer cover, interesting perches, nooks and crannies. You can ambush a bird or be ambushed by one. Out on the flats you have nowhere to hide, and neither does the bird. So bird behaviour is different too, of course. The big plus to being out in the open is the aerial real estate you have within your line of sight. You can see movement a long way off, the flats provide a backdrop that can give away a moving bird's position. The sky is vast and you can see birds approaching from many directions. If you keep relatively still the birds often won't spot you until they are right on top of you and you are well and truly in burst mode. I have discovered that I can crouch for almost twenty minutes. I'm going to enjoy that while it lasts, which probably won't be very long now.

    The Brahminy Kites were still perched in the far distance when my bladder decided to head back to the amenities. I was thirsty too. My socks were quite damp by the time I approached the car park. That's when I met John Daniels, a nice chap carrying the Eiffel Tower over one shoulder and grinning broadly. He was keen to see some Brahminy Kite, so we went back on to the flats and I used my lens to see if the Kite were still there. They were not. That's about when one Brahminy flew right over our heads. I reckoned the other would not be far behind and it wasn't, either. Gusty winds defeated attempts at good shots, but the pair landed in a large exposed tree and we were able to approach in short stages and get some better shots. We tried to find the Collared Kingfishers, succeeded, then lost them in the mangroves. OK, so now I really have to pee.

    I head back, pausing to snap some shots of a small White-faced Heron hunting the shallows. Great setting and light, my pics are under-exposed because I hadn't changed my settings from earlier. Live and learn. After giving up some fluids and subsequently taking more on, I hit the boardwalk with John and we did a circuit. Not much around in the cold windy conditions, Brown Honey-eaters and Grey Fantails the exception. No Mangrove Honey-eaters this time. We saw some Royal Spoonbill with A Heron and a pair of Ibis. One Spoony was in full breeding plumage. They moved deep into the mangroves. Low-light grainy pics of the backs of retreating Spoonbills I'll not be posting.

    I said farewell to John and headed home for Breakfast and a shower. I dumped my images to the PC and began to look for loot. I fell asleep in my chair and woke three hours later. Still tired, but content.

    Pied Oystercatchers at Nudgee Beach Reserve:
    Updated 07-05-2014 at 01:43 AM by Matt Dunn
  5. Matt Dunn's Avatar
    I made three short visits to the reserve this week, all at high tide near mid morning. Gusty wind on first visit, a few showers this week too.

    Spangled Drongo (pair)
    Mistletoebird (male)
    Striped Honey-eater
    Brown Honey-eater
    Red-backed Fairy-Wren (family)
    Varied Triller (small group)
    Australian Magpie
    Collared Kingfisher
    Little Pied Cormorant
    White-bellied Sea Eagle (pair on one day, individual on the next day)
    Brahminy Kite (3 on day, pair on next day)
    Mudlark (Magpie Lark)
    Crested Tern
    Rainbow Lorikeet
    Royal Spoonbill
    Australian White Ibis
    White-faced Heron
    Black-faced Cuckoo-Shrike
    Mudlark (Magpie Lark)
    Crested Tern
    Mangrove Gerygone
    Updated 16-05-2014 at 03:25 AM by Matt Dunn
  6. Matt Dunn's Avatar
    This morning was all about Honey-eaters. Browns, Striped, and Blue-faced. I heard but didn't see Collared Kingfisher, spotted a Brahminy over the far side of Nudgee Creek and heard Whistling Kites in the same direction. The friendly Striated Heron was present, and I met a birder who was happy to take advantage of the Heron's closeness and tolerance. The bird plunged into the creek several times right in front of us. Grey Shrike Thrush near the bird hide. A pair of Striated Pardalote zooming across the creek, I got an almost acceptable BIF pic of those. Saw one a bit later across the creek sticking to the vertical face of a mud bank. There were Terns, White-faced Heron, Black-winged Stilt, Brush Turkey, Pale-headed Rosella, Rainbow Lorikeet.

    The highlight of the morning for me was a noisy group of Striped Honey-eaters playing push and shove high atop a Casaurina on the other side of the creek. I walked out into the middle of the creek as the diminishing sandbank melted away beneath my boots and got a few shots of the group. In the next very tree was a Pale-headed Rosella. A beautiful morning for birding at Nudgee Beach. I didn't venture out on to the flats today, but I saw a few Whimbrel, otherwise mainly Stilts.

    Striped Honey-eater - Plectorhyncha lanceolata at Nudgee Beach Reserve.
    Updated 18-05-2014 at 12:05 PM by Matt Dunn