Vol.3 No.1 - BirdLife Northern Queensland?

Vol.3 No.1 - BirdLife Northern Queensland?
Contact call
Newsletter of Birdlife Northern Queensland
Volume 3 Number 1
March 2014
An unusual visitor:Yellow-billed Kingfisher
On the 28th December 2013 a female Yellow-billed
Kingfisher was seen along Bushy Creek at Kingfisher
Park Birdwatchers Lodge by Vena Beetson who was a
guest at the Lodge. The kingfisher was subsequently
photographed by Hiroshi and Miho Hashimoto, also
guests at the Lodge, which confirmed the sighting as
a female Yellow-billed Kingfisher. A further search on
the 29th did not sight the bird, but it was heard calling
in rainforest, adjacent to Bushy Creek by four
observers experience with its call, early in the
The normally accepted range of this species in
Australia is from Cape York Peninsula, south to Weipa
on the west coast across the cape to the southern
extent of the McIlwraith Range near Silver Plains
Station, just south-east of Coen (HANZAB 1999). This
record represents an extension of range of about
360km. We speculate that it is possible that this bird
followed the river systems from the west coast of Cape
York, along the Mitchell River, into Rifle Creek and
then Bushy Creek.
Del Richards from Fine Feather Tours says there has
been at least five reports of this species south of their
normal range but none of them have supporting
evidence, which makes this record important.
Thanks to Del Richards for his input and to Hiroshi and
Miho Hashimoto for allowing us to use their image of
the Yellow-billed Kingfisher.
Keith & Lindsay Fisher.
Kingfisher Park Birdwatchers Lodge.
Newsletter Contents
1. Yellow-billed kingfisher sighting
2. From the Convenor
3. AGM Notice, Introducing our new website
4. Mission Beach PIP count 2013
5. Saving the nutmeg pigeon - Margaret
Thorsbourne AO
6. A guide to binocular care
7. Kingfisher Park Australia Day weekend trip report
8. Birding in splendid isolation: Cape York Peninsula
9. Cumberland Dam, Georgetown
10. Identifying Grey Falcons
11. Databases, listing and challenges. The new
Eremaea eBird
12. Monitoring Lovely Fairy-wrens on Redden Island
13. Notice Board
14. Activities calendar
Birdlife Northern Queensland
From the Convenor
The start of 2014 has been fairly successful for the
birds in our part of the world. Every day I'm seeing
youngsters being fed, or nests with expectant parents.
And the promise of inland rains should bring hope for
the birds out west! We seem to have been inundated
with sightings of unusual species – Red-necked
Phalaropes, Eastern Yellow Wagtail, Spotted Whistlingducks, and even Sanderlings. All the more reason to
get out there and keep a watchful eye on our residents
and visitors alike!
Your committee, under the guidance of Murray and
Doug, have developed an interesting program of
monthly meetings and activities for the next 6 months
(please see page 20 for details). The meetings will
continue to be on the first Saturday of each month,
alternating between Cairns (Cominos House), and
another location on the Tablelands or elsewhere in our
vast region. We started the 2014 program with the
Australia Day outing to Kingfisher Park in Julatten, one
of the jewels for birding in our part of Queensland.
Hopefully by now, you have all had an opportunity to
visit our new website at http://birdlifenq.org. It is now
much easier to find out what is happening and when
our next meeting is on. Thanks to our website guru –
Mikey Kudo! I am always amazed at how much talent
and experience there is among our members.
Contact us: BirdLife Northern
Queensland Committee
email: [email protected]
website: www.birdsaustralianq.org
Committee Members
Convenor - Kath Shurcliff
Secretary - Murray Hunt
Treasurer - Ian Northcott
IBA Coordinator - Graham Harrington
Birdlists & Brochures - Dominic Chaplin
Conservation Coordinator - Martin Willis
Website Administrator - Mikey Kudo
Activities Coordinator - Doug Herrington
Crane Count Coordinator - Virginia Simmonds
Committee member - Martin Cachard
Newsletter Editor - Ceri Pearce
And speaking of members, our National Office will
have a focus this year on building up our supporter
and membership base. Currently, we have about
10,000 members nationally, but they estimate that we
need about 13,000 members to keep our balance
sheet in the black. And we have a goal of growing to
15,000 by 2018!! So why not bring a friend along to
our next meeting or outing, and lend them one of your
back issues of “BirdLife” and maybe we can recruit
them as our next member of BirdLife Northern
For those of you who receive this newsletter issue
electronically, a reminder that the Annual General
Meeting is on 1 March, at Cominos House. Is now the
time you might like to offer your skills and talent and
join us on the committee? We are always looking for
enthusiastic people with ideas to revitalise or even
challenge us on the committee.
I would like to conclude this by simply thanking all of
you, our members, for your contributions, enthusiasm,
and interest in helping us to protect and understand
our BirdLife in northern Queensland and elsewhere.
Hope to see you at the AGM, and at our meetings and
outings throughout the year!!
Kath Shurcliff
Convenor, BirdLife Northern Queensland
Bird of Paradise: Victoria’s Riflebird.
Image courtesy of Ian Montgomery. Birdway.com.au
Don't miss the next meeting
1st March, Cominos House, Cairns
6pm: AGM, then guest speaker at 7pm.
Dr. Cliff Frith will be talking about
Birds of Paradise – History, Art, Culture,
and Sex
Join us for the AGM and for dinner too:- pizza
and salad ($2 a slice).
Contact Call Newsletter of Birdlife Northern Queensland.
Volume 3 Number 1
Birdlife Northern Queensland
Notice for our 2014 AGM
The BirdLife Northern Queensland AGM, will
be held on Saturday 1st March 2014, at
Cominos House in Cairns, starting at 5.00pm
Please consider nominating for a position.
Nominations are called for the following
Birdlife Northern Queensland Committee
Nomination Form
Position: _______________________________________
Nominee: ______________________________________
Nominated by: __________________________________
Seconded by: ___________________________________
I hereby accept this nomination:
Deputy Convenor
(signature of nominee)
Date: _________________________________________
Please return this form before the meeting to
[email protected]
Committee Members
It also works by simply typing “birdlifenq.org” in
Have you visited our new website? http://birdlifenq.org/
the address bar of your search engine. The website was designed to fit well on iPad and tablet devices in
addition to general personal computers. I would like members
to access the website and report if there are
any issues. Email:- [email protected]
Mikey Kudo
March 2014
Birdlife Northern Queensland
Birdlife Mission Beach
Pied Imperial-pigeon
count 2013
Annual monitoring of Pied Imperial-pigeons (PIPs) at
Mission Beach is conducted jointly by Birdlife NQ and
Birdlife Townsville. On one afternoon in November
several count teams keep watch from 4.00PM to
6.30PM at designated sites. They record the numbers
and approximate flight directions of PIPs that fly out to
sea (photo below) heading back to their breeding
colonies and roost sites on various islands.
The latest count took place on 2 November 2013. The
afternoon was greatly enhanced by the inspiring
participation of north Queensland conservation
champion Margaret Thorsborne AO (next page) and
Suzie Smith, Secretary of Wildlife Queensland
Cassowary Coast - Hinchinbrook branch. Thanks to
these two expert observers and new volunteers and
local residents, we had sufficient counters despite a
rather low turnout of Birdlife members.
The result for the four long term count sites at Garners
Beach, Bingil Bay, Wongaling and South Mission Beach
was a total of 1,500 PIPs. Within the 7-year history of
the project (graph below), this could be regarded as a
fairly typical number. However year-to-year
comparison is inexact due to changes in procedures,
dates and sites. Only three of the sites began in 2007,
Bingil Bay was added in 2008 and Kurrimine in 2012.
PIPs flying out to sea: photographer Julia Hazel
Pied Imperial-pigeons Mission Beach
2007 total for 3 sites, 2008-2013 total for 4 sites
Total count at standard sites
We had less than perfect weather for the first time
since these counts began. Fortunately the occasional
showers were brief and all count teams were able to
successfully complete their monitoring. Afterwards
most people got together for a sociable dinner.
The extremely low total in 2011 is probably a
consequence of severe habitat devastation caused by
Tropical Cyclone Yasi but we have no convincing
explanation for the very high count in 2009. Kurrimine
(not included in the graph) is another puzzle: a total of
A modest number of wonderful people responded.
1,311 PIPs in 2012 but only 200 in 2013. Perhaps a
They provided useful new data and made helpful
longer series of counts may shed light on the extreme
suggestions for next season. I am currently collating
the additional records and will report on them in a
For better insight into PIP dynamics the counts need to future newsletter.
cover a much wider geographic range. We took the
Many more participants will be needed to extend
first step towards that goal by calling for people
coverage in the coming PIP season. Please consider
anywhere along the Queensland coast to count PIPs
helping with this project. You can choose any coastal
(following the standard procedure) at any site
site - it does not have to be a place with many PIPs.
convenient for them during the month of November
Zero counts provide valuable data too. This only needs
a few hours of your time, on any afternoon that suits
you in November 2014. How about putting it on your
calendar now.
Report by Julia Hazel
Contact Call Newsletter of Birdlife Northern Queensland.
Volume 3 Number 1
Birdlife Northern Queensland
Saving the Nutmeg
Pigeons -
At the Birdlife meeting in November (photo below left)
everyone listened enthralled to Margaret’s story. In the
mid 1960s she and Arthur discovered that intensive
shooting of Nutmeg Pigeons at island breeding colonies
was having a devastating effect on pigeon numbers.
Margaret Thorsborne AO
The Thorsbornes immediately began campaigning for
effective protection of breeding islands and, with
incredible courage, they confronted shooters in person.
They also consulted wildlife experts who explained the
importance of long-term monitoring.
In response Margaret and Arthur began systematic
pigeon counts at the devastated breeding colony on
North Brook Island in 1965. Margaret showed us the
battered notebook in which she recorded their original
counts and year after year tracked the very slow
recovery that followed. Her notebook is a wonderful
piece of conservation history.
Regular PIP counts at North Brook Island have
continued, with additional help, up to the present
season. Unfortunately the future is in doubt. December
2013 saw the end of invaluable logistical support from
Parks & Wildlife at Cardwell. Hopefully Birdlife and
other conservation organisations may consider helping
to keep these island PIP counts going in future
Article by Julia Hazel
Margaret Thorsborne at Birdlife Mission Beach meeting:
photographer Jeff Larson
Margaret Thorsborne (photo above), together with her
late husband Arthur, has been campaigning tirelessly
over half a century to protect Queensland natural
habitat and wildlife. Many species have benefitted –
most of all the birds that were known as Nutmeg
Pigeons when their plight first caught the Thorsbornes’
attention. (The name Pied Imperial-pigeon was
officially assigned much later.)
The PIP team: Margaret Thorsborne AO, Julia Hazel and Trish
Pontynen. Photo courtesy of Jeff Larson Group at Birdlife Mission Beach meeting.
Photo courtesy of Jeff Larson
March 2014
Birdlife Northern Queensland
A Guide to Binocular Care
How to Clean Binocular Lenses
Proper care and cleaning can extend the lifetime of
Incorrect cleaning can lead to damage of external
your binoculars significantly. Here are a few tips to
keep your binoculars in their best condition, so you can lenses, ruining binoculars. You should always follow
the steps below when cleaning binos. Taking good care
always get the maximum performance from your
of lenses will preserve the lens coatings, protecting
them from scratches or blemishes. Since most binos
are similar in design, cleaning instructions seldom vary
 Do not touch the lenses. Aside from finger marks,
from one model to the next. For the best results, you
the fatty acids on your fingers could affect the lens
should always check the user manual or the
manufacturer’s guidelines. Of course, prevention is
always better than cure, and lenses should be kept
 Don’t leave your binoculars on the car seat while
clean and free of moisture and dirt by using lens caps
you are driving. If you suddenly have to stamp on
and cases.
the brakes, your binoculars could hit the floor and
perhaps get knocked out of alignment. It is safer to Step 1: Remove Loose Dirt and Dust
put them on the floor to begin with - in their case.
Before cleaning the lenses, always remove any sand,
 Be aware that any sudden impact can cause an error dust or dirt particles. Rubbing on the lenses while grit
to the optical alignment. Therefore, if you have your is present will cause scratches in the lens coating,
binos in a backpack, don’t drop them on the ground resulting in cloudy images. Dirt can be removed by
when you take it off. Place them down gently. If the gently brushing it with a soft brush or by blowing on
the lenses using either compressed air or a blower
binos are on the car floor – slow right down for
brush. If using compressed air, you should use short
speed bumps.
bursts as a sudden drop in temperature could damage
 Do not keep your binos stored in the car, especially
components or cause fluorite lens coatings to crack.
in the glove compartment. This environment can
Step 2: Remove any Remaining Dirt
become super heated and create problems with
Inspect the lens under good light and remove any
gases being emitted from the greases and other
remaining dust with a cotton swab moistened with
materials used in the binos. These fumes will cool
and settle on the internal optics, making them hazy. water or lens cleaning solution. You should use lens
cleaning solution that has been specifically designed
 Fully retract the eyepieces for travel or storage.
for use with coated lenses. Never pour cleaning
 If you have twist-up eyecups, keep them retracted
solution onto the lens as it could seep into the
for storage or travel. A bump or knock can cause
binocular barrel.
the eyecups to become cross-threaded and stuck in
Step 3: Wipe the Lens
Once all the dust and grit has been removed, you can
 To avoid “birdos neck”, consider using a shoulder
safely wipe the lens using a lens tissue or microfiber
harness to take the weight off your neck. Never
lens cloth. Always be gentle and never apply too much
dangle them in your hands by their strap as it is
pressure. For residual smudges, apply lens cleaner to a
easier to drop them, hit things or collect dirt
cloth and gently wipe the lens using circular motions.
 Do not store binos that are damp, or put lens caps
Do not clean lenses with toilet paper, paper towel or
on damp lenses. This will encourage mould/mildew
newspaper or use acetone or homemade cleaning
growth. Instead, gently wipe the body and leave the solutions as these materials could cause permanent
and irreversible damage.
binos where air can circulate around them. Once
completely dry – clean the lenses if necessary and
then they can be stored. Wardrobes are not a good
place for storage, as your clothes will hold dust and
 Do not disassemble the binos in any way as this
could knock the optics out of alignment. If there is
dirt or mould inside,
have them cleaned by
a professional.
Contact Call Newsletter of Birdlife Northern Queensland.
*Clean binocular lenses only when necessary, such as
when they have been used in dusty conditions or if
they have been contaminated by spills or used near
sea spray or moist, salty air.
Take good care of your binoculars and they will provide
you with many more hours of hassle free viewing!
Volume 3 Number 1
Article by Lyn Porter, Suncoast Optical
Birdlife Northern Queensland
Australia Day Bird watching
March 2014
Birdlife Northern Queensland
2014 Australia Day
Weekend at Kingfisher
Park Birdwatchers
Lodge, Julatten
BirdLife Northern Queensland held its 14th annual
Australia Day long weekend get-together at Kingfisher
Park Birdwatchers Lodge, Julatten, hosted by Keith &
Lindsay. It was well attended with over 30 people
coming to enjoy field trips, guided walks, talks and a
movie night. As usual these weekends are very social
with lots of interesting food and a relaxed atmosphere.
Saturday morning saw the group going up onto Mt.
Lewis to look for some of the Wet Tropic endemics, all
13 occur on the mountain. The main attraction was
Blue-faced Parrot-Finch, which occur here from
November to April. We were not disappointed as there
were at least eight feeding alongside the road. Other
good sightings were white phase Grey Goshawk, male
Golden Bowerbird, two families of Chowchilla having a
territorial dispute, Victoria's Riflebird and a Barred
Cuckoo-shrike feeding young in a nest. In all we saw
27 species. Late afternoon we went to Wessel Road in
Julatten to look at open woodland and Melaleuca
swamp country. Here we found 29 species including
Buff-banded Rail plus Lovely and Red-backed Fairywren. The evening was spent sharing a communal
dinner followed by a talk from Lloyd Nielsen. Lloyd is a
well known ornithologist who lives in the area and has
been studying local bird fauna for many years. His talk
was about the status of Fuscous and Yellow-tinted
Honeyeater in our region, resulting in the possibility
that there are no Fuscous Honeyeater but several
forms of Yellow-tinted Honeyeater or even a new
species. Further investigation will require DNA testing
to sort it out.
Sunday morning was spent at a private property along
Rifle Creek in Mt. Molloy where we saw 35 species
including Black Bittern, Pacific Baza, Double-eyed FigParrot, Shining Flycatcher and Eastern Yellow-Robin.
Also seen here were hundreds of Sapphire Flutter
dragonflies. Early afternoon we had a talk by Kath
Shurcliff, Birdlife Northern Queensland Convener,
about the list and atlas entry of the Eremaea online
database, which is moving to a new website called
Eremaea eBird. We were introduced to the differences
between the two databases and how to use eBird for
entering and retrieving data.
The evening was spent watching a DVD, filmed at the
Lodge, about the breeding cycle of the Buff-breasted
Paradise-Kingfisher which migrate from Papua New
Guinea to breed in North Queensland rainforest each
Contact Call Newsletter of Birdlife Northern Queensland.
year during the wet season. They nest in low
terrestrial termite mounds before heading back to PNG
in April.
Monday morning was spent in and around the Lodge
for two hours during which time we recorded 52
species including Plumed Whistling-Duck, White-bellied
Sea-Eagle, 30+ Red-tailed Black Cockatoo and a
White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike nest with two very large
chicks in it. We experienced a few showers of rain but
luckily they did not interfere with a very successful
weekend in which we saw 113 species and heard a
further 11 species.
Thanks to all those that made the weekend a success
especially Del Richards, Lloyd Nielsen, Kath Shurcliff
and Doug Herrington Birdlife Northern Queensland
Activities Officer.
Report by Keith & Lindsay Fisher.
At least eight Blue-faced Parrot-finch were seen feeding at Mt
Lewis. Photo courtesy of Dominic Chaplin
Kath Shurcliff presented a talk about Eremaea to weekend
Volume 3 Number 1
Birdlife Northern Queensland
Birding in splendid
Cape York Peninsula
Alarm clocks are redundant in my Bamaga home on
the edge of this small Indigenous community. The presunrise chorus of Yellow Orioles in my garden trees
takes care of that. If I happen to sleep though them,
then very often the screeching call of the Palm
Cockatoo will have me bolt upright in a flash.
Not only the Papuan but even occasionally the Marbled
Frogmouth can be heard at night from my bed
(competing with the ever-present Barking Owls and
Bush Stone-curlews of course). There’s a Cuscus about
lately too. His “cussing” and hissing did have me
tossed for a while thinking it was possibly a drunken
nocturnal Fawn-breasted Bowerbird!
With gallery forest just behind and rainforest proper a
few hundred metres ahead, the Riflebirds and
Manucodes are always on song. The old orchard just
over the fence, not only harbours Brush, Fan-tailed (in
the dry) and Little Bronze-cuckoos, but recently a
Chestnut-breasted was heard. The Oriental turns up in
the yard annually.
Tawny-breasted Honeyeaters plus the usual local
Queenslanders (Graceful, Yellow-spotted, Brownbacked, and Dusky etc.) are always flitting about with
the Sunbirds, Gerygones and Flycatchers. The Yellowbilled Kingfisher has spotted me again. I don’t know
where it is exactly but is commonly heard. Balcony
birds all.
It’s not always so easy. Sometimes I have to leave the
property to go birding as there are a few more “CY
specials” out there to see! All possible habitats exist
(except for montane).
So where is this place? If you pack up your 4WD and
head north along the East Coast you’ll end up here
eventually when you run out of road. It’s a bit of trek
but we all know that Kath and Dave have even ridden
their bikes birding this far.
History of Bamaga birding.
Whereas many have conducted surveys here on short,
bird-focussed trips, the history really belongs to Klaus
Uhlenhut. He lived here for 2 years at the former
Wilderness Lodge at the very “Tip” in the mid-1980s
recording 2-weekly checklists which apparently he still
has “somewhere”. (We would like to see those
Klaus…hint, hint….again).
Palm Cockatoo. Image courtesy of Ian Montgomery.
Annually for the past 2 decades he, often with Lloyd
Nielsen, brings guests in for Cape York Bird Week just
at the start of the wet. This year Murray Hunt also
provided guiding services in addition to the ‘Big Two”.
As one guest this year pointed out “This is as close as
it gets to FNQ Birding Royalty”.
Indeed. It certainly is a week I look forward to as it is
the only opportunity I ever have to bird with others up
here and some fabulous birds are on offer.
Next Time: A bit about Bamaga history, Indigenous
culture and the Lockerbie Scrub
Article by Rob Reed
STOP THE PRESS:Red-necked Phalarope sighting
A Red-necked Phalarope was sighted by Rob Reed
at the Umagico settling ponds on Tuesday 4th
February. Rob writes in Birdline North Queensland
"this is the fourth Red-necked Phalarope I have
seen in 3 separate locations in 4 days. There are
still 2 at Bamaga settling ponds. Possibly the heavy
rain last week courtesy of a cyclone.... from
southern Indonesia/PNG. In its course it travelled
straight over us. This may have moved the birds
from their pelagic non-breeding residence to here."
March 2014
Birdlife Northern Queensland
Dam Georgetown
Cumberland Dam, just west of
Georgetown, is one of the best
places in Australia for bird
watching. Fifty species in an
hour can be recorded here. It is
situated towards the edge of
‘inland’ Australia, and given the
boom-bust nature of our
country, you never know what
might turn up.
Some work has recently been carried out, perhaps by
the local council, to improve the area. The damaged
In the late 1980s the Naturalists Club used to regularly
fence surrounding the lagoon has been repaired,
record Gouldian Finch here, but these finches seem to
preventing cattle from entering. Cattle can still drink
have disappeared in recent decades. The nearby
from the smaller dam just above the main lagoon. The
Gilbert River was once a source for finch collectors and
parking area is also surrounded by low level fencing
there is still the occasional rumoured sighting. The
which prevents people from driving around the dam.
most reliable sighting in recent years was of one
Rubbish bins are provided and the whole area is a lot
female bird in 2009, at Flat Creek Station, about 50
cleaner than it used to be.
km to the south.
On the first night, Sep 10, about twelve caravans,
There have been recent proposals to turn the area into
including a few with dogs, were present. Next
a vast irrigation complex, growing sugar cane and
morning we counted the number of bird species from
fruit, with water to be sourced from the Gilbert River.
06.00-10.00 recording 60 species in total. This
A suitable source of funding is still awaited.
included Zebra, Masked and Black-throated Finch. This
In recent years Cumberland Dam has become a
number is broadly similar to other visits made over the
staging post for grey nomads seeking a free spot to
years. Most noticeable this time were the spectacular
park their homes for the night. These free camping
large flocks of Budgies coming in to drink in the early
grounds are becoming more and more popular and
morning. I have been visiting this dam regularly for
large numbers of caravans can be recorded at the
about 15 years and occasionally see a small flock. But
Mareeba Rodeo Grounds and at Rocky Creek near
this time perhaps a thousand were here making for
Tolga. Concern was raised by our members that the
lovely photos. Also present was a flock of 20-30
presence of these nomads might be adversely affecting Cockatiels. Again I have occasionally seen the odd
the birdlife at Cumberland Dam, so we decided to have pair, but there were much more this time, obviously
a look.
forced in by the very dry conditions throughout NW
For a balanced view I was accompanied by someone
who was both a retiree traveller and a birdwatcher. A
We made the trip to Karumba and back and stayed
highly technical scientific approach was taken whereby again at the dam a few days later. This time no
we compared the number of species present on a day
caravans were present. We counted over the same
when many caravans were present to a day shortly
time period and this time recorded 59 species, little
afterwards with none.
different from when all the nomads were there.
Overall I don’t think the presence of the caravans is
having a damaging effect on the bird numbers. We all
like to visit our favourite remote sites and enjoy being
the only people there. But exponential global
population growth (and an increasing number of
mobile retirees) means there is less space and fewer
quiet areas on this planet every day. We just have to
live with it!
Article and photography by Dominic Chaplin
Contact Call Newsletter of Birdlife Northern Queensland.
Volume 3 Number 1
Birdlife Northern Queensland
Identifying the Grey
There has been a number of recent sightings of Grey
Falcon, Falco hypoleucos, from the Wet Tropics. While
this desert falcon does occur (very rarely) in areas well
outside of its usual arid zone range, probably
coinciding with a time when severe drought is rampant
in inland Australia, most of these sightings that I have
seen have not been supported by convincing evidence
as to identity. If submitted to a rarities committee,
none would be accepted. Without wanting to sound
provocative, unfortunately, these records are of no
value and are unusable by researchers.
The following may help with positive identification.
Despite the misleading statements in HANZAB that it
"ought not to be confused with other raptors" and
"blackish wingtips above and below, contrasting
strongly with pale grey dorsum and pale underparts,
diagnostic" (Marchant & Higgins 1993), the Grey
Falcon is easily confused with other species in the field,
more so when one is unfamiliar with this bird of prey.
Consequently, many published and unpublished
records of Grey Falcon are often incorrect (Schoenjahn
2010) and "other raptor species are time and again
misidentified as Grey Falcons" (Schoenjahn 2011).
The Grey Falcon is extremely rare – people often go
years without a sighting. Some never see it. In over 50
years of observation which includes many trips to the
arid and desert areas of western Queensland, South
Australia and the Northern Territory I have only ever
seen three pairs, all in the far west and south-west of
Queensland. In 23 years in the Wet Tropics, I have not
seen a Grey Falcon.
Population estimates of Grey Falcon across the
Australian continent vary. It has been estimated that
there are between 200 to 350 breeding pairs
(Schoenjahn 2011) to 550–915 pairs (Garnet et al.
2011) with a precautionary average of about 500
pairs. This compares with an estimate of about 3000–
5000 pairs of Peregrine Falcon on the Australian
continent (Olsen and Olsen 1988). The population of
Grey Falcon is spread over probably about 5 million
square kilometres. Roughly, even if the entire
population is as much as 900 pairs which is highly
unlikely, this averages a breeding pair to about 5,500
square kilometres – some indication of its rarity.
The Australian endemic Grey Falcon, Northern Territory.
Image courtesy of Christopher Watson
When perched, a Grey Falcon appears as a broadshouldered, short-legged falcon with powder-grey
upperparts, black primaries, white underparts and
wingtips which fall level with the tail. All bare parts are
bright orange-yellow (i.e. cere, eye-ring, legs and
feet). The base of the bill is also yellow which
accentuates the extent of orange-yellow about the
face. White trousers (elongated feathers on the thighs)
extend to below the tarsal joint and cover half the
lower legs.
Darker grey upperparts than adults. Underparts are
similarly white but with fine dark streaks on the breast
and dark markings on the flanks. It shows greater
contrast of darker upperparts and all-white underparts
than the adult and lacks the bright orange-yellow of
the bare parts i.e., cere and eye-ring are pale bluegrey; legs and feet mid-to pale yellow. It has a fairly
obvious single, thin malar stripe (running down cheek
from base of bill). In the first few months after
fledging, it shows a buff half-collar on the hind-neck.
March 2014 11
Birdlife Northern Queensland
Wings are broad and fairly pointed in most situations
but not acutely pointed. Normal flight is swift and
hobby-like but often leisurely with shallow, easy wingbeats. Sometimes wings can be raised above the body
like a Brown Falcon with higher and deeper wingbeats.
It then resembles a very fast version of Brown Falcon.
It glides on flat wings and soars with wingtips slightly
upswept. In soaring flight, the wings may be held
somewhat stiffly forward with slightly rounded tips. It
is capable of soaring for long periods without
wingbeats, often gaining a great height. It does not
hover but will sweep rapidly over waterholes at low
level to flush prey. The orange-yellow bare parts
especially the cere and eye-ring of the adult are
immediately obvious.
When seen from underneath, it is very pale. Wingtips
are not always obviously dark. Tail is short with no
obvious terminal or sub-terminal tail-band. From
above, it appears mid-grey with the primaries nearblack. At no time does it show fingers (tips of
primaries) at the wingtips as accipiters (goshawks and
sparrowhawk) do.
The most commonly heard call is similar to that of the
Peregrine Falcon but slower, deeper and harsher; it is
profoundly different from any call of the Brown Falcon.
Call is heard mostly about the nest. Away from the
nest or at a roost, it is usually silent.
Generally, the Grey Falcon is not described well in
most field guides, and field marks, traits and
characters to separate them from other birds of prey
are mostly absent. The adult Grey Falcon is more
easily identified than the juvenile, which can be
Black wingtips seem to be responsible for some
misidentifications. Although the upper wings are
conspicuously and broadly tipped black the underwings
may show hardly any dark tips. Several other raptors
have dark or blackish wingtips when seen from below.
If black wingtips are the only characteristic observed,
it is not sufficient for identification of a Grey Falcon.
(Schoenjahn 2010).
The species with which it is more often confused is the
pale morph, white-breasted Brown Falcon, Falco
berigora, followed by Grey Goshawk, Accipiter
novaehollandiae. It is sometimes confused with the
other two Accipiters, Brown Goshawk, Accipiter
fasciatus and Collared Sparrowhawk, Accipiter
cirrocephalus as well as, though rarely, Blackshouldered Kite, Elanus axillaris and Nankeen Kestrel,
Falco cenchroides.
Adult The orange-yellow bare parts especially the cere
and base to bill stand out like a beacon, even at a
considerable distance and in flight. If these are not
obvious at close to mid ranges and further, then it is
not an adult Grey Falcon. Sight records that do not
mention this feature should be suspect. In these cases,
it is either a juvenile Grey Falcon or another bird of
prey, most likely a pale-breasted Brown Falcon.
Juvenile More easily confused with other grey birds of
prey than the adult, it can be separated from palebreasted Brown Falcon and Grey Goshawk with care.
When perched, all grey and white plumage, striations
on underparts, short legs, long trousers, wingtips
which fall level with the tail and a single dark malar
(cheek) stripe are fairly obvious. In flight, wing-shape,
shortish tail, lack of brown trousers and colour of
upperparts (if possible) should be noted.
Brown Falcon (pale morph – these individuals appear
white or near-white when seen from below). When
perched, a Brown Falcon can be eliminated by its
brown upperparts, short brown trousers and bare grey
legs (rarely yellowish), unfeathered below the tarsal
joint. Even in the palest Brown Falcon the double
moustachial or cheek markings are still evident
(juvenile Grey Falcon has a single malar (cheek) stripe
which is faint or absent in adults) and the upperparts
are always a degree of brown. The Brown Falcon
usually has a distinct upright stance when perched.
In flight, Brown Falcon can be eliminated by its
distinct, slightly upswept wings (never illustrated well
in most field guides), brown trousers (which are
usually obvious with good binoculars) and longish
barred tail. Flight of the Brown Falcon is not fast for a
falcon – it has a slower, heavier flight than other
falcons. It has darkish wingtips when seen from
Brown Falcon. Image courtesy of Ian Montgomery.
Contact Call Newsletter of Birdlife Northern Queensland.
The Brown Falcon is far more vocal than Grey Falcon
and often calls in flight.
Volume 3 Number 1
Birdlife Northern Queensland
Grey Goshawk – when perched adults can be
eliminated by the longish legs bare from the tarsal
joint, fine grey barring on the breast and wingtips
which fall well short of tail tip. Though the adult has a
yellow or orange-yellow cere, it lacks the bright
orange-yellow eye-ring and the yellow base to the bill
of the adult Grey Falcon which makes the latter stand
out amongst birds of prey. Juvenile Grey Goshawk has
coarser, darker barring on the breast which with the
longish bare legs fairly easily separates it from Grey
Falcon. In flight, the short, broad, rounded wings with
distinct fingers at the tips are obvious.
Nankeen Kestrel has rufous upperparts and a subterminal black band in the tail in flight.
 Adult Grey Falcon is easily identified by the standout orange-yellow bare parts.
 If the entire leg is exposed below the tarsal joint,
the bird is not a Grey Falcon.
Brown Goshawk and Collared Sparrowhawk – though
 Black wingtips are not sufficient to identify a Grey
they can appear pale in flight at a distance underparts
are rufous barred (adults) or brown streaked (juveniles
 Grey Falcon does not show prominent fingers at the
and immatures). Upperparts are slate-grey. When
wingtips as accipiters do.
perched, wingtips fall well short of tail tip. Both lack
Grey Falcon has a single malar (cheek)
the extensive orange-yellow bare parts about the face
stripe, Brown Falcon has double cheek markings.
of the Grey Falcon (cere is cream to olive-yellow in
 Pale Brown Falcon has short brown trousers and
both species).
brown upperparts.
In flight, both have rounded wings with tips of
individual primary feathers (fingers) clearly visible at
the wingtips. Further, the trailing edge of the accipiter
wing is convex i.e. the silhouette of the wings tapers
towards the body. In Grey Falcon, the wing is at its
broadest at the body.
Bravery, J. A. (1970) Birds of Atherton Shire. The Emu
With careful observation, these species should not be
70, 49–63.
confused with Grey Falcon.
Garnett, S.T., Szabo, J. K. & Dutson, G, (2010) Grey
Falcon. The Action Plan for Australian Birds 2010, 149–
151, CSIRO Publishing, Collingwood, Vic
Marchant, S. & Higgins. P. J. (Eds) (1993) Handbook of
Australian, New Zealand & Antarctic Birds Vol. 2:
Raptors to Lapwings. Oxford University Press:
Brown Goshawk
and Collared Sparrowhawk.
Images courtesy of Ian Montgomery. Birdway.com.au
Olsen, P. D. & Olsen, J. (1988) Population trends,
distribution and status of the Peregrine Falcon in
Australia. In Peregrine Falcon Populations: Their
Management and Recovery. The Peregrine Fund, New
Schoenjahn, J. (2010) Field Identification of the Grey
Falcon Falco hypoleucos. Australian Field Ornithology
Schoenjahn, J. (2011) How scarce is the Grey Falcon?
Boobook 29:24–25.
Article by Lloyd Nielsen
Nankeen Kestrel in flight. Note the sub terminal black band on
the tail. Image courtesy of Ian Montgomery. Birdway.com.au
March 2014 13
Birdlife Northern Queensland
Databases, Listing and
The New Eremaea eBird
I've been an obsessive lister of bird species wherever I
go. It all started way back in the late 1970's, when
the RAOU kicked off its first field atlas – filling in lots of
record sheets and sending them into my local Regional
Organiser. And the result – Australia's first “Atlas of
Australian Birds”, where the distribution of every
species was mapped out in 1 degree blocks with its
reporting rate – a great achievement, only to be
surpassed by the second Atlas, a decade or so later!
The thrill of seeing one of my tiny dots in the midst of
nowhere, filling in that gap where otherwise it would
just be blank and empty – well, that hooked me! And
I've been doing it ever since.
But around 10 years ago, the mechanical filling in of
record sheets gave way to interactive websites, where
I could readily enter all the needed data directly from
my computer – I was always losing those record
sheets anyway! Eventually I found out about the
revolutionary Eremaea website – where I could readily
enter all my lists with ease, and more importantly, I
could also pull out all the information I wanted – how
often and in what months did I actually see Whitestreaked Honeyeaters in the Cooktown area?
And because I could, with one press of the keyboard,
send my lists to the Birds Australia database, I was
hooked again. So much so, I entered so many lists
that the organisers of Eremaea, Margaret and Richard
Alcorn, asked me to become a local moderator for the
northern Queensland region.
The Eremaea site has been great, because you can not
only keep track of your own lists and records, but it is
easy to access all the records that have gone into it,
with as much detail as originally provided. Something
that has been sorely lacking with the Birds Australia
Birdata website. And also keep track of who has been
out and about in your local area, and what they have
seen. This site has been the brainchild of Margaret
and Richard Alcorn, who have not only developed and
maintained it, but have actively grown the community
of users and volunteers who assist in keeping it up to
standards, somewhat like the role of the previous Birds
Australia Atlas regional organisers.
The Alcorns were thinking ahead about the long-term
future and longevity of the Eremaea Atlas – who would
look after it after they could no longer do this? And
how could we grow the user base to realise the
potential of growing number of birders getting to every
corner of Australia and beyond? They looked around,
Contact Call Newsletter of Birdlife Northern Queensland.
and decided the best option was to form partnerships
with the Cornell University Laboratory of Ornithology's
eBird program, and the University of Queensland's
Centre for Biodiversity and Conservation Science – two
institutions of high regard. On 1 February of this
year, the new website Eremaea eBird was launched.
And it looks as though BirdLife Australia may soon join
this partnership, to revitalise Birdata.
eBird has been gathering momentum in North America
over the last 10 years, with more than 100 million
lists! As well as providing basic distributional
information, these data are now being used by
scientists to develop forecasts of migrations of species.
Just have a look at some of the species maps and how
distributions change over a year, for example
http://ebird.org/content/ebird/occurrence/yellowbilled-cuckoo/ . Imagine if we could do that for our
waders or New Guinea migrants!
Entering bird lists on Eremaea eBird is straightforward.
Go to the website at
http://ebird.org/content/australia/ . First, you need to
register with an username, email address and
password. This sets up your own “My eBird” account,
where all your own lists are stored and can be
accessed and managed.
- Location: be as precise as possible, e.g., Keating's
Lagoon, not Cooktown
- Effort: date and time and duration, distance or area
- Species: preferably a complete list of every species
seen, not just the highlights. This helps to build up
the frequency picture, which is the best indicator of
how likely you are to see a species at a given place.
I visit Keating's Lagoon near Cooktown on a regular
basis. So when I come home after a morning's walk
along the lagoon, I enter my list on Eremaea eBird. I
just login and click on “Submit Observations” at the
top of the page. Then I choose “Keating’s Lagoon”
under My Locations, and “continue”. A second page
comes up where I fill in date, time and effort
information, including the type of survey I completed.
To find Eremaea eBird go to:http://ebird.org/content/australia/
Volume 3 Number 1
Birdlife Northern Queensland
This is usually a Travelling one of 0.8 kms and a
Stationary one, when I have morning coffee.
The next page is the list of species, where I enter the
numbers seen, or an “x” if I did not estimate numbers.
The list is either in taxonomic order, or alphabetically
by main group, e.g., Honeyeater, Yellow-spotted, not
Yellow-spotted Honeyeater. I can also add further
details for each species – numbers of males, females,
immatures, any noted breeding activity, or any other
comments. After listing all the species seen or heard,
then finally I check that this list is complete, that it
includes all species that I actually could identify. Then
I click “Submit”, and I'm finished!
If I had listed any species which normally are not
found in the region, then I would be asked to supply
additional details before submitting the list. To make
it easier to find the species I saw on this long list, I
can jump to the observed species by typing in some
of its name in the “Jump to Species” box. But I usually
reduce the number of species on the scroll list by
checking the box “Group by Most Likely”. Then those
species which are recorded most frequently at this site
occur at the top of the long list, where I can more
readily find them.
March 2014 15
Birdlife Northern Queensland
As well as being easy to enter data and lists into
Eremaea eBird, you can also readily get loads of
helpful information out of it. Want to know the best
places to go birding in an area? Just go to “Hotspot
Explorer” in “Explore Data”.
A world map appears, zoom into the area you are
interested in and focus on the redder squares, which
indicate higher numbers of species. Zoom in further
and you will get all the hotspots in that square and
they are colour coded for the number of species
recorded there. Click on the brightest coloured one,
and the total number of species and lists comes up.
Click on “bar graphs” and you will get a complete
species list, with weekly frequency levels.
I hope this is enough information to get you started on
using Eremaea eBird. But there is additional
information on the web pages for most items, just click
on the ? to view this. A comprehensive help section is
found by clicking on “Help” at the top of the page.
And this will also take you to the Community Help,
where you can ask any question, and get helpful
advice from other users.
One of the great advantages of joining forces with
eBird is the added resources which are now made
If you want to find the best place to see a particular
species, then click on “Range and Point Maps”, type in available to us here. For instance, eBird has an
arrangement with Zeiss Sports Optic to provide
the species you are after on the top of the map page.
Zoom into the darkest coloured areas on the frequency binoculars as prizes for winners of monthly challenges
maps. Click on any of the hot spots in the square, and to encourage more entry of lists. These challenges are
open to all eBird registered users, and any one of us
a list of all sightings will occur.
could win!
Contact Call Newsletter of Birdlife Northern Queensland.
Volume 3 Number 1
Birdlife Northern Queensland
In future issues of Contact Call, we'll take a closer look
at what information you can obtain from all these lists,
managing your own lists, sharing lists with others, the
role of data reviewers, and the Smartphone
applications that are now available to make the entire
process of entering and obtaining information all that
Kath Shurcliff
North Queensland Eremaea eBird data reviewer
BirdLife Northern Queensland http://birdlifenq.org/ [email protected] Birds are in our nature Monitoring Lovely
Fairy-wrens on Redden
Population size and density estimate
 There are at least 11 family groups on Redden
Island containing 29 birds:
2 groups of four (pairs with 2 dependent juveniles
3 groups of three
6 pairs
 Density: 0.34 birds per hectare (29 birds in the
approximately 85 hectare area of Redden Island).
We banded 20 birds in 10 groups (all members banded
in 4 groups) with a numbered metal band from the
Australian Bird and Bat Banding Scheme and with a
unique combination of coloured leg bands to allow
individuals to be distinguished in the wild.
Breeding activity
Two groups had dependent juveniles (still being fed by
adults) and two groups had nests awaiting egg-laying.
It is likely that other groups were also breeding.
Territory size
Some colour-banded individuals were seen ranging
over at least 200m. However, territory sizes are still
unknown and require additional sightings of colourbanded individuals.
Reporting sightings
Reportings of sightings of lovely fairy-wrens are helpful
for monitoring overall population density and the
survival, group dynamics, and territory size of colourbanded individuals.
Key information to note:
Male Lovely Fairy-wren.
Image courtesy of Ian Montgomery. Birdway.com.au
 Date
 Number of birds seen
 Location (grid reference on the territory map below,
or lat/long in decimal degrees)
 Colour combination of any colour-banded birds (see
below for instructions)
March 2014 17
Birdlife Northern Queensland
Please report sightings to Dr Michelle L Hall ([email protected]) or A/Prof Raoul A Mulder ([email protected]), or
follow this link to a spreadsheet:
Redden Island Territory Map (below)
***NB Please do not use playback for resighting
these birds.*** This is important both for animal
welfare reasons (playback forces birds to mount a
territorial defence response that imposes unnecessary
stress over and above their natural territory
maintenance behaviour, especially at a site that many
people visit) and for achieving the research goals of
this project (e.g. using targeted playback experiments
to determine the function of female song).
Group members are identified as female (f), male (m),
or juvenile (j) and as unbanded (Unb) or by their
unique combination of coloured leg bands (see below
for code). Grid references (e.g. 7D) can be used to
identify locations if the Latitude and Longitude (in
decimal degrees) are unknown.
Identify the colours of the four bands in order
 bird’s left leg, upper position (closer to body)
 left leg lower position (closer to foot)
 right leg upper position
 right leg lower position
Code each colour using the single letter code:
Write out the colour combination by listing the code for
each of the four colours in order, with a ‘/’ separating
the two colours on the left leg from the two on the
right leg, for example:
All birds have a silver (metal) band (= S, usually in
lower left position) as part of the Australian Bird and
Bat Banding Scheme.
Contact Call Newsletter of Birdlife Northern Queensland.
Volume 3 Number 1
Birdlife Northern Queensland
Notice Board
From the Editor
Next newsletter deadline
Please submit stories/news/reports by April 30th 2014
to [email protected]
For example:Female
and male banded wrens
Colour codes would be ES/RO for the female, and
WS/NR for the male bird
Newsletter deadlines for 2014
 April 30th for the June Edition*
Article reprinted courtesy of Dr Michelle Hall.  July 31st for the September Edition*
 October 31st for the December Edition*
DONT FORGET TO RENEW YOUR MEMBERSHIP *please note, if you have requested to receive printed
newsletters from Birdlife Australia, these are usually
posted out with the Australian Birdlife Magazine. The
electronic version of Contact Call is available earlier,
via email or on our web site, usually in February, May,
August and November/December each year.
Would you like to advertise in Contact Call?
Advertisements and sponsorship help support Birdlife
Northern Queensland. Any profit is used for education
and conservation projects. The advertisements must
be relevant to Birdlife Northern Queensland members
and compatible with Birdlife Australia objectives and
fund raising guidelines.
Easter Campout at Georgetown
For more information about this activity as well
as other upcoming meetings, outings and
surveys, visit our website for the latest details
Quarter page advertisements for 4 issues can be
purchased for $70 plus GST, or $20 plus GST for single
issue advertisements. Contact the Editor of Contact
Call for further information.
Come and join us. Everybody's welcome.
For day trips, do bring a hat, sunscreen, lunch,
refreshments/water and a folding chair.
For more information about an outing or an event,
contact the leader listed or check the website.
Doug Herrington, Activities Coordinator
Cockatiels at Cumberland Dam.
Image courtesy of Dominic Chaplin
For more great bird watching activities in the Cairns area, also check out: http://cairnsbirds.blogspot.com.au March 2014 19
Birdlife Northern Queensland
Meeting place and other information
Sat 1st
6pm to
Cominos House,
27 Greenslopes St,
Edge Hill.
Murray Hunt
[email protected]
Sun. 2nd
Sat. 15th
3 to
Centenary Lakes,
Greenslopes St,
Cairns RSL,
Catalina room,
then the
6pm to 6.30pm - AGM
followed by pizza and salad ($2 a slice)
7 to 8.30pm - Cliff Frith on “Birds of Paradise – History, Art,
Culture, and Sex”
Centenary Lakes Bird Walk with John Seale (meet opposite
Rondo Theatre)
Wave the Waders Goodbye
3pm workshop at the RSL
4.30pm to 5.45pm - wader watching on the Esplanade
6pm – join us for dinner at the RSL if you wish
Doug Herrington
and Murray Hunt
[email protected]
Sat. 5th
7pm to
Kingfisher Park
Lodge, Julatten
Doug Herrington
and Murray Hunt
[email protected]
Sun. 6th
Mt Molloy
Club meeting
Come early in the day for birding in the local area
BYO BBQ dinner in the cook shed at 5pm
7pm - Keith Fisher presenting ‘Birds of Kingfisher Park’
Bird survey of Peter Brown’s property along Rifle Creek at Mt
18th 21st April
Proposed Campout
Possible dual group campout with BirdLife Townsville
Monitor the
website for
Club meeting
First speaker: John Grant on the Bali Starling Recovery
Program. Second speaker Fergus Power, from the
Environmental Defender’s Office talking about ‘The GBR and
legal entity’
Centenary Lakes Bird Walk with John Seale
(meet opposite Rondo Theatre)
Doug Herrington
and Murray Hunt
[email protected]
90 minute Daintree River cruises
6.30am and 8.30am
Club meeting
Del Richards presenting ‘Birding Anecdotes – NQ History,
People and Unusual Sightings’
Wildlife Habitat staff presenting a talk on the avian collection
at the Habitat.
Birding Quiz led by Murray Hunt
Drinks available for purchase
Club meeting
Speaker to be announced
Book direct with
Murray Hunt
Murray Hunt
50% discount on
entry to Wildlife
Habitat for BNQ
members that
[email protected]
Doug Herrington
and Murray Hunt
[email protected]
Doug Herrington
0418757288 or
[email protected]
6 to 8pm
Cominos House,
27 Greenslopes St,
Edge Hill
Sun. 4th
May -
Centenary Lakes,
Sat. 7th
6.30am &
Sat. 7th
6 to 8pm
Wildlife Habitat,
Port Douglas
Sat. 5th
6 to 8pm
Cominos House,
27 Greenslopes St,
Edge Hill
Sun. 6th
Centenary Lakes,
Centenary Lakes Bird Walk with John Seale (meet opposite
Rondo Theatre)
Yungaburra area
Birding Weekend and Club Meeting
Fri. 1st Sun. 3rd
Friday 1 6pm
Meet at Nick’s Restaurant, Yungaburra for dinner followed by
spotlighting at Curtain Fig with Doug Herrington
2nd 6.30am
Meet at Hastie’s Swamp Bird Hide for tag-a-long birding trip
with Doug Herrington
Bring your lunch and tea
2nd - 6pm
Club meeting at Yungaburra Community Hall
Pot Luck Dinner (Bring a plate to share)
Speakers: TBA
Sunday 3rd
- Sunrise
Proposed Birding breakfast cruise on Lake Tinaroo (3 hrs)
12 seats only! BOOKING ESSENTIAL
Sunday 4th
- 10.30am
Birding along Petersons Creek walking track with Doug
Meet at Platypus viewing station near Nick’s Swiss
Kalkadoon Grasswren Survey
Aug. 8th Sept.
Boulia area
6th Sept
6-8 pm
Cominos House,
27 Greenslopes St,
Edge Hill
Club meeting
Speaker to be announced
Sun. 7th
May -
Centenary Lakes,
Centenary Lakes Bird Walk with John Seale
(meet opposite Rondo Theatre)
Del Richards
Contact Call Newsletter of Birdlife Northern Queensland.
Volume 3 Number 1
Cruise - register
interest with
Doug Herrington
on Ph
[email protected]
07 40965051
Doug Herrington
and Murray Hunt
[email protected]
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