February 16th 2005
Magnetic allure to off-season birders
There are lots of reasons to visit Magnetic Island and for bird lovers there were 112 different ones counted over the December 1 weekend. That's a lot of bird species tucked into one small place and for serious birders who want to bring their non bird-obsessed family with them, the Island, as a great holiday destination, is hard to beat - even in the quiet-for-tourists but busy-for-wildlife, wet season.
Magnetic Times' Birding on the Rock columnist, Chris Corbett, returns with some red hot tempters for birders contemplating a wet season visit and follows with an update on December's very impressive Island bird count.
Better late than never - New year's greetings birdlovers May the Year of the Rooster be with you and inform your aspirations and birding behaviour accordingly. Red, the fortunate colour of the Chinese Zodiac appears to predominate in 2005.
The Red Junglefowl; the Red Necked Stint; the Red Knot; the Ruddy (another name for red!!)Turnstone; the Red Necked and Red Legged Crakes (not that anyone has ever seen the latter), the Red Capped Plover and the Rose Crowned Fruit Dove (a rose by any other name is a paler shade of red) can all be sighted on beautiful Magnetic Island at the appropriate time of the year - ie. September to April.
There are a significant number of other fortunate birds with red/ish accoutrements that it would be difficult to see with such relative ease anywhere else. The beautiful Pied Oystercatcher - defined by its gorgeous red legs - and its blood brother the Sooty Oystercatcher in eye catching racing outfit of stark red and black can be seen on the West Point and Cockle Bay Beaches and the rocky surrounds of Geoffrey, Alma and Horseshoe Bays. All accessible by Maggie Island Bus Service.
At the Horseshoe Bay Lagoons, Brolga with its beautiful red eye and head wrap, the Jabiru Stork with it spectacular red legs and the Magpie Goose with its red facial skin and red/orange legs are regular wet season visitors. The russet red of the female Shining Flycatcher and the pinky red beaks of the Olive Backed Oriole are commonplace in the Bolger Bay mangroves and terminalia trees all over the Island.
Hot and steamy it may be - but the birds love it! It is the best time to see the wading birds and a spectacular range of Cuckoos - who mostly have red eyes or eyerings - in the remaining stands of Melaleuca. After hard mornings birding there are myriad opportunities to rest and refresh at the Island's beaches, bars, Cafes and restraunts.
A huge THANK YOU to all the Rock Bock regulars and ring-ins who contributed to the December Challenge Count of Bird Species and numbers on and around the rock. We had an impressive result - as usual. A total of 112 bird species and 1600 birds were recorded for the weekend. This is 14 species up on the last December count and the Rock accounted for 10 species of birds not recorded at the mainland sites. The Orange Footed Scrub Fowl (closely related to the fortunate red and probably the Junglefowl in another life), the Sooty Oystercatcher, the Shining Flycatcher, the Beach Stone Curlew, the plethora of Boobook Owls, an itinerant Nightjar, Common and Marsh Sandpipers and nesting Forest Kingfishers were the significant additions to the combined count. The combined Townsville Bird Observers Club members recorded over 230 species and 20,0000 birds for the 1st weekend in December.
Probably the most significant count information was for the Bush Stone Curlew population on Maggie. The Bush Stone Curlew is in decline everywhere else in Australia due to habitat loss and competition from domestic and feral animals. With the diligent help of householders and property owners from West Point, Bolger Bay, Picnic Bay, Nelly Bay, Arcadia and Horseshoe Bay we recorded over 150 Bush Stone Curlews over the weekend. We don't believe that this is a definitive count and are hoping that a specific Curlew Count can be organised in the near future and that we will find more. In the mean time 'The message is LOCK UP YOUR CATS AND DOGS AT NIGHT AND DRIVE SLOWLY!!! ' Nowhere else in Australia can you see these beautiful birds with such ease - please take care of them.
Bird On in the Year of the Rooster - I'm not sure there could be a more auspicious time!
Photo: Curlew and chick by George Hirst