Monday, 3 February 2014

A recent trip to Tucabia and Lawrence

I try to visit the local wetlands as often as possible to check up on our local Black-necked (Satin) Storks and to see what other wildlife is around.  Warren Thompson and I ventured to the Coldstream Wetlands, near Tucabia, and to Lawrence last Tuesday.  For a hot dry summer's day we were pleasantly surprised with our tally of species recording 116 birds, 4 mammals, 2 reptiles and one frog species.  Cicadas were ever present making it difficult to hear many bird calls.  It has also been suggested that the constant sound of cicadas causes many birds to remain silent although it would be hard to know if any were calling due to the noise.  In addition, by the time of the year that the cicadas are really going strongly, many birds would have finished breeding and calling may be reduced for this reason.

We started at Coutts Crossing, where we live, and travelled to South Grafton, where I had to drop off my vehicle for a service.  Warren was the driver for the day so I was happy to go where he wanted to go.   On the trip into town the flock of Magpie Geese were at the dam at the former poultry farm but I didn't stop to count them but conservatively estimated that there were 60+ present.  A few days later I counted 120+ at that site.  Adjacent to the Pacific Highway at Clarenza we found four more Magpie Geese perched in a dead tree.  There were also Grey Teal and Pacific Black Ducks there and an Australian Reed-Warbler and a Tawny Grassbird were calling.

Four Magpie Geese at Clarenza
We travelled up a back road at Clarenza and stopped near a small creek.  This site usually produces a good variety of birds and it didn't disappoint this time.  We added Rainbow Bee-eater, Dollarbird, White-throated Gerygone, Spangled Drongo (3), the vulnerable Varied Sittella (5) and twenty-one other species.  After photographing an adult male Brown Falcon we reached the wetlands at Swan Creek and began to add waterbird species such as Eurasian Coot, Hardhead, White-faced Heron and Australasian Grebe to our list.  We also heard Golden-headed Cisticola, which was present at many of the wetlands that we visited during the day.  

Adult male Brown Falcon

An adult Nankeen Night-Heron flushed from a thickly foliaged tree and landed in a dead tree.  While it was there a White-necked Heron landed in the same tree.  As they perched there the Night Heron was craning its neck and watching something high above.  When I looked up a pair of Wedge-tailed Eagles was gliding above.  They are always a great sight.  This would have been the pair that occupied the nest that a 'bird watcher' had fallen from and severely injured himself last year.

Adult Nankeen Night-Heron

Adult Nankeen Night-Heron watching Wedge-tailed Eagles

White-necked Heron
On to the Coldstream wetlands where we encountered our first Brolgas for the day.  There were five off towards Collett's Swamp and two near the Avenue Drain.   A sub-adult female Black-necked Stork was loafing on the edge of the drain where two Pacific Black Ducks, two White-necked Herons and a White-faced Heron were foraging. 


                             Sub-adult female Black-necked Stork with White-
                             necked Herons, White-faced Heron and Pacific
                             Black Ducks

The drain was covered with the native Giant Waterlily Nymphaea gigantea.

A visit to the northern section of the Crowsnest Swamp provided views of abundant birdlife congregating in the drying wetland.  A number of Eastern Great and Intermediate Egrets, Australian Pelicans, Pacific Black Ducks, 5 Australasian Shovelers, Grey Teal, Royal Spoonbills, 28 Glossy Ibis and a few Australian White Ibis were there.

                                  Mixed waterbirds at Crowsnest Swamp

We had lunch at a TSR on the Coldstream River and a few White-throated Needletails flew low overhead.  Then on to Tucabia to check out the flying-fox colony.  It was quite a sight with 5,000+ Little Red Flying-foxes camped in a reserve along the River.  It was great to see these much maligned, but incredible, animals up close. Unfortunately I heard on Sunday morning that a local had torched the camp last night and not only have the bats gone but the riparian vegetation is badly damaged.  This type of criminal behaviour is based on ignorance and fear.  The authorities are investigating this act of mindless vandalism.  Usually what happens in these situations is that the poor bats, that are struggling to find enough suitable habitat left for them, will be pushed into a location where there is more conflict with humans, as happened at Maclean.


Little Red Flying-fox colony at Tucabia
Little Red Flying-foxes
After a visit to the Lawrence egret colony swamp, where we observed 20+ Freckled Ducks, 36+  Pink-eared Ducks and a female Musk Duck we headed home along the Lawrence Road where we came across a flock of 21 Brolgas.  As I was photographing the Brolgas I notice a raptor in a dead tree.  It was a sub-adult Peregrine Falcon, moulting from its brown immature plumage to its grey adult plumage.  Five more Brolgas were seen a short distance further south.  An adult Eastern Osprey and a Brown Goshawk made the day's tally 116 bird species.

                                              Adult Brolga south of Lawrence

                                              Sub-adult Peregrine Falcon

We recorded 12 species that we didn't record on our two previous trips (on 14 & 21 November 2013) but dipped on 35 that we did get previously.  The total number of bird species recorded on the three days was 151.

The total list for 28 January 2014 is shown below with  ‘T’ = threatened, * = introduced; 

Birds: Magpie Goose (T), Plumed Whistling-Duck, Musk Duck, Freckled Duck (T), Black Swan,  Australian Wood Duck, Pink-eared Duck, Australasian Shoveler, Grey Teal, Chestnut Teal, Pacific Black Duck, Hardhead, Australasian Grebe, Hoary-headed Grebe, White-headed Pigeon, *Spotted Dove, Crested Pigeon, Peaceful Dove, Bar-shouldered Dove, White-throated Needletail, Australasian Darter, Little Pied Cormorant, Great Cormorant, Little Black Cormorant, Pied Cormorant, Australian Pelican, Black-necked Stork (T), White-necked Heron, Eastern Great Egret, Intermediate Egret, Cattle Egret, White-faced Heron, Little Egret, Nankeen Night-Heron, Glossy Ibis, Australian White Ibis, Straw-necked Ibis, Royal Spoonbill, Yellow-billed Spoonbill, Eastern Osprey (T), Black-shouldered Kite, White-bellied Sea-Eagle, Whistling Kite, Brown Goshawk, Swamp Harrier, Wedge-tailed Eagle, Nankeen Kestrel, Brown Falcon, Peregrine Falcon, Brolga (T), Purple Swamphen, Dusky Moorhen, Eurasian Coot, Black-winged Stilt, Black-fronted Dotterel, Red-kneed Dotterel, Masked Lapwing, Comb-crested Jacana (T), Caspian Tern, Crested Tern, Silver Gull, Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoo, Little Corella, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Rainbow Lorikeet, Scaly-breasted Lorikeet, Musk Lorikeet, Australian King-Parrot, Eastern Rosella, Laughing Kookaburra, Sacred Kingfisher, Rainbow Bee-eater, Dollarbird, Superb Fairy-wren, White-throated Gerygone, Yellow-rumped Thornbill, Brown Thornbill, Lewin’s Honeyeater, Yellow-faced Honeyeater, Noisy Miner, Little Wattlebird,    Scarlet Honeyeater, Brown Honeyeater, White-throated Honeyeater, Blue-faced Honeyeater, Noisy Friarbird, Little Friarbird, Striped Honeyeater, Varied Sittella (T), Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike, Golden Whistler, Rufous Whistler, Australasian Figbird, Olive-backed Oriole, White-breasted Woodswallow, Grey Butcherbird, Pied Butcherbird, Australian Magpie, Spangled Drongo, Grey Fantail, Willie Wagtail, Torresian Crow, Magpie-lark, Jacky Winter, Golden-headed Cisticola, Australian Reed-Warbler, Tawny Grassbird, Little Grassbird, Welcome Swallow, Fairy Martin, Tree Martin, *Common Myna, Mistletoebird, Double-barred Finch, Red-browed Finch, *House Sparrow.

Mammals: Northern Brown Bandicoot, Eastern Grey Kangaroo, Red-necked Wallaby, Little Red Flying-fox.

Reptiles: Short-necked Turtle, Garden Sun-skink.

Amphibians: Eastern Dwarf Tree Frog.


  1. Greg

    I am interested that "the authorities" are investigating the arson at the bat camp. Which flavour of authority is doing this? It is very good to hear of something being contemplated, although it would be better to hear of the offender being summonsed.

    Best regards

  2. Clarence Valley Council and the Office of Environment and Heritage have inspected the site and are investigating. Questions are also being asked of the Rural Fire Service who attended but apparently were unable to control the fire, which was in a relatively small area, before it burnt out the whole remnant. In reality it will be hard to prove who caused this damage but it is being investigated by committed staff. I have given a press statement to the local paper and I believe that the more publicity this action gets the better.

  3. The issue is also being investigated on the basis that vegetation constituting up to four endangered ecological communities has been destroyed. Authorities are taking it very seriously.

  4. Thanks for the feedback Greg. Please keep me posted. I am deeply cycnical about any Council or OEH activities so it would be nice to hear of them actually doing something.

  5. Your press release has got a run: . Good stuff.

    Re the second un-named local's comment: I don't suppose the "stink" at the boat ramp has anything to do with fish guts being strewn around the place.

  6. Yes I saw the article in the Daily Examiner. You can see from the item that the Rural Fire Service is taking the issue seriously as are the Council and OEH. The comments on the Daily Examiner website were interesting. There were the expected ill-informed and 'only humans matter' brigade but most comments were very good and supportive of the bats.

  7. Apart from the arson issue, it sounds like a great area to visit.

  8. Yes it certainly is a great biodiversity hotspot but it hasn't received the interest from birders and others that areas like Cairns, Sydney, Darwin and Brisbane get. Hopefully that will change.