Date: Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Project: Eastern Australian Waterbird Survey

The gods were with us today as the weather cleared after Maroochydore had received a long awaited and badly needed fall of around 110mm. Properties in the hinterland had been relying on trucked in water for months but now tanks were filled and smiles graced the community.

Mist and cloud threatened to delay our count in Band 7 but it lifted sufficiently for us to safely negotiate the rainforest hills to the north west of Maroochydore and the river estuary of Noosa, which marked the northern boundary of Band 7. We encounter few birds in this area as most of the wetlands consist of deep water ponds which produce minimal food.

Whales are a feature of this part of our trip. The whale below stayed in this vertical position for some minutes which amazed us (photos Terry Korn)

Band 8 coastal wetlands north of Bundaberg are never pulsing with birds either so our journey north had us in the industrial town of Gladstone. Each year this hub of industry seems to have new   infrastructure while the airport hums with activity. Not until Bands 9 and 10 were good numbers of birds encountered, especially on the extensive floodplain wetlands of the Herbert Creek and Styx River. We encountered thousands of Grey teal, Black duck, Cattle egret, Ibis and Black swans. The species are mixed which makes counting a serious challenge, even for the most experienced.

Sugar and salt – cane fields abutting the Coral Sea. ( Photo Terry Korn)

One of the many industrial sites in Gladstone. (Photo Terry Korn)

On the Band 10 wetlands just south of Proserpine Black swans, Magpie geese and cattle egrets dominated with Black Swans in huge numbers, many with young.

In March 2017 Cyclone Debbie tore the Shute Harbour/Airlie Beach area apart and the carnage can still be clearly seen, especially in the towering rainforest covered hills overlooking the coast.  Trees are still scantily dressed in leaves and many are horizontal. The hotel at which we normally overnight is a shell, with a small, older section just recently opened for business.