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Contact Call | Volume 9 Number 4 | December 2020

It was in 1994 that about 60 Royal Australasian Ornithological Union members responded to a call to form a North Queensland branch of this national organisation. They met at Murray Falls National Park, near Cardwell, to discuss the feasibility of forming such a group. There was lots of enthusiasm and volunteers stepped forward to start the process and by the end of 1994 there was a full committee with Graham Harrington, as Convenor, at the helm. The first newsletter Contact Call went out on 1st March 1995 (issue Emu – newsletters were named after birds) and we were on the way with Birders of North Queensland. Name and boundary changes have occurred over the years, but Contact Call remains as our newsletter.

We still have a vibrant and hardworking committee plus volunteers involved in various projects and this weekend was an example of a coordinated effort to recognise the past 25 years.

The weekend was based in Malanda and started Friday afternoon with a meet and greet for those staying at the Malanda Falls Caravan Park. The evening saw us gathering at the Malanda Falls Conservation Park to meet Alan Gillanders, a long term member and former convenor. Alan, owner of Alan’s Wildlife Tours, had offered to take us spotlighting along the edge of the conservation park and we were not disappointed. We saw several Coppery Brushtail Possum (NQ sub-species of Common Brushtail Possum), Green Ringtail Possum, Red-legged Pademelon and a Lumholtz’s Tree Kangaroo. Thank you Alan.

Saturday morning was an early start at the Cathedral Fig Tree, 6.00am. This was again led by Alan Gillanders. The dawn chorus was in full swing when the ten early morning birders arrived. Chowchilla vocal wars across the walking track kept us entertained until we were distracted by the numerous other rainforest species. Other wet tropic specialists seen or heard were Victoria’s Riflebird, Macleay’s Honeyeater, Bridled Honeyeater, Grey-headed Robin, Pied Monarch and Bower’s Shrike-thrush. Other stunners were Australian King Parrot and Yellow-breasted Boatbill. Red-backed Fairywrens jumped around our feet at he carpark. All up, we recorded (seen or heard) 50 species (eBird). Not a bad effort for a little over two hours birding.

Images courtesy of members enjoying the party!

Later in the morning we met up in Yungaburra at the Platypus Viewing car park for a walk along the revegetated Peterson Creek going as far as Lloyd’s Suspension Bridge. Birds seen along the way included Azure Kingfisher, a pair of Pacific Baza soaring overhead, Eastern Yellow Robin building a nest and seven species of honeyeater (eBird).

Also seen were a pair of Eastern Water Dragon, a Platypus and a Green Ringtail Possum.

In the afternoon we split up into two groups for walks in the Malanda Falls Conservation Park, one group walked the northern track and the other the 1km loop track. We heard more species than we saw, but there was plenty of Grey-headed Robins plus White-throated Treecreepers, Yellow-throated Scrubwrens, Bower’s Shrike-thrushes and Spectacled Monarchs amongst others (eBird).

Saturday evening was the social highlight of the weekend, at the Malanda Hotel for dinner and drinks, whilst being entertained with images of the groups activities on the screen. After dinner our MC for the evening, Wayne, did a great job helping everything run smoothly introducing the various speakers who reminisced about the previous 25 years. Graham Harrington, who has been actively involved over the groups 25 year history, summarised both the social and scientific achievements of the members. Ceri Pearce, our current convenor, welcomed everyone, especially those who had travelled hundreds of kilometres to celebrate, and acknowledged the achievements of the original group members and the huge area they effectively covered (an area greater than the size of Germany).

Kath Shurcliff, former convenor, spoke about the merger of what was then Birds Australia and the Bird Observers Club of Australia in 2012 which resulted in our group’s coverage shrinking from Mackay back north to Cardwell. Peter Valentine, former convenor, spoke of the importance of continuing to have a strong committee and a special emphasis on the importance of finding replacements, when the time comes! John Clarkson recounted the atlas surveys on Cape York, which targeted various vegetation types with the survey areas highlighted by the use of red and green dots to try and achieve full unbiased coverage of birds’ presence and absence.

Lindsay then showed historic photos ranging from our first meeting in 1994 up until 2003 giving the audience plenty to do trying to identify people including themselves! Marion Crowther, who had travelled up from Mackay (in our original group area), spoke of the difficulties trying to get enough interest in her area for involvement in bird projects, but was optimistic as several people had now shown interest and a recent Bird Week in that area was a huge success.

A photo of all those present was set up to be shown in 25 years! This was followed by the cutting of a 25th anniversary cake by some of the founder members. It was a very entertaining and engaging evening.

Hasties Swamp was the Sunday mornings first activity with members meeting at 7.00am in the bird hide. Bird numbers were counted as part of ongoing monthly surveys. There was enough water in the swamp to attract a few waterbirds with Hardhead the most prominent along with Pacific Black Duck, Grey Teal, Australasian Grebe, Eurasian Coot and Glossy Ibis. Bush birds included both Sacred and Forest Kingfisher, Red-backed Fairy-wren, four honeyeater species and a pair of Large-billed Gerygone building a nest (eBird).

From Hasties Swamp we travelled the short distance to Wongabel State Forest, 8km south of Atherton, where we walked some of the tracks. The forest is 181 hectares consisting of Hoop, Kauri and Caribbean pine plantations and 263 hectares of endangered Mabi forest. Grey-headed Robin were again the most plentiful and easy to see. Other birds seen included Tooth-billed Bowerbird, White-throated Treecreeper, Scarlet Honeyeater, Bower’s Shrike-thrush, Yellow-breasted Boatbill and a Pied Monarch. The walk was followed by morning smoko, where a pair of Wedge-tail Eagle soared over and an immature Golden Whistler provided a few identification problems. Also seen was a Green Ringtail Possum with a baby.

This concluded a most enjoyable and successful weekend.

Congratulations and thanks to the main organisers Sandra Christensen, Lindsay Fisher, Ceri Pearce and also to Wayne Young for IT expertise and being MC at the dinner, plus the various other committee members over the last 25 years who have put in a lot of work to keep Birdlife Northern Queensland the premier organisation for the conservation and awareness of birds in our region.


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