Whitsundays Islands birding adventure – by Birds Queensland

By February 1, 2015 March 10th, 2015 Great Barrier Reef Islands

Birds Queensland is a not-for-profit organisation that aims to promote the scientific study and conservation of birds by all means possible.They run numerous birding outings throughout the year, have sightings and a range of other birding information on their website and publish a peer-reviewed journal called The Sunbird.

Birds Queensland had a lucky draw for a free berth for one member on the WildMob Whitsunday Island Shorebird survey from 12 – 22 November 2014, and I was very lucky to win it!
Thank you to BQ and WildMob, who in partnership with Department of National Parks, Recreation, Sport and Racing, organised the survey on board the catamaran Wildcat, out of Mackay.
I felt privileged to participate in this adventure which allowed us to explore a variety of islands throughout the Whitsundays designated and protected by National Parks as important shorebird breeding sites. We were nine volunteers ranging in age from 19 to 70 with varying birding experience, and three very experienced and supportive WildMob staff who made up a motley crew; but all with a strong interest in wildlife and conservation.

Our goal was to complete the first ever formal survey of shorebird species and numbers present on these islands, as their designation had been based only on anecdotal records. The resulting data was supplied to National Parks as the basis for further surveys of selected sites and a report is forthcoming. Where possible a team of spotters, equipped with binoculars, recording sheet, sunscreen and insect repellent was dropped onto the island by inflatable dinghy. Otherwise the catamaran did a slow motor by or circumnavigation, with all binoculars trained onto the shore and surrounding skies.

Bird(s) sightings were immediately shared with the group for confirmation of species and counting, to allow for our differing strengths and maximise accuracy. Some highlights were the pair of Peregrine Falcons and active nest site on a rocky outcrop ( which we dubbed Peregrine Rock), nesting Osprey and White-bellied Sea Eagles, numbers of Beach as well as Bush Stone Curlews, and flocks of Pied Imperial Pigeons (PIP’s) flying into nests on the islands. We also saw Crested, Lesser Crested, Bridled, Black-naped and
Gull-billed Terns, Whimbrel, Tattlers, Reef Egrets, and Pied and Sooty Oyster-catchers to name just some. And some sightings of Russell Crow(e)!

We also had time for snorkelling, reef walking, terrestrial bird watching, exploring the islands and photography, as well as chatting and learning, and reading. Both WildMob staff and other volunteers were so willing to share their knowledge and expertise, it was a fascinating learning experience. Our accommodation was basic but comfortable, either in tents on the islands or on board the catamaran, the catering and service was wonderful and the camaraderie just delightful. We were also very lucky in having sunny, calm weather throughout. I was very impressed with WildMob’s planning, organisation and expertise, but particularly their passion for conservation and how volunteers can make a valuable contribution to their projects.

Pam Walker

Sooty oystercatcher
White-bellied Sea-Eagle


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