Focus on a Hotspot

By Nancy Auerbach November 19, 2015
RUFF_03112015_Nathan Rd_015 CER_Stephen_Murphy_crop

Ruff, photograph by Stephen Murray

In the Brisbane Region of South East Queensland, one Hotspot in particular is currently really living up to its name – it’s HOT! Nathan Road Wetlands Reserve is located at Kippa-Ring, a suburb on the top side of the Redcliffe Peninsula, which is on the northern side of Brisbane’s sprawling urban footprint. Three facts about the Nathan Road Wetlands Reserve makes for some very interesting birding: 1) it is located near the Moreton Bay and Pumicestone Passage Important Bird Area with its muddy, mangrove lined shores, sandy beaches and coastal islands, 2) it forms part of a corridor linking into Hayes Inlet to its South, and 3) it still has some other relatively undeveloped spaces nearby.

Wood Sandpiper, photograph by Andrew Naumann

Wood Sandpiper, photograph by Andrew Naumann

Why is it so hot at present? Because currently it is hosting some of the more unusual wader species uncommon in South East Queensland, as well as turning up some noteworthy bush birds such as Black-faced Monarch, a migratory species usually found in rainforest but using this site on its way north or south, and even some out of the ordinary water birds such as the Australasian Shoveler. Unusual species reported from this hotspot in the past fortnight include Ruff, Pectoral Sandpiper, Wood Sandpiper, Broad-billed Sandpiper, Rose-crowned Fruit-Dove and even the elusive Red-backed Button-quail. NICE RECORDS!

Have you ever delved deeper into the data available on ebird for a single Hotspot? It often reveals some interesting facts.

At the time of writing this article, 207 lists (includes 1 personal and 3 incidental) have been entered into ebird, compiling an impressive list of 168 species for this hotspot. These species are shown in taxonomic order on the Bar Chart for Nathan Road Wetlands where you can gain a sense of how frequently they visit and which month might be best to find them.

If you’re an eBirder who takes notice of birds that are scarcely seen, you will note that three rarities in the Brisbane Region have been recorded here: Freckled Duck (seen twice), Australian Painted Snipe (seen twice), and Australian Spotted Crake (a one off).

If you dig deeper, you’ll find that some of the more common species in South East Queensland (those we often take for granted) are uncommon at this site. Birds such as Fan-tailed Cuckoo, Little Friarbird, Noisy Friarbird and Double-barred Finch have all only been recorded 3 times (around 1.5%), whilst Leaden Flycatcher has been reported 8 times and White-throated Gerygone, only once. Interestingly, however, the single Ruff has been reported 56 times (all sightings since Gavin Goodyear first reported it on 5 October 2015), the Wood Sandpiper 48 times (reported twice in 2013 by Gavin Goodyear with the rest of the records compiled since 27 September 2015 when it was located by Ged Tranter) and the Pectoral Sandpiper 46 times (found by Gavin Goodyear on 20 October 2013 with 12 records for that year and again by him on 5th October 2015 with another 33 records for this year since that date) NOTE: Shared checklists have only been counted as one record in these statistics.

Other information that can be gathered from the bar chart with a little more effort is: which are the most commonly reported species? The number 1 position is currently held by Australasian Swamphen; with Torresian Crow, Magpie-Lark, Masked Lapwing, Pacific Black Duck, Black-winged Stilt, Australian White Ibis, Brown Honeyeater, Welcome Swallow and Australian Reed Warbler making up the remaining species in the top 10 rank.

If you check out the Nathan Road Wetlands Reserve “High Counts” page in the Hotspot Explorer, you will discover that the most prolific bird for numbers present at any one time is Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, where the highest number reported is an impressive 440.

Also check out the “Last Seen” page, where just one of the statistics that you will note is that Curlew Sandpiper – a species recently listed on the EPBC Act as critically endangered – has not been reported here since 3 November 2013.

Another interesting statistic is that 23 species, of the 168 reported, have only been recorded once. These include Wedge-tailed Eagle, Tawny Frogmouth, Collared Sparrowhawk and White-throated Gerygone as mentioned earlier.

In summing up, from the combination of all of the records provided by many ebird users, you can learn a great deal of information about a site. So keep up the good work by providing YOUR records. In a year or two, we can do another comparison to see what’s changed, such as whether there’s been other rarities reported, whether declines or increases in species are evident, etc. That we can all delve into this interesting information about a particular hotspot is thanks to the efforts of diligent eBirders like you.

~Contributed by Sandra Gallienne, Queensland eBird reviewer