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November 2010 Mackay Survey

2010 SURVEY OF MACKAY by Linda Cross.

This Link will take you to some of the photographs taken during the survey MACKAY 2010 IMAGES

Wader Counters in action on Armstrong Beach © 2010 QWSG

When I typed the Final report for the 2008 survey of Mackay I thought that was the last one I would have to do.  How wrong could I have been? 

So, here I am reporting on our eighth visit to survey the Mackay region that was conducted over the weekend of 6th and 7th November.  The area we cover is 200km of coast between the Conway Ranges, near Airlie Beach and Cape Palmerstone south of Sarina.  This area was selected as one of the regions (Australia-wide) with large number of Great Knot.  QWSG had funding for most of the previous surveys firstly from WWWF and then later from Birds Australia.  However, for the first time we funded this survey entirely from QWSG funds.

 Weather conditions during the survey were mostly fine with occasional showers and cooler temperatures for the time of year.  However, the south east winds were very strong on Saturday and Sunday causing cancellation of the boat that was to survey ten sites on Saturday.  On Sunday the boat group managed to access two of the sites by road, but the other two sites normally counted by boat were not surveyed.  The twelve sites not surveyed over the weekend have resulted in a lower count of the waders using the region.  All species seen were identified and a table listing the results of previous surveys, with the additional data from this last count is included with this report.  Taking into account the wader numbers missing from the sites not surveyed, which could have produced another 3,000 to 5,000 birds, the results obtained for the weekend are encouraging.

 A total of 24 sites (includes 3 wetland sites) were counted north of the Pioneer River and 28 sites (includes 7 wetland sites) south of the river, making a total of 52 sites counted for the survey weekend.  Of these, three were new sites that added to the database.  All three are wetland sites (two north of the river and one south of the river). 

 One new wader species was added to the list (Broad-billed Sandpiper), which was recorded at Dudgeon Point creek mouth.  This now brings the total to 37 migratory and resident wader species seen whilst surveying in the Mackay region.  Other waterbirds counted at the sites totalled 4170.  This waterbird figure is just over 1500 less birds than counted in 2008, and is probably due to large areas of Queensland having good rainfall during 2010 and plenty of wetland areas that birds may have relocated to.

 As stated earlier, the Mackay region has large numbers of Great Knot and this visit recorded the highest number (6,753) over all the surveys.  Although only a slight increase on the November 2007 figure of 6701, it is good to see an increase in numbers for this species in light of the loss of staging habitat in the Yellow Sea.  There was also a slight increase in Grey Plover with the highest total recorded for this survey of 187.

A Double-banded Plover in breeding plumage was a big surprise at Sand Bay Roost 1.  This is a very late record of this species on our shores.  The 37 Red Knot at Nell’s Beach was also an interesting sighting.

 Beach Stone-curlew count was seven birds, less than half the number for the previous survey.  However, seven of this species were previously recorded at island sites that were not visited by the cancelled boat, and the resident pair at St. Helens Beach was not sighted on this trip.

 Sooty Oystercatcher numbers are of concern, with only 18 recorded for the whole region.   This is a dramatic reduction on the 77 seen in 2008.   The cancellation of the boats during the survey would have given us about a third more, but at Dudgeon Point there was none to be seen, which was a surprise because 20 were recorded in 2008.

 Wader breeding records came from:

 Pioneer River mouth where one Pied Oystercatcher chick was seen.  There was a few Red-capped Plover breeding records that came from Sand Bay Roost 1 with one chick, Dudgeon Point creek mouth site with one chick, Dudgeon Point claypan had two chicks and an adult female on a nest. At Dudgeon Point one Masked Lapwing chick was recorded.

 Other interesting breeding records came from Habana Wharf claypan were an adult female Black-necked Stork was observed with three juveniles and an immature Black-necked Stork was seen at Shellgrit Creek entrance.  At the Mac BP Truck Stop wetland site three Buff-banded Rail chicks were seen and five Black Swan cygnets were recorded in Lake Barfield at Hay Point.  There were four breeding records for Brolga during the survey.  One juvenile at Tedlands Wetlands, one juvenile at Habana Wharf claypan, a nest with two eggs at a new site called Sant’s Lagoon and one very young chick with parents at Dudgeon Point weltlands.

 Four flagged birds were recorded during the survey.  Two Bar-tailed Godwit were seen at St. Helens Beach.  One with a green flag over an orange flag on the right tibia and a metal band on the left tibia (flagged at Yalu Jiang, Dandong-Tangshan, Northern Yellow Sea, China)  and the other one with a white flag over an orange flag on the right tarsus and metal band on the left tibia (flagged in Chollapuk-do, Tong Jing Estuary, Korea).  A Bar-tailed Godwit with a black flag on the left tarsus was seen at Pioneer River mouth, which is yet to be determined where it was flagged and a Little Tern seen at Black’s Beach spit, with an orange flag on the right tibia (flagged in Victoria).

 Some of the higher counts were as follows:-

 3962 Great Knot at Deadman’s Creek, New Beach

1558 Great Knot at Nell’s Beach Sand Bay  

682 Great Knot at Armstrong’s Beach                      

200 Eastern Curlew at Proserpine River sandspit

133 Whimbrel at Nell’s Beach Sand Bay      

111 Whimbrel at Shoal Point

1343 Lesser Sand Plover at Dudgeon Point creek mouth

260 Greater Sand Plover at Pioneer River mouth northbank

91 Grey Plover at Nell’s Beach Sand Bay

37 Red Knot at Nell’s Beach Sand Bay

23 Comb-crested Jacana at Lake Barfield Hay Point

18 Comb-crested Jacana at Tedlands Wetland sites

 Other sightings of interest were:-

 1218 Magpie Goose at Bucasia Gardens Nursery Wetlands (New Site)

18 Radjah Shelduck at Bucasia Gardens Nursery Wetlands

6 Brolga at Bucasia Gardens Nursery Wetlands

28 Cotton Pygmy Goose at Tedlands Wetlands

215 Cattle Egret at Tedlands Wetlands

2 Brown Songlark at Dudgeon Point

 We would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone involved in the survey for their assistance. The following people allowed survey teams onto or through their property to conduct the counts.  Their cooperation is very much appreciated.

Joe & Phyllis Abela – owners of Habana Wharf

Chris Pappas – part owner of property at Shoal Point

Vic Welsh – owner of Tedlands

Brett Windsor – lessee Dudgeon Point owned by North Queensland Bulk Ports Corporation

Thanks also to the following people who helped organise our survey of the Mackay Port Wetlands site.

Gary Riches (General Manager Operations) and Paul Schmidtke (Manager Asset Services) at North Queensland Bulk Ports Corporation. (NQBP)

Charlie Jacobson (Network Supervisor), Tony Binnie (Rail Safety Investigator), John Sharpe (Corridor Supervisor), Tony McKay and Larry Sten at QR National Network Services.

Without the assistance of the people from NQBP and QR National it would not have been possible to gain access through the rail corridor to survey the wetland site.  Thanks to Larry Sten who accompanied us during the whole of the exercise and ensured we stayed safe.

We extend a special thank you to Jim Ryman, who once again supplied his services and boat for the team doing the Bakers Creek, McEwan’s Beach and Dunrock sites.  Jim is a local resident of Mackay that has helped us during most of the surveys to get to these sites in sometimes quite adverse weather conditions.

Thanks also to Kerri Woodcock for supplying the mapping aerials for us to check, and Maureen Cooper, Geoff McLaughlin and Hayley Glover for using their vehicles to transport QWSG members to survey sites on Saturday and Sunday.

Although Maureen Cooper offered to accommodate us again at Padaminka we declined because her property is for sale and we did not wish to create extra work for her. It was tough having to slum it in villas at Illawong Beach Resort right on the beach front at Shellgrit Creek entrance where the waders could be observed each day.  David Milton was dedicated enough to do three additional counts at this site.

On a personal note I would like to sincerely thank Brenda Smith for taking on some of the jobs that I would normally have to do in Mackay.  Thanks Brenda for making my job just that little bit easier.

Without the assistance of the people and organisations I have mentioned, these surveys would not be possible, and we thank you all for your continued support. 

Our sincere thanks to everyone for his or her assistance.  My apologies if I have omitted anyone.

The participants for this survey are listed below:-

QWSG Members:  Dawn Beck, Melissa Cooper, Ken Cowell, Linda Cross, David Edwards, Andrew Geering,  Sandra Harding, David Milton, Glen Pacey, Peter Rothlisberg, Brenda Smith, Graham Smith, Floss Wainwright, Dez Wells, Jim Whyte, Ivell Whyte.

QWSG Members in Mackay:  Maureen Cooper, Hayley Glover and Geoff McLaughlin

Reef Catchments Mackay Whitsunday Inc:  Kerri Woodcock

BOCA Mackay:  Desley Williams.

Count Data from all Mackay Surveys to date:

SPECIES Nov 2002 Jan2003 Apr 2003 Oct 2003 Feb 2004 Jan2006 Nov2007 Nov2008 Nov 2010
Bush Stone-curlew 12 5 3 4 1 3 3
Beach Stone-curlew 2 4 10 2 7 10 13 18 7
Australian Pied Oystercatcher 134 662 477 223 539 357 312 302 215
Sooty Oystercatcher 10 40 33 20 35 51 43 77 18
Black-winged Stilt 15 268 39 8 56 86 101 56
Pacific Golden Plover 59 457 208 775 39 7 349 677 158
Grey Plover 91 113 89 39 175 81 156 159 187
Red-capped Plover 57 356 231 419 157 99 366 542 176
Double-banded Plover 1 1
Lesser Sand Plover 33 1817 895 499 1887 2637 1980 424 2308
Greater Sand Plover 14 493 170 1462 1078 817 2732 1148 701
Black-fronted Dotterel 4 20 2 19 1 6 5 4 10
Red-kneed Dotterel 4 3
Masked Lapwing 14 81 118 76 51 68 102 75 48
Comb-crested Jacana 18 2 1 1 7 12 29 47
Latham’s Snipe 1
Black-tailed Godwit 331 116 71 2
Bar-tailed Godwit 1242 4360 236 1530 2343 2854 3324 4343 3188
Little Curlew 16 1
Whimbrel 332 813 1586 1647 975 1002 1673 1960 985
Eastern Curlew 546 1324 448 1235 294 422 533 808 714
Terek Sandpiper 21 152 179 172 329 118 369 55 227
Common Sandpiper 2 2
Grey-tailed Tattler 46 417 1311 929 832 358 572 643 449
Wandering Tattler 9
Common Greenshank 88 153 80 148 90 136 189 143 102
Marsh Sandpiper 5 50 5 2 11 13 22 5 2
Wood Sandpiper 1
Ruddy Turnstone 61 98 10 38 53 122 102 61
Great Knot 447 5679 229 1935 6047 4407 6701 5418 6753
Red Knot 31 29 251 7 8 5 17 44
Sanderling 1
Red-necked Stint 162 1995 844 1676 749 628 3692 1976 1467
Sharp-tailed Sandpiper 25 1030 4 1006 68 68 497 261 123
Curlew Sandpiper 40 90 13 191 5 44 221 22 57
Broad-billed Sandpiper 1
Australian Pratincole 4
Unidentified larger wader 21 1
Unidentified medium wader 60 53 108 202
Unidentified small wader    21 179 35 39
Unidentified Sand Plover sp. 714 140
Unidentified Tattler sp. 9
Unidentified Snipe sp. 1
Unidentified wader 200 150


Total migratory waders 3232 20160 7073 13977 15074 13692 23140 18172 17530
Total resident waders 236 1469 917 774 851 685 957 1103 524
Total waders 3468 21629 7990 14751 15925 14377 24097 19275 18054
Total migratory species 15 20 18 20 18 17 19 20 20
Total resident species 7 11 9 10 9 9 9 8 8
Total species 22 31 27 30 27 26 28 28 28