Bird-watching on Coochiemudlo Island
Situated in Southern Moreton Bay just off Victoria Point and sheltered from rougher seas by North Stradbroke Island / Minjerribah, Coochiemudlo is only a short ferry ride from the mainland.
There is something about this little island that makes some people say it’s like stepping back in time. The density of trees, even throughout streets and gardens of the residents, certainly has a lot of charm.
It is also an excellent habitat for birds.
Rainbow Lorikeets - cheeky residents all over Coochie
As you walk onto the island from the passenger ferry, along the foreshore, you will hear the familiar chatter of Rainbow Lorikeets, but make sure to take in the wide variety of birds that can be observed easily all around the island.
Everywhere, around the ‘Emerald Fringe’ surrounding the foreshore, the conservation areas, even in the streets and backyards of Coochiemudlo Island, birds are thriving. It is like a concentrate of South-East Queensland’s and Moreton Bay’s rich birdlife - all in one spot.
A Bush Stone Curlew at the Coochiemudlo Kiosk
You will likely come across Blue-faced Honey Eaters, Willy Wagtails, Australian Magpies and other butcherbirds of course, and maybe wonder about the very day active Bush Stone Curlews that are visible everywhere on the island. Counted yearly, their population now seems stable at around 200. These curious birds are rightly considered iconic on Coochiemudlo.
Kookaburras make themselves heard at dusk and dawn but you will probably spot them during the day, hunting or just sitting quietly – watching you!
Our very talented island photographer, Gary Sheehy regularly captures the big raptors (White-bellied Sea Eagles and Brahminy Kites) hunting over the waters of the island, but he has also been lucky to get great shots of the migratory (and menaced) Eastern Curlew.
The Eastern Curlew breeds in Russia and Northern China (photo Gary Sheehy)
A gorgeous Black-Headed Striated Pardalote (photo Gary Sheehy)
Watch out for other shorebirds, like the pied and sooty oyster catchers, black-winged stilt, herons, pied cormorants, egrets, kingfishers, terns and seagulls...
You will easily spot Galahs, Little Corellas and Sulphur-crested Cockatoos; more experienced birders will be able to tell apart the many species of smaller birds, the swallows, wrens, pardalotes.
When we moved to Coochiemudlo, I was fascinated by the amount of regional birds that can be found right here. I enjoy photographing them and identifying those I don’t know.
Baby plover! (Masked Lapwing)
I did manage to get some decent photos of the fluffy baby curlews and Masked Lapwings (“Plovers”) this year.
I spotted Dollar Birds high on a tree (fighting with Galahs), and tried unsuccessfully to get a good shot of the clumsy Pheasant Coucal in our garden (I gave up so it wouldn’t get injured climbing and falling off trees).
White-bellied Sea Eagle drying its feathers
In the roll-in of ex TC Debbie, during the heavy rains, I spent five hours worrying about one of our White-bellied Sea Eagles sitting drenched on the top of a tree high over the mangroves – thankfully, before nightfall, it gathered its forces and flew off to a less exposed spot.
Australian White Ibis
I will admit I even have a soft spot for the (native!) Australian White Ibis you can observe on Coochie doing at low-tide what its long beak and naked head are actually designed to do (although originally in the now dry hinterland wetlands - bringing them to live with us on the eastern coasts.).
Just please do not ever feed them or leave food accessible for these birds to keep the population on Coochie in check.. There are not too many, I promise!
I know I still have a lot to discover and learn - the thornbills, warblers, pipits…
The great thing is that today, you don’t need to be an experienced bird watcher to find out what you are looking at. BIRDS IN BACKYARDS has an excellent online bird finder tool, and the Field guide app of the Aussie Backyard Bird Count (in October 2017 - be part of it!) is available for your phone.
If you managed to get a photo, the experienced and friendly bird people of the “Australian Bird Identification Facebook group” will usually only take minutes to identify what you saw (You can learn a lot just by joining the group and following the posts). Of course, you can always turn to a trusted bird guide in book form as well.
Just don’t wait for the Aussie Backyard Bird Count to go bird spotting!
Bring your friends and family over to Coochiemudlo or go for a stroll just by yourself, with your camera. You won’t be disappointed.
And get in touch if you get lucky on the island and observe a rare species, or you just took a photo that is worth showing other wildlife enthusiasts.
Nikki and her husband Martin are owner-operators of the Coochie Boat Hire. Nikki also initiated and designed visitcoochiemudlo.com to provide Coochiemudlo with a destination website for Coochie visitors and lovers, businesses, artists and makers. (unless otherwise credited, photos Nikki Cornwall)