Five years on I’m still not too sure who to blame for Fay and I having retraced our footsteps of October 2009.
I could point the finger at BASQ’s iconic stalwart, Grahame Rogers. He was our hard-working Secretary when I arrived with visions of involvement with the Glossy Black Conservancy. The species frequents our small property on the outskirts of Nanango. We had already germinated several dozen Allocasuarina littoralis saplings, each diligently transplanted in situ around the property.
It eventually dawned that as the Conservancy met only midweek, during normal working hours, humble teachers were effectively excluded from any practical participation. I drifted away but not before Grahame introduced the “Save Our Stock Routes” campaign. Fay and I attended the Grand Old Crow Hotel [Crows Nest] meeting, where details of the pending surveys were expanded upon.
The first of our allocated stock route assignments, around the Pony Club, proved simple enough; we even scored crippling views of Musk Lorikeet Glossopsitts concinna flitting about in treetops. Our last survey allocation was something else. I quote from my Journal entry of the time:
… proved to be somewhat challenging and daunting. Not only was it difficult terrain to cover, being a series of gullies, some quite steep, but one of Fay’s soles peeled away from the upper boot, making it quite demanding to walk.”
The silver lining was the Grey Goshawk Accipiter novahollaniae escorting a pair of Wedge-tailed Eagles Aquila audax off the premises. Its counterbalance, the darker side of the equation, was the distinct feeling that we were close to being lost. To the inexperienced eye one bush looks very much like another, one gully often identical to its neighbour.
Again, from my Journal of the time:
… the [GPS] started playing silly buggers with the directional pointer insisting that we retrace our steps back the way we had just come. Fay decided to entrust our fate to her simple, old-fashioned compass and for the next one or two hundred metres the two were in stark conflict. I hummed and worried; Fay stuck to her guns. We came out within 20m of where the cars were parked!
Simple, inexpensive compass, 1; modern, expensive GPS unit, 0.
Not that the entire blame rested on Grahame’s shoulders; e-bird could bear some of the responsibility.
We’d attended the first BASQ Local Branch Convenors meeting at Dutton Park on Saturday 20 September 2014 and it seemed a logical precaution, before setting out with the newly-acquired e-bird guidelines presented at the meeting, to check the 241 species already entered under our names.
And there it was, five species recorded for Pierces Creek Road on 1 November 2009.
But exactly where was Pierces Creek Road? Neither Fay nor I had any recollection of the place. A scan through the “Locations” folder of the Bird Journal program failed to identify any such place. The “Entries” folder for 1 November 2009 again drew a blank.
We returned to e-bird. Co-ordinates were provided for the five entries. Google maps indicated that Pierces Creek Road was somewhere near Mt Binga but our last recorded survey here was in October 2008.
Jacky Winter © Julian Bielewicz, 2009
One of the birds recorded for Pierces Creek Road was Jacky Winter Microeca fascinans, a species we had recorded on only four previous occasions in the South Burnett. It was of significant interest but the “Species” folder contained no record of Jack Winter for Pierces Creek Road nor indeed anywhere else for that date.
We turned to my original handwritten logbook. I am an inveterate keeper of lists; original fieldnotes transcribed to Bird Journal, then handwritten into my personal logbook. The problem lay in locating Volume 5 which covered 2009. Tidiness is not one of my virtues. I once asked a student to tidy up my desk before going to lunch. She paused, looked at me with a disarming smile and said quietly “Only if you hire a backhoe first.”
Nevertheless the logbook was eventually located and there, under 31 October, rather than 1 November, was a reference to Pierces Creek Road – listing Jacky Winter among the reported species.
Having come so far via “book” research we decided, especially given the five-year gap since the original event, to retrace our steps to Pierces Creek Road.
With “Emily”, our GPS unit, set, we soon discovered the birding delights along the Nukku Road. We’d no sooner turned off the D’Aguilar Highway than we were hit with Scarlet Honeyeater Myzomela sanguinlenta and Brown Cuckoo-Dove, Macropygia amboinens. Another hundred metres and we had Little Lorikeet Glossopsitta pusilla and Noisy Pitta Pitta versicolor, a gem.
We eventually reached a point where the Blackbutt Range Road bore a little to the right and at this kink the road became Pierces Creek Road.
We had arrived. Or had we? We immediately recognised the place as the spot where we had all foregathered to receive our final instructions. “Emily” was not satisfied; according to her, we had some way still to go to the specified destination.
We continued along Pierces Creek Road until we crossed a culvert; the nearby signpost read “Oaky Creek”. A little further “Emily” announced that she was “recalculating” -her way of saying we had erred in following her directions. But how; it was a straight road with no deviations to left or right?
We re-crossed Oaky Creek only to be advised that our next turn was an immediate left. There was no left turn.
Back over Oaky Creek. Wrong!
Flummoxed, we walked about for a while in the vain hope of locating Pierces Creek but to no avail. There was no creek in the immediate vicinity, other than the aforementioned “Oaky Creek.” Had some local cartographer misnamed this creek? Perhaps the e-Bird co-ordinates had been set to the actual spot where the 2009 survey had occurred- a kilometre out from the road.
We walked, we pondered we remained none the wiser. We eventually decided to call it a day and returned home. We had lost Pierces Creek – again!
Fay & Julian Bielewicz
24 October 2014