During the second and third weeks of August, Cairns observers have been noticing that our beautiful big white pigeons are back in town.
As yet, we have only heard of small numbers. Two TIPs/PIPs were seen in Cairns on 12 August 2019 by Brian, four seen on 15 August by Gerry, and four seen on 17 August by Carolyn. Meanwhile, at the northern beaches, John saw three PIPs flying south past Clifton Beach on 16 August. Thank you all for your reports.
One of the two birds that Brian observed was carrying nesting material, so it seems some PIPs are ready to start breeding activities very soon after completing their migration journey from winter habitat in PNG.
Torres Strait observers reported the first flock of PIPS travelling south for this season. They saw 25-30 PIPS flying past Muralug on 17 August 2019 despite a strong SE wind. They noted that the PIPs’ migration coincided with the ripening of wongai fruit, as in previous years.
Many thanks to Jon, Laura and Camilla for this report and their photo (below) of a wongai tree laden with ripe fruit.
August is the month we expect to see Torresian/Pied imperial pigeons returning to Queensland to prepare for a new breeding season, and right on cue, the first report for the 2019-20 season has just come in.
A flock of about 30 TIPs/PIPs was seen flying south near Cape Weymouth on 7 August 2019. Thanks to John and Brian for this report.
Many thanks indeed to everyone who helped with coast counts!
I’ve completed collating all count data received for 2018-19 season, and I’ve updated the online map of results.
The Coast Count map now shows count totals for the past six PIP seasons. You can see the details here.
We are short of counters – can you help please?
Easy to do, fun to do, on the afternoon of your choice, at a pleasant coastal site of your choice.
Please see count details for the current season.
We are mourning the passing of Margaret Thorsborne, an extraordinarily dedicated and courageous champion for the protection of Torres Strait Pigeons (PIPs/TIPs) and other vulnerable species and their habitat.
You can read more here.
Pigeon counts at North Brook Island were started in 1965 by Margaret Thorsborne and her late husband Arthur. For the next fifty years Margaret continued counting, and campaigned tirelessly to keep these counts going. In this 2015 picture, Margaret is counting with friend and scientific advisor Dr John Winter. Photo courtesy of Bryony Barnett.
PIPs/TIPs usually return to Queensland coastal areas during August and September, spreading gradually south. Timing has been variable in different seasons, and at different locations, so we are seeking everyone’s help to document their behaviour.
Update: first sightings south of Cairns
Thanks to Rae, who heard a single PIP at Tyto Wetlands on 15 August, earlier than usual for Tyto.
Thanks to Pam, who saw a single PIP at Hermit Park in Townsville on 17 August, also a surprisingly early arrival for that area.
First reports of the season!
A few early arrivals were sighted in Palm Beach and Cairns during the week 4 to 10 Aug. Thank you Sally for the first report to PIPwatch this season, and thanks also to the editors of Cairns Birders newsletter who published information from other observers.
On 16 August three PIPs were spotted at Yorkeys Knob Esplanade, thank to Laura.
On 20 August one PIP sighted at Centenary Lakes, thanks to Brian.
Please keep a lookout and please report YOUR sightings!
We urgently need more people to help with coast counts this season!
Easy to do, fun to do. It only needs two hours on the afternoon of your choice, at a pleasant coastal site of your choice…
Please see the details here.
We received late updates for August – see details here.
This month PIPs continue to spread south slowly. Rae observed more than 10 new arrivals at Tyto wetlands (1 Sept). In Townsville Jenny spotted a single PIP on 2 Sept, and 3 on 20 Sept. Allan reported 2 PIPs seen at Bucasia on 15 Sept. Max observed 9 PIPs flying south near the Russell River (13 Sept), as well as one at Aloomba (20 Sept). Lisa spotted her first PIP of the season at Airlie Beach on 29 Sept
The first nest of the season was reported by Brian in Cairns (7 Sept). Brian had discovered a total of seven nests by mid-September, although the overall number of PIPs around Cairns was still quite low.
Please keep a lookout for PIPs and please report your observations. Many thanks to all contributors!
Many thanks to keen-eyed watchers…
The first report of the season was from the Torres Strait islands, where Jon observed 3 PIPs flying past Muralug / Prince of Wales Island on August 5. He noted that their return coincided with the ripening of wongai fruits. The wongai (Manilkara kauki) is a traditional “bush tucker” food for Indigenous people and one of many native tree species that PIPs feed on.
Almost 2 weeks later, the first mainland reports came in. On 18 August, Gerry spotted a single PIP in the urban centre of Cairns. Two days later, on the morning of 20 August, Patrick saw a group of 4 and Brian recorded three single birds and a group of 4 at various places in North Cairns. That evening Brian spotted a flock of 15 near the Esplanade. Sally’s first sighting at Edge Hill was the biggest flock so far: on the evening of 23 August, she observed a group of 20 roosting in tall trees, with more PIPs still flying in to join them.
There have probably been more early sightings, but no other reports submitted as yet.
Please keep an eye out and report your observations when you see the first PIPs/TIPs in your area this season.
Updated end of August
Although we only heard about this later, there was a very early sighting near Cairns: On 3 August, Golo saw 4 PIPs at Kewarra Beach.
And we’ve just received news of the first PIPs south of Cairns: 3 PIPs at Aloomba on 29 August, reported by Max.
Updated early September
Thanks to Russell and Yvonne, we received news of additional PIP arrivals south of Cairns during August: At Coquette Point two were spotted on 15 August, a flock of 14 flew past on 25 August, and one PIP was sighted on 28 August.