Wednesday, 28 August 2013

August Wildlife Report

Welcome to the Dry Season

Once you are far enough north in Australia, the climate shifts from operating around the familiar four seasons to a Wet/Dry dichotomy instead. While August has always been a fairly dry time of year for Brisbane, August 2012 was the driest on record, with only 0.2mm of rainfall received. August 2013 is currently on track to match that record, with no further rain forecast for the rest of the month.

The flip side is when the 'The Big Wet' hits (as it is known up north), lately it strikes hard. Earlier this year, ex-Tropical Cyclone Oswald gave us an Australia Day we won't be forgetting anytime soon, and the floods of 2011 made headlines around the world when an 'inland Tsunami' ripped through nearby areas and inundated downtown Brisbane.

Waiting at the traffic lights, Coorparoo (2011)

This dry time of year can be particularly harsh on wildlife, and boundaries have to be pushed in order to survive. White-eyed Ducks (Aythya australis) are usually a bird of deep lagoons, but this month has seen them turn up in mangrove creeks and other saltwater environments.

White-eyed Duck, Coorparoo

My garden pond is evaporating quickly, so the Wisp Damselflies (Agriocnemis species) are crawling out of the water and morphing into adults as fast as they can.

Pygmy Wisp, East Brisbane

Desert birds are seeking refuge from an inland drought by heading to the coast, with several Black Falcons (Falco subniger) being seen around the Kedron Brook and the Pine River. Breeding activity has even been reported from the Lockyer Valley area.

Black Falcon; Photo by Julian Robinson

Sandgate Lagoon often turns up some interesting species during dry weather, including Cotton Pygmy-Goose (Nettapus coromandelianus). A pair have resided there for many weeks now, with the male shown below.

Cotton Pygmy-Goose, Sandgate

I was surprised to see a large Water Rat (Hydromys chrysogaster) swimming through the water lilies at the same location. I wasn't quick enough with my camera to get a good photo, but it does represent the average view of this shy native animal.

Water Rat, Sandgate

Also known by the Indigenous name of Rakali, this creature fills the same ecological role as an Otter, eating fish, crustaceans, molluscs, frogs and the eggs and young of waterbirds.

Insects have some ingenious ways to keep their soft-shelled eggs cool and moist during this dry weather. A good example is the She-Oak Leafhopper (Ipoides honiala), which encases it's valuable brood inside what looks like a glob of spit on a branch.

She-Oak Leafhopper, Sandgate

If you look to the right of the picture, you will see 'Mama' Leafhopper herself, surrounded by ants. I observed her for a while and saw that she wasn't bothered by them, even as they nibbled at various parts of her body. I think she secretes some kind of sweet fluid for them to enjoy, thereby encouraging them to remain nearby as 'guard dogs' for her and her family.

The Eucalypt trees are in full bloom at the moment, attracting all kinds of visitors. One of Australia's rarest birds, the critically-endangered Regent Honeyeater (Anthochaera phrygia) has been spotted feeding in a suburban tree in Ipswich.

Regent Honeyeater, Ipswich; Photo by Rob Morris

Judging by the sudden colour flush on the male Eastern Water Dragons (Physignathus lesuerii), these conspicuous inner-city residents have entered into their breeding season this month.

Eastern Water Dragon, Southbank

In the outer suburbs, these large reptiles are exceedingly shy, jumping into the water and submerging themselves at the slightest disturbance. The inner-city population is used to pedestrian traffic however, both in human and bird form.

Eastern Water Dragon and Bush Stone-Curlew, Southbank

Bush Stone-Curlews (Burhinus grallarius) are another inner-city Brisbane resident that get a lot of attention. Like tall, big-eyed Gargoyles that spring to life suddenly, the sight of these birds can come as a surprise to tourists and unobservant locals.

Bush Stone-Curlew, Southbank

Many people are familiar with the calls of this nocturnal bird, even if they've never seen one. Heard mostly on still nights, their shrieks and wails can travel great distances, and are partly responsible for the "Bunyip" bush monster myths held by early Settlers and the Aboriginal people.

On the Exhibition Public Holiday, I spent a sunny afternoon with friends on the Kangaroo Point clifftop. This scenic spot affords breath-taking views of our beautiful river city, and can be a good place to observe Water Dragons, Brahminy Kites (Haliastur indus) and Black Flying-Foxes (Pteropus alecto) at sunset. On this particular day though, the Australian White Ibis (Threskiornis molucca) were out in full force, cleaning up after picnickers and doing their city proud.

Australian White Ibis, Kangaroo Point

You don't have to venture far to experience the 'wild' side of Brisbane, and with this dry and sunny weather settling in, the days are easy to enjoy!


  1. glad you still see a lot of birds and wildlife, even in the 'dry' days. i hope it is not as bad as last year!

    1. Thanks! A selfish part of me just gets excited about the beach weather! :)

  2. gosh Christian you sure pack a punch with your blog posts; great information stored inside every one and fabulous photos. Who can forget the total devastation and horror of Brisbane flooding like it did? So many photos were new to me, the w.e. duck, the pygmy wisp (a dragonfly specie?), that black falcon photograph was a beauty by the owner you credited, and I loved the b.s. curlew, yet to see one for myself. I want to see a Brahminy Kite for myself too.

    1. Thanks Carole, i'm glad you enjoy my updates so much and the feeling is mutual with your excellent blog too! White-eyed Ducks are called 'Hardheads' by most people so maybe you've seen one after all? That other name is a shooting nickname though so I don't like to use it. It, the Curlew and the Kite are all common up in Brisbane so I think you should book a holiday, bring your camera and snap away! ;-)

  3. I loved that write up Christian so thanks for introducing me to wild Brisbane. The Black Falcon looks like a bird I would enjoy, in fact they all do. The Regent Honey Eater has mazing colours and prescence too. I can't imagine Stone Curlews walking through the suburbs as here in Europe our Stone Curlew is just the opposite, as in extremely shy, but they do have weird and wonderful calls and are somewhat nocturnal also.

    1. Thanks for enjoying and commenting! I've never seen the Falcon and Honeyeater, despite them turning up in my city but I would love to see them someday as well. I'm a terrible Twitcher who is way too easily satisfied by common species!

      I have read about the European Stone-Curlew - looks almost identical to ours I think!

  4. Indeed, cool informative post with wonderful wildlife photographs! thanks for sharing dear...or yes, if you are interested to do the experience of Houseboat in Kerala, India. then please visit at my new post....

    1. Thanks for reading and commenting! Yes, I heard about Kerala house-boating last year and would love to read your post. Off on holidays tomorrow so will make the time! :)

  5. The Stone Curlew shots are great - esp the face on one. I recall being rather surprised at the size of the water dragon when I was in Brisbane!

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne!

    1. Thanks Stewart, yes the dragons are huge lizards - up to one metre apparently! Thanks for your kind praise about the Curlew, it was a very helpful photography subject that basically walked straight up to me!

  6. Great set of photos love the stone curlew