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!