Sunday, 29 September 2013

September Wildlife Report

Strong Sunshine and Warmer Nights

Though I spent the early part of this month in the Tropics, coming back home to beautiful Brisbane hasn't required too much adjustment weather-wise. September has seen us experience a string of days where the thermometer has reached 32C with ease - well above the 25C long-term average.

Such strong sunshine is good weather for butterflies. I saw my first Fiery Copper
(Paralucia pyrodiscus) at Samford Conservation Park, and there are plenty of Lemon Migrants (Catopsilia pomona) tumbling through the Northern suburbs right now. However, none of this compares to the sighting of a male Richmond Birdwing (Ornithoptera richmondia) along the Maroochy River.

Richmond Birdwing, North Arm; Photo by Greg Roberts

Spotted by Greg Roberts and detailed further in his excellent blog 'Sunshine Coast Birds', the sighting is significant because this spectacular beauty is declared a threatened species. One of the largest butterflies in Australia, the Birdwing has suffered greatly from the clearing of lowland rainforest, as well as from the prevalence of an exotic vine called the Dutchman's Pipe (Aristolochia species). Irresponsibly promoted as an easy-to-grow garden plant, this vine has spread into the wild and closely resembles the native food plant (Pararistolochia species) that the Birdwing lays its eggs on. Evidently, the butterfly can't tell the difference between the two vines and the caterpillars die when they feed on the introduced variety.

Ornate Burrowing Frog, North Lakes; Photo by Alex Collins
Warmer nights have seen the local frogs become more active, with this Ornate Burrowing Frog (Platyplectrum ornatus) spotted in the wetlands at North Lakes Environmental Park. Though it resembles the introduced Cane Toad (Rhinella marinus), the frog can be distinguished by the dark mottling along its lips and the lack of mottling on its belly. The presence of this creature in such a fast-growing suburb is testament to the hard work that the 'Mango Hill and North Lakes Environment Group' do in the area. Anyone wishing to help them with their worthy projects or wanting to stay updated on Pine Rivers wildlife happenings should check out and 'like' their well-maintained Facebook page, linked above.

Many different animals are currently undergoing breeding activity, and this can make September a time of great conflict. At a bus stop alongside a busy inner-city road, I recently watched a pair of large Eastern Water Skinks (Eulamprus quoyii) wrestle over a territorial dispute, completely oblivious to the peak-hour traffic and my close observation. More at peace was this related Martin's Skink (Eulamprus martini), playing hide and seek in Samford Conservation Park.

Martin's Skink, Ferny Hills

White-crowned Snake, Karawatha; Photo by Jon Pickvance
Such wariness serves these smaller creatures well when there are predators like this White-crowned Snake (Cacophis harriettae) around. Spotted by a local Wildlife Ecologist on a humid night in Karawatha Forest, this nocturnal reptile preys almost exclusively on skinks and their eggs. A size comparison against the gum leaves in the photo reveals how tiny this species is, but it has evolved a way of appearing larger. The white ring around the head is meant to resemble the mouth of a bigger snake, and this little guy strikes with that part of its body when confronted, rather than actually using its mouth. Nevertheless, it is still a venomous species and is deserving of your caution and respect.

All in all, it's been a great month for wildlife and I'm excited to see what October brings. Until then, enjoy Wild Brisbane!


  1. wonderful to see that beautiful butterfly Christian. I love the skink photo too but wouldn't have liked to be wandering the forest at night, especially to see the white-crowned snake out there

    1. Thanks Carole, yes I will have to go out looking for that butterfly myself.

      Ever since my spotlighting adventure up North, I've really taken to nocturnal wildlife-spotting! Next month I am planning to write about the mammals of Samford Conservation Park - would love to spot a Glider, so we'll see.

  2. That Richmond Birdwing looks an absolutely fabulous creature Christian. What a frightening story about its demise, like so many simila stories when man interferes with nature.

    1. The frustrating thing is that it could easily be reversed! The 'good' vine just needs to be planted by more councils really, and substituted in for the 'bad' vine in nurseries.

  3. (sorry about the cane toads!) love the skink shot! the birdwing is beautiful - sorry it is rare.

    1. Thanks! The skink was a very patient subject, just eyeing me from his little nook! :)

  4. I love that Skink head poking out of the hole - brilliant!