Friday, 29 November 2013

November Wildlife Report

Storms Appear in BNE


Dramatic skies have been a defining feature of Brisbane this November, with the storm season commencing in a major way.

Severe thunderstorm, Fortitude Valley; Photo by Meaghan Cook



Tornadic waterspout, Wynnum; Photo by Josh Keen
Hot and humid conditions have combined with atmospheric instability to produce massive rotating storms over a two-week period. These 'supercells' were of a very severe nature, with a lot of damage resulting from strong winds and tennis-ball sized hail. The Bureau of Meteorology even confirmed a tornado touchdown in the rural suburb of Rosewood, as well as offshore in Moreton Bay. Most Australians don't realise that 'twisters' have a genuine presence in our storm seasons, but that they usually remain unnoticed due to our sparsely-populated countryside.

Hail, Maroochydore; Photo by Hannah McEwan

Koala, Noosa National Park

Sunnier days have sent me to such magnificent locations as Noosa National Park, where I saw a beautiful female Koala (Phascolarctos cinereus). This forested headland is one of the only places on the South-East Queensland mainland where you can still see a Koala near the beach, as the rest of the coastline has been extensively developed. Maybe I'm the only one who thinks a Koala by the beach is more iconic than high-rises and highways, but it's a real shame this is such a rare sight these days. This lovely lady was a huge tourist-draw while I was there, with an average of around ten people watching her at any given time. As you can tell from the photo, she wasn't bothered by this in the slightest! Though the National Park is used by day-trippers, joggers, swimmers, surfers and locals throughout the daylight hours, the wildlife seems to be well-adjusted to pedestrian traffic. Things come to a complete halt when a Lace Monitor (Varanus varius) uses the path however, as this two-metre lizard has 'right of way' and definitely knows it!

Lace Monitor, Noosa National Park

Smooth-handed Ghost Crab, Noosa National Park

On the beaches of the National Park, Short-tailed Shearwater (Puffinus tenuirostris) carcasses are still strewn across the sands, creating a foul stench as they decay. Instrumental in this breaking-down process are Smooth-handed Ghost Crabs (Ocypode cordimanus), usually seen racing into their burrows on approach. As mentioned in last month's report, the Shearwater population is undergoing a 'wreck' this year, where higher-than-usual numbers of the population are dying on migration. I also recently saw live birds in southern Moreton Bay, gliding through mangrove-lined channels on a breezy day; this is not their usual open water habitat, perhaps signalling their desperation.

Another bird seen in an unusual habitat was this Emu (Dromaius novaehollandiae), spotted by a four-wheel driver along Bribie Island's Woorim Beach. This island is the only place in the Greater Brisbane region where these gigantic birds survive.

Emu, Bribie Island National Park; Photo by Paul Smith
On North Stradbroke Island, I saw the other animal that appears on our National Coat-of-Arms - the Eastern Grey Kangaroo (Macropus giganteus). Particularly noticeable in this photo is the way in which the Kangaroo uses its tail as a 'third leg' so that its paws are free to rake vegetation.

Eastern Grey Kangaroo, Point Lookout

Common Brushtail Possum,
Coorparoo

Seeing native mammals in the daytime is not a common experience in Australia, as the majority of species have nocturnal habits that allow them to avoid the heat of the day. I saw this Common Brushtail Possum (Trichosurus vulpecula) on a night-time walk through a small reserve in Coorparoo, in the company of several Common Ringtail Possums (Pseudocheirus peregrinus). It was interesting to observe the different 'personalities' of these species as they lived side-by-side, with the Brushtail being much more trusting than the nervous Ringtails.

Full Moon, East Brisbane

Striped Marsh Frog; INSET: Frog spawn

Arriving back home that night, I checked on my garden pond to see the Striped Marsh Frogs (Limnodynastes peronii) residing there. The recent thunderstorms have half-filled the previously dry pond and it is now teeming with aquatic life, all of which have found it through natural means. The frogs have laid eggs in there for the first time, and a male Fiery Skimmer Dragonfly (Orthetrum villosovittatum) has adopted the pond as part of its breeding territory also. This is all very validating for me and my little pond project, the beginnings of which you can read more about in this post.
Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo,
Marcoola; Photo by Peta Neill

Lucky Sunshine Coast residents have had some exciting visitors to their garden this month, in the form of Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos (Calyptorhynchus funereus). Flocks of these huge birds have been seen wheeling through the skies and landing in garden shrubbery to feed on Banksia seed cones. They have a strange wailing call that they often give in flight, where they appear Pterodactyl-like thanks to the slow motion of their large wings. These birds have declined across their range in recent years, because while they have plenty of food available in gardens and State Forest plantations, they only nest in large Eucalypt hollows found in old-growth forest. It's a shame these areas are so often logged, as the Cockatoos are quite useful in forest management, supplementing their seed diet by eating the larvae of wood-boring insects.

One of my more well-received Wild BNE Facebook posts this month was a photograph of a Bearded Dragon (Pogona barbata) on the scree slope of Cabbage Tree Head, at Shorncliffe. For all of you reptile fans out there, he's a short video of the same Dragon.



Next month I will be trying to track down one of Australia's cutest marsupials, so I will hopefully have some great photos to share, or at least a story or two! In the meantime, happy wildlife-spotting!

Sacred Kingfisher, Tingalpa

20 comments:

  1. the bearded dragon video is very cool. well, all of your exotic creatures are cool. :) sorry about the severe storms, though. a dangerous season, for sure.

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    1. Thanks Tex, there's always plenty of interesting things to see when you're out and about here! As for our storms, I bet they're nothing compared to some of the crackers you must get in Texas! :)

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  2. All very interesting,, .. love it. Alma

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    1. Thanks Alma, I'm sure you had some good storm views up on the hill! :)

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  3. Hi Christian, that sure is a dramatic intro sky for your blog post; storms certainly have dominated November here too. Those lace monitors are amazing; yes I'd keep my distance too and allow it right of way; no arguing. It's been such a sad season for the shearwaters all along the coast; poor birds found the going got tough. That is an amazing shot the emu on the beach. That is a thrill to find your pond is evolving successfully. I've been hearing the Y.T. Black Cockatoos around here late in the day recently but they don't seem to land anywhere close enough for me to see them betterstill to get a photograph. I find this often happens too on an overcast, or showery day. I've actually seen them extracting the grubs from an angophora here. That was a really nice clip of the bearded dragon too and I LOVED your kingfisher Christian; cheers.

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    1. Hi Carole, thanks for your comments! I've never actually spent much time with the Black Cockatoos - they seem flighty and nervous around me, so it's great you've been able to see them in action at least a few times.

      I did read about the tornadoes you've had down south, especially that one in Hornsby Westfield! I think our expanding population and camera-phones will prove that they're not the rare events we once thought of them being.

      And yes, I still can't believe the scale of Shearwater die-off! It's been a big deal right from Queensland down to Tasmania!

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  4. Nice to see the Emus still surviving on Bribie! Great place for birding, with some rare sightings around Buckleys Hole recently. Thanks for sharing Christian.

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    1. Thanks for taking the time to comment, John! Hopefully with enough secure National Park area, the Emus will survive. I love Buckley's Hole and have been meaning to try and get up there sometime to check out all the Crakes and Bitterns!

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  5. A lovely varied post Christian. I'm not going to complain about a bit of snow here after seeing those tennis balls. The Koala is just fantastic and is definitely more iconic ( and valuable) than high-rises and highways. An intruiging comment of your re the monitor - do you mean that it would attack passers by? The Emu looks slightly incongruous on the beach and perhaps I thought of it as a bush dweller? Love the twitchy headed dragon. Wow what a wealth of exotic wildlife you have down there.

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    1. Thanks Phil! Don't worry, you have every right to complain about British weather still - I count my lucky stars everyday that I'm no longer subjected to it! As far as the monitor is concerned, I wouldn't say it may attack passers by. It's more a case of it being a very bold animal that does what it wants yet resents being interfered with, so people treat it with a mix of caution and admiration.

      You're right about Emus being bush-dwellers too, which is why I couldn't resist including that great photo of one on the beach. Apparently they can be prone to eccentric behaviour around humans or in isolation from others of its kind, and this one suffers from both!

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  6. What a great round up - I so look forward to your posts Christian!

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  7. Christian, You did very well to see that emu. By some accounts there is just a single bird left on the island.

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    1. Hi Greg, I didn't see the Emu personally, it was just a great shot that a friend shared with me on Facebook! I have heard that it may sadly just be 'Eric' that survives on Bribie and I hope to see him myself while I still can.

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  8. Great post. I think most (well, a great deal) of what we know about ecology was first encountered by amateurs!

    SAw some footage of the hail on the news - wow!

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne.

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    1. Thanks Stewart, yes I agree that we all have something to contribute! :)

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  9. Such a great series of images, Christian! I think it's time I explored Bribie agan... I'd love to come across an Emu on the beach!
    The lake in my recent post is on the southside. It's at Minnippi Parklands & runs between Meadowlands Road, Carina and almost through to Wynnum Road.

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    1. Thanks Liz! Bribie is certainly a special place, but so is Minnippi Parklands I hear - lots of Crakes and Rails and things turning up there!

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  10. Totally fascinating. cannot tell you how different your life and wildlife is from mine up here in North Wales.

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    1. Haha, thanks Elizabeth! I spent a few weeks with family in Abercynon and got a taste of Welsh life there. I visited in spring and also during a snowy winter and found it to be beautiful!

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