Monday, 29 December 2014

Top Ten Wildlife Locations of 2014

Having a car and a Driver's license this year greatly increased my scope for potential wildlife locations around South-east Queensland. How ironic then that my number one spot ended up being a tiny reserve near the main road of a busy suburb! Nature always finds a way to surprise me, no matter how well I think I've become acquainted with it. Thank you to each and every one of you who read this blog and/or follow the 'Wild BNE' Facebook page - I've loved sharing my adventures with you this year and look forward to a 'Wild' 2015!

1. Chelsea Street Environmental Reserve, Kippa-Ring.
Resident Tawny Frogmouths (Podargus strigoides) become active in the reserve shortly after sunset.
How beautiful that among the swiftly expanding suburbs of the Redcliffe Peninsula, Chelsea Street Environmental Reserve remains to preserve so much iconic Australian wildlife. Moreton Bay shire residents would do well to ensure that the

Sunday, 28 December 2014

Top Ten Wildlife Encounters of 2014

Of the top ten wildlife encounters I had this year, seven of them were with species I had never seen before. The amazing thing is, I didn't exactly have to travel to far-flung places to see these creatures either. Some of them were even seen in places like the outskirts of Caloundra, or among the busy new housing estates of North Lakes. This is why I love Brisbane, a place where the wilderness can creep into our suburbs and enrich our lives if we take the opportunity to notice it. Here is what I noticed this year!

1. Black Falcon, Jeebropilly.
Black Falcon; Photo by David Jenkins courtesy of 'Birds as Poetry'.
At a wetland out near Amberley Air Force Base in May, I saw nature's own version of a jet-fighter plane, and it was very impressive. Swooping in low over the water and scattering flocks of wildfowl into flight, I watched a Black Falcon - my first ever!

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Nature Surveys 2014

To increase my knowledge of the local area as well as my identification skills, I try and head out once a month to a new location to undertake a wildlife survey. Collected and published here are my surveys for 2014, just in case they are of interest to any researchers, surveyors or wildlife enthusiasts.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Island Birds

Bar-shouldered Dove
Yesterday morning, I caught the 6am ferry over to Karragarra Island to check out the bird life there. While many of the three-hundred-and-sixty islands in Moreton Bay are nothing more than mangrove mounds, Karragarra and its neighbouring isles are well-established landforms. During the last ice age, these islands would have been small hills behind a coastline marked out by where Stradbroke and Moreton Island lie today, but rising sea-levels have since isolated these places from each other and the mainland. 

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Tawny Fish-Owl

Animal of the Month


Tawny Fish-Owl; Photo by Nayan Khanolkar

What's so special about it?

Where there are ecological opportunities, nature finds a way to take advantage of them. In the forested valleys and mountain ranges of eastern Asia, the river life is particularly rich with fish, crabs, shrimp, frogs and waterbirds. As a result, various predators have evolved to exploit this bounty also, including some that wouldn't usually be considered as water-loving. You may know owls as austere, nocturnal birds of the woodlands, but along these waterways, Tawny Fish-Owls (Ketupa flavipes) fill the ecological role that is elsewhere occupied by birds like the Osprey (Pandion haliaetus). Just like the latter species, the Tawny Fish-Owl has bare, unfeathered legs and coarse grappling pads on the soles of their feet, adaptations which suit a fish-hunting aerial predator. Because they hunt submerged creatures which can't hear them flying on approach, they don't need to be as silent as other owls, so their wing-beats still make an audible noise just like a regular bird.

Sunday, 30 November 2014

November Wildlife Report

This month, I am presenting three photographs taken by other residents here in South-east Queensland.

Supercell Thunderstorm, Kai Linkerhof.


Approaching storm, Brisbane City.

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Batty Boat Cruise

Batty Boat Cruise departure point on the Brisbane River, with the CBD skyline in the background

When I returned to Brisbane after living overseas for a few years, I was able to briefly see the city from a fresh perspective as I re-acclimatised to my surroundings. That was when I began to notice and appreciate a strange sight that happens every evening around our downtown district, one that long-term city residents undoubtedly take for granted. If you ever get to walk around the city centre at sunset yourself, you'll see what I mean. The bustling peak-hour crowds, the traffic and the noise will feel familiar no matter which city you are from. And when you look up at the skyscrapers towering into the evening air, well that could be a sight from any modern-day metropolis around the globe, couldn't it?

But then you'll notice the bats.

Monday, 10 November 2014

Indri

Animal of the Month

Indri; Photo by Oliver Gartner

What's so special about it?

The Indri (Indri indri) is the largest surviving Lemur in the world. Its upright nature and diurnal habits inspire many legends among the Madagascan villagers whom encounter it, who make special note of the Indri's human-like qualities. For some time, this has afforded the creature a certain amount of protection, as locals have historically felt uncomfortable killing an animal that is seen in some ways as 'kin'. The creeping influence of capitalism combined with the erosion of traditional cultural values however, has led to the demise of this fascinating animal, which is now listed as 'critically endangered'. Less than 10,000 of these peaceful herbivores now exist, with increased land clearing predicted to decimate these numbers further.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

October Wildlife Report

A Parched Landscape


Humpback Whale, Noosa Heads
October has seen me showing off South-east Queensland to visiting guests from overseas. We have been enjoying sunny day after sunny day, but weeks on end without rain are starting to make the bush seem almost painfully dry. The month is concluding with record-breaking temperatures in areas away from the coast, and the heat is giving rise to towering clouds full of lightning. There's just one catch though

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Inala: A New Perspective

Wandering Percher (male)

As a young man, I was always dismissive of Brisbane. My need for adventure took me far away, first to Sydney, then to London and Toronto. Eventually though, being on the other side of the world allowed me to see my home clearly for the first time, and when I finally returned to Brisbane, it was with love and pride. Showcasing South-east Queensland through my 'Wild BNE' blog and Facebook page has only increased my admiration for this beautiful city, and it leaves my hunger for adventure well satisfied.

When I say I love Brisbane, I mean all of it. I find interesting and scenic places all around the city, from Bellbowrie to Brighton. Yesterday, a visiting English friend and I explored another delightful Brisbane location - Inala.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Decorated Tigertail

Animal of the Month


What's so special about it?

Decorated Tigertail; Photo by C. Y. Choong
Dragonflies are often thought of as the hawks of the insect world, and this is especially true for the Decorated Tigertail (Ictinogomphus decoratus). Its large size, bold nature, and speedy manoeuvrability spells quick death for any small invertebrate within its sights. And what sight! Tigertail eyes are perfectly sized and situated to allow a 360-degree view of the world, so that nothing escapes their notice! If by some lucky miracle you manage to sneak up on and capture one, be careful - dragonfly enthusiasts report that this species bites surprisingly hard when rough-handled!

Sunday, 28 September 2014

September Wildlife Report

Signs of Spring


Slender Hovea (Hovea lorata), Bellbowrie

Though it may be introducing itself to us gently this year, spring has definitely arrived in Brisbane! Temperatures have been slightly cooler than average, but decent rains from some robust storms have allowed the landscape to enter the new season with vigour. 

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Redcliffe's Wildlife on the Edge

Squirrel Glider

One of my favourite things about Brisbane is that native wildlife persists in our suburbs. One balmy night last week for example, I was thrilled to see a Squirrel Glider (Petaurus norfolcensis) less than a hundred meters away from houses in Kippa-Ring, a suburb on the Redcliffe Peninsula. If I had asked residents in the area how far I'd have to go to see such an animal however, I'm sure I would have been directed to National Parks forty kilometers away or more.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Pygmy Sperm Whale

Animal of the Month


Pygmy Sperm Whale; Photo by Pedro Madruga

What's so special about it?

The Sperm Whale (Physeter macrocephalus) may have inspired the literary classic 'Moby Dick', but fame has eluded its smaller relatives. The Pygmy Sperm Whale (Kogia breviceps) is a poorly known, dolphin-sized whale that is shy, often solitary and prefers oceanic waters far away from the coastline. Stomach contents from stranded animals reveal that squid forms much of its diet. Intriguingly, the Pygmy Sperm Whale has a method of self-defense similar to that of its chief prey item; when threatened, it expels a murky cloud into the water which obscures its escape

Sunday, 31 August 2014

August Wildlife Report

Rains bring mercy for some, but not others.

Warning: Graphic image may cause distress

Native Sarsaparilla, Ormiston
August is often a fairly dry month for Brisbane, but the clouds have paid no attention to the calendar in recent weeks. Heavy, soaking rains have settled in over successive weekends, reviving lowland catchment areas and showing mercy upon previously parched plant life. 

Before the rains hit, I undertook a plant survey along Hilliards Creek, in the Redlands. Longtime 'Wild BNE' fans may remember a post I made last year about the fish of this waterway, and once again, it was a beautiful place to spend time in. On this occasion, I was pleased to become acquainted with Weeping Figs (Ficus benjamina)

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Paradise Lost

Brisbane is changing. 

When people say this, they usually refer to the cosmopolitan aspirations of a city no longer content to be regarded as an overgrown country town. It is now a city that caters to an affluent, expansive and modern middle class, offering fine-dining, bars, shopping precincts and lifestyle options that rival those found in Sydney and Melbourne, perhaps for the first time in its history. But I have lived here long enough to notice other ways in which Brisbane is changing.

Rainbow Lorikeet, Bracken Ridge
When I was a young boy with a bird interest, I could study the feathered visitors to my garden and neighbourhood for hours. I especially loved the evenly-mixed flocks of Rainbow (Trichoglossus haematodus) and Scaly-breasted Lorikeets (T. chlorolepidotus) that would visit the grevilleas Mum had planted around our housing commission yard in Bracken Ridge. Today, the Rainbow Lorikeets are as numerous as ever around Brisbane's suburbs, but the Scaly-breasted 'Greenies' have disappeared for some reason, and the Pale-headed Rosellas (Platycercus adscitus) have gone with them. They are both still common birds in bushland reserves, but no longer in our gardens.

I point out subtle shifts like these because they pose the threat of becoming declines that are drastic and irreversible later on. We can't afford to be complacent or unobservant about these changes to wild Brisbane, because history tells us we should be concerned. If there's time for new restaurants, sports and party haunts, perhaps there's also time for a history lesson?

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Himalayan Quail

Animal of the Month


Himalayan Quail; Illustration by Tomasz Cofta

What's so special about it?

If you see this bird, you will possibly make news headlines around the world. The last verified sighting of the Himalayan Quail (Ophrysia superciliosa) was in 1876, and some authorities consequently list it as an extinct species. If the bird still exists, it doesn't assist in its own rediscovery; it has always been considered a difficult species to observe, only flying up out of dense grassland when it is in danger of being stood on.

Where can I see one?

As its name suggests, the Himalayan Quail is only known from the Himalayan Ranges, specifically the western section of

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

July Wildlife Report

Yellow Bittern Hysteria!


Australian Little Bittern, North Lakes

Earlier this month, a report went up on the 'Eremaea' website: a Yellow Bittern (Ixobrychus sinensis) had been sighted at North Lakes. For those not yet initiated into the world of vagrant bird sightings, this is the feathered equivalent of a wild mongoose or monkey suddenly appearing in Brisbane of its own accord. Considered the first ever verified sighting of a live Yellow Bittern on the Australian mainland, this species usually has a home range across Asia, extending as far south as Indonesia. Little did we know, this little bird was set to tear the bird-watching community apart!

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Obtaining Wildlife Knowledge

A few months ago, my friend Noah asked me where I get my wildlife knowledge from, thinking that perhaps I am currently undertaking a degree in a relevant subject area. This is not the case. Apart from my good grades in high school biology, I've never obtained any formal qualifications in animal study (though this is something that may change next year), and almost everything I know is self-taught. Sometimes I feel like my friends hold an un-earned level of respect for my skills, viewing my outdoor abilities as proof of me having an intuitive understanding of the natural world, when the truth is much more banal. The simple fact is, I spend a LOT of time utilising a wide range of fantastic resources which have helped build my knowledge of this subject area over a few years. Here, I wish to share with you some of these repositories of knowledge, so that any 'Wild BNE' reader out there can benefit from them also. Of course, many people reading this are much, much more knowledgeable about wildlife than I am, so feel free to add your tips for gaining information in the comments below!

Monday, 14 July 2014

Broken River

Landscape of the Month


What's so special about it?

Platypus, Broken River
Located along the Queensland coast near Mackay, the Broken River is the best place in the world to see wild Platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus). In the rest of their range, Platypus are notoriously shy and crepuscular creatures, but the population in Broken River can be easily observed from the river bank at almost any time of day. The Broken River is also famous for the ancient fossils found inside its rockbeds, including the preserved remains of primitive fish from 400 million years ago.

Friday, 27 June 2014

June Wildlife Report

Snowflakes in Sandgate


It seems like I am always starting off these monthly wildlife reports by saying that it's been a warmer-than-average month, and this holds true for June 2014 also. While this has led to some beautifully sunny and mild days for nature exploration, the effects on wildlife behaviour have not gone unnoticed.

Friday, 13 June 2014

A Woodland in the West

Grey Fantail

Speckled Warbler

One of the first things you'll notice when you look at the woodland along Raysource Road is the barbed wire - there's lots of it! Situated in the rural Ipswich suburb of Haigslea, the area's bushland exists solely because private landowners allow it to. The farms here stock small numbers of Cattle, but several key blocks of land seem to hold nothing but wonderfully dense stands of old-growth woodland. Stay respectfully on the correct side of the barbed wire and you will experience a South-east Queensland 'secret' birding spot of excellent quality! To see what other

Friday, 6 June 2014

Little Eagle

Animal of the Month


What's so special about it?

Little Eagle; Photo by 'Parks Victoria'
As its name suggests, Australia's Little Eagle (Hieraaetus morphnoides) is the smallest Eagle in the world, its maximum weight amounting to only one-fifth of the more familiar Wedge-tailed (Aquila audax) species. Yet despite its size, the Little Eagle is still a formidable predator of ground-dwelling mammals, particularly the introduced European Rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus). Originally, its diet would have consisted of bandicoots, small wallabies and other native marsupials, but as these creatures have been driven regionally or nationally to extinction, rabbits have become an essential food item instead. However, an unforeseen consequence of recent successful control measures against the rabbit is that populations of this impressive bird have also declined.

Friday, 30 May 2014

May Wildlife Report

Seasons of change along the Great Dividing Range


Left to right: Yellow-billed Spoonbill, Australian Pelican (Pelecanus conspicillatus) and a Black Swan (Cygnus atratus) pair, Jeebropilly

I was watching a Yellow-billed Spoonbill (Platalea flavipes) out past Ipswich when I saw it. My initial impression was that of a swift dark blur in the corner of my eye, but the waterbirds already knew of the danger they were in and burst into flight. There amongst the weaving ducks and egrets, my vision locked on to the cause of all this alarm - my very first Black Falcon (Falco subniger). And what a beauty it was!

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Wild Plants of Ipswich

I've never really taken much notice of plants until recently, regarding them usually as just the thing that a bird perches on while you're watching it. This week I decided it was time to change that attitude by trying my hand at plant identification in Denmark Hill Conservation Park, located in the centre of Ipswich. The park is just 11.5 hectares in size, but preserves a patch of bushland that acts as an 'island refuge' in a sea of suburbia. I did my best to focus on the trees and not be too distracted by birds or the resident Koala (Phascolarctos cinereus) population, and came up with nine interesting trees and plants seen on the Water Tower Circuit.

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Drumsticks

Plant of the Month


What's so special about it?

Isopogon divergens; Photo by Brian Walters
Over the past few decades, native Australian shrubs have increased their mainstream appeal to the general public, so that beauties like the Grevillea or Banksia are now common garden and street plants. The spotlight of fame can be a fickle business however, and there is a closely related and equally beautiful group of plants that have not found the same recognition as the above varieties - the Drumsticks (Isopogon species). The thirty-five species of Drumsticks are all low-growing hardy shrubs that are named after the strange appearance of their seed cones.

Sunday, 27 April 2014

April Wildlife Report

Wildlife and Waterspouts!


Nature can be both cruel and kind within a short space of time. South-east Queensland residents have been blessed with perfect weather around the Easter and ANZAC Day long weekends, and I've certainly made the most of it, with daytrips out to a variety of areas.

Buckley's Hole Conservation Park, Bribie Island.

But these sunny days and clear skies of late almost seem like an apology from 'Mother Nature', after she unleashed a Sunday-afternoon thunderstorm upon us earlier this month that was breath-taking in its ferocity. Born in the hinterlands to the south-west of Brisbane, the storm cut power to some suburbs and then gained strength as it moved out over Deception Bay, forming waterspouts just off the southern coastline of Bribie Island.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Down A Country Lane

It goes without saying that the freedom of being able to drive has expanded my wildlife-watching opportunities. I used to be bound by public transport access and timetables, so that only suburban reserves could be explored, usually around mid-morning or late afternoon. Interestingly though, since getting my license, I haven't really used my newfound liberty to head out to the well-known National Parks and wildlife hotspots yet. Instead, I prefer to survey unmarked but intriguing patches of bushland I see on satellite maps, and this is how I came to be walking down a country lane in the Sunshine Coast hinterland at dawn yesterday.

Sunrise along Policeman Spur Road, Harper Creek

Monday, 7 April 2014

Black-and-Rufous Swallow

Black-and-Rufous Swallow; Illustation
by Richard Bowdler Sharpe
Animal of the Month

What's so special about it?

The Black-and-Rufous Swallow (Hirundo nigrorufa) is just one of many non-descript bird species living a largely-ignored existence in remote parts of Africa. It's not a flashy drawcard species like the Shoebill Stork (Baeleniceps rex) or Secretary Bird (Sagittarius serpentarius) that lures in birdwatchers from all over the world. When I searched for images of this humble Swallow on the internet, I could not find a single published picture verifying its existence. Next time you're on safari, you might find that a photograph of some small obscure bush bird brings you more fame and glory than the millionth photo of a Lion!

Saturday, 1 March 2014

February Wildlife Report


Last Days of Summer

Cloudy evening skies over Moreton Bay, Sandgate.

Despite humid conditions and cloudy days, Brisbane received only 15.8mm of rainfall this month, making it the driest February since 1859.

Some species adjust to these circumstances better than others. Unlike most other

Saturday, 15 February 2014

The Bigger Picture

Sometimes when I wildlife-watch, I watch a little too closely.

My focus becomes so swallowed up by living, breathing detail - whiskers, feathers, eyes, scales, form, movement, behaviour - that I miss out on the bigger picture.

The environment in which an animal lives is the canvas upon which its very life is painted into, and observing this relationship can offer as much beauty as the best art gallery.

Yesterday's journey around the shores of Lake Somerset, a 52km long artificial swelling of the Stanley River, allowed me to ponder this bond between wild animals and their surroundings further.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Sinosauropteryx

Animal of the Month
Sinosauropteryx prima; Image courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

What's so special about it?
Though the idea that birds descended from dinosaurs is one that came about as early as the 19th century (through English biologist Thomas Henry Huxley), the best evidence of this link is a fairly recent discovery. In the 1990s, an ancient fossilized lakeshore environment in China revealed many well-preserved animal remains, captured in exquisite detail thanks to the fine grains of lake silt that would have entombed any deceased animal. It was here that Sinosauropteryx was discovered, surprising the world for being the first dinosaur known to be covered almost completely in feathers! Further studies have even been able to ascertain the

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

January Wildlife Report

North Lakes Town Park
'Lifers', Migrants and Climate Change.

It's been a great start to the year for wildlife watching in South-East Queensland, especially for bird life. As this is therefore a 'bird heavy' post, I've shared this with 'Wild Bird Wednesday', Stewart Monckton's excellent weekly collection of bird blogs that you should check out if you haven't already. This month I saw two new 'lifers' (ie. species I've never seen before) in the one location - the Moreton Bay Shire suburb of North Lakes. Sighted there earlier in January was a White-browed Crake (Porzana cinerea), a tropical species usually only found in the far north of the continent. Birdwatchers raced to the area after the bird was reported, in order to get

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

A Focus on Amphibians

I spent Monday night of this week in the Redlands, searching along Hilliards Creek for frogs. Surveying wildlife in this area is not a new thing for me, and some of you may remember that I wrote a feature last year on the fish found in this waterway. I

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Southern Sandhill Frog

Animal of the Month


What's so special about it?

Southern Sandhill Frog; Photo by WA Museum
Australia has a number of frog species that are adapted to living in some pretty challenging environments, but the Southern Sandhill Frog (Arenophryne xiphorhyncha) beats them all! Along with a closely related Northern species (A. rotunda), this chubby frog ekes out a living amongst the scorching sand dunes of the Western Australian coastline. It has developed a number of adaptations that allow it to survive there,