|North Lakes Town Park|
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
a glimpse of this highly irregular vagrant. Unfortunately the bird had moved on immediately after that initial sighting, but while I missed out on one Crake species, I did enjoy great views of another - the Baillon's Crake (Porzana pusilla) - that was a first for me.
|Baillon's Crake, North Lakes|
Also swimming about on the same lagoon was one of Australia's rarest waterfowl (and my other 'lifer') - the primitive-looking Freckled Duck (Stictonetta naevosa).
|Freckled Duck, North Lakes|
|Azure Kingfisher (Alcedo azurea), North Lakes|
I'm not sure why such uncommon waterbirds should be so easily found in this recently-established housing development. It is possible that they were already here before the bulldozers and concrete-mixers moved in, and careful landscaping and environmental management has allowed them to persist. The area is also well-known for being one of the few busy suburbs of Brisbane where Eastern Grey Kangaroos (Macropus giganteus) still roam freely, though car-strikes are an increasing problem. Anyone wishing to know more about the wildlife of North Lakes, or what they can do to help regenerate the environment there, should look up the 'Mango Hill & North Lakes Environment Group' on Facebook.
Elsewhere in Brisbane, migratory summer visitors are making the most of the sunshine.
|Eastern Curlew (Numenius madagascariensis), Wynnum|
|Dollarbird, Alexandra Hills|
While scouting out an Alexandra Hills location for a frog survey, the open eucalypt woodland there came alive with the spirited cackling of Dollarbirds (Eurystomus orientalis). This migratory species is a member of the Roller family, a group of birds named after their twisting, turning flight habit. Probably the most famous representative of this group is the Lilac-breasted Roller (Coracias caudatus), a gorgeous multi-coloured bird often seen in the holiday photographs of those returning from an African safari. In good light, the Australian species is a colourful bird too, though the block-headed silhouette alone is distinctly recognisable.
|Shining Bronze-Cuckoo, Lota|
|Juvenile Australian Koel being fed by Magpie-Lark, Tewantin; Photo by Allan John Sonerson|
Migration is not an easy or risk-free undertaking in nature, and in the case of highly mobile animals like birds, accidents do happen. Franklin's Gull (Leucophaeus pipixcan) is usually an American species that moves seasonally between North and South America, yet an individual bird has turned up in South-East Queensland. Reported by Doug Armstrong on the shores of Lake Barambah, the bird has put many birdwatchers into a frenzied migration themselves, heading out to the South Burnett region to find the rarity.
|Franklin's Gull, Lake Barambah; Photo by Steve Murray|
Other migratory shorebirds seen this month include a large mixed flock of Red-necked Stints (Calidris ruficollis), Ruddy Turnstones (Arenaria interpres) and Common Terns (Sterna hirundo) at Scarborough Boat Harbour.
|Red-necked Stints, Ruddy Turnstones and Common Terns, Scarborough|
|Picnic birds; Scarborough|
Around the rim of the harbour, a picnic area turned up more than just the usual suspects, by way of Australasian Pipits (Anthus novaeseelandiae) and a family of Buff-banded Rails (Gallirallus philippensis).
Daily temperatures have been excruciatingly hot on some days, soaring up to 38C (100F). At this time of year, wildlife-spotting is best undertaken around dawn or dusk, when the heat is at its most bearable for animal and human-kind alike. On one such early morning walk around Melaleuca Environmental Park in Lota, a European Hare (Lepus europaeus) almost bounded in to me as I quietly observed a Goliath Stick Insect (Eurycnema goliath) in a flowering shrub.
|Goliath Stick Insect, Lota|
|Noisy Friarbird (Philemon corniculatus) |
|Osprey, Point Lookout|
While heatwaves and bush-fires in and of themselves aren't indicative of the phenomenon we call 'Climate Change', us nature-observant folks may see it manifest in other ways. In recent years, some migratory birds appear in our cities outside of their usual 'timetables' for example, or tropical species establish themselves in latitudes formerly considered more temperate. An example of the latter was noted during my time on North Stradbroke, when I stopped to explore the rockpools off Frenchman's Head. The video I filmed there reveals several fish species, including tiny Convict Tang (Acanthurus triostegus), Grey Demoiselle (Chrysiptera glauca), a Peacock Rockskipper (Istiblennius meleagris) and several dominant Banded Sergeants (Abudefduf septemfasciatus). The Sergeants are tropical fish recorded from as far south as the Great Barrier Reef, yet here in a rockpool outside of this documented range is a population that appears to be engaged in territorial breeding behaviour. It will be interesting to note which species expand or reduce their range in the coming decades, in response to climactic fluctuations we are likely responsible for.
Until next month, enjoy Wild Brisbane!
|Frenchman's Head, North Stradbroke Island|