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
types of waterfowl, Plumed Whistling-Ducks (Dendrocygna eytoni) can make do with even the smallest drying dam. This camp - seen at the Kilcoy Showgrounds - wisely sought shade during the hottest part of a 35C day.

Plumed Whistling-Ducks, Kilcoy.

Golden Orb-Weaver, Lake Somerset.

A day out around Lake Somerset was an especially enjoyable outing for me this month, particularly the rich birdlife around the Villaneuve area. Highlights included a Cotton Pygmy-Goose (Nettapus coromandelianus), distant Glossy Ibis (Plegadis falcinellus), a pair of Red-kneed Dotterels (Erythrogonus cinctus) and a White-throated Gerygone (Gerygone olivacea).

Non-bird sightings included large Golden Orb-Weavers (Nephila plumipes), Lesser Wanderers (Danaus petilia) and an enormous Lace Monitor (Varanus varius) sunning itself on a rockpile.

The lake is an extremely popular freshwater angling location, and there does seem to be an abundance of fish life visible in the shallows. I took a short video in the swimming bay at 'The Spit', where schools of Western Carp Gudgeon (Hypseleotris klunzingeri), Barred Grunter (Amniataba percoides), Fly-specked Hardyhead (Craterocephalus stercusmuscarum) and Snubnose Garfish (Arrhamphus sclerolepis) were congregating.



Spectacled Monarch, Aspley;
Photo by Jane Curnow
A friend of mine had an interesting wildlife encounter at her Aspley home towards the end of the month. Barking from pet Labrador 'Pippy' drew attention to a small visitor on her shaded back deck - an immature Spectacled Monarch (Monarcha trivirgatus). This beautiful little bird is a summer migrant to the rainforests of South-East Queensland and Northern New South Wales, but it seems the first migration attempt of this young individual has sent it astray into the suburbs. It is possible that it was making its maiden voyage to North Queensland using vegetation corridors along Cabbage Tree Creek, before it took a wrong turn somewhere. 'Pippy' left the bird unharmed, and after a short rest, I am assured that it continued on its way!
Another area where the retention of suburban creekside vegetation has made a difference for the local wildlife is out in the Redlands suburb of Ormiston. A series of reserves along Hilliards Creek allows a variety of animal species to flourish, despite their proximity to increasing urban development. In Fellmonger Park this month, I was delighted to see a beautiful male Koala (Phascolarctos cinereus) unhurriedly make his way across the parkland to reach another tree. A stranger sight was this large Sawfly (Pergidae family) larva on a dead tree stump.

Sawfly larva, Ormiston.

I spent the last official day of summer down near the Queensland / New South Wales border, visiting my Dad. He currently lives opposite the Tweed River and always has a new wildlife story to share with me when I see him. On this particular occasion, we caught up while enjoying views of various waterbirds before us, including this Great Egret (Ardea modesta) and Australian Pelican (Pelecanus conspicillatus).

Australian Pelican and Great Egret, Tweed Heads West

Here's hoping that March brings some much needed rain for our wildlife and our farmers. Until then, enjoy wild Brisbane!

18 comments:

  1. Hi Christian. It was once thought that Spectacled Monarch was a summer visitor to SEQ-NENSW (like Black-faced). However, it is now believed that although some birds migrate, the bulk of the population is resident though silent in the cooler months and therefore inconspicuous (like White-eared)

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    1. Thanks for the info Greg! I was just working from the Pizzey field guide but as always, local 'insider info' proves invaluable!

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  2. lovely set of birds! i LOVE those handsome whistling ducks! i know the dry conditions must be extremely worrisome. hoping you get some relief soon.

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    1. Thank you - I do always think of the Whistling Ducks on your farm whenever I see our local species here! :)

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  3. the Whistling ducks photo is SUPER Christian; nice close-up. In stark comparison, here we've experienced torrential rains 10 mm in 10 mins, and 250 mm inside 24 hours. Aspley - lived there for the year of '91; loved the Monarch bird, how beautiful.

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    1. Thanks Carole, Whistling Ducks are some of my very favourite birds. I didn't know you were once a BNE resident, how wonderful! I spent many happy years in Sydney and enjoyed my journeys north to your neck of the woods everytime also! :)

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  4. Surprised to see a Spectacled Monarch in the suburbs of Brisbane. Was it found in the inner suburbs, or was it fond on the outer suburbs like Brookfield, Kenmore and The Gap?? I recently saw a juvenile Black-faced Monarch at Sandy Camp Road Wetlands in Wynnum, which is quite close to the bay, so it seems like strange habitat for a monarch.

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    1. Hi Ben! It was seen in Aspley, which is a very busy northern suburb along Gympie Road, hence why I was so surprised! I do remember as a kid seeing a Black-faced Monarch in my Bracken Ridge garden and feeling like I'd won the bird lottery, so clearly these birds get around! I would have felt the same had I seen one in Wynnum, so good spotting!

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  5. Those Whistling ducks are awesome, spider looks interesting to say the least, hope you get the weather you need.
    All the best Gordon.

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    1. Thanks Gordon, yes the Whistling Ducks are one of my favourites! :)

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  6. I so look forward to your posts Christian. Wonderful photos as ever and so fascinating for me over on the other side of the world. My favourite is the ducks with those swept back feathers - fantastic.

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    1. Thanks Em, glad you enjoy my nerdy obsession! :)

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  7. Superb series of pics. Sorry to note about the dry weather conditions. Hope you get copious rains soon !

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    1. Thank you Ram, yes the heavens have opened up plenty since!

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  8. Surely this is a site well worth seeing.

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    1. Thank you, I try to make it interesting!

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  9. Hi Christian, I continue to be amazed at the depth and variety of your knowledge of all things wild and wonderful. Birds, bugs, fish, plants - you are an extremely knowledgable chap. Wish I had time to devote to other than birds.

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    1. Oh wow, thanks Phil, that's very high praise coming from someone as clever as yourself! Glad you find value in my posts :)

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