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!

Particularly vulnerable in the air were four slow-flying Cattle Egrets (Bubulcus ibis), which stood out as targets for the athletic predator. One distressed bird rose up when the rest of its flock wheeled sideways, unwittingly becoming the focus of the hunt as it did so. 

In the minutes prior to this, I had heard distant honking which I thought belonged to some farm geese, as the wetland is in a rural area. With all my attention on this life-or-death chase unfolding before me, I hadn't noticed the honking behind me grow louder, until all of a sudden, a pair of huge White-bellied Sea-Eagles (Haliaeetus leucogaster) appeared like two giant warships amid all the chaos. 

Amazingly, the desperate Egret was headed straight for them, with the Falcon still in hot pursuit. For a brief second, I held my breath as the white waterbird darted through an opening between the Eagle pair, wondering if the Falcon would do the same...

It did not! 

The luckiest Egret in the world would live to see another day, as the Falcon turned around in the direction it had appeared from. Meanwhile, I had been fortunate enough to live in my very own BBC nature documentary!

Orange-striped Lynx Spider (Oxyopes quadrifasciatus), Corinda

Braconid Wasp (Family Braconidae),

Other wildlife 'dramas' happen on a smaller scale. I spent much of this month paying closer attention to plants, and peering intently into the shrubbery also revealed other tiny life forms going about their daily business. I was especially intrigued by a large gathering of Pied Lacewings (Porismus strigatus) on a eucalypt in Purga Nature Reserve. The proportions of these uncommon insects conjures up something other-worldly, as though you might squint and see them as strange mutant-fairies or shrunken dragons. Their behaviour is just as inexplicable, as they sit perfectly still and stare intensely at each other all day.

Pied Lacewings, Purga.

For the most part, temperatures have been unseasonably warm during May, with a recent string of days reaching 27C. Whilst I enjoy this pleasant weather, 'false springs' like this can confuse the biological timing mechanisms of some animals. For example, there are reports of Scarlet Honeyeaters (Myzomela sanguinolenta) currently entering a breeding phase right now, when normally they'd be wandering the countryside chasing winter blossoms. What happens to these nesting birds if the weather snaps back to normal next week? Are they able to breed again in a few months time if they have only recently spent all their energy on an unsuccessful brood? At least Yellow-faced Honeyeaters (Lichenostomus chrysops) seem to be undertaking their regular migration, as the woodlands around Brisbane are full of these southern visitors at the moment!

Yellow-faced Honeyeater, Burbank.

Peaceful Dove (Geopelia placida), 
Tweed Heads West

I quite enjoy bird-watching during the cooler months, as there is often an influx of mountain-dwelling species moving down on to the coastal plains. For example, Australian King-Parrots (Alectura lathami) turn up in bushier outer suburbs like Corinda during this time of year. Rufous Fantails (Rhipidura rufifrons) and Spotted Pardalotes (Pardalotus punctatus) also fly down from the ranges along creek corridors, and I have seen both in the Redlands shire recently. However, a daytrip to Lamington National Park last week provided a reminder that some birds will choose to remain in their cold mountaintop environment over the coming months, including Crimson Rosellas (Platycercus elegans) and the rare Albert's Lyrebird (Menura alberti). 

Restless Flycatcher, Rocklea.
Birds of the open country tend not to migrate so much as wander, appearing suddenly in a location and then departing just as quickly. I had good views of a Restless Flycatcher (Myiagra inquieta) at Oxley Creek Common earlier this month, but it was not reported again on a subsequent visit by another birdwatcher. Anstead Bushland Reserve has become the temporary home of an even bigger local rarity - a beautiful male Scarlet Robin (Petroica boodang). This species usually prefers the drier western slopes of the Great Dividing Range, and presumably won't stay here for long.

Red-necked Wallaby, Burbank.

I have been fairly fortunate with mammal sightings this month also, with two different wallabies being seen on recent outings. Red-necked Wallabies (Macropus rufogriseus) were spotted in Buhot Creek Reserve, warming up in the morning sun alongside a quiet horse trail. The other species seen was the Pretty-faced Wallaby (Macropus parryi), a boldly-marked animal that prefers the grassy uplands of the Great Dividing Range. Unfortunately, the individuals I saw were all feeding along the narrow mountain road between Lamington National Park and Canungra, so it wasn't safe to stop and get a picture. 

Oh well, I suppose there's always next month! 

Crimson Rosella, Lamington.


  1. the birds are all beautiful, the insects, too. the wallaby is as cute as can be, but that rosella steals the show!

    glad you got to see the cattle egret make a getaway!

    1. The Rosella does, doesn't it? I saved it for last the way a rock band saves their biggest hit for the end! :)

  2. Love reading your reports Christian, great photos and always informative. Seeing the Black Falcon for the first time, especially in that situation must have been a real buzz!

    1. Thanks John, your appreciation and kind words mean a lot to me! That Black Falcon sighting has been one of the highlights of my year for sure!!!

  3. Hi Christian, I really enjoyed reading your account of seeing the Black Hawk and then what happened with the Egret. To see these things in person is just the best isn't it.
    I do like your photos of insects and those lacewings in particular are quite beautiful. Is their colour an irridescence? It's often quite a gasp when we see the intricacies of insects so close up.
    Yes, the fluctuations in our weather does beg the question as to breeding patterns etc. Our gardens don't quite know what to do at times.
    That's a gorgeous photo of the wallaby and, of course, the colours and detail of the Rosella are delightful.
    Cheerio for now :D)

    1. Hi Susan, glad you enjoyed reading! I did find those Lacewings to be very beautiful, and apparently they are the only members of that particular lacewing 'family' in the world. I guess it was some kind of iridescence on their wings creating such lovely colour.

      That moment with the Falcon / Egret / Eagles was just breath-taking! Moments earlier I was actually feeling disappointed with the wetland, as it had little aquatic vegetation and didn't seem to home to many rarities - I'm glad I waited around!

  4. a lovely series Christian, the tale of the falcon, egret would've been amazing to witness. Wow the Crimson Rosella capture is super-fabulous.

    1. Thanks Carole, yes that bird interaction still replays in my mind! If only the Falcon had stopped to pose for a portrait like the Rosella did! :)

  5. What a wonderful post, Christian!! I'm so glad I stumbled on your blog. It's nice to discover blogs of locals and this post is very informative! I've heard Oxley Creek Common is a great spot for birdwatching. Ive never heard of Anstead Bushland Reserve so I will have to investigate. Good also to know that there may be the possibility of some bird sightings in the Redlands as that's not too far from home. I'd love to know of more good birding spots in the Brisbane area if you would be able to share some.
    Thanks again for a great post and I am your newest follower. :)

    1. Thanks so much for the kind words, Liz, and for following! I've enjoyed your blog for a while now and look forward to your updates - you are an amazing photographer!

      I've never been to Anstead myself but keep meaning to. The Redlands is a beautiful area though, I've enjoyed exploring it over the past year.

      I made a list of my ten favourite wildlife locations in South-East Queensland last year, the web address is here:

      You should also check out a website called 'Eremaea Ebird', where birdwatchers around the world (myself included) upload bird lists for their favourite locations. It's how I found out about Oxley Creek and Anstead!

      Thanks for leaving a comment and introducing yourself as well :)

  6. There's nothing quite like a close encounter with a raptor when it is hunting for real is there? I must admit I often want the raptor to succeed. Maybe I'm blood thirsty? Probably not and more likely I want to see the full drama of a kill and aftermath unfold as it is quite unusual to see that happen, and more likely that we see failed attempts.

    As I've said before, you have a great all around awareness, but you do have some incredible animals, bugs, birds and insects to go at on your continent.

    I picked out your sentences "insects conjures up something other-worldly, as though you might squint and see them as strange mutant-fairies or shrunken dragons. Their behaviour is just as inexplicable, as they sit perfectly still and stare intensely at each other all day." - just a fine example of your detailed explanations and description of the many things you see.

    Keep it up Christaian.

    1. Thanks Phil, I'm really quite honoured by your praise there! I do try very hard with this blog so it's nice to know it is appreciated.

      Definitely blessed with an abundance of things to point my camera at. This year, apart from one Crake-related slip-up in January, I am trying not to repeat any species on this blog and the connected Facebook page. This challenges me to push further for unusual or uncommon animals as the year goes on!

      I loved the hunting Falcon so much! Usually the only hunting I see is when an Osprey dips down to grab a fish, so this was quite different!

  7. Hope you got my last comment as I received the message "Service unavailable". I'll try later

  8. Always great to see a BOP do something other than sit in a tree! Getting images? Well thats another thing entirely!

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

    1. Yep, definitely tricky, Stewart! I got a blurry distant photo of the Falcon, but a good one of the Sea-Eagles at least, which I featured on the Wild BNE Facebook page! :)

  9. As always, stunning bird photos
    Thanks for linking up this weekend.

  10. Hi Christian,

    Amazing encounter!! I've never seen a Black Falcon, its a bit of a bogey bird for me!! I always end up seeing the more common Brown Falcon. Great job!!

    1. Thanks Ben, yes I couldn't have asked for a more spectacular introduction to such an amazing bird! :)