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.|
|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.|