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
treasures exist behind the 'Good Fences' of the world, check out this collection of blog posts held weekly by Theresa in Texas, USA.

Weebill
Upon arrival at Raysource Road yesterday morning, I was immediately impressed by the many small bird species on hand. Acrobatic Grey Fantails (Rhipidura albiscapa) and territorial Superb Fairy-Wrens (Malurus cyaneus) were very attention-grabbing, but there were quite a few regionally uncommon species as well. Highlights included a Speckled Warbler (Chthonicola sagittatus) feeding alongside a Yellow Thornbill (Acanthiza nana) in a wattle tree, and a pair of Weebills (Smicrornis brevirostris) fluttering around the lower branches of a tall eucalypt. I was not able to recognise the latter species using my binoculars, because not only was it in a tree forty metres away, it is also Australia's smallest bird! Identification was only possible when I zoomed in with my camera, then enlarged the picture greatly. That photo is what I've shown here, so please forgive the image quality!

Prickly Pine

Part of the reason why smaller birds thrive in the area is the wealth of groundcover and under-storey vegetation still present. Prickly Pine (Bursaria spinosa) and Wombat Berry (Eustrephus latifolius) are prevalent along the Kamp Road track (see below), and an abundance of thorny shrubs provide nesting opportunities for birds like the Double-barred Finch (Taeniopygia bichenovii). 

Double-barred Finch

Rose Robin (female)

On the more densely vegetated properties, Soap Trees (Alphitonia excelsa) and Acacia species comprise the mid-levels of the woodland. The uppermost canopy layers are dominated by eucalypts alone, especially the Gum-topped Box (Eucalyptus moluccana). The higher levels of these trees are home to birds like the Sulphur-crested Cockatoo (Cacatua galerita), Rose Robin (Petroica rosea), Rainbow Bee-eater (Merops ornatus) and Spotted Pardalote (Pardalotus punctatus). Two honeyeaters with patchy and localised Queensland distributions are found in these woodlands also: the Fuscous (Lichenostomus fuscus) and Striped Honeyeater (Plectorhyncha lanceolata), the former slightly outnumbering the latter. Circling just above the canopy, I was thrilled to see a pair of Wedge-tailed Eagles (Aquila audax) remain undisturbed by the noise from nearby Amberley airforce base. If such sights give you as much joy as they do for me, I suggest a visit to The Bird D'Pot, a collection of bird photography blogs from around the world run by Anni in Texas, USA!

Fuscous Honeyeater

There are two locations for 'Raysource Road, Haigslea' on Google Maps. Featured here is the one joining busy Haigslea-Amberley Road, where I found its tiny signpost and gravel entrance barely distinguishable from the many rural driveways in the area. After parking almost immediately, I walked along Raysource Road for several hundred metres until I reached a crossroad with Haigslea Cemetary Road heading north, and Kamp Road going south. The latter is actually a narrow, uneven dirt-track, but it will lead you to where the vegetation is at its most pure and the bird-watching is best!

Kamp Road

Nest

It was along this track that I began to notice unfamiliar bird calls. A few subtle ones turned out to be some of the afore-mentioned species, but in a thicket halfway down, I started to hear quite a cacophony! My honest mental description of the noise at the time was that it sounded like 'drunk Kookaburras trying on an accent,' but if I'd been more observant, I would have already noticed other identification clues. The species in question fills up its territory with football-shaped stick nests that are used as roosting shelters, and I did find these messy structures later when I returned to Raysource Road. Not to worry - everything became clear to me when I stared into the morning light, held my breath and watched three tumbling, clumsy birds ascend some distant branches. I had stumbled upon a 'happy family' of Grey-crowned Babblers!

Grey-crowned Babblers (Pomatostomus temporalis)

Echidna excavations in a Termite mound

It was also along the Kamp Road track that I began to realise what an incredible treasure these woodlands are. I think they would be a marvelous place to go spot-lighting at night, with excellent chances of seeing Gliders or even a Phascogale. As it was, Eastern Grey Kangaroos (Macropus giganteus) were a common sight that morning, and I noticed signs of Echidna (Tachyglossus aculeatus) activity in a hollowed-out termite mound. I could also imagine a herpetological survey finding plenty of interesting frogs and reptiles when the right conditions prevail. I was even happy to walk through spiderweb after spiderweb on the hardly-used Kamp Road track, as they belonged to a colourful species I had never seen before.

Bush Orb-Weaver (Araneus eburnus)

Raysource Road; Button-Quail site

Back up on Raysource Road, I came across the last rarity for the day. I was walking west along the gravel road, close to where it becomes a rugged dirt track, when an explosion of wings in front of me almost made me cry out in surprise! I had but mere seconds to note the colourful dorsal pattern and spotted long wings of a Painted Button-Quail (Turnix varia) as it made a swift escape through the trees. I was equal parts annoyed that I didn't spot the bird before I startled it, and excited that I got to see one at all. Along with the Weebill and Fuscous Honeyeater, it was a 'life record' for the day, but I think I appreciated seeing the Grey-crowned Babblers most of all. Once a common bird around Brisbane - and indeed much of South-east Australia - they have become a rather rare sight, even just in my lifetime. Officially listed as endangered in Victoria and threatened in New South Wales, numbers remain stable only in the less-developed northern parts of the country, and South-east Queensland straddles that line. For this particular population of Babblers, the decision made by landholders to retain vegetation on their land is the difference between survival and local extinction. 

This is definitely a woodland worth keeping an eye on!

Red-backed Fairy-Wren (Malurus melanocephalus) male, with petal for courtship display.



30 comments:

  1. thanks for linking in to good fences! :)

    your birds are so beautiful. the double-barred finch made me gasp - not only because i love it, but many years ago, in a different life, we had finches. and we had a pair of those that were called 'owl finches' here. it made me sad to think they may have been trapped and transported for the pet industry.

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    1. My pleasure - thanks for hosting! Yes that is the other name for those finches! That must have been a weird little moment of recognition for you! I think many cage birds are Australian natives - Cockatoos, Budgerigars, Zebra Finches, Cockatiels, etc. I'm sure there's a thriving breeding industry for most of those now (including the Double-bars) but trapping still occurs for the rare species sadly.

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  2. Wow!! What a fantastic and informative post Christian! I must check out this spot. I'm loving reading your blog to discover more "local" spots to get back into birding.

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    1. Thanks Liz, yes it is a fantastic spot! I definitely hope to return later in the year, as I kept thinking of all the flycatchers, cuckoos and kingfishers that would turn up in the summer!

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  3. It would seem that a birder new to Australia has to do an awful lot preparatory swotting of field guides before setting forth. The variety of new birds I see on your blog is quite bewildering, not to mention the weird and wonderful plants and insects. Looks like you discovered a nice spot to revisit and I'm guesing you don't have to share it with too many other birders?

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    1. Thanks Phil, I'm glad I can "bewilder" you with the sights! :)

      The spot is a treasure, but it makes me nervous that it's all preserved by either the goodwill or lack of interest by the landholders in the area. But our State Governments keep making terrible conservation decisions with land that is meant to be 'protected', so maybe it is better off in private hands!

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  4. Your world is beautiful!


    Linda
    http://coloradofarmlife.wordpress.com

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    1. Thanks Linda, I enjoyed stepping into yours as well! :)

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  5. I love that double barred finch too. What a beauty and a great photo too. The Orb weaver is amazing too. I love the way you've got it with the sun shining through its legs!

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    1. Thanks Em, yes it's a little cutie! They make the funniest little nasal call as they bounce from bush to bush - I couldn't capture that in the photo!

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  6. Hi Christian, lovely shots first of all and (ha ha) that sweet little Fantail just laughs at the barbed wire doesn't it.
    So interesting to read about the Weebill too (gorgeous name for a start). It must be soooo tiny - well done to have persevered in getting that photo.
    The Grey-crowned babblers sound aptly named, I like your 'drunk Kookaburras..." description of their call :D)
    I also love your Orb-weaver photo too - beautiful.
    Another all-round great post, you put a lot of effort and research into them which is appreciated. Thanks once again Cheers for now.



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    1. Thanks for your lovely kind words Susan. I definitely put a lot of work into each post so it's nice to be appreciated! Grey Fantails always amuse me for some reason. The ones on this particular day were so acrobatic, doing flips and twists in the air about 4 metres away from me - but like I could get a photo of that! Even this one has a blurry tail from moving too much. Glad you liked the spider too, not a lot of good will gets sent their way! :)

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  7. Thank you SO much for these FABULOUS series of birds and nature♡♡♡ I cannot say favorite and how lovely to see them landing on the thin wire and the branches; I always think it amazing. Thank you very much for the wonderful picture and the information.

    Sending you lots of Love and Hugs from Japan, xoxo Miyako*

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    1. Thank you Miyako! Yes, the wonders of the bird world can entertain me endlessly too! Glad you enjoyed the post :)

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  8. Great forest!! Boom, Bobbi and Gary.

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  9. LOVE that double barred finch!! Wow...what a super fine specimen of a bird...glorious bird.

    All your images and shares and narration is fantastic. Well done. [that termite mound is a bit creepy tho...:-)]

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    1. Thanks Anni, yes the Double-bars are very cute!

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  10. Lovely birds in your part of the world.

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  11. Wow ! Such wonderful birds !

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  12. Great set of pictures - echidnas must be the ants worse nightmare.

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

    PS: did you see the reports of an old museum specimen of long beaked echidna - for the Kimberly - being found? First non fossil record for Australia - this species is only found alive in parts of PNG. SM

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    1. Thanks for the heads up about that discovery, Stewart - off to check out the reports now! Thanks for the kind praise too :)

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  13. You have so many cute birds in your area Christian, most are new to me. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Glad they appeal to you, Pia! Thank you for taking the time to look! :)

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  14. "Wild BNE" has been included in Sites To See #380. Be assured that I hope this helps to point many new visitors in your direction.

    http://asthecrackerheadcrumbles.blogspot.com/2014/06/sites-to-see-380.html

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    1. Thank you Jerry, that's very kind of you.

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  15. Lovely pictures of what are to me very unfamiliar birds.

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    1. Thanks Jenny, some of them were unfamiliar to me also! :)

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