Sunday, 28 September 2014

September Wildlife Report

Signs of Spring


Slender Hovea (Hovea lorata), Bellbowrie

Though it may be introducing itself to us gently this year, spring has definitely arrived in Brisbane! Temperatures have been slightly cooler than average, but decent rains from some robust storms have allowed the landscape to enter the new season with vigour. 

Rainbow Bee-eater, Ormiston
Beauty abounds at this time of year, whether it's in the form of native flowers or gorgeous birds. On a recent walk along Hilliards Creek in the Redlands, I was delighted to see migratory Rainbow Bee-eaters (Merops ornatus), Leaden Flycatchers (Myiagra rubecula) and Sacred Kingfishers (Todiramphus sanctus) returning to their summer territories after spending the cooler months up north. Vying for my attention in the same location were the snow-white flowers of the Wild May (Leptospermum polygalifolium) bushes. In forest gullies elsewhere, my beloved Hovea (Hovea species) shrubs are turning the understorey bright purple, another sure sign of spring's arrival. You may remember my first encounter with these attractive plants at Lake Samsonvale in August last year.

Purple Swamphen, Southport
Right now, the breeding season is in full swing for many birds. Grey Butcherbirds (Cracticus torquatus) are nesting in parks and gardens throughout Brisbane's suburbs, and I have intimate knowledge of this because I was attacked by one as I walked to work last week. The cheeky bird actually made contact with my forehead as it swooped, giving me two small wounds a few centimetres above my right eyebrow. Council workers have been landscaping the bike path running beneath its nesting tree, so this frenzied human activity within its breeding territory has made the bird somewhat paranoid and aggressive. Nesting Purple Swamphens (Porphyrio porphyrio) along Southport's Broadwater Parklands offered much more peaceful encounters by comparison. Their fluffy little chicks are so cute that I am sharing this entry with The Bird D'Pot, a collection of bird blogs from around the world.

A strange sight confronted me in Purga Nature Reserve earlier this month. In the dry swamp woodland there, I found a terrestrial termite mound playing host to a Termite Powderpuff (Podaxis beringamensis). This peculiar organism is a large fungi that has evolved to live inside termite mounds around northern Australia. For most of its life, the fungi lives inside the mound feeding off termite waste. When it is time for it to reproduce however, it rises up and bursts through the hard mound exterior, releasing spores into the air that will settle near other termite colonies. Thank you to the Facebook group 'SEQ Fungi' for identifying this species and teaching me about it! 

Termite Powderpuff, Purga

One last sign of spring I've noticed is that on warm days, the cicadas have begun singing again. At a little highway stop off on the way to the Gold Coast a few weeks ago, a charming little Black Tree Ticker (Birrima varians) landed on me and posed for a portrait. This species is easy to recognise because it is the only local cicada that commonly sings in flight, so if you see it zig-zagging and 'zitting' through the air, you can now greet it by name. Wild Brisbane is a friendly little place! 

Black Tree Ticker, Ashmore

20 comments:

  1. glad the bird didn't get your eyes! eek! interesting fungi.

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    1. Me too! It would've been an ironic way to end my birdwatching hobby...

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  2. Beautiful photos! The fungi and the ticker are very interesting.

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    1. Thank you, Gunilla. I enjoyed studying both those things in the wild myself!

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  3. I’m sorry Christian but I had a little laugh about your encounter with a Grey Butcherbird. As you can imagine, if I were to visit that street I would be rather hoping the birds might attack me for the resultant close up views and pre-alerted by you I would take both camera and appropriate headgear.

    Fascinating information about the powderpuff although it does rather resemble something else!

    I can imagine how some people would react to a Black Tree Ticker landing on them but it is of course quite a little beauty.

    Thank you for your usual informative and entertaining post.

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    1. Haha, that's ok Phil, most people I told about the attack laughed about it!

      I tried to word the reproductive strategy of the fungus carefully so that I didn't emphasize the phallic nature of it. I stayed away from words like 'penetrate' and 'spurt', haha!

      Glad you enjoyed the post.

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  4. Eek!! To be attacked by a bird would scare me somewhat. But your photos and your commentary was super this week!! Very informative post.

    Thanks for sharing your link today at I'd Rather B Birdin'!!

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    1. Thank you for hosting it, Anni! Yes, the swooping Butcherbird made me jump and sped up my heart-rate - it's not something I expected to happen! Glad you enjoyed reading though.

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  5. Love the purple swanhen and the beeeater. I did see both of them on my visit last week. :) :)

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    1. It's great that you are familiar with these birds! :)

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  6. I'm surprised to see the cicadas out and about already. Great shots of our wildlife here on your blog.

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    1. Thanks Diane. I think the Black Tree Ticker is an 'early-riser' compared to some other cicada species, but yes, he's certainly out and about right now!

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  7. Your spring is just wonderful! That fungi is fascinating! Attacked by a butcher bird! Oh my! I bet you got too close to a nest, or something. Love the cicada and that purple swamphen reminds me of the moorhen on another blog. My favorite is the rainbow beeeater. Such a beautiful bird!

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    1. Thanks Marie, yes the Bee-eater is a stunning bird. I think the European species is even pretty with it's red tones.

      I have no bad feelings about the swooping butcherbird, but it is from a family of birds in Australia (including our own version of a Magpie) that are very territorial and aggressive birds in the spring. They will dive-bomb and harass people even if their nest is a good forty metres away or so. The irony is, they are some of the friendliest, most trusting and lovely of birds at other times of the year!

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  8. Nice post. We have hd a few days of spring here, but now hard rain, winter rain, clatters into the windows. I need to put another log on the fire!

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

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    1. Ah yes, good old Melbourne! My friend from the UK has just visited there and she looks like she is dressed for the English winter in all of her photos :)

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  9. Spring is a distant memory here as we head into autumn Christian - that's one of the reasons I love your blog so much.

    That fungus is amazing. Our Dung Fungus here seems to exist entirely on Cow dung so they're definitely specialists! I love that Ticker too - such beautiful wings. Enjoy the sun!

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    1. Yes, I was quite mesmerized by that fungus too! I probably wouldn't have hovered so close by if it had been growing out of dung though :)

      Honoured that you love my blog, Em! Thank you.

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  10. That is such an interesting fungus! Nice shot of the swamphen. They were introduced near our Florida home and quickly adapted to the new habitat. Eradication efforts failed and now we just enjoy them.

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    1. I half expected your sentence to finish off - "now we just enjoy them... with a hint of lemon, served with salad!" :)

      We have so many invasive animals here in Australia that it always surprises me when our fauna and flora wreaks havoc elsewhere. Apparently our Paperbark Trees are awful for your Everglades also. Sorry about that, and thank you for stopping by to comment!

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