Wednesday, 29 October 2014

October Wildlife Report

A Parched Landscape


Humpback Whale, Noosa Heads
October has seen me showing off South-east Queensland to visiting guests from overseas. We have been enjoying sunny day after sunny day, but weeks on end without rain are starting to make the bush seem almost painfully dry. The month is concluding with record-breaking temperatures in areas away from the coast, and the heat is giving rise to towering clouds full of lightning. There's just one catch though
- despite the impressive light show, these storms don't seem to be dropping all that much rain on the parched landscape.

Nobbi Dragon, Joyner

Animals like the Nobbi Dragon (Diporiphora nobbi) enjoy the dry heat. I had my first ever sighting of one by Lake Samsonvale last week, when I was trying to find the local Koalas (Phascolarctos cinereus) there for my visitors. This particular lizard was a male in breeding colours, and these first few weeks of genuinely hot spring weather are perhaps his busiest time of year. Butterflies like the Wanderer (Danaus plexippus) seem to take the heat in their stride also.

Wanderer, Rocklea

The beach has been a lovely place to be in such circumstances, and in between swims and sunscreen applications, I have noticed that it seems to be a case of 'business as usual' for the local marine life. On a day trip to Noosa National Park, my friend Katie and I were thrilled to see Humpback Whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) breaching out to sea and Indo-Pacific Bottlenose Dolphins (Tursiops aduncus) frolicking closer into shore, both species appearing to have not a worry in the world.

Indo-Pacific Bottlenose Dolphins, Noosa Heads

Brown Quail, Rocklea

I do notice that bird behaviour changes in these unforgivingly dry conditions. For example, species that usually stick to dense cover find their grassy hideaways beginning to wilt and thin out, forcing them into more exposed foraging sites. As a result, this month I have had excellent views of birds including Brown Quail (Coturnix ypsilophora), Latham's Snipe (Gallinago hardiwickii) and Painted Button-Quail (Turnix varius), the latter species being a bird I've only encountered once before

Evaporating wetlands also have an effect on the the local bird fauna. Sandgate's Dowse Lagoon in particular is a place to watch carefully right now, for as the water level lowers, interesting birds like the Marsh Sandpiper (Tringa stagnatilis) and Red-necked Avocet (Recurvirostra novaehollandiae) are appearing overnight on newly-revealed mudbanks. Species that prefer deeper water have reduced in numbers however, with White-eyed Ducks (Aythya australis) and Australasian Grebes (Tachybaptus novaehollandiae) being suddenly less common at the site. For more on these and other birds, check out 'Wild Bird Wednesday', a collection of birding blogs from around the world.

Green Tree Frog, Kippa-Ring

The creatures I feel most sorry for in these times of drought though are the frogs. Not only do they need water as part of their breeding cycle, but their skin also requires moisture in order to perform basic essential functions like transpiration. On a night tour of Chelsea Street Environmental Reserve, my friends and I came across a Green Tree Frog (Litoria caerulea) shortly after dark, perhaps roused into activity by the nearby lightning storms that were flickering through the trees. Unfortunately, the thunderclouds failed to produce even a single drop of rain in the area, a situation that I hope gets rectified soon.

Fringe Myrtle (Calytrix tetragona), Glass House Mountains



28 comments:

  1. A great selection of pictures. Nice to see the dolphins.

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    1. Thanks Adam, yes the dolphins were a real highlight!

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  2. adorable frog and lizard! great sea mammals, too! i hope you can get some rains to keep the fire danger down!

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    1. Thanks Theresa! We still haven't had good rains - poor frog!

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  3. Your photos are wonderful! Beautiful crisp clarity and color. Love the Nobbi Dragon and the quail!

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    1. Thanks Marie, they don't all turn out this way, but it was a good month! I especially loved being able to get such good views of an animal I'd never seen before. What a considerate Nobbi! :)

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  4. This is a lovely post to read and see your great shots. I do hope you get rain soon especially for the Frogs. My daughter lived in Innisfail, Queensland and we alWays had a green frog living in the outside toilet. Love the blooms on the Myrthle tree.

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    1. Thanks Margaret! A "frog in the dunny" is such an iconic Australian occurrence, but one that gets rarer as the years go by, so I'm happy you were able to have such a classic Aussie experience. They are very well-loved animals by most Australians.

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  5. Beautiful post, I love the whale, dolphins and the cute frog! The Quail is pretty too. Wonderful photos.

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    1. Thanks Eileen! Glad the Quail got some appreciation from you too - it's an understated beauty! :)

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  6. You seem to have given your visiting friends quite a tour. Love your photos. While we don't feed birds or animals we do like to keep water available in our garden all year round.

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    1. Thank you! Yes, water is certainly a necessity at the moment. I had a frog pond going in my garden but a car was accidentally driven into it :(

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  7. Oh My Goodness, these are all just delightfully wonderful~

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  8. Fantastic photos! I enjoyed the lizard and the frog. Cute little critters.

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    1. Thanks Gunilla, glad to see the cold-blooded critters have as many fans as the birds do! :)

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  9. Wonderful shots from nature.

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  10. Awesome nature shots. I was particularly enamored with the little tree frog and dragon. You have a wonderful eye for wildlife photography.

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    1. Thanks Gail, that's very kind of you to say. I always hope my love for the subject shines through in the photo.

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  11. Hope you do get some rain soon for those poor frogs - love the way the tree frog looks like it's leaning casually there. The Wanderer looks like it's made of stain glass and the Quail looks almost British in those muted colours! Lovely round up Christian and I'll look forward to November....high summer still no doubt.

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    1. Thanks Em, yes I think that Quail is closely related to the British variety. Despite their plump bodies, they have strong wings so a handful of species have spread out around the world. I didn't notice the stained-glass quality to the Wanderer until you mentioned it, but now it's all I see and it's lovely!

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  12. No rain and dry lightning storms are not a good combination. We are having a bit of an antarctic blast this weekend - its sent the waders into hiding.

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

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    1. Yes, it's frustrating as we are all willing for it to rain but it just never comes, even if it's overcast or looks stormy. I'm a little jealous of your antarctic blast!

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  13. You must really be getting concerned about fires with all that lightening and conditions so dry. It seems only a year or so ago that I was reading that half of Queensland was flooded.

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    1. Yes David, it's a land of extremes for sure! It will only get worse in that regard as climate change ramps up. No rain on the horizon yet!

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  14. Another very absorbing post Christian. There always seems to be such a wealth of wildlife featured on your blog. We of course are just going through one of spells where it seems to rain for at least part of every single day so i do envy your dry spell even though I understand it too can be unwelcome. I like the subtlety of the Brown Quail and the very bright colours of that Tree Frog - amazing.

    The Fringe Myrtle looks absoloutely superb and I wonder if it is much, much better in real life?

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    1. Thanks Phil! I remember living in the UK and thinking how I would always appreciate the dry weather when I moved back to Australia, but while it's great for beach days, I can see the pressure such weather puts on the local wildlife.

      The funny thing about the Fringe Myrtle is that they were small shrubs growing at the very top of a scenic mountain location, so they were almost totally ignored by other people for the view!

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