Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Island Birds

Bar-shouldered Dove
Yesterday morning, I caught the 6am ferry over to Karragarra Island to check out the bird life there. While many of the three-hundred-and-sixty islands in Moreton Bay are nothing more than mangrove mounds, Karragarra and its neighbouring isles are well-established landforms. During the last ice age, these islands would have been small hills behind a coastline marked out by where Stradbroke and Moreton Island lie today, but rising sea-levels have since isolated these places from each other and the mainland. 


Locals refer to Karragarra Island simply as 'Karra', and of the four inhabited islands in the southern Bay, it is the least developed. In fact, Karra's one-hundred-and-sixty residents haven't even built a shop or convenience store in their community, choosing instead to get supplies via ferry from the neighbouring islands. These islands - Macleay, Lamb and Russell - are only separated from Karra and each other by narrow tidal channels, so realistically, this method of shopping is no more burdensome to the people of Karra than it is for city-dwellers to catch a bus down the road. The journey is a lot more scenic however!

Masked Lapwing

The first bird I saw upon arrival was that guardian of the mudflats, the Masked Lapwing (Vanellus miles). After it alerted the entire island as to my early-morning presence, I moved on into the coastal woodland along the northern Esplanade. 

Australasian Figbird (Sphecotheres vieilloti)
Unlike the lapwing, the bush birds on Karragarra seem to be very at ease among people. The average age of Karra's human residents is sixty, so maybe generations of these birds have lived un-harassed by children and un-disturbed by bulldozers. I also didn't see any cats in the gardens along the Esplanade, and the few dogs on the island were securely contained in their yards. As a result, I was fortunate to have good views of otherwise 'flighty' birds like Bar-shouldered Doves (Geopelia humeralis) and Pale-headed Rosellas (Platycercus adscitus). It was a treat especially to see a family group of the latter species perched out in the open on an aerial wire.

Pale-headed Rosellas

The coastal forest on the island is dominated by Grey Ironbark (Eucalyptus siderophloia), Forest Red Gum (E. tereticornis) and Bribie Island Pine (Callitris columellaris). Mixed among these in the thicker sections are Swamp Box (Lophostemon suaveolens), Umbrella Cheese Tree (Glochidion sumatranum) and Soap Tree (Alphitonia excelsia) specimens. In these shady parts, you may hear the lovely 'ting-ting' calls of the Silvereye (Zosterops lateralis) and the harsh raspings of the Leaden Flycatcher (Myiagra rubecula).

Silvereye

Aware that I might miss the favourable tide conditions, I hurried to the East Road conservation area to check out the mudflats. There were no waders along the mangrove fringe, but plenty of crabs! I was particularly entranced by the waving claws and mysterious displays of the Orange-clawed Fiddler Crabs (Uca coarctata) lining the channel.

Orange-clawed Fiddler Crabs

Having missed out on wading birds (or so I thought - I was about to see a very interesting one), I headed back across the island, noticing a sharp rise in the humidity and cloud cover. Looking up into the sky, I saw a flock of about forty White-throated Needletails (Hirundapus caudactus) making the most of such conditions to feast on airborne insects. By the time I made it back to the swimming beach, the clouds and swifts had dissipated but the terribly humid conditions remained.

Karragarra Island swimming beach

Brown Honeyeater (Lichmera indistincta)

The most numerous birds on the island were undoubtedly the honeyeaters, especially the Noisy Friarbird (Philemon corniculatus). Flowering eucalypts not dominated by this species were instead utilised by its equally aggressive relation, the Blue-faced Honeyeater (Entomyzon cyanotis). Lurking nearby in the dense mangrove foliage were Eastern Koels (Eudynamys orientalis), large migratory cuckoos that parasitise the nests of both these birds. Nature has a way of maintaining a perfect balance!

My birding highlight for the day was not to be seen in the treetops however, but on the ground. The southern Moreton Bay Islands are a particularly good place to see a wader that has evolved to forego the seashores in favour of the woods - the Bush Stone-Curlew (Burhinus grallarius). Normally these wonderful birds struggle to live in suburbia because of the pet conflict and traffic issues such a thing entails. Yet on the Bay Islands, where traffic is non-existent and people seem to be responsible animal-owners for the most part, these birds frequent home gardens as though they were stone statues come to life! Seeing a family group that included a young bird nearing adulthood was a delight, and offered a great opportunity to see why this species is sometimes called a 'Thick-Knee'!

Bush Stone-Curlew, INSET: Juvenile bird

If you are still hankering for more birds, please check out 'Wild Bird Wednesday', a collection of birding blogs from all around the world. Should the thought of Moreton Bay island life (both human and otherwise) appeal to you, I encourage you to head over to 'Macleay Island House Coondooroopa Cove' on Facebook and like it to receive updates. Thank you for following 'Wild Brisbane' this year as well! 


30 comments:

  1. all of these birds are beautiful and exotic to me! i hope the folks on that island can keep their quiet, non-commercial life for a long, long time!

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    1. I hope they can keep their island way of life too - it's a nice escape for a city-dweller like me! :)

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  2. I love reading and seeing all your Australian birds and I very pleased you showed us the juvenile Bush Stone Curlew as I have never seen one.

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    1. Thanks Margaret, yes I had never seen a juvenile Stone Curlew before and was happy to become acquainted with it!

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  3. What an absolutely beautiful selection of images Christian. If I had to pick a favourite, I think it would be the Silvereye but they're all amazing.

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    1. Thanks Em! I was surprised at how nicely that Silvereye image turned out - they are common birds but very restless and they stick to the foliage.

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  4. A few of those are ones I've seen up here and the curlews live all over Cairns city. I love your rosella find.

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    1. Lucky Cairns! We still get Stone-Curlews in Brisbane city, but mostly on uni campuses, sportsfields and cemeteries rather than among the houses, and they're a little patchy. Glad you enjoyed the Rosellas like I did!

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  5. ah, lovely to see them. I was lucky to see some of those birds when I visited Queenslan in September. I was on a birding tour :)

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    1. I'm glad I could bring back some memories for you then! :)

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  6. Your post is really colourful today Christian. Karra both looks and sounds like an ideal place to birdwatch where the birds and the locals are friendly. I have noticed in a good number of places in the world how birds become less wary if on the whole they are untroubled by man, whether that is just unthinking disturbance or the more obvious and deliberate hounding of them for our own pleasures and needs. Your bird pictures are tremendous this time, and the crab a beauty, helped by all that sun for photography I think?

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    1. Thanks Phil, yes I really enjoyed watching those crabs, despite it being officially a 'bird day'. And you're right about these special places where birds don't fear us. My favourite spot in the whole world for this is just an ordinary lakeside park in Toronto. I'd been rejected at a job interview and was feeling quite down and out so I took myself for a walk and noticed some birds fluttering around me. For some reason I stuck my arm out and a Chickadee flew down and landed on it! Then a Nuthatch flew in and landed on my chest! I was utterly shocked and rapt at the same time!

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  7. What an awesome place for birding. The birds are all wonderful, I wish I could them myself someday.. Gorgeous photos...

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    1. Thanks Eileen, glad you liked the photos. You'll have to come on a holiday Down Under someday! :)

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  8. It must be a great place to visit. It's always a joy when the birds are so confiding. I am afraid there are fewer and fewer such places around the world.

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    1. I guess we pose threats to birds without even realising it - but they do! The birds are probably invisible to the operator of a bulldozer, or a person jet-skiing close to the shore, etc but they are all affected more than what we probably realise.

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  9. Hi Christian, I've been away from my blog for awhile and am slowly catching up.
    Karragarra Island certainly sounds a haven for birdlife, with not too much to hassle them. A bonus for photographers with them being less afraid of people too. You found a great variety of birds there and, apart from the humidity, it sounded like a very satisfying trip. A nice mix of trees and shrubs. A great post and I do like the colourful crabs. Cheers now :D)

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    1. Thanks Susan, yes Karragarra is definitely one of my favourite places I've visited this year. That humidity has been such a killer in Brisbane lately! The actual temp hovers around 29C or 30C but it feels MUCH worse. The birds love it though! :)

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  10. Blissful is so apt when you can get out and about with flora and fauna being the only visual nourishment. Love the blog.

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    1. Thanks Allan. Yes I love my 'bush time' for that feeling, it's good for the soul!

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  11. A wonderful island! I love the fascinating flora and fauna! The figbird is my favorite, but they are all wonderful! The tree s have such amazing names. What a paradise!

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    1. Haha, it's the 'Umbrella Cheese Tree' that caught you're attention, isn't it!? Thanks Marie, glad you enjoyed the post :)

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  12. What a wonderful day out. I'm impressed with your identification of the trees- I am still in the learning process! The information about the island was interesting and it's not one I've heard much about. Loved the Curlews- always a delight to see.

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    1. Thanks Judith! Tree ID is a very new thing for me this year, but I threw myself into it with gusto and have loved it! I'd recommend just going for a walk in any patch of bush with 'Mountains to Mangroves' (very comprehensive) if you can get a copy, or 'Wild Plants of Greater Brisbane' (great for an introduction).

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  13. I've never seen any of these birds. Thanks for sharing them.

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    1. No worries, Jen! Thanks for stopping by! :)

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  14. splendid looking birds in an interesting looking place. Work may bring me to Brisbane next year - so I may check it out!

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

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    1. That's exciting Stewart! If there's any QLD species you want to search for, I can give you my recommendations for locations.

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  15. Great blog Christian. You have inspired us to put Karra on our to do list.

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    1. Thanks! It's definitely well worth a visit! :)

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