Tuesday, 24 February 2015

February Wildlife Report

Marcia!


Greetings from cyclone-ravaged Queensland! Whether you're reading this from Brisbane, interstate or overseas, you have probably heard the news of Severe Tropical Cyclone Marcia bearing down on the central Queensland coast, unleashing havoc and fury as a category five storm.

Bureau of Meteorology forecast, correctly predicting the course that
Tropical Cyclone Marcia would travel.
As an avid armchair-stormchaser, I followed the developments of this system as it began life in the Coral Sea as a tropical low. Just 72 hours before it made landfall at Shoalwater Bay, it had been forecast by the Bureau of Meteorology to be nothing more than a category one storm when it reached land. Marcia had other plans though: she increased in size and ferocity with astonishing speed, escalating to a category five cyclone over the course of one day and generating sustained winds of up to 215 kilometers per hour. After landfall near Yeppoon, Marcia moved steadily south along the Great Dividing Range, weakening and reverting to a tropical low upon reaching South-east Queensland. By then, several records had been broken: Tropical Cyclone Marcia is the furthest south that a category five system has made landfall since European settlement in Australia; thanks to Severe Tropical Cyclone Lam in the Northern Territory, it was also the first time two cyclones have made simultaneous landfall on the coastline of one country. Expect more weather records to be broken in coming years.

Beach Stone-Curlew pair, Bongaree.

In South-east Queensland, Marcia's effects were mostly felt by the amount of water that fell from the sky, bringing widespread flash-flooding. The Caboolture area received the highest rainfalls over the weekend, with a total of 541mm recorded. When the low pressure system moved offshore, I headed to Buckley's Hole Conservation Park on Bribie Island, to assess the impact of the storm for myself. Strewn debris along the severely-eroded beach was the only indicator of Marcia's presence, and there were none of the dead or exhausted seabirds I had feared there might be. Quite the opposite in fact: on the shores of Pumicestone Passage were a healthy collection of several rare and uncommon birds, including Beach Stone-Curlews (Esacus magnirostris), Greater Sand-Plovers (Charadrius leschenaultii) and Black-tailed Godwits (Limosa limosa).

Wombat Berry, Moorooka.
This February is close to being the wettest on record for Brisbane, but the bush looks all the better for it! A wide selection of open forest plants are flowering at the moment, and places like Toohey Forest Conservation Park are also bursting at the seams with Wombat Berry (Eustrephus latifolius) fruit! One creature that seems to be currently experiencing higher mortality than usual, however, is the Verreaux's Skink (Anomalopus verreauxii). This unique reptile is a lizard that has adapted to burrowing through the surface layers of soil, losing most of its limb function in the process so that it is more stream-lined. To my Mother's eyes, it looked like a 'strange, snake-like wormy thing' that she had found deceased in her Sandgate garden. Later on, we found another carcass along the seafront walkway in the same suburb. Though these creatures are common, their burrowing habit means they are not often seen. To see two large specimens in a matter of days leads me to think that perhaps they have entered a breeding season where searching for a mate leaves them exposed to predators.

Verreaux's Skink, Sandgate.

This month, I also joined a bushcare project at Chelsea Street Environmental Reserve, where I was offered a warm welcome by a lovely group of regular volunteers. I hope to continue this monthly exercise for the rest of the year, as it's the least I can do in the service of such an incredible, fauna-rich reserve. On a spotlighting walk there earlier this month, I was pleased to find a calling group of Striped Rocketfrogs (Litoria nasuta); even better was discovering a peculiar Spiny Bark Mantis (Gyromantis kraussi) on the trunk of a she-oak tree. If any Redcliffe locals wish to join in on this bushcare project, volunteers meet from 7:30-9:30am on the second Saturday of each month.

Spiny Bark Mantis, Kippa-Ring.



6 comments:

  1. Of course our government would say this nothing out of the ordinary and we have always had cyclones! Ah, such wisdom. Hope you did not get at water or wind damage!

    Great shot of the BSC - have only ever seen these once - nr. Broome!

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

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    1. Thanks Stewart, it was a lovely surprise to see those birds!

      And yes, I wonder how many more 'freak' weather events we have to endure before appropriate actions take place.

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  2. so sorry for the widespread flooding and storm destruction. glad you did not see a lot of damage to wildlife. the stone curlews are awesome birds! the skink is neat, too. love the camouflaged mantis!

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    1. Thanks Theresa, yes I was glad to see the animals weather the cyclone (or hurricane, as you would say!). Beach Stone-Curlews are one of my favourite birds - elegant, strange and rare!

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  3. Wow, it really does seem that Queensland gets hit by one weather disaster after another. Glad that you are safe.

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    1. Thanks, yes we are the 'Florida' of Australia :)

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