Goodbye Sweltering Summer, Hello Wildlife!
|Whistling Kite (Haliastur sphenurus), Bribie Island|
I think April might be my favourite month for wildlife watching. It was particularly productive last year and I've met with similar success just now. I think as animals and birds come out of their spring and summer breeding seasons, their numbers are temporarily boosted and they relax and wander more, leading to increased viewing opportunities.
|Welcome Swallows (Hirundo neoxena), Bribie Island.|
|Glossy Acronychia, Burbank/Sheldon.|
One thing that makes wildlife viewing so pleasant right now really has nothing to do with the actual creatures themselves, but the weather instead. Gone are the sweltering summer temperatures we've suffered through since October last year, replaced instead by a much more agreeable daily average maximum of 26C. It has been wetter than usual this April however, with the bulk of the rainfall occurring over a wet few days at the start of Easter. Similar weather is forecast to close out the month.
|Eastern Dwarf Treefrog (Litoria fallax), Burbank/Sheldon.|
In between showers over the Easter weekend, I slipped out to one of my favourite places along Buhot Creek and found the area transformed by the rain. Frogs were calling in the creek, Dark Bar-sided Skinks (Eulamprus martini) wriggled through the wet undergrowth, and rainforest plants like Glossy Acronychia (Acronychia laevis) and Giant Water Vine (Cissus hypoglauca) were thriving.
|Little Egret (Egretta garzetta), Burleigh Waters.|
Drier days since have sent me to the coast. At Burleigh Lake, I undertook a fish survey to help me profile the area for a story on the local Bull Sharks. I was only game to search the shallows for interesting species, so the most numerous fish were Tamar Gobies (Afurcagobius tamarensis) and gorgeous Pacific Blue-eyes (Pseudomugil signifer). A tiny Lidwill's Dwarfgoby (Pandaka lidwilli) mixed in with them was an exciting find however, only revealed to me during careful observation later on of video footage that I took.
|Pacific Blue-eyes, Burleigh Waters.|
|Rufous Whistler, Crestmead.|
Fitting my theory that animals relax their territories and wander more during autumn, the inner suburbs of our South-east Queensland cities have been rewarding places for birding this month. On a sunrise walk around the Southbank Parklands on a busy weekday morning, I was pleased to find large flocks of Scaly-breasted Lorikeets (Trichoglossus chlorolepidotus) and a decent variety of other native birds. Along the river, with skyscrapers in full view just across the water, were birds like Grey Fantail (Rhipidura albiscapa) and Sulphur-crested Cockatoo (Cacatua galerita). There was no sign of the famous resident Bush Stone-Curlews (Burhinus grallarius), though I have seen them since across the river in the City Botanic Gardens. A similar urban bird experience was had in the Logan suburb of Crestmead, with Rufous Whistler (Pachycephala rufiventris) and Red-backed Fairy-Wren (Malurus melanocephalus) found in close proximity to a dense housing estate.
|Australian Magpie (Cracticus tibicen), South Brisbane.|
An even better urban bird experience was had on top of the water tower just a few blocks from the Ipswich CBD. I was studying the particularly scenic surrounds looking out from Denmark Hill, when a large, aerodynamic Square-tailed Kite (Lophoictinia isura) swept in along the tree canopy right in front of me. I was super-excited as it was my very first sighting of this uncommon bird, but a flamin' Crow (Corvus orru) began hassling it out of the area. I watched it sail off north into the morning sunlight until it was just a distant speck--one of my favourite wildlife encounters of the year so far! If birds get your heart racing they way they do mine, check out 'Wild Bird Wednesday', a collection of bird blogs from around the world.
|Square-tailed Kite, Ipswich.|
Other interesting birds have been seen in more remote locations. A friend of mine reported seeing large flocks of Dusky Woodswallows (Artamus cyanopterus) and Rainbow Bee-eaters (Merops ornatus) circling above her family property at Woodford. Not far away, a pair of Red-tailed Black-Cockatoos (Calyptorhynchus banksii) were reported by John Kooistra, and even larger flocks have been seen by Greg Roberts in the Conondale area. This species is a vagrant to our corner of the state, and has been observed moving closer to the Queensland coastline as drought conditions persist inland. For more information, check out Greg's excellent blog.
|Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo, Conondale. Photo by Greg Roberts.|
|Tailed Emperor, Ipswich.|
The 'Butterfly Summer of 2015' just won't end, but nor do I really want it to! It was lovely to finish this month off with a good look at a 'lifer' for me: a Tailed Emperor (Polyura sempronius). I had found some rubbish on a trail at Denmark Hill Conservation Estate in Ipswich, and carried it to the bins at the top carpark. As I disposed of it and closed the bin lid, I noticed less than a metre away was this beautiful butterfly, which had remained perfectly still despite my activity. My lesson was learned: good things happen to those who care for the bush. Go out there and try it!
|Round Ant-eater (Omoedus orbiculatus), Kippa-Ring.|