Saturday, 30 May 2015

May Wildlife Report

Warm Weekends for Wildlife-watching.



Black Wattle (Acacia concurrens), Riverhills.

For a few weeks now, we have been blessed with sunny skies and mild autumn temperatures—but that is certainly not how the month began! On May 2nd, a huge low-pressure storm system lurched in from the Pacific and dumped a record-breaking amount of rain on South-east Queensland in one scary evening.
Arriving on a Friday afternoon, the foul weather brought peak hour traffic to even more of a standstill than usual, thanks to sudden flash floods and blinding torrential rain. These conditions can be lethal, and sadly, five people lost their lives in the Moreton Bay region north of the city, when they attempted to drive on flooded back roads.

Olive-backed Oriole (Oriolus sagittatus), Haigslea.

Pacific Baza, Haigslea.

During the sunny weather that has followed, I have found time to visit some of my favourite places. One such location is the stretch of scrubby, open woodland in the Raysource Road area of Haigslea, out past Ipswich. After birdwatching here for the first time almost one year ago, I thought it might be interesting to see how a 2015 species list would compare against the one from last year. Sure enough, the day didn't disappoint, and I was surrounded once more by local rarities that set my naturalist's heart racing. Fuscous Honeyeaters (Lichenostomus fuscus) and a skulking Pacific Baza (Aviceda subcristata) were enjoyable sightings, but the morning's highlight happened when I came upon a sunlit, grassy clearing filled with Peaceful Doves (Geopelia placida) and Double-barred Finches (Taeniopygia bichenovii). While watching these lovely birds, I saw a sudden flash of brilliant green and a long, tapered tail disappear into a tussock. I gasped—surely not!? The clearing was on private property, behind a barbed wire fence, so a closer approach could not be had. Instead, I decided to leave the area, then return stealthily after half an hour to see if my suspicions might be confirmed. My plan worked, and just a short while later, I had a brief but clear view of my first ever wild Budgerigar (Melopsittacus undulatus). 

Fuscous Honeyeater, Haigslea.

Orchard Swallowtail, Sandgate.

On a quiet weekday walk around Sandgate's Dowse Lagoon (where I bumped into my Mum! Hello if you're reading this!), I spent time searching not the expansive body of water that draws most visitors, but the bush regeneration around it. Among a delightful mix of healthy native trees, I found a citrus tree that at first glance, seemed to be covered in large bird droppings. A closer look revealed that they were, in fact, large caterpillars that were intentionally trying to pass themselves off as bird droppings. I thought the resemblance was quite convincing, what do you think? The caterpillars belong to a big, common Brisbane butterfly called the Orchard Swallowtail (Papillio aegeus) and yes, you guessed it, farmers aren't too fond of this species. 

Australian Stick Mantis (Archimantis latistyla), Sandgate.

Wolston Creek Bushland Reserve,
Riverhills.

As May draws to a conclusion, we are getting one last warm weekend before we head into Queensland's version of winter, with temperatures reaching 27C. I chose to make the most of it by visiting Wolston Creek Bushland Reserve, in the western Brisbane suburb of Riverhills. When I arrived however, most of the area was closed due to a trapping program being temporarily set up to reduce local Fox (Vulpes vulpes) numbers. I was all too happy to comply with the signage; introduced Foxes really are a curse on Australia's native wildlife, and I certainly didn't fancy walking into a trap either. From a hilltop vantage point looking down into the reserve, I was pleased to see a flock of Plumed Whistling-Ducks (Dendrocygna eytoni) and a Short-necked Turtle (Emydura macquarii), all basking around the margins of a small dam.

Favia Coral (possibly Favia favus or F. speciosa), Wellington Point.

One of my favourite outdoor experiences this month was had when I visited King Island Conservation Park, just off the shore of Wellington Point. Getting to the island was a simple matter of just walking across the sandbar at low tide, and once there, I enjoyed taking a look at some unique plant life. During my prior research on the location, I found out that the island is actually a coral cay many thousands of years old, so I was only mildly surprised when I found a Favia Coral (Favia sp) colony in the surrounding water. Most South-east Queenslanders would have no idea that such creatures exist in our coastal waters, let alone the fact that we even have our own coral reef. In many ways, our own backyards remain a mystery to us, but I hope to change that in my lifetime.

Rainbow Lorikeet (Trichoglossus moluccanus), Riverhills.

19 comments:

  1. Great wildlife report. It is sad about the storm and the loss of lives. The Black Wattle is pretty. And your bird sightings were awesome, great photos. Enjoy your weekend!

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    1. Thanks Eileen, Queensland has had mixed fortunes but mine have been at least good! Enjoy your weekend too :)

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  2. lovely birds! cute that you met you rmum.

    texas has been having a lot of flooding, too.

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    1. Sorry to hear that Theresa, I'm going to go read about that now! Hope you and everyone you love are ok...

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  3. What a wonderful place to visit. So many amazing creatures. I must admit that I don't even know the names of many of them, but you have all under control:)
    Here in Norway is summer time now!

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    1. A Norwegian summer is a thing of beauty! You are very lucky! I once hiked the Aurlandsdalen trail around the fjords, eating wild raspberries and drinking from the snowmelt--it was life-changing and I will never forget it! :)

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  4. Sorry to be dampener Christian, but it's most unlikely your budgie was wild. It may have behaved shyly, but this species never occurs singly in the wild, and there are no unusual weather events indicating an eastward movement of inland species. Budgerigar has been recorded in south-east Queensland on just a handful of occasions, always in small flocks. I could of course be wrong :)

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    1. Hi Greg, while I saw only one budgie at any given time (I did have two separate views, albeit a very brief first one), it's quite possible that it was the 'lookout' I was seeing and that there were more birds feeding below. For each view, the bird quietly flew down from a low perch and disappeared out of sight among grass tussocks; I don't know if it joined up with more of its kind when it did so? It was a natural grass clearing in some very high quality open woodland (home to birds like Grey-crowned Babbler, Painted Button-Quail, Black-chinned Honeyeater etc) and because I was quiet and kept my distance, none of the ground-feeding species flushed at all.

      Almost the entirety of inland QLD is still drought declared (for the 3rd consecutive year in some places) and with an El Nino forecast for the rest of the year, I'd say we can expect some more inland visitors over the next six months. So with all due respect, I don't feel 'dampened'! :)

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    2. Sorry Greg, Last weekend I saw a wild flock of between 30 and 50 Budgerigars at Mary,s creek , Gympie. Photos on gympienats.blogspot.com.au

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  5. Your photos are really beautiful, Christian!

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    1. Thanks Linda, but the subjects really do all the work! :)

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  6. Great report. You have had an exciting month. I'm so glad the Orchard Swallowtails have found a tree that isn't being sprayed.

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    1. Thank you! Yes, the tree was absolutely covered in them! They were impressive mini-beasties!

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  7. Great Blog Christian. Enjoyable read. I was thinking along the lines of an escapee Budgie as well. But ........ ;)

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    1. Thanks Anita. This is one contentious little birdie! Haha! To be fair, it was hard to believe my own eyes when I saw it, so I understand the scepticism, but I will maintain that it is a wild bird :)

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  8. As I watch TV, read newspapers, blogs like your own and think about my own latest experiences I am struck by how this year's weather is very unsettled and unpredictable in many parts of the world. I understand that 2015 is a "El Nino year" which might explain much of it?

    As I read through I could hardly wait to discover the identity of the exotic bird you glimpsed. Of course I imagined that budgies would be common - obviously not. The fashion for breeding keeping them as cage birds seems to have died out here in the UK, apart from a few diehards. The ones that inevitably escaped from Auntie's drawing room became victims of cats, Sparrowhawks or simply starved I guess.

    I agree about the Orchard Swallowtail caterpillar - the natural world never fails to amaze me.

    As you probably know Foxes are almost out of control in the UK where in many parts they have become urban scavengers on the lookout for the remains of Big Macs and KFC when the weekend drinkers have gone home. People feed them in gardens and parks not realising the damge the species does in a natural environment where they take eggs and chicks of ground nesting birds.

    Keep up the good work Christian.

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    1. Thanks Phil, what a thoughtful response! It will be particularly interesting to see if the El Nino brings drought relief to California like it's meant to. In Australia, it brings crippling drought and much of the state I live in (Queensland) has already been suffering a bad one for the past few years in 'normal' weather settings.

      Budgies are a common Australian bird, with the caveat that they are birds of the inland 'outback'. In fact, there are huge flocks of them numbering millions, which would be an amazing sight! Since I saw my Budgerigar here on the coast, more flocks have been seen in the same area, so it seems like they know the drought inland won't be breaking anytime soon.

      The sad thing about people feeding foxes in the UK is that it comes from a place of wanting that connection to the wilderness, but those good intentions end up doing harm. I see the same thing happen here with feeding wild birds and people 'beautifying' urban bushland with exotic garden flowers.

      Thanks for your encouragment Phil :)

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  9. Hi Christian thought you might like to check out this post about Budgies near Gympie
    http://gympienats.blogspot.com.au/2015/06/budgerigars-at-marys-creek-gympie.html
    I enjoy you blog good work.

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    1. Hi Neil, thanks for sharing this Budgerigar sighting, it's nice to know that others have been enjoying sightings of them too and I am more certain than ever that I was fortunate enough to see a wild bird also!

      That's a great blog you've linked to so I will follow it and enjoy future updates, cheers! :)

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