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,|
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.|