Thursday, 29 December 2016

Best Wildlife Locations of 2016.

From the Queensland/New South Wales border right up to Noosa, and out west to the Lockyer Valley, I had a great year exploring as much of South-east Queensland as I could manage! Some places stood above the rest, however, offering unique wildlife-viewing opportunities that I hope to take advantage of and share with you in 2017.

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Best Wildlife Encounters of 2016

Another year, another set of memories created with some of the most interesting wildlife on the planet, right here on Brisbane's doorstep. Among my twelve favourite wildlife sightings of the year, you'll notice more invertebrates this time around compared to previous lists; thank the array of amazing entomological field guides that are finally being published and are piquing my interest in this area. Without further ado, here are twelve fascinating animals I met this year:

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Nature Surveys 2016

2016 was an interesting year for me to try and expand my knowledge of the local environment. Purchasing field guides to spiders, aquatic invertebrates and cloud formations inspired me to head out into the wild and learn what I could. I hope to get better at nocturnal surveys in 2017 however; some outings this year were very successful (Meldale), but others were underwhelming (Petrie, Boreen Point).

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Fair weather suits finches just fine

Cumulus humilis, Flagstone Creek.

Dry conditions have settled in this spring in the Lockyer Valley, with less than half the monthly rainfall average being delivered for November.

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Birds and beasts galore at Tamborine meet-up

Green catbird; Photo by Aaron Wiggan.

Last Saturday, seven intrepid explorers joined me for a walk around the rainforest circuit at the MacDonald section of Tamborine National Park.

Thursday, 3 November 2016

Wild BNE spring meet-up: Mount Tamborine

The walking track passes through several piccabeen palm (Archontophoenix cunninghamiana) groves.

Strangler fig
(Ficus watkinsiana).
When I walk into a subtropical rainforest, I always feel like I’m walking into nature’s own version of New York City or some other giant, densely-packed metropolis. Life, colour, movement and activity abounds throughout the forest, from the ground right up to the sky-scraping tree canopy! Such is the case in the MacDonald section of Mount Tamborine National Park, and every visit I make there is utterly thrilling. For my next visit, I’d love for you to join me!

Whether your interests include plants, birds, invertebrates, reptiles or fungi, a walk around the rainforest circuit in this National Park is sure to amaze you! Giant land mullets (Bellatorias major) laze about on fallen logs, rare butterflies sail through the air and the amusing calls of green catbirds (Ailuroedus crassirostris) and wompoo fruit-doves (Ptilinopus magnificus) echo off giant buttresses. If you enjoy photography,

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Reptiles out in force at Springbrook

Land mullet, Springbrook.

Last Friday, I spent the morning searching for reptiles at Springbrook National Park, with great success.

Monday, 26 September 2016

In flood or drought, the ferns are here to stay

Much of eastern Australia is having a fairly wet spring this year, and the plant life seems to be thriving as a result!

Last week, I drove out to a tiny bushland reserve in the Ipswich suburb of Woodend to scout out some particular plants, namely ferns.

The reserve is accessed by a pathway that begins near the corner of Macrae and Ladley Street, and appears on Google Maps as Smith Park.

It protects a small gully that feeds into the Bremer River nearby.

I found two interesting ferns here, each adapted to a specific microhabitat within the reserve.

Mulga ferns, INSET: spores on frond underside, Woodend.

Friday, 2 September 2016

Minibeasts on the prowl in Lockyer Creek

Aquatic minibeasts fascinate me, ever since a wonderful book opened my eyes to their diversity and significance.

On Wednesday, I found a couple of rather strange minibeasts in Lockyer Creek, at a little rest area next to the Warrego Highway near Helidon.

The first was a creature with predatory-looking jaws and long tail projections that made me wonder if it was a type of stonefly (Plectoptera order) larva.

Beetle larva, Helidon.

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Bribie Island bursts into spring colour

Beautiful flowers are appearing in the bush once more, thanks to the increasing length of our daylight hours heading into spring.

Last weekend, I sought out blossoms at two of my favourite places from the past year, Dawn Road Reserve at Albany Creek, and Bribie Island National Park at Woorim.

Dawn Road patron Trina McLellan has written a wonderful account of what we found together at Albany Creek on Saturday, that you can read here.

Sunday's Bribie adventure was a solo occasion, however, and I spent most of the morning in the wallum heath beyond McMahon Street, protected as part of the island's National Park.

Walking a few kilometres down the gravel road, I came to a small sandy track branching off to the east that I had been wanting to explore better for quite some time.

The first flowering shrub I came across was the wallum hakea (Hakea actites).

Wallum hakea, Woorim.

Thursday, 28 July 2016

Suburb Guide: Maroochy River

View of the Maroochy River from the summit of Mount Ninderry.

Connecting the forested slopes of the Blackall Ranges to the glittering coastline at Maroochydore, the Maroochy River is an important part of the Sunshine Coast’s natural heritage. Named after an Aboriginal legend, the river has also lent its name to a rural and low-density residential suburb that straddles either side of its shores in the upper estuary area. To avoid confusion for the rest of this article, the name ‘Maroochy River’ will refer to the suburb specifically.

Featured areas: (1) Suburban Maroochy River, (2) Highlands Hill Reserve,
(3) Dunethin Rock, (4) Mount Ninderry Bushland Conservation Park,
(5) River Road; Image courtesy of Google Maps.
Originally the cherished homeland of the Kabi Kabi people, the Maroochy River area was quickly recognised by European settlers as a place of great fertility, and to this day it is still used largely for farming purposes, particularly sugar cane (Saccharum officinarum). Increasing residential development is occurring on the surrounding slopes however, in estates such as ‘Ninderry Rise’, named for the mountain lying just to the north. The western suburb boundary roughly follows Caboolture Creek and the edge of Parklands Conservation Park, then borders Bli Bli and Coolum Creek to the south and east, respectively. Within the confines of the suburb are a number of places that a naturalist may find interesting, discussed in detail below.

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

The rain in Bris-bane falls mainly on the... escarpment.

Grey shrike-thrush, Keperra.

The rain didn’t deter me from spending last Saturday morning up on the Keperra escarpment, and if anything, it seemed to embolden the birds!

Monday, 11 July 2016

The bats are back in town

Black flying-foxes, Herston.

During a bird survey at Rasey Park on the weekend, I found a colony of black-flying foxes (Pteropus alecto) in the mangroves lining Breakfast Creek.

The sight was a relief: earlier last month, the Brisbane Times reported on the mysterious disappearance of South-east Queensland’s flying-foxes, as observed by Gold Coast bat expert, Trish Wimberley. 

Thursday, 30 June 2016

Albany Creek turns on the charm for Wild BNE guests

A curious golden whistler greets the group; Photo by Matteo Grilli

Wild BNE’s winter meet-up was held this past Sunday and it was a great success.

A variety of exotic and ornamental plants grow along
 the fenceline between the reserve and
suburbia; Photo by Aaron Wiggan.
I co-hosted a walk through Dawn Road Reserve (which has its very own website) with local bushcare patron Trina McLellan, whose detailed knowledge of the area was of immense value on the day.

Together, we took a group of ten lovely people through the reserve, looking at suburban encroachment, eucalypt woodland and the gorgeous gallery rainforest growing along the creek.

Ten highlights from the day included:

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Suburb Guide: Lawnton

Fan-tailed cuckoos are most often seen on a low branch, keeping an eye-out for caterpillars below.

Straddling the lush banks of the North Pine River, Lawnton is a suburb of Moreton Bay Regional Council steeped in history. Originally inhabited by the Turrbal people, the land would have been cloaked for many hundreds of thousands of years by a lowland rainforest ecosystem, featuring the hoop pine (Araucaria cunninghamii) for which the river is named after. Unfortunately, the rich soils allowing the vegetation to thrive also made the place attractive to European settlers that wished to farm the land, leading to great conflict with the Indigenous inhabitants. This was eased temporarily by local pioneering figure Tom Petrie, who had lived with and forged a respectful relationship with the Turrbal people, including Dalaipi, leader of the North Pine tribe. By 1858, however, the Aboriginal people of the area were removed and sent to live in isolated reserves around South-east Queensland, such as at Cherbourg and North Stradbroke Island.

A short time after, the land was broken up into farming allotments that were sold off, and with the opening of the Lawnton Railway Station in 1888, the population of the area quickly began to grow. This has continued steadily to the present day, where the farms have mostly been replaced by suburbia west of Gympie Road, and retail and industrial premises to the east. Unsurprisingly, this is having a deleterious effect on the local wildlife, which is what I will be taking a closer look at below.

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Into the garden wilderness

Small brown paper wasps, East Brisbane.

I’ve been battling a chest infection this week and haven’t felt like venturing too far from home.

Luckily, when it comes to nature, it’s not necessary to. 

Thursday, 2 June 2016

Wild BNE winter meet-up: Albany Creek

Tawny frogmouths (Podargus strigoides) are common in the reserve—maybe you can spot one on the day?
Photo by Trina McLellan. 

Paperbark sawfly (Lophyrotoma zonalis), Albany Creek.
Last year, Wild BNE fan Trina McLellan introduced me to her ‘local patch’, Dawn Road Reserve in Albany Creek. I became instantly infatuated with the place; I had no idea that such a beautiful forest was tucked away in what has become a busy suburb over the years! I will always be grateful to Trina for informing me about this great little ‘secret spot’.

Now I want to pass the favour on to you! 

Trina and I would like to take you on a walk through the reserve this month, pointing out all the interesting plants, birds and animals we can find, letting you know about the history of this beautiful

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Suburb Guide: Underwood

The pastel love flower is a charming, shade-loving native plant.

The stretch of highway on the way to the Gold Coast running between Mount Gravatt and Yatala has always been a bit of a vague blur to me at the best of times, and a peak hour nuisance at worst. An endless strip of superstores, car dealerships and fast food outlets, I tend to hurry on through as quickly as the traffic will allow, chasing greener horizons further south. It turns out that the view from the M1 doesn’t really do this area justice though, as I found out recently while exploring the Logan suburb of Underwood. 

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

South-east Queensland's secret frog

As a subtropical city, Brisbane has a rich and visible frog fauna, with forty-one native species (and one cursed toad) calling it home. Familiar to most people would be that friendly windowsill giant, the green treefrog (Litoria caerulea), and anyone with a garden pond would also perhaps be acquainted with the striped marsh frog (Limnodynastes peronii).

Sharing our suburbs and green spaces, however, are a whole host of other fascinating amphibians that many South-east Queensland residents may never notice or know much about. It’s a fair assumption to make, for example, that Kippa-Ring locals wouldn’t ever suspect that on balmy spring nights, patches of nearby sandy soil suddenly erupt with ornate burrowing frogs (Platyplectrum ornatum). Nor would dog-walkers along Bulimba Creek deduce that among the streambank rubble on which their puppy plays lives a little fellow called the stony-creek frog (Litoria wilcoxii), who turns a bright lemon-yellow colour when he’s ready for some lady-lovin’. 

As winter approaches and the temperature (mercifully) begins to drop, most of these little Kermit characters become hard to find. There’s one exception, however, and as the days get shorter and the nights get longer, he’s only just getting started.

Meet the great brown broodfrog.

Great brown broodfrog, Southport; Photo by Narelle Power

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

A long weekend of birdwatching

It was a long weekend of unusual weather given the time of year—with temperatures reaching a high of 27C, and the humidity giving rise to brief thunderstorms on Monday evening, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was still summer—but with my schedule clear, I was champing at the bit for three days of stellar South-east Queensland birding, and I was not disappointed!

Beach stone-curlew, Wellington Point.

Saturday, 30 April 2016

Suburb Guide: Alexandra Headland

Pale-lined tropical rock crabs (Grapsus albolineatus) are a common sight on the rock platform below the headland.

The Sunshine Coast is a place that abounds with natural beauty, so for Alexandra Headland to be as special as it is really says something! Bordered by the limelight-stealing suburbs of Mooloolaba, Maroochydore and peaceful Buderim, Alex Heads—as it is often called by those acquainted with its charm—nevertheless easily holds its own against these places. 

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Tadpoles of South-eastern Australia: A Guide With Keys

Book review

Reed New Holland Publishing, 2002.
It’s noon on a warm autumn day and I am driving south along Beaudesert Road towards the peripheral suburbs of Brisbane’s southside that remain largely a mystery to me. I have decided that not knowing the amphibian fauna inhabiting the suburb of Algester is a personal error that I simply must rectify. My favourite way to search for frogs is to go spotlighting on humid spring and summer nights, but I have left it a little late this year and doubt my chances at finding them now that the evenings have mercifully turned cooler. Instead, I am going to survey the local amphibian population in a way that is quite new to me, aided by a secret weapon sitting in the passenger seat next to me: Marion Anstis’s book, Tadpoles of South-eastern Australia: A Guide With Keys.

Sunday, 3 April 2016

Snorkelers in for a surprise at Coolangatta

Old wife (Enoplosus armatus), Coolangatta.

A surprisingly deep rock pool has formed at Snapper Rocks just in time for the school holidays, and is filled with a large variety of colourful fish.

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Easter rain brings the birds out to play

It may have been less than ideal weather for anyone camping or heading to the beach, but the cooler temperatures and wet conditions this Easter were received with enthusiasm by Brisbane's birds, especially coming off the back of a long, dry summer.

On Sunday I briefly called into Dawn Road Reserve in Albany Creek, and though I was intending to take a closer look at the amazing plant life there, the surprising amount of bird activity on display quickly captured my full attention.

Tawny frogmouths, Albany Creek.

Most pleasing to see were a pair of tawny frogmouths (Podargus strigoides), huddled up in the mid-canopy.

Thursday, 24 March 2016

Wild BNE farewells the waders

Lesser sand plover, Wellington Point; Photo by Matteo Grilli.

Wild BNE's first meet-up last Sunday was a success, with a total of eight people heading out onto King Island off the coast of Wellington Point to view the marine life.

Monday, 7 March 2016

Paper wasp peak season

Southern brown paper wasps, Mount Cotton.

Walking through Sandy Creek Conservation Area last weekend, I was pleased to find that quite a number of paper wasp colonies had formed along the barbed-wire perimeter fence.

Friday, 4 March 2016

Suburb Guide: Keperra

Chequered swallowtails are often found resting in long grass.

Featured areas: (1) Suburban Keperra, (2) Grovely Sports Ground,
(3) Kindlinen Place, (4) Keperra Bushland Reserve, and (5) Dash Street Park.
Image courtesy of Google Maps.
Located just 9km outside of the Brisbane CBD, Keperra is a busy suburb that has been fortunate enough to retain a decent amount of bushland. The reason behind this lies in the suburb's topography, as much of its southern region lies atop a sharply-rising escarpment. Alongside Kedron Brook, which forms the northern border of the suburb, the gentler inclines have allowed more development to occur. Once used as a military camp, the area underwent a housing boom in the 1980s, and a large shopping centre, Primary School, retirement village and the Ferny Grove train line all service the area now. 

Keperra was given its name by the local Yuggera people, whose name for the place ('Kipper') referred to its use as a venue for initiation ceremonies. Several bora-rings were once known in the area, but sadly, these places have since been destroyed by development.

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Wild BNE's first meet-up!

King Island Conservation Park, Wellington Point.

Eastern curlew (Numenius madagascariensis) and
grey-tailed tattler (Tringa brevipes), Wellington Point.
Last year, one of my favourite places to visit was King Island Conservation Park, off the coast of Wellington Point. It is linked to the mainland at low tide by a sandbar which provides good views of migratory birds, crabs and marine life. The island itself is home to interesting coastal plants, insects and a mysterious skink that I haven't been able to identify yet, and has a fascinating Indigenous and European settler history also. 

This month, I'll be leading a meet-up where us members of the Wild BNE community can explore this area

Thursday, 18 February 2016

Successful fish survey in the North Pine River

A fish survey I conducted in the North Pine River last weekend was productive, with seven different species being found in a quiet stretch of water alongside Mungarra Reserve.

Common silverbiddy, Lawnton.
Most numerous were estuary glassfish (Ambassis marianus), a native species which studies suggest is just as good at controlling mosquito larvae as the introduced eastern mosquitofish (Gambusia holbrooki), also present.

Another mosquito predator occurring in smaller numbers was the Pacific blue-eye (Pseudomugil signifer); between these fish species and recent aerial spraying, not a single mosquito bothered me all afternoon.

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

'Mud-puddling' planthoppers a first

Planthoppers, Eagle Heights.

Last week, I was contacted by Jerome Constant, an entomologist with the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, in regards to a photo I had shared on Facebook.

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Nature Surveys 2015

Once a month, I pick a particular group of animals or plants and then a South-east Queensland location to survey them in. I find it really increases my knowledge of not only that particular animal/plant grouping, but also of what can be seen where. In 2015, I especially loved undertaking both of the plant surveys, the invertebrate sweep-net survey on the Gold Coast, the fish survey in Burleigh Lake, and the marine mollusc survey in the Pumicestone Passage.

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Creatures of the night

Burton's snake-lizard, Seven Hills.

Balmy mid-summer nights are a great time to spot reptiles in South-east Queensland, and some interesting sightings are happening at the moment.

Monday, 11 January 2016

Beauty out of the blue at Strathpine

A male indigo flash, patrolling his territory at Pine Rivers Park.
A butterfly survey I conducted in the first week of 2016 acquainted me with a little-known species I had not encountered before, the indigo flash (Rapala varuna).

This species is a predominantly Asian butterfly, found in tropical areas of countries such as India, Thailand, Singapore, the Philippines and Papua New Guinea, but it also extends patchily down the Queensland coast.