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.
Though the walk is only 1.4 kilometres long, there was plenty to see, so it took us an hour-and-a-half to complete.

The birdlife was quick to greet us as we began our stroll through the dimly-lit rainforest, with brown thornbills (Acanthiza pusilla), white-browed scrubwrens (Sericornis frontalis) and an Australian brush-turkey (Alectura lathami) all being seen in various levels of the undergrowth.

Especially delightful was a family of pale yellow robins (Tregellasia capito) offering up excellent views just metres above our heads, as they flitted among the vines.

Pale yellow robin; Photo by Aaron Wiggan
These birds are much pickier in their habitat choice than the related eastern yellow robin (Eopsaltria australis), being found only in subtropical rainforest.

Another great bird sighting was of an uncharacteristically quiet green catbird (Ailuroedus crassirostris).

It was feeding on piccabeen palm (Archontophoenix cunninghamiana) fruit, and kept making a short, high-pitched squeak instead of its famous loud wailing call.

When our attention wasn’t drawn up into the trees, we noticed amazing sights on the forest floor, such as a beautiful, placid land mullet (Bellatorias major).

Land mullet; Photo by Aaron Wiggan.

One of the largest skinks in the world, this jet-black stunner grows up to 70cm long and feeds mostly on plant matter as an adult.

Leafless nodding orchid; Photo by Ute Harder de Sohnrey
Speaking of plant matter, one of the most unusual finds of the day was a pair of ghostly white orchids, discovered growing out of the decaying leaf litter by guest Ute.

It was only when the exact species was confirmed later by a Facebook plant study group as a leafless nodding orchid (Epipogium roseum), that I learned what a fascinating plant it is; lacking chlorophyll, leaves and a traditional root system, it survives essentially as a parasite of fungi.

To be fair, the reason we didn’t linger on this fascinating organism was because we were enthralled by the equally fascinating sight of a spider burrow near a log.

Spider burrow.

At the time, the consensus was that it belonged to a funnel-web (Hadronyche species), but some further reading on rainforest spiders leads me to believe it may actually be the burrow of a wishbone spider (Namea species) instead.

As guest Emily suggested, I could have found out what it was by poking my finger down there… but I thought better of it! 😄

The greatest danger on the day came not from spiders but from the plants, as alongside the walking tracks in this National Park grows both the giant (Dendrocnide excelsa) and shiny-leaved stinging tree (D.photinophylla).

Giant stinging trees; Photo by Aaron Wiggan.

Both of these species are covered in fragile, venom-loaded silica hairs that act like tiny fire-tipped needles if brushed against, with the pain and discomfort from the encounter lasting weeks.

Luckily, we all exercised caution and were spared any agony!

Orange-tailed shadeskink (Saproscincus challengeri).

Bladder cicada
Not all the plants were terrifying; I loved seeing the forest lobelias (Lobelia trigonocaulis), and guest Beth became fond of the large pennyworts (Hydrocotyle pedicellosa) growing along the tracks.

Finishing the morning with some refreshments at Sugar & Spice, the wildlife sightings continued, with a beautiful bladder cicada (Cystosoma saundersii) seen on the outdoor furniture, and a black-faced cuckoo-shrike (Coracina novaehollandiae) nesting in the tree above us.

Thank you Aaron, Emily, Judy, Chad, Beth, Ute and Jens for your excellent company and perceptive wildlife spotting—I hope to see you all again on a future Wild BNE excursion!

Explorers in the jungle!


  1. What a wonderful adventure you all had at that place. Quite a variety of things between birds and plants and creatures to see and that awkward was it exceptionally interesting to know about

    1. Thanks Margaret, it was a great morning with a great group of people! Glad you found the details interesting :)

  2. Hi Christian, are yr meet-ups advertised on the meet-up pages? Would be great to attend!

    1. Hi Judy, no I keep it limited mostly to my blog followers. If you want to stay notified, join the quarterly mailing list at and like the page on Facebook! Would love to have you along on the next one :)

  3. What a wonderful outing. I do love Aaron Wiggan's photography and Ute's orchid discovery.

    1. I love how much easier it is to find wildlife and plants with so many extra sets of eyes! And yes, Aaron is very talented, I was grateful he came along and snapped so many wonderful pics!