Sunday, 27 April 2014

April Wildlife Report

Wildlife and Waterspouts!


Nature can be both cruel and kind within a short space of time. South-east Queensland residents have been blessed with perfect weather around the Easter and ANZAC Day long weekends, and I've certainly made the most of it, with daytrips out to a variety of areas.

Buckley's Hole Conservation Park, Bribie Island.

But these sunny days and clear skies of late almost seem like an apology from 'Mother Nature', after she unleashed a Sunday-afternoon thunderstorm upon us earlier this month that was breath-taking in its ferocity. Born in the hinterlands to the south-west of Brisbane, the storm cut power to some suburbs and then gained strength as it moved out over Deception Bay, forming waterspouts just off the southern coastline of Bribie Island.


Signs of storm damage were evident when I visited Buckley's Hole Conservation Park a few days later, on the south-western tip of the island. A large Pink Bloodwood (Corymbia intermedia) had been brought down by the wind, and the beach was a scoured out depression carved into the dunes. Wildlife can be pretty resilient however, and there was lots to see.

Large Purple Line-Blue (Nacaduba berenice), Bribie Island

Female Hibiscus Harlequin Bug (Tectocoris diophthalmus)
guarding her brood, Bribie Island.

This Conservation Park is of great value because it features both a freshwater and a saltwater wetland that are adjacent to one another (in fact, you can see both in the very first picture above), and the area is a wildlife haven. On my visit, I was fortunate enough to experience several special 'wild moments' in both wetland types. The first occurred when I saw a Collared Sparrowhawk (Accipter cirrocephalus) swoop in around the edges of the freshwater lagoon, scaring a flock of Nankeen Night-Herons (Nycticorax caledonicus) into flight as it did so. Navigating my way through thousands of sky-blue Soldier Crabs (Myctiris longicarpus) on the tidal flats was another lovely wildlife encounter for me, as I had similar experiences as a very young boy growing up in Sandgate.

Comb-crested Jacanas, Bribie Island

White-throated Treecreepers,
Bribie Island

I followed the coastline around to Red Beach, spotting three different Tern species (Sternidae family), Red-capped Plovers (Charadrius ruficapillus) and a Mangrove Gerygone (Gerygone levigaster) on the way. In the dune woodland behind the beach, I had good views of Scarlet Honeyeaters (Myzomela sanguinolenta), Golden Whistlers (Pachycephala pectoralis) and White-throated Treecreepers (Cormobates leucophaea). I have sighted this latter species in different locations a few times this month, perhaps because I now recognise the piping call it makes and know to scan the tree-trunks when I hear it.

Red-capped Plover, Bribie Island

Ruff on left, Sharp-tailed Sandpiper (Calidris acuminata) on right,
Hemmant; Photo by Robert Bush

At this time of year, migratory waders that have spent the summer in Australia make the journey back to their Northern Hemisphere breeding grounds. Moreton Bay is a particularly important part of the 'flyway' these birds use, and many pass through here in September and April. One individual wader flying through - a Ruff (Philomachus pugnax) - has been the cause for much excitement among wildlife enthusiasts, as it is quite a rare migrant in Australia. The female bird (known as a 'Reeve') turned up in the eastern suburb of Hemmant, at a locality called 'Lindum Wetlands'. The bird has lingered on for a surprisingly lengthy time, and may be choosing to overwinter. One of the first observers of this rarity was Robert Bush, whose picture of it I have shown above and whose lovely blog you can check out here. 

A Scarlet Percher (Diplacodes haematodes) resting beside Kedron Brook, Gordon Park;
Photo by Leah Mahoney

I went back to a section of Kedron Brook that I explored last year to see what had changed, and found the waterway to be teeming with life. Unfortunately, that mostly involved thousands of Cane Toad (Rhinella marina) tadpoles blotting the shallows with their dark little bodies, but schools of Spangled Perch (Leiopotherapon unicolor) and several Long-finned Eels (Anguilla reinhardtii) were also thriving. My friend Leah, always up for a wildlife adventure, was particularly excited to see a Short-necked Turtle (Emydura macquarii) surface midstream.

Striated Pardalote, Keperra.

Wedge-tailed Eagle, Riverhills

Throughout the month, I have made sure to fit bird-watching into my schedule by checking out nearby suburban reserves when I can. At Keperra Bushland, I spent a hot afternoon hiking up into some wooded hills filled with Striated Pardalotes (Pardalotus striatus) and Rainbow Bee-eaters (Merops ornatus). A lack of ground-cover and forest under-story allows for plenty of bare earth patches in the reserve; this undoubtedly creates a perfect habitat for two tunnel-nesting birds like the Pardalote and Bee-eater. A thicker shrub layer at a site called Wolston Creek Bushland Reserve, in the south-western suburb of Riverhills, means that a greater variety of birds can flourish in smaller numbers. I was pleased to see a Black-faced Monarch (Monarcha melanopsis), Varied Trillers (Lalage leucomela) and my first White-bellied Cuckoo-Shrike (Coracina papuensis) here. Even more thrilling was when all these birds suddenly became silent and still as a huge Wedge-tailed Eagle (Aquila audax) soared over the tree canopy.

Swamp Rat, Mango Hill; Photo by John Jeffery
Being so bird-focussed lately means I unfortunately haven't been spot-lighting for mammals this month. Luckily, Wild BNE fan John has been keeping an eye out and sent me a photo of a native animal he spotted on his lawn in Mango Hill. The creature is a Swamp Rat (Rattus lutreolus), an uncommon Brisbane resident that is losing much of its wetland habitat to development. I always find it strange how closely related animals can differ so greatly in their adaptability to man - no matter how desperate this little creature is, it would simply never consider entering a house and raiding a pantry the way that a Black Rat (Rattus rattus) would. John's account of the animal on his lawn was that it was surprisingly docile, allowing a rather close approach. Unfortunately, this trusting nature did not serve it well, and it was found dead the next day from a cat attack or car strike, neatly illustrating the survival challenges this species faces. If any South-East Queenslanders who read this blog have any wildlife ID questions, I'm always happy to give it my best shot as I've done here.

See you next month, and enjoy Wild Brisbane!

'Blood Moon' eclipse, East Brisbane






18 comments:

  1. the swamp rat is adorable! :) the jacanas are so exotic looking! the plover is really sweet, too.

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    1. Yes it is (or was) a cute little guy! I think Jacanas are one of my favourite birds, and the Plover runs along and dodges the waves like a little wind-up toy, so it's a cutie too :)

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  2. watched the video re the havoc on Bribie Island, and what a wonderful wetland conservation area there is --- those Jacanas are so impressive!! Quite a lovely list of sightings!! Your photo of the blood moon no doubt? I tried that night but nothing like this as a result because of thick cloud cover. Enjoyed your post as always Christian.

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    1. Yes that is one of my favourite spots there Carole! Always good for Jacanas and other interesting sightings. I did hear the southern states viewing of the moon was obscured by cloud. I missed most of the action thanks to work, but caught the end of it with that photo. I wasn't too impressed with the result - very grainy - but i'm glad you seem to appreciate it! :)

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  3. Wow...those Jacanas are new to me...and they're pretty!!! A crown...like the royalty of its species. It's always exciting to view Australia's animals, you've captured and shared some great images of them all!!! And the scenery is beautiful too.

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    1. Thank you Anni, yes the Jacanas even look exotic and unusual to me! They can be hard to get a good photo of, so I was grateful these two posed so nicely!

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  4. What a great picture of the blood moon! I have to keep reminding myself that you're heading towards winter over there as we try and get spring going. Lots of other great shots - I think that dragonfly is my favourite. It'll be a while before we see any here!

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    1. Thanks Em, glad you enjoyed the post. Winter is coming along bit by bit - mostly noticed by the cool mornings, though the days are still beach weather! The joy of living somewhere subtropical :)

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  5. The little rat is so cute. Enjoyed seeing the Jacanas and all other offerings, but that Scarlet Percher is my pick. Wow!

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    1. Thanks Roan, yes my friend Leah did a great job with that Percher photo, and the rat was a great little sighting also!

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  6. I love the dragonfly and the birds are wonderful.

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    1. Thanks Gunilla, yes I have been blessed with many great sightings this month!

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  7. Great set of pictures - its been a while since I have seen any Jacanas.

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

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    1. Thanks Stewart. There's a few particular places in Brisbane that are always good for Jacanas but I've never seen them behave so photogenically before this!

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  8. That storm looks pretty spectacular, the black skies and the waterspout. We don't get waterspouts here, just plenty of water. I remember being in a couple of tropical storms, one in Sri Lanka and one in Malaysia, and both were a liitle scary for the uninitiated.

    You have some great colours in your post Christian - the jacanas against the lilies, the Red-capped Plovers and the Scarlet Percher (I like things that look like their name).

    Imagine a Ruff causing all that excitement? But then it's all realtive since a Red-capped Plover would over here would cause a few heart attacks in the birding community.

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    1. Thanks for the kind words Phil. I've grown up to love the big spring and summer storms here and some day I hope to go tornado-chasing in the American midwest.

      Yes, a Ruff must be no big deal in the UK! Scientists don't even know where the handful of regular Australian birds fly to breed however, so they remain an exotic and mysterious animal to us!

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  9. Hi Christian, you can delete this 'comment' which is actually a msg for you. You may already have seen, but thought of you - that you might enjoy watching Birdlife Australia's (3 now), webcasts, on Farewelling the Shorebirds. Will be away from computer till Monday. Cheers!

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    1. Oh thank you so much for thinking of me and sharing this! Very kind of you! Will check the webcasts out, I always find that huge journey those little birds make to be awe-inspiring. Enjoy your weekend, hope you get some 'happy snaps' along the way :)

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