Saturday, 20 March 2010

21st March 2010 Report

This weeks blog is a day earlier due to us being away for a few days, our friends Kath and Dave are looking after the Lodge for us.

The “Wet Season” disappeared this week with 6.5mm of drizzly rain and overcast days which kept the temperature down. Temperatures ranged from a cooler 19ºC to 26ºC which was slightly cooler than last week. Species numbers for the week were 71 bird species seen and 7 heard - mammals and reptiles were 21 seen which was more than last week due to a bigger searching effort than previous weeks.

The main birding highlight this week was a sighting of a Barking Owl, a species we have not seen here for 2½ years. We were returning from Mt. Molloy one evening around 9.00pm when we spotted a dark shape on the ground near the front entrance to the Lodge. It flew up and perched on our entrance sign for us to identify it as the smaller and paler northern form of the Barking Owl Ninox connivens peninsularis. We raced back to get the camera and found the bird still out the front but perched in a tree where we took the photo below. 

 Barking Owl - small northern form

Wandering back from all this excitement with the spotlight we also saw a Tree Mouse (formerly known as Prehensile-tailed Rat) Pogonomys sp. This rodent was previously thought to be one of two Papua New Guinea species Pogonomys loriae or P. mollipilosus but is now thought to be an unnamed species. Then a Feather-tailed Glider Acrobates pygmaeus was spotted high up in a tree. The genus Acrobates is the oldest extant genus of small mammals dating back 29 million years. The Feathertail Glider is also the worlds smallest gliding mammal. The excitement was not over yet as an Amethystine Python was around the feeding area near the reception. It moved into some vegetation and a Bush Rat ran over its tail, which had the end missing, the Bush Rat beat a hasty retreat! The python climbed up into a small plant and disappeared. This was the second sighting of an Amethystine Python in one day as we had already seen another one trying to hide under on of our chair on the veranda. We moved the chair and saw that the python had a Bush Rat sized lump in its belly. The python moved off into the vegetation and coiled up for a while before disappearing. Another one was seen heading across the grass near the Crake Pool later in the week making three different Amethystine Python around the grounds.

Well what else happened with the birds? Brown Cuckoo-Dove showed up after being away for a few weeks and both Wompoo and Superb Fruit-Dove were heard. A Whistling Kite was seen carrying nesting material across the Rex Highway to a previous nest site and a pair of Grey Goshawks were soaring over the Lodge grounds. We saw the four Red-necked Crake chicks dashing across the road to the reception area near the cookshed, they were very well equispaced about 1.5m apart! Two adults were seen on the edge of the orchard later in the week. Scaly-breasted Lorikeet were around in small groups and a pair of Double-eyed Fig-Parrot were investigating a fig tree in the camping area which has non-ripe green fruits at the moment. 

 Scaly-breasted Lorikeet

Male Eastern Koel was still around mid-week and 30+ Channel-billed Cuckoo were along Bushy Creek and in the orchard area. An Eastern Barn Owl was accidentally disturbed whilst roosting on the edge of the rainforest in the open near the orchard before it flew onto an exposed branch for good views. The Barking Owl mentioned before was seen again in the same area at the end of the week, hope it stays around.

Blue-winged Kookaburra have been very vocal in Geraghty Park this week and up to eight Laughing Kookaburra have been terrorising the orchard area. Rainbow Bee-eater numbers have been increasing during the week and the odd Dollarbird is still around. Noisy Pitta has changed behaviour during the week, at the beginning they were foraging around the edge of the rainforest near the units but mid-week they retreated into the forest and started giving a single note call. One was tracked down and found perched on a vine 6-7m off the ground making the single note call. Not sure what it means but we think it might be a territorial behaviour. 
Two female Red-backed Fairy-wren were foraging in grass between the Lodge grounds and a cane field, not often seen this close to the Lodge. 

 Red-backed Fairy-wren - female

Lewin's Honeyeater numbers continued to build up but the normally resident Dusky Honeyeater was not seen. A Bridled Honeyeater turned up at a feeder on one occasion, this was the first for the season. Barred Cuckoo-shrike remained throughout the week and Cicadabird is still with us and calling, previous years they have stayed until late April or early May.

Another migrant the Black-faced Monarch are still around and calling, most usually leave in April but occasionally one or two stay all year.The brown Juvenile Black Butcherbird whose image featured in the 10th January blog was back this week after an absence of two months. The single Grey Fantail which arrived last week appears to be the only one around as the only sightings have been in the same area. A Grey-headed Robin arrived on the 17th March from higher grounds, a first for the season.

Further a field there was a possible sighting of a Red Goshawk around the Mt. Molloy area but so far unconfirmed, so keep a look out if you are in the area. Also a Rufous Fantail was reported from the same area, this is the first record of returning birds. They returned to the Lodge on 20th March.

A Striped Possum was seen in the rainforest adjacent to the orchard and a Leaf-tailed Gecko was also seen in the same area high up on a tree trunk. A Fawn-footed Melomys (small rat) showed up at the feeder during the week with a youngster in tow, well actually attached to a teat. Amazing how the youngster stays attached whilst the female goes about her business, running around and climbing up small tree trunks. Also interesting was the colour difference in adult and juvenile.

Fawn-footed Melomys with baby attached

Both Long-nosed and Northern Brown Bandicoot were back digging up the grassed areas after an absence of several months. Boyd's Forest Dragon and Major Skink were also seen during which was quite an eventful week.

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