Sunday, 30 January 2011

30th January 2011 Report

After the flooding rain of last week this week was relatively dry with four dry sunny days and only 28mm in the rain gauge, most of which fell on the first two days of the week. This allowed the ground to dry out a bit and get some grass mowed. Temperatures were cooler and hotter than previous weeks, ranging from 19.6ºC to 30.7ºC. With the fine weather we managed to get out and track down a few more species this week than in previous ones. We ended up with 83 bird species seen and 7 heard (within 1.5km of the Lodge). Mammals and reptiles were one more than last week with 20 seen.

The weeks bird species list is here

A juvenile Orange-footed Scrubfowl was disturbed early one morning and took flight landing on a window ledge of one of the units, it did not stay long here and soon headed off into the rainforest. Here it would have to take its chances with the established adults who will chase it away. Another good week for pigeons and doves with the highlight being a female Superb Fruit-Dove who sat up in a tree behind the units in the open for all to see, it was accompanied by a Wompoo Fruit-Dove who sat digesting a meal of fruits. 

Wompoo Fruit-Dove
The Pied Imperial Pigeon continues to sit and has started call back and forth with its mate, probably demanding more food! The three Papuan Frogmouth continue to sit in the Mt. Kooyong nursing home grounds, our pair were seen in their old haunt in the orchard for one day and disappeared before the female re-appeared at the end of the week. Small flocks of around 50+ Fork-tailed Swift were seen on two occasions soaring high over the Lodge grounds with a few Australian Swiftlet lower down. A single Little Black Cormorant was flying over Geraghty Park on its way back from the local Barramundi Farm (fish) heading towards the McDougall Road Swamp, a single Royal Spoonbill was also seen heading in the same direction. A pair of White-bellied Sea-Eagle were soaring over the Lodge grounds one afternoon calling to each other with their duck like call. For the second week running Whistling and a Black Kite along with Nankeen Kestrel were the only other raptors around. At the end of last week two adult Red-necked Crake with three chicks were seen at the Crake Pool which is now full of water and not suitable for bathing in. They have been heard calling around the grounds this week but not seen. Pale-vented Bush-hen seen twice in the orchard area of the grounds and a single Bush Stone-curlew was on the edge of a cane field near the Mt. Kooyong Nursing Home.

Sulphur-crested Cockatoo were seen on two occasions pulling sticks out of Metallic Starling nests from a colony in Geraghty Park, Julatten, and extracting seeds from them. There was between 10-20 cockies at any one time getting stuck into the nests but interestingly the Metallic Starling ignored them and went about their business of feeding the youngsters in the nests. This activity was observed over two days by two different observers who had not seen this behavior previously. Always something new to see.

Sulphur-crested Cockatoo  - raiding nest

A pair of Double-eyed Fig-Parrot were in our neighbours garden along Mt. Kooyong Road feeding on some small fruits and were watched for nearly five minutes before they flew off. A male Eastern Koel has turned up to feast on the Golden Cane palm seeds which are just starting to ripen. One turned up last year in the same palm which is adjacent to our units. Gould's Bronze-Cuckoo are still around and calling well and perching in the open, usually at the top of the tallest tree. One pair flew across Mt. Kooyong Road calling continuously as they flew. Both Brush Cuckoo and (Lesser) Sooty Owl have been calling but not seen. The pair of Eastern Barn Owl in Geraghty Park are up to their old tricks again! One was in the daytime roost whist another appeared at the nest tree hollow and entered it one evening, another evening only one bird was seen and this was emerging from the nest tree hollow. So we are still none the wiser as to what if anything is going on. The latest on the Buff-breasted Paradise-Kingfisher is that at least three nests still have noisy chicks in them, the other five all appear to be empty now. One juvenile bird was seen near the Bushy Creek bridge along Mt. Kooyong Road flying into some bamboo and crash landing but his was unlikely to have been a bird from the Lodge nests. Blue-winged Kookaburra have again been very vocal in Geraghty Park and even posed for a few photos one morning.

Blue-winged Kookaburra

A pair of Forest Kingfisher were seen feeding a juvenile bird which is shown on the left in this image.

Forest Kingfisher - juvenile and adult

The Dollarbirds who were nesting in the Metallic Starling tree in Geraghty Park have fledged and not been seen since. A Noisy Pitta adult has been around the reception area with a juvenile who has been making its single note piping call continuously on most days. They have both been seen regularly. A male Red-backed Fairy-wren was foraging around in the long grass beside the Rex Highway opposite the Geraghty Park tennis court and the Large-billed Gerygone who was refurbishing its nest last week was seen going into the nest and staying inside, so it maybe on eggs. Eleven species of honeyeater have been around the area this week, probably attracted to some flowering eucalypts and mistletoe. Two Bridled Honeyeater were in some mistletoe near the Mt. Kooyong nursing home early in the week. A male Cicadabird is still calling but no sign of the female who maybe on a nest. An adult Black Butcherbird was foraging along Bushy Creek with two brown juveniles in tow one morning, also in the same area were two Leaden Flycatcher feeding a juvenile. Black-faced Monarch are still around calling as was a male Yellow-breasted Boatbill on the edge of Geraghty Park in a eucalypt, a bit different habitat to their normal rainforest. Olive-backed Sunbird have been taking advantage of a flowering ginger outside one of the two bedroom units.

Olive-backed Sunbird

Finally a small flock of Chestnut-breasted Manikin were foraging around in the cane paddock across Bushy Creek from the Lodge.

The possible Yellow-footed Antechinus from last week was confirmed this week and has been seen on several occasions during the day trying to get into the buildings or running up the outdoor chairs and under the covers. A Green Tree Snake was spotted during a morning walk in the orchard enjoying some sun before seeing us and heading for the safety of the rainforest. A couple of Long-nosed Bandicoot were seen in and around the rainforest one night which is the first we have seen for several weeks.

This dragonfly, a Petaltail sp., from Mt. Lewis was mentioned in the previous blog report for the Birds Australia weekend but we though you would like an image of it in a more natural pose, rather than on someone's hat! 

Petaltail sp.

Further afield plenty of Blue-faced Parrot-Finch are still around and a male Golden Bowerbird was seen on Mt. Lewis in company with a Tooth-billed Bowerbird scalding a snake. A few Barred Cuckoo-shrike were on the lower slopes of Mt. Lewis at the end of the week. Lovely Fairy-wren has again been seen near Abattoir Swamp and a Sacred Kingfisher was reported from the swamp, not a common species in our area. At least 8 Australian Bustard including one juvenile were seen at Maryfarms on the way north to Mt. Carbine.


Also of interest this week was a rather large (10cm body) female Queensland Palm Katydid on the edge of the rainforest, quite an impressive insect with extraordinarily long feelers.

Queensland Palm Katydid

Even more interesting was a patch of grubs attached to the buttress root of a tree. 

Oil Beetle sp. - cluster of grubs

Oil Beetle sp - close up of grubs

These grubs hatched out into flightless Oil Beetles which are in the genus Meloe. These beetles release oily droplets of from their joints when disturbed; this contains cantharidin, a poisonous chemical causing blistering of the skin and painful swelling.  

Beetles and grubs

The larvae of these beetles form a group and produce a pheromone that mimics the sex attractant of its host bee species. When the male bee is attracted it attempts to mate with the mass of larvae who then climb onto his abdomen and hitch a ride until the male mates with a female bee. During mating the larvae transfer to the female who will then carry them to her underground nest. The interlopers remain behind in the burrow and feed on the bees offspring and the honey stores she provided to feed them. The larva pupates and this is what we found on the buttress root of the tree. Thanks to Paul Zborowski, our local resident entomologist, photographer and author for identifying these and pointing out that they are quite rare and that there is little known about the Australian species. Hopefully we have got the correct sequence of events for this fascinating insect.

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