Sunday, 28 August 2011

28th August 2011 Report

No rain to report this week but it did warm up towards the end of the week. The week started off with a cool morning down to 10.2ºc and warmed up in the afternoon to 24.5ºc by the end. Not unpleasant weather at all.

Another good week for numbers of bird species with 103 seen, and 4 heard. Reptiles and mammals were 17 which was one more than last week.

The weeks bird list is on the Eremaea Birds website and morning walk lists can also be found at this link on Eremaea Birds.

Their were some good records this week starting off with a Rufous Owl that was being mobbed by Blue-faced Honeyeaters near one of our units, this caused a stampede of 10 birders racing up the path from the orchard who reckoned the owl was a better option than waiting for the Platypus to arrive. More information can be found in the link to Wildiaries on the left of the page.

Rufous Owl

A Spotless Crake was actually seen in one of the nearby local lagoons, rather than heard as had been the case. Four Little Lorikeet were feeding on Eucalypt blossom in Geraghty Park mid-week and were the first seen here since 15th July 2007 and only the second record in six years. They did not stay long before they flew off towards Mount Molloy but were seen again later in the week. Lovely Fairy-Wren were in the Lodge grounds which is only the 11th sighting in six years despite them being resident in the area. Lovely Fair-wren seem to have much larger territories than the blue wrens further south which have quite small territories, sometimes only 300m. Black-chinned Honeyeater (Golden-backed Honeyeater Race laetoir) were in Geraghty Park with two adults feeding two immatures in a Queensland Blue Gum Eucalyptus tereticornis. They are uncommon in the area with few breeding records and are quite obviously larger than the White-throated Honeyeater with a bright yellow back. Barred Cuckoo-shrike were around calling and one was seen at the end of the week.

Other sightings of interest:
At least one pair of Cotton Pygmy-goose were still on McDougall Road lagoon along with six Hardhead. Superb Fruit-Dove were again heard but not seen and Topknot Pigeon continue to fly over in greater numbers. Our Papuan Frogmouth female was roosting in the orchard at the beginning of the week but by the end it had disappeared hopefully to find a mate. Australian Owlet-nightjar has been calling and seen peering out of its daytime roost several times. Believe us the stripy head at the bottom of the hole is an Australian Owlet-nightjar!

Australian Owlet-nightjar

One Eastern Great Egret was seen flying over a cut cane field heading toward the Barramundi Farm which is probably the only one we have seen around. Pacific Baza have been calling and flying around but still no sign of nesting in their normal tree. The cut cane paddocks have been attracting a few raptors with White-bellied Sea-Eagle and Wedge-tailed Eagle foraging on the ground and Whistling and Black Kite overhead. The Sea-eagles took o break from foraging to perch high up in the trees alongside Bushy Creek.

White-bellied Sea-Eagle

An Australian Hobby has been a regular throughout the week.

Scaly-breasted Lorikeet have been seen entering a new nest hole in a Queensland Blue Gum as well as the one reported last week. Sad news was that we found a dead Eastern Barn Owl under their daytime roost tree with a hole punctured in its breast, the good news was that we saw at least five other individuals in the same area. 13 species of honeyeater were taking advantage of the flowering gum trees as well as a few in the rainforest. Bridled Honeyeater was in one of our neighbours gardens feeding in a grevillea and enjoying the nectar. Plenty of manly male Scarlet Honeyeater were seen, which was not so surprising as they stand out more with their bright red head and upper breast unlike the females who are plain brown with a hint of red under the chin. Several immature White-throated Honeyeater were seen being fed by their parents including two on the ground who appeared to have fallen out of the nest. The dutiful parents were coming down to the ground to feed them, a good reason not to pick up baby birds on the ground unless absolutely certain the parents have abandoned them.

Two White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike have been foraging in Geraghty Park and neighbours gardens and don't have the pure white breasts of the northern Australian form but slightly darker breast plumage. Birds in the north have the pure white bellies but this becomes progressively darker in sub-species the further south they occur. There are other differences between the sub-species as well, bill and tail length being just two of them. We are situated in an intergrade zone between two races Coracina papuensis oriomo to the north and Coracina papuensis artamoides to the south (info: The Directory of Australian Birds – Schodde & Mason 1999). The taxonomy of White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike is very complex with 14 sub-species of which 5 occur in Australia, identification is further complicated by seasonal movements. No wonder some of our guests are puzzled by their appearance!

A Cicadabird was heard again for the second week in succession, unless it was another bird mimicking Cicadabird which we think is unlikely. A Bleeding Heart tree in our neighbours garden was attracting White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike, Australasian Figbird, Olive-backed Oriole, female Victoria's Riflebird, Metallic Starling and Brown Cuckoo-Dove who have now cleaned up all the green berries available.

Black-faced Monarch has again been seen as well as an immature Spectacled Monarch. Magpie-lark have also arrived to take advantage of the insects in the cut sugar cane with a party of 20 foraging together.

Magpie-lark - female

Pied Monarch have been coming down to ground level and showing well rather than staying up high as they usually do. Lemon-bellied Flycatcher have been very active with at least eight seen at one time. A pair of Golden-headed Cisticola were feeding on sugar cane seeds and an Australian Red-Warbler was heard foraging in the same patch of cane but not showing itself which is quite normal! The adult and juvenile Bassian Thrush have been around again this week but commuting between the neighbours garden and our orchard. This one was having a rest in a mango tree after a session of drilling holes in our grassy understory and being very successful at finding worms. 

Bassian Thrush - juvenile

Red-browed Finch were observed building a nest/roost with several adults involved in its construction.

Further afield Golden Bowerbird was seen several times during the week flying across and perching alongside a walking track on Mt. Lewis. White-browed Robin were again seen at Big Mitchell Creek on the eastern side of the highway which has now been burnt to match the western side. Four Australian Bustard were at Biboora near Mareeba and closer to home Mowbray National Park had some good birds including a mating pair of Superb Fruit-Dove, several sightings of Chestnut-breasted Cuckoo, Noisy Pitta and both male and female Victoria's Riflebird. Lake Mitchell, between Mount Molloy and Mareeba, had plenty of waterbirds on it including Cotton Pygmy-goose and Black-necked Stork whilst in the adjacent woodland White-winged Triller were seen.

The warmer weather encouraged the reptiles to become active with a large Eastern Water Dragon in Bushy Creek and a Major Skink was around for the second week after being absent for many months. 

Eastern Water Dragon

Several Agile Wallaby were displaced by cane cutting operations and a few found their way into our orchard at night. Both Green Ringtail Possum and Striped Possum were seen on nightwalks, the striped was feeding in a Candlenut Tree high up but gave us good views, enough to see it was a male! Frogs were still quiet due to the dry weather, with only three species seen. Giant White-tailed Rat has also been in one of the Candlenut trees as well as coming down to the feeder for the first time for a few months.

Well that's it for another week, with the weather warming up we look forward to a change in bird species and in their behavior as well as some more reptiles becoming active.


Doug said...

Great blog as usual thanks Kieth! Would love to see the Australian Owlet-nightjar next time I visit if possible.

Keith and Lindsay Fisher said...

Thanks for the comments, just have to be lucky and catch the owlet-nightjar when it is looking out of it daytime roost. We did not see it this week.