Saturday, 31 December 2011

1st January 2012 Report

Christmas came and went and now it is another year, hope 2012 is good for everyone.

The weeks rainfall was 63mm falling on the last three days of the week, 47mm fell in one period.

Maximum temperatures were slightly up on last week, getting up to 33.0ºc which is about as hot as it gets here, the minimum was down to 21.1ºc, slightly higher than last week. Humidity ranged from a low of 64% to a high of 95%.

There were more birds recorded this week than last with 99 seen and 10 heard. 19 mammal and reptile species were seen. The weeks bird list is on the Eremaea Birds website and morning walk lists can also be found at this link on Eremaea Birds.

This weeks highlight has to be a possible Black-winged Monarch, which was first seen on 26th December but not confirmed. Our friend Kath was first alerted by the call, which to us was very difficult to separate from Black-faced Monarch but Kath has had more experience with the Black-winged Monarch than us and thought there was a subtle difference from Black-faced. Sound recordings were taken and an analysis of the sonogram might note any difference in the two calls.

The following day in the early morning the monarch was found again and after some persistence a few images were taken in the gloom of the rainforest. This resulted in some noisy pictures. The black around the face did not extend over the eye and onto the forehead, the overall grey of the upper body was a lighter grey than typical Black-faced and there was a definite contrast in the wing between the blackish primaries and the grey wing coverts. There have been a few records on the Atherton Tableland including ones at nearby Abattoir Swamp and earlier this year one at Mt. Lewis on the lower slopes. The Black-winged Monarch normally has a distribution on Cape York as far south as Shiptons Flat (90km north of Julatten) but in recent years they have been very rare here. The most reliable location for the southern distribution is now McIvor River which is about 165km north of Julatten. So it is very exciting to see this bird, if confirmed, so far south of its "normal" range. At the moment it looks like this bird is actually a Black-faced Monarch, a young adult in moult.

Monarch (?)

Monarch (?)

Pale-vented Bush-hen have been heard in several places and were seen at long last by one of our guests Matthew, he saw one along Mt. Kooyong Road not long after he had seen Red-necked Crake at the Crake Pool – he gets the guest of the week title for seeing two of the most sought after and difficult birds to find around the Lodge.

Other sightings:
The two reported Cotton Pygmy-goose continue to be on a lagoon along McDougall Road along with a single Green Pygmy-goose, 20+ Hardhead, Australasian Grebe and three Comb-crested Jacana. Another lagoon along the same road had 50+ Magpie Geese, Wandering Whistling-Duck, a male Australian Darter in breeding plumage and a Black-fronted Dotterel. A few Emerald Dove continue to be around the lodge grounds and a Superb Fruit-Dove was seen flying over one afternoon. A single Pied Imperial Pigeon was perched at the top of a Blue Quondong tree along with two Topknot Pigeon who seem to be moving on from our area as sightings are becoming rarer each week. 

Pied Imperial Pigeon

Our female Papuan Frogmouth was seen roosting near its previous roost tree on the edge of the orchard on one occasion during the day and once at night also on the edge of the orchard. Australian Owlet-nightjar was seen in Geraghty Park perched on the railing around the oval when it was pouring down with rain one night. Eastern Great Egret was at the nearby Barramundi Farm along with Intermediate Egret and a flock of Pacific Black Duck. Raptors are again in short supply this week with only single sightings of Whistling Kite, Brahminy Kite and Brown Falcon. At the end of the week on Saturday morning a pair of Pacific Baza flew over the orchard calling before doing a U turn and flying over the units, first reported sighting in five weeks. Red-necked Crake has been see several times making their way through the rainforest and “Katie” the Buff-banded Rail returned once more during the week before disappearing again. Two Bush Stone-curlew were running around the Geraghty Park oval whilst we were watching the Australian Owlet-nightjar in the rain. 

A few Scaly-breasted Lorikeet were around after being absent for a few weeks. Double-eyed Fig-Parrot were heard but not seen and a search of the area failed to find any fruiting figs. A male Pheasant Coucal was climbing up a Macadamia tree on the edge of the Lodge grounds before flying off in a big loop over the adjacent cane paddock, it actually maintained altitude before disappearing into the edge of the rainforest. Don't think we have ever seen a Coucal fly so far without loosing altitude! At least two Channel-billed Cuckoo were around as were Brush Cuckoo. (Lesser) Sooty Owl was in the area but again heard only most nights. One Buff-breasted Paradise-Kingfisher has been seen coming out of a nest in their termite mound but three others checked had no sign of birds, most are sitting calling above their mounds. Forest Kingfisher have also been seen coming out of their termite mounds as well as displaying. Dollarbird was another species seen at a nest, it was feeding chicks in a tree hollow. The second pair of Noisy Pitta have been more successful than the first pair with an adult seen feeding a juvenile bird in the orchard whilst another was calling in the rainforest.

Noisy Pitta - Juvenile

Meanwhile the first unsuccessful pair are continuing to build another nest and calling a lot. Spotted Catbird are still trying to keep the population of the smaller birds down as they skulk through the rainforest but are being chased off by the smaller birds. Honeyeaters have been a bit quiet this week with only nine species seen but both Graceful and Macleay's have returned to the juice feeders. A pair of Brown-backed Honeyeater have started to build their third nest this season in Geraghty Park. One male Cicadabird was seen flying over the Lodge grounds but Barred Cuckoo-shrike were only heard. The Willie Wagtail nesting in Geraghty Park were feeding chicks at the beginning of the week and nearby in the same tree a pair of Magpie-lark were building their mud nest. A male Leaden Flycatcher has been very vocal around the camping area, no sign of any females. Lemon-bellied Flycatcher was at Geraghty Park early in the week and then promptly disappeared for the rest of it. Olive-backed Sunbird have started to use the second nest constructed around our neighbours house but there was also a juvenile being fed at the same time, not sure whether there is one or two pairs present or maybe one male with two females! Australian Pipit was again seen at the Barramundi Farm.

Further Afield:-
We had a trip up to Mt. Lewis just after Christmas to check out the Blue-faced Parrot-Finch at the 10km “clearing”, we were not disappointed as at least 12 birds were present. 

Blue-faced Parrot-Finch

The area the birds are in is on Brooklyn Station owned by the Australian Wildlife Conservatory. The manager here conducted a controlled burn in the area back in October to allow new grass growth to occur. Old dead matted grass was smothering the area inhibiting new growth. The area now has a dense new growth of grass which is attracting the finches, not only the Blue-faces but Chestnut-breasted Mannikin and Red-browed Finch as well. 

Chestnut-breasted Mannikin
Atherton Scrubwren were foraging in several places

Atherton Scrubwren

as were Fernwren, Tooth-billed Bowerbird, Bower's Shrike-thrush and the dark montane form of Grey Fantail - race Keasti.

Grey Fantail - keasti

In the rainforest adjacent to one of the many creeks which tumble off Mt. Lewis we found two species of Damselfly, Giant Rockmaster Diphlebia hybrioides and Tropical Flatwing Austroargiolestes aureus both new species to us. More information can be found on the Wildiaries site. Dragonflies/Damselflies have much more imaginative names than birds!

Giant Rockmaster

Tropical Flatwing

Also along the road was this unidentified snail which has a soft shell and was crossing the road at a snails pace!

Snail sp.

In the area of the Damselflies was this Robber Fly (?), 

Robber Fly

so many interesting animals and plants to check out in this spectacular part of Australia only 35 minutes away from the Lodge.

Reptiles and Mammals:-

The wet weather restricted spotlighting this week but we still saw 19 mammals and reptiles. Our neighbours heard an Eastern Tube-nosed Bat flying over making its distinctive whistling sound. Giant White-tailed Rat has been around the feeder along with Northern Brown Bandicoot and Bush Rat. A few frogs ventured out into the rain including lots of the very small Northern Dwarf Tree Frog. Boyd's Forest Dragon continue to perform for the guests and Eastern Water Dragon were along Bushy Creek. An Amethystine Python was again in the orchard, this time during the day but it soon took refuge in the buttress roots of a rainforest tree.

Other Interesting Sightings:
In case you are not fed up with seeing fungi every week we have a few more to show you. Never ceases to amaze us the variety, must run out of photos soon! We can't find he first one in any of  our fungi books, the closest we can get is Scutellinia scutelata.

Fungi sp.

Vascellum pratense (?)

This fruit of a Syzygium wilsonii ssp.Cryptophlebium was hanging from a tree in front of the units.

Syzygium wilsonii ssp. Cryptophlebium

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