Sunday, 29 January 2012

29th January 2012 Report

A shortened week due to having to go into Cairns for a knee operation for two days. Knee appears to be coming along OK but it will curtail most birding activity for a few more days.

70mm of rain over the week and a big thunderstorm, which we missed being in Cairns, knocked the power out for six hours one night. Temperatures were much the same as last week 22.5ºc to 29.4ºc with the humidity 77% to 95%.

Birds recorded were less due to the reduced effort on our part, but our neighbours Carol and Andrew were out and about recording the birds in our area which kept the numbers up to a respectable 84 seen and a high 14 heard. 21 mammal and reptile species were seen and one heard, thanks to James Cook University (JCU) students who were camped here for boosting this number. The weeks bird list is on the Eremaea Birds website and morning walk lists can also be found at this link on Eremaea Birds

Two Red-necked Crake with three chicks bathing in a pool beside the orchard, they were very flighty and took cover at the slightest movement. Great to see three chicks again this year, hope they all survive. Olive-backed Sunbird at our neighbours fledged two chicks at the end of the week and they seem to have survived longer than the last two they tried raising. Our sunbirds are still sitting on their nest.

Other sightings:
Waterbird numbers were again down this week with birds spread out over the permanent and temporary wetlands formed by the “wet season” rains. Only a few Magpie Goose, Pacific black Duck, Hardhead, an Australasian Darter, Little Pied and Little Black Cormorant, Eastern Great, Intermediate and Little Egret plus a White-faced Heron and a couple of Australian White Ibis. 

Pacific Black Duck

Topknot Pigeon were back with at least 50 foraging around the edge of the orchard at the end of the week. A few Pied Imperial-Pigeon were seen and both Wompoo and Superb Fruit-Dove heard. No sighting of our female Papuan Frogmouth for the week, she had been roosting in one of our fruit trees as this image shows, trying to look like one of the dead leaves.  

Papuan Frogmouth

and only one raptor sighting, a Whistling Kite. Several Buff-banded Rail were seen but not “Katie” who seems to have found new pastures. Spotless Crake was heard along McDougall Road where a dead one was found on a barbed wire fence a few weeks ago. Pale-vented Bush-hen are certainly getting excited with the rain and are calling a lot and even showing themselves along Mt. Kooyong Road on rare occasions. Pheasant Coucal have also been calling and sitting on fence posts but all the other cuckoos have only been heard, Eastern Koel, Channel-billed, Little (Gould's)-Bronze and Brush Cuckoo. 

Pheasant Coucal

Azure Kingfisher was along Bushy Creek and our Buff-breasted Paradise-Kingfisher now have six confirmed nests with chicks in. Another nest with chicks is in our neighbours garden. Several Rainbow Bee-eater passed over the Lodge late in the week and Dollarbird have started to call again. Noisy Pitta have been seen in the orchard collecting food and flying into the rainforest, so it would appear they are feeding chicks in a nest. Unfortunately we found a dead Noisy Pitta outside one of our two bedroom units. It had been picked clean with only a few primary feathers showing the green edging and white wing marking plus a few loose turquoise feathers allowing the skeleton to be identified. It was probably one of the juveniles from this year. Spotted Catbird have been perching in the rainforest and calling intensely, mainly early morning but often throughout the day, they really put a lot of effort into their calls. They have also been coming to the water bowls as this one is.

Spotted Catbird

Fairy Gerygone are calling and flitting around high up in the trees but this female came down low before fleeing to the higher rainforest canopy.

Fairy Gerygone - female

Scarlet Honeyeater were heard for the first time in three weeks and Blue-faced plus Macleay's Honeyeater have returned to the nectar feeders. 

Blue-faced Honeyeater

Also coming to the water bowls are Yellow-faced Honeyeater. It really is worth putting out a few water bowls as birds will come in even if it is pouring with rain!

Yellow-faced Honeyeater

Male Cicadabird has been calling and flying around the Lodge grounds for brief glimpses. White-breasted Woodswallow are still perching on fences along McDougall Road along with Australian Pipit and a few Metallic Starling, all appear to be feeding on the road but could not see anything resembling suitable food. Black-faced Monarch are still calling from several locations around the grounds and must be sitting on nests as they have been calling from the same spot for several weeks. The Spectacled Monarch reported last week nesting alongside Bushy Creek is still sitting but has chicks in the nest now. Pied Monarch and Yellow-breasted Boatbill have both been showing and calling. Metallic Starling are still collecting nesting material and building more nests as they have been doing since early August last year. There are more starlings around this year than any of the previous six years and they show no sign of letting up with their breeding; probably trying to make up for last year when Cyclone Yasi cut short their breeding season. Still plenty of Blue-faced Parrot-Finch on Mt Lewis.

Further Afield:-
We managed to fit in some birding during our trip to Cairns and visited Yorkey's Knob Lagoon, Cattana Wetlands, Centenary Lakes (Cairns Botanic Gardens) and of course the Cairns Esplanade. Yorkey's Knob Lagoon was full to almost overflowing with very few birds in the area, the highlight was a Crimson Finch who came to investigate us and sat outside our car looking in. The only waterbird was an Australasian Darter.

Australasian Darter

Cattana Wetlands was a bit more productive with a few more waterbirds and some bush birds. Green Pygmy-goose, Magpie Goose, Little Pied Cormorant and Australian Grebe were on the water whilst the most prominent bush bird was Black Butcherbird lurking around in the mangroves along the board walk. The presence of so many butcherbirds was probably the reason we saw fewer numbers of smaller birds. Cattana Wetland is well worth a visit whilst in Cairns, a brochure with species list can be downloaded from the BirdLife Australia NQ website Centenary Lakes was as good as ever with Black Bittern, Rajah Shelduck, Comb-crested Jacana and Bush Stone-curlew amongst the 27 species we saw in just over an hour. The visit to the Cairns Esplanade was cut short by a rain storm but it made little difference as the tide was extremely high (highest for the year) with few birds visible. Another visit had the tide way out which also did not help finding waders. We did manage to see Eastern Reef Egret, Lesser Sand Plover, Masked Lapwing, Bar-tailed Godwit, Whimbrel, Eastern Curlew, Grey-tailed Tattler, Great Knot and Red-necked Stint. 

Great Knot

There were many more birds we could have seen but we did not have the scope. On land there was the reliable Varied Honeyeater, lots of Pied Imperial Pigeon plus Rainbow Lorriket and Metallic Starling coming in to roost in trees along the Esplanade. The complete species list from our visits can be viewed on the Eremaea Birds site. Another search for Buff-breasted Button-quail south of Mt. Molloy, by one of our guests, failed to find any birds; the habitat here is becoming unsuitable with the grass becoming taller with the rains.

Reptiles and Mammals:-
A few interesting reptiles and mammals this week, JCU students heard Marbled Frog Limnodynastes convexiusculus a species we have not knowingly heard before, certainly not recorded one here in six years. Maybe we have been overlooking them as they have been recorded in the past. Queensland Tube-nosed Bat with their distinctive whistling call were heard by our neighbours, not one we have heard very often. Yellow-footed Antichinus have been active during the day with one coming to the feeder to enjoy some mango. Striped Possum was heard and seen once and a Platypus was seen whizzing along under the Bushy Creek bridge on the Mt. Kooyong Road. On nearby Mt. Lewis the JCU students spotlighted a Daintree River Ringtail  possum which usually occurs at higher altitudes than the Lodge. They are said to come down to 420m (we are 450m) but normally they are found on Mt. Lewis above 800m and are found in greater densities at higher altitudes (above 1000m). Information from "The Mammals of Australia" 3rd Edition. Steve Van Dyck and Ronald Strahan.

Daintree River Ringtail

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