Sunday, 12 February 2012

Birdwatchers Lodge in Far North Queensland 12th February 2012

68mm of rain fell from Tuesday to Friday, 31mm fell in one big storm which also cut the power for five hours. Most rain fell late afternoon and overnight so the days were mainly dry and sunny, not the typical “Wet Season” weather. The minimum temperatures were again much the same as last week down to 22.2ºc but the maximum was a few degrees warmer at 34.8ºc. This was the hottest day we have had in the 6½ years we have been running the Lodge. Humidity was between 55% and 95%.

Birds recorded were 95 seen and 9 heard. 19 mammal and reptile species were seen and two frogs heard. The weeks bird list is on the Eremaea Birds website and morning walk lists can also be found at this link on Eremaea Birds

A small group of Varied Sittella, which we rarely record, were along McDougall Road in an area we had first seen them on 2nd January 2004, near the first lagoon on left. They are birds of the woodland so we would not expect them in the Lodge but the habitat along McDougall Road (within our 1.5km observation area) is ideal if a little sparse due to clearing. They are more common back towards Mt. Molloy at Abattoir Swamp and nearby Wessels Road. Northern Fantail was around in our neighbours garden for a second week, not a species you would associate with the rainforest but they have appeared in and around this habitat during the last 18 months. Must be a reflection of the relatively dry period over this time frame which makes it feel like their normal woodland habitat. 

Northern Fantail

A mammal highlight was a Musky Rat Kangaroo which shot through the rainforest one morning. This is the first sighting of this mammal since we have been here and possibly a first for the Lodge, hope it stays around and brings a few mates.

Other sightings:
Wandering Whistling-Duck flew over the Lodge ground calling late one afternoon heading towards the wetlands along McDougall Road. Low numbers of waterbird are still along this road, they include Magpie Goose, Pacific Black Duck, Hardhead, Australasian Grebe, Little Pied and Little Black Cormorant and a pair of Comb-crested Jacana with at least two chicks. Brown Cuckoo-Dove were back after a few weeks away and a pair of Pied Imperial Pigeon were making a nest high up in a Queensland Blue Gum in Geraghty Park. This is quite late in the season to be nesting, last year a pair had young in the nest at the beginning of February before Cyclone Yasi blew it away. Small flocks of up to 14 Topknot Pigeon are still around the orchard and Bushy Creek. Our female Papuan Frogmouth continues to hide from us and only make one appearance this week. Australian Owlet-nightjar was heard calling early one morning from the direction of its daytime roost but by the time we got to check it out it started to rain and the bird retreated back into its hollow. A Black Bittern was flushed from a small wet season lagoon near the Bushy Creek bridge along McDougall Road and was the first seen for nine weeks along here. A few Cattle Egret were also along here for the second week since returning. We even had three raptors this week, a pair of Black-shouldered and a Whistling Kite again along McDougall Road plus two White-bellied Sea-Eagle flew over Geraghty Park just after nightfall as we were spotlighting our way to a residents meeting in the hall (also saw a pair of Easter Barn Owl ). 

Whistling Kite

Red-necked Crake have also been showing well this week, a pair with their three juveniles were foraging in a water run off drain behind the units one afternoon, an adult was seen from our bedroom window one morning calling and making its way through the rainforest, also in this same area an adult called at exactly 3.00am and woke us up, spooky. If you want to see some photos of the crakes and chicks check out Ian Montgomery's excellent web site as he has photos taken at the Lodge last week. A Pale-vented Bush-hen was seen along Bushy Creek near the Platypus viewing area where it flew across the creek and walked through the rainforest giving glimpses as it moved along the bank calling. An Australian Bustard was displaying in a paddock alongside the Rex Highway and seen in the same location the next day, probably the same bird that has been reported over at least the past six months around Julatten. A few Scaly-breasted Lorikeet are still in the area along with a few Double-eyed Fig-Parrot. Four cuckoos were recorded with Pheasant Coucal, Eastern Koel and Little Bronze-Cuckoo heard and Brush Cuckoo seen, including a juvenile.

Brush Cuckoo - juvenile

Buff-breasted Paradise-Kingfisher are calling in the vicinity of their nests with at least one nest having fledged, another five have birds almost ready to fledge and one has only just hatched chicks. This pair of birds were late last year, about two weeks after the rest had fledged. When the chicks are first out of the nest they tend to go high into the rainforest canopy to be fed making them difficult to spot but after a while when they are flying well they come down lower and easily seen as they perch waiting for the next meal. Forest Kingfisher were seen feeding two juveniles along Mt. Kooyong Road down towards the nursing home from the Lodge. A few Rainbow Bee-Eaters flew over the Lodge and only one juvenile Dollarbird was seen, no sign of any adults. Also no sign of Noisy Pitta not even a call, so we can assume that their nest was unsuccessful for the second time, would like to be proved wrong! Spotted Catbird (Clements has this as a sub-species of Green Catbird now) have been very vocal in the dawn chorus but quiet for the rest of the day. Scarlet Honeyeater were back around with one heard in the Lodge grounds and a pair seen in Geraghty Park, they were one of 11 species of honeyeater recorded. This Graceful Honeyeater was foraging along Bushy Creek.

Graceful Honeyeater

A Cicadabird male was seen feeding a juvenile at the entrance to the Lodge, the juvenile has a very spotted breast unlike the female who has barring on the breast. The first image has the juvenile just taken an insect from the male who had smashed it against the branch to make sure it was dead and the second image shows the breast patterning of the juvenile.

Cicadabird -  black/grey male and juvenile

Cicadabird - juvenile

Grey Whistler have been around the grounds but have stopped calling making them even more difficult to track down. Australasian Figbird have been sharing a fig tree in Geraghty Park with Metallic Starlings, this one is having a break from mouthfuls of red figs.

Australasian Figbird - male

Black Butcherbird, mainly an immature bird, has been around calling and catching frogs. A Rufous Fantail was at the bottom end of McDougall Road and has probably come down off the nearby mountains, a bit too early for southern migrants? A pair of Leaden Flycatcher have been feeding at least two, possibly three chicks in a nest in Geraghty Park, this image shows the female bringing in food to the nest which is about 15m from the ground.

Leaden Flycatcher - female

 A Magpie-larks nest previously reported, also in Geraghty Park, has a very large chick just about to fledge as this image shows, the bird is perched on the rim of the nest which is also about15m from the ground.

Magpie-lark - chick

Lemon-bellied Flycatcher numbers have increased with sightings along Mt. Kooyong Road and Geraghty Park. A Horsfield's Bushlark was once again seen along McDougall Road, an uncommon sighting in our area. Metallic Starling numbers have decreased but they are still nesting and building new nests. We did observe several small flocks of starlings heading north one morning whilst along Euluma Creek Road in Julatten. Our nesting Olive-backed Sunbird have left their nest but we have not seen any juvenile birds unlike our neighbours pair who still have juveniles with the after about a month.

Further Afield:-
Still plenty of Black Kite along the road from Mt. Molloy to Mareeba. The Brady Road lagoon north of Mareeba has dried back a little and now has more birds on it, four species of egret – Eastern Great, Intermediate, Little and Cattle in breeding plumage.

Little, Intermediate and Cattle Egret

There were also both Straw-necked and Australian White Ibis, Hardhead, Pacific Black Duck, Magpie Goose and an Australian Hobby swooping overhead.A full list can be found on the Eremaea Birds website

Reptiles and Mammals:-
The Fawn-footed Melomys have been down at our neighbours house getting stuck into the seeds collected from the Metallic Starling nests in Geraghty Park, better that than chewing our car electrics! Yellow-footed Antichinus has been around this week climbing up onto the feeder near the reception to feast on banana. Striped Possum was again in our neighbours garden and only one Northern Brown Bandicoot has regularly been coming to the feeder at night. A Long-nosed Bandicoot was seen in Geraghty Park. Frogs have been surprisingly quiet this week despite the rain with only Roth's and Cogger's Frog showing plus Dainty Green Tree Frog and Northern Dwarf Tree Frog heard. Tube-nosed Bat were heard and seen as were Boyd's Forest Dragon, Eastern Water Dragon shown loafing on a log in Bushy Creek and several Major Skink.

Eastern Water Dragon

Other happenings:-
Work on the bunkhouse has progressed with some structural timber and internal paneling replaced. The roof has been relaid outside and awnings fitted to the windows to keep any rain out. New curtains are also being fitted. This work should be finished by the end of February, then we have a student group using it for the whole of March. It should be open for bookings at the beginning of April, weather permitting.

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