Sunday, 19 February 2012

Birdwatchers Lodge in Far North Queensland 19th February 2012

Only 9mm of rain fell at the end of the week continuing this very strange dry “Wet Season” weather. So once again sunny warm days with the minimum temperature again much the same as last week, down to 22.0ºc and the maximum was a few degrees cooler, down to 31.6ºc.

Birds recorded were 96 seen and 8 heard. 15 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

Continued sightings of Red-necked Crakes, two adults and three half grown juveniles who have been seen in the rainforest behind the units and out front of the units heading across the road by the reception area. Five of the seven confirmed Buff-breasted Paradise-Kingfisher nests have fledged with youngsters seen and heard in the rainforest. The other two nests with chicks in are not far off from fledging, judging by the noise coming from them and the parents perched nearby trilling.

Buff-breasted Paradise-Kingfisher - juvenile

Three Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo flew over Mt. Kooyong Road which were the first for a few weeks. One Lewin's Honeyeater was seen at the entrance to the Lodge grounds and was the first since one was heard at the beginning of January.

Other sightings:
Wetlands along McDougall Road continue to hold low numbers of waterbirds with only Magpie Goose, two Wandering Whistling-Duck, about 12 Pacific Black Duck, Hardhead, two Little Black Cormorant and two Masked Lapwing. Emerald Doves started calling this week which maybe a sign that they are interested in breeding.

Emerald Dove - male

Two Pied Imperial Pigeon in Geraghty Park are still behaving like they are going to nest but no sign of nesting material yet. No sightings of Papuan Frogmouth in the orchard this week or any calling at night but we did hear an Australian Owlet-nightjar calling one evening. About 12 White-throated Needletail flew over the adjacent cane paddock on Friday 17th and One Fork-tailed Swift was flying over the same paddock paddock late on Wednesday 15th. Several Black Bittern sightings were along McDougall road in seasonal ponding beyond the Bushy Creek bridge, one took off and followed the creek towards the Lodge. Four raptor species this week, Black-shouldered Kite, White-bellied Sea-Eagle plus Whistling and Black Kite. One Buff-banded Rail scooted across Mt. Kooyong Road and into the Lodge grounds whist on a morning walk, did not stop to let us know if it was “Katie” or not! A White-browed Crake was in one of the lagoons along McDougall Road and was seen rather than has been the case, only heard. Pale-vented Bush-hen have again been vocal but shy on showing themselves, not enough rain to draw them out of the long grass. A Pheasant Coucal was seen along Mt. Kooyong Road and a male Eastern Koel was in our neighbours garden. 

Eastern Koel - male

A few Channel-billed Cuckoo have been calling as they have flown over but not it's not like previous years when flocks of birds passed through heading north on migration at this time of year. We have had up to 60 juvenile birds stop over for 2-3 weeks in February to feast on fruiting figs in the past, maybe they are just late this year. Little (Gould's) Bronze-Cuckoo and Brush Cuckoo are still around and calling. Several Forest Kingfisher pairs have a few juveniles/immatures they are feeding including this one in Geraghty Park. Some of our guests unfamiliar with Australian Kingfishers have mistaken them for Sacred Kingfisher because of the juveniles buffy parts, but of course sacred are green on the upper body parts and forest are blue. 

Forest Kingfisher - juvenile

A few Rainbow Bee-Eater were feeding in Geraghty Park and one adult Dollarbird was calling at the beginning of the week after we said that we thought they had left, fatal making those statements! Noisy Pitta made a few calls over the week but did not show, maybe because the grass in the orchard is long and needs mowing again after only a week, it is growing faster than Bamboo. A female Lovely Fairy-wren was seen in two different places, once in Geraghty Park and another time alongside the adjacent cane paddock at the end of Mt. Kooyong Road. Thirteen honeyeater species seen during the week with both Macleay's and Blue-faced Honeyeater coming to the sugar water feeder. Our neighbours have started to get Dusky Honeyeater come to their feeder which is something they never do at our feeder. Also a Bridled Honeyeater was down McDougall Road. Cicadabird are still with us and calling well as are Grey Whistler who have been quiet for a few months. Black Butcherbird has been seen regularly on most days, lurking around in the rainforest. The Leaden Flycatcher nest in Geraghty Park has three chicks in it and they are growing well with the parents bringing a constant stream of insects to them. The Magpie-lark chick, mentioned last week in a nest in Geraghty Park, successfully fledged. Both Pied Monarch and Yellow-breasted Boatbill have been calling and seen. Lemon-bellied Flycatcher have again been along Mt. Kooyong Road and in Geraghty Park with at least four pairs seen. 

Lemon-bellied Flycatcher

Horsfield's Bushlark is still along McDougall Road which is the only location they have been seen this year in our area. Egg shells are still appearing under the Metallic Starling nests in Geraghty Park but there is definitely less birds present than has been in previous weeks. Our pair of Olive-backed Sunbird who were nesting have been seen with two juvenile birds which is good news as they have a high predation rate.

Further Afield:-
Another trip to Cairns allowed us to spend a pleasant hour eating lunch and watching the shorebirds in action as the tide came in. Nothing spectacular here but good to have a refresher course on the waders. A pair of Australian Pied Oystercatcher were loafing on their own whilst the other birds were either feeding on the decreasing mud or running along with the tide. 

Australian Pied Oystercatcher

Smaller birds were Red-necked Stint, Lesser Sand Plover and Greater Sand Plover, medium size birds were Great Knot, Terek Sandpiper, Grey-tailed Tattler and Masked Lapwing whilst the larger birds were Whimbrel, Eastern Curlew and Bar-tailed Godwit. There was also one Crested Tern and many Silver Gull. Along the area between the shoreline and the road were Varied Honeyeater, Magpie-lark, Willie Wagtail, House Sparrow and Common Myna. Notably absent were Pied Imperial Pigeon who were very obvious a few week previously, maybe they have headed north. Full list on Eremaea Birds site.

On the way back from Cairns we called into to see Sue at Cassowary House in Kuranda and afterwards returned to Julatten via the alternative route along the unsealed Black Mountain Road. It is a four wheel drive/high clearance vehicle road as there are some high whooboys (high piles of dirt across the road to direct water flows to the side) and is quite narrow once it enters the Mowbray National Park section. It is an interesting alternative route with good opportunities to stop for birding. We did not stop as it was getting late in the afternoon but we did see a mixed flock of Sulphur-crested and Black-tailed Cockatoo in one of the pine plantations before we got back into the rainforest. It took us an hour and twenty minutes to get back to the Lodge this way, which is probably around 20 minutes longer in time but a shorter distance in kilometres than the sealed route via Mareeba. Normally this road would be impassable at this time of year if we had been having a “normal” wet season.

Two juvenile Great Bowerbirds were accidentally disturbed on a property along Euluma Creek Road, Julatten, whilst they were roosting 2m off the ground on a vine overhanging a driveway. Also spotlighted here was a roosting Azure Kingfisher and a 2.5-3m Amethystine Python who was hanging around a small lagoon what for one of the many frogs calling to hop past.

Other Wildlife:-
This bee was walking around on the ground in the rainforest and looks like similar ones we have had before which were identified as Italian Honey Bee, not sure if this is the same.

Bee sp.

Also at the beginning of last year (2011) we had a cluster of pupae on a tree which were identified as a species of Oil Beetle, we have revisited this ID and had a beetle expert look at the images and have now found out they are not Oil Beetles but Acerogria oriuda from the big beetle family Tenebrionidae, sorry no common name. Here are two images to remind you of what they looked like.

Acerogria oriuda -  pupae
Acerogria oriuda -  Hatching beetles

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