Saturday, 11 August 2012

12th August 2012 Kingfisher Park Birdwatchers Lodge

We just celebrated seven years of running Kingfisher Park Birdwatchers Lodge which has been most enjoyable with lots of hard work but has been worth the effort. We would like to say a big thank you to all our fantastic guests who have shared the area with us and hopefully catch up with those of you who have not visited yet.

Now what has been happening over the past two weeks? No rain apart from a brief bit of drizzle one morning which did not even register in the rain gauge, the rest of the two weeks was fantastic weather with sunshine and cool mornings. The top temperature was a pleasant 20.9ºC and the minimum was 11.2ºC. The humidity was high, up to 95% and a very low for us of 53%.

Bird sightings for the first week were 96 seen plus 7 heard. The second week had slightly more sightings due mainly to the great weather but also more birdos looking, 112 seen plus 2 heard. Mammal and reptile species were slightly less than the last two weeks due to the dry cooler weather with 23 species seen. The last two weeks bird lists are on the Eremaea Birds Website for Week1 and Week2 plus morning walk lists can also be found at this link on Eremaea Birds

Birding Highlights:

A White-necked Heron was foraging in ponding in the adjacent cane paddock late one afternoon, not a common bird in our area, also here were two Purple Swamphen another uncommon bird in this area. A Red-necked Crake was heard calling from the rainforest patch adjacent to Geraghty Park whilst we were on a nightwalk – at least they are still around and hopefully they will start showing themselves soon. A reminder of what they look like!



Red-necked Crake


Also still around is the (Lesser) Sooty Owl which called once at 5.20am as it was flying over, however still no sightings. A pair of Yellow-throated Scrubwren were seen in the rainforest adjacent to the orchard which was only the second sighting this year, the previous sighting was of a single bird. A White-eared Monarch we had heard calling for over a month decided to show itself on two consecutive days in the orchard flitting around the tops of the trees as they do, thanks to Murray for finding the bird.

Other sightings:
Waterbirds continue to come and go especially Magpie Goose, Hardhead and Australasian Grebe. Brown Cuckoo-Dove are appearing again and even a Superb Fruit-Dove has been showing in the orchard on the odd occasion but more often has been heard. A couple of Topknot Pigeon have been flying over occasionally and our Papuan Frogmouth returned to its usual daytime roosting site in the orchard at the end of the second week after not being able to be found for a month but promptly vanished the next day. An Australian Owlet-nightjar was heard on several nights calling near the accommodation units but not seen. Raptors have been showing well in the area with nine species seen, Black-shouldered Kite, White-bellied Sea-Eagle, Whistling, Brahminy and Black Kite, Brown Goshawk, Collared Sparrowhawk, Swamp Harrier and Wedge-tailed Eagle. Double-eyed Fig-Parrot were only seen once flying over and the juvenile Scaly-breasted Lorikeet reported in the last blog is still in the grevilleas and surviving well despite falling out of the tree several times, it just gets up and climbs back along the trunk. It is now starting to develop its primary feathers and tail so hopefully should fly off soon.

Scaly-breasted Lorikeet - on Grevillea

A Fan-tailed Cuckoo was foraging along McDougall Road which is one of very few sightings this year. The pair of Barking Owl are still with us and are calling most evenings and early morning; they were seen calling in a Poinciana tree at the entrance to the Lodge one evening. At least one pair of Eastern Barn Owl have three fledglings out of the nest begging for food, hopefully they will make it. The Noisy Pitta reported in last blog was with us for most of the last two weeks but had disappeared for the last three days. Our neighbours had which was presumably the same bird appear in their garden, so maybe the pitta is widening its feeding area in the search for something other than banana! Whilst it was here it put on a show one sunny afternoon and sat out sunning itself. 

Noisy Pitta

Lovely Fairy-Wren were again seen in our neighbours garden one afternoon when a male and two females appeared. 12 species of honeyeater again for the last two weeks making the most of the flowering trees and rarely coming into the nectar feeders. A White-cheeked Honeyeater was foraging along the edge of the rainforest behind the units one morning which was nice as they don't visit us often and Graceful Honeyeater are singing well. This one was twisting its head and distorting the yellow ear patch.

Graceful Honeyeater
At least two Barred Cuckoo-shrike were heard behind the units in the rainforest but only one morning before they disappeared. A single male Golden Whistler, which is a winter visitor from the mountains behind the Lodge, has been around the grounds. The Golden Whistler has not been calling unlike the Grey Whistler who are in full song. A female Bowers Shrike-thrush was looking for insects on the veranda in front of the units one morning; this is another winter visitor from higher altitudes. The Yellow Oriole which have been around since the beginning of April seem to have left the area to be replaced by the Olive-backed Oriole which are calling well. A pair of Black Butcherbird are still lurking around the rainforest and catching the occasional frog, usually White-lipped Tree Frog. Our Spangled Drongo is still making noisy appearances at the nectar feeder and both Rufous and Grey Fantail, including a few of the race keasti from higher altitudes are around the Lodge grounds. 

Grey Fantail - race keasti

Pied Monarch and Yellow-breasted Boatbill are calling and needing a bit of persistence to see them. Lemon-bellied Flycatcher have been in Geraghty Park and both Pale Yellow and Grey-headed Robin have been foraging out in the open orchard. One morning there were three grey-headed foraging together along with several others scattered around the orchard, they will probably stay with us until late October/early November before heading back up into the mountains at higher altitudes. This Pale-yellow Robin was very interested in this leaf and kept coming back to it.

Pale-yellow Robin

Metallic Starling are busy trying to build nests but have been distracted by having to chase off marauding Australasian Figbird who have been stealing their nest material. This female was heading up to one of the nests.

Australasian Figbird

These Metallic Starling were trying to build their nest with one working the nest and another on lookout duties.

Metallic Starling
It appears that the Olive-backed Sunbird reported last blog nesting in Geraghty Park have failed with their nest, probably due to an overnight period off the nest because the female was locked into the adjacent library room. They will try again, hopefully with a better outcome.

Further Afield:-
A Spotted Harrier was seen chasing off a Wedge-tailed Eagle along Euluma Creek Road, Julatten, before it landed on the ground to eat a small prey item. Whilst it was on the ground a Nankeen Kestrel buzzed it. The Wedge-tailed Eagle flew off to be harassed by a pair of Whistling Kite. Also along Euluma Creek Road a Large-tailed Nightjar was calling on dusk. Blue-faced Parrot-Finch are still being found near Abattoir Swamp but in small numbers of less than six. Black-throated Finch were reported from Hurricane Station Road north of Mt. Carbine and Del Richards from Fine Feather Tours reported a Latham's Snipe at Lake Mitchell which is the first we have heard of them this season.

Reptiles and Mammals:-
One spotlighting walk produced both Striped and Green Ringtail Possum which was something we had not done for at least a month, only finding one of the species at a time. Platypus have been showing in the evening, night and early morning with an adult and immature one morning at 7.00am. Our neighbour and bird guide Carol saw an Echidna along the banks of Bushy Creek near the nursing home which was the first for several months, she also had an Australian Scrub Python under her house. 

Short-beaked Echidna
A Long-nosed Bandicoot ran into the feeding station near the office one night which is unusual as they normally keep to the rainforest and orchard. Frog species sighting have become less frequent with the cooler weather as have the sightings of Eastern Water Dragon in Bushy Creek with only one seen over the two weeks.


One of the joys of photography in the “Wet Tropics” is trying to look after your equipment. Our camera gear is kept in a de-humidified cabinet which is in a de-humidified room but despite this the dreaded fungus gets into the camera gear. Using the lenses and having light passed through them helps impair fungal growth but does not completely stop it. In our days of running a camera shop we regularly had customers with lenses which were solid fungus from one end to another and wondered why they were getting soft focus pictures! Invariably they were kept in the dark with lens caps on which helps promote fungal growth in our humid conditions. There was a time when silica gel was recommended as a drying agent but in our climate they absorb the moisture in no time and you end up carrying a wet bag of gel which helps fungal growth!

The upshot of all this is that our gear has had to go away to get cleaned/repaired, our main camera, EOS 7D, has growth on the focusing screen which probably means a new screen, a job that could be done at home if the focusing screens were able to be purchased. This is not the case, Canon don't sell them as an accessory, so Canon camera technician only. One lens, 300mm F2.8 has a small blob of fungus in the front element and judging by past repairs on other lenses, the front lens elements are constructed as a group of lenses and cannot be replaced individually, so be prepared for an expensive bill! Currently I'm are using the backup EOS 40D and 100-400mm zoom. Using this combination I find quite a few limitations against the regular equipment. As good as the 40D is it is no match for the 7D, in particular the shutter button is not as sensitive resulting in having to press hard on the button resulting in camera shake. Previously I got used to rolling my finger across the button to trigger it so I'm having to learn this technique again. The 100-400mm zoom lens is a slow lens to use in the rainforest and obviously not as sharp as the 300mm (even when it has a 1.4x converter on it) and it is difficult to get the push pull zoom to operate smoothly. Most people we see coming through the Lodge use this lens at the 400mm setting for bird photography and if I had to choosing another lens I'd go for the 400mm F5.6 which is a good choice for bird photography at a reasonable price, Its light, sharp and has good fast auto focus.(of course a 500mm or 600mm 800mm would be better but we'll have to win the lottery first!).  The 100-400mm zoom has its place, it's definitely lighter than the 300mm! It is useful to be able to switch from bird photography to insect photography at times and zoom back to macro mode and of course it has image stabilisation which the fixed 400mm does not have. I'd be interested to see how the 200-400mm telephoto zoom with a built-in 1.4x focal length extender goes when it is released, probably be very expensive.

Normally the 40D is used for macro photography with the 100mm F2.8 macro lens and this works well as most shots are taken on a tripod with the shutter release. Looking forward to getting our gear back and a more usable images per shutter click. PS. We also have an EOS 20D with fungus on the sensor which costs as much to replace as buying a new camera body, so that goes with the old film cameras as boat anchors! Oh for an EOS 1.

No comments: