Over the past two weeks we have had virtually no rain apart from a slight sprinkle on one day which left 1mm in the rain gauge. Great, less rain means less mowing the grass! The minimum temperature over the two weeks was 14.6ºC which was slightly less than double the previous two weeks minimum. The maximum temperature was 25.9ºC.The humidity was still high, up to 94% and again a very low for us of 62%.
Bird sightings for the first week were 101 seen plus 9 heard. The second week had slightly more sightings due mainly to the continuing great weather, 106 seen plus 6 heard. Mammal and reptile species were slightly more than the previous two weeks due to the warmer weather with 26 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
Little Kingfisher has been making regular visits to the Crake Pool as has the Noisy Pitta and on one evening a Yellow-throated Scrubwren joined in. Again we had a Grey Goshawk swoop into the feeding area at the reception but made off empty handed, however we found a pile of Bar-shouldered Dove feathers along the road to reception so maybe the goshawk did get a feed. A Red-necked Crake called one night near the cookshed just to prove they are still around and a pair of Pacific Baza returned noisily displaying to each other – pre-nesting behaviour? The Olive-backed Sunbird, reported in previous blogs, who spent a night locked in the Geraghty Park library, is back sitting on a fresh set of eggs, lets hope once again they are successful. This image shows the female on her second attempt.
|Olive-backed Sunbird - female|
Wompoo Fruit-Dove was around for a day and Superb Fruit-Dove have been calling and only seen once. Topknot Pigeon numbers continue to increase but they are still only flying over and our female Papuan Frogmouth is still playing hide and seek, appearing spasmodically and staying for 1-3 days before disappearing again. Australian Owlet-nightjar has only been heard over the last two weeks. Black-necked Stork are still around with an adult and an immature seen along McDougall Road lagoons. Black Kite have been around due to cane cutting with over 20 seen soaring overhead or on the ground, also several Whistling Kite, a scruffy looking Wedge-tailed Eagle (in heavy moult) and three White-bellied Sea-Eagle ( two adult + 1 immature). An Australian Hobby has also been hanging around and seen once being mobbed by a flock of Sulphur-crested Cockatoo. The cockatoos have also been taking advantage of the introduced African Tulip trees in Geraghty Park, which have long seed pods on them. This one is getting stuck into a pod holding it in it's left foot as they always do.
Rainbow Lorikeet and Scaly-breasted Lorikeet numbers have been exceeding 200 as they feast on the nectar from the flowering Queensland Blue Gum Eucalyptus tereticornis. A Fan-tailed Cuckoo was seen and heard once which is an uncommon sighting near the lodge. The Barking Owls reported over the last few months have gone quiet over the last two weeks but were heard in the distance at the end of the second week, so they are still around looking for suitable real estate. Eastern Barn Owl numbers have dropped off which might indicate the juvenile birds have been shunted off out of the parents territory. Lovely Fairy-wren were again seen over the last two weeks, this time in bamboo along Bushy Creek near the Mt. Kooyong Road bridge. 14 species of honeyeater were seen plus another heard which is only four short of all recorded for the Lodge area. The Yellow-faced Honeyeater reported in the last blog is still sitting on the nest and has been joined by a pair of Varied Triller who have built their very small nest nearby. There has been odd sightings of Bowers Shrike-thrush around but quite a few people are trying to turn Little Shrike-thrush into a bower's. We have discussed this ID in previous blogs and Little Shrike-thrush can be quite variable in their plumages as the two images in different lighting conditions show.
The migratory lighter colour Grey Fantail have not been seen for nearly two weeks so they may have left to head south, only the local higher altitude race keasti are still around with two seen hawking insects over Bushy Creek late in the second week. No sign of returning Black-faced Monarch from further north in Papua New Guinea yet. A male Satin Flycatcher was still in Geraghty Park at the end of the second week showing well as it foraged around low whilst we were on a morning walk. Pied Monarch have been showing well and Yellow-breasted Boatbill have been calling and appearing occasionally. A first for the feeder adjacent to the reception area was a Metallic Starling who came in to take some banana, interesting to see if it brings any of it's mates back - not sure if we could afford to feed banana to 20+ starlings! A single Chestnut-breasted Mannikin turned up at the seed feeder in the Lodge which was a first for several months. Australasian Pipit have been absent from the area over the last two weeks and may have moved on (famous last words!).
The small lagoon at Brady Road, Mareeba nearly always turns up interesting birds and this week it had two Yellow-billed Spoonbill, which is an unusual bird for our area, also there was a Glossy Ibis another bird which is seen in low numbers around here. Lake Mitchell (between Mareeba and Mt Molloy) has an Eastern Osprey nest with two quite large chicks in it, also here were at least four Australian Pelican. There were up to twelve Blue-faced Parrot-Finch near Abattoir Swamp which is the largest number recorded this season. It will not be long before they leave to head back into the foothills of the mountains and on to higher altitudes where they breed. A single Australian Wood Duck was at the Yorkeys Knob Golf Course lagoon in northern Cairns, quite unusual on the coast (previously reported a this location earlier in the year). We have previous records from this location in 1999 when birds were present from June-September and other sightings at nearby Cattana Wetlands in August 2002.
|Australian Wood Duck - female|
Reptiles and Mammals:-
Highlight over the last two weeks has to be the sighting of two Short-beaked Echidna (does this one look like it has a short beak!) in the Lodge grounds, one on a spotlighting trip and another which was unusually active in the middle of the day in the camping area. Previous sightings of this egg laying mammal have only been made around the Lodge at night. Our neighbours also had one in their garden and Chook (David Crawford) from Close-up Birding said he had seen three in the district that had been run over by vehicles. So all of a sudden they have appeared after being dormant for quite a while, in fact our sightings were as many as we have seen in seven years.
Agile Wallaby have been coming into the Lodge orchard since the sugar cane has been cut with two seen one morning and several sightings of one at night. Striped Possum are regularly seen on night walks at the moment but the Green Ringtail Possum remains elusive. Platypus have been around in the late afternoon and early morning with one seen whilst we were on a night walk. One lucky group saw the platypus walking over a sandbar on the edge of the creek. Frogs have been around but in low numbers with just the one or two from each species seen. Those seen were Jungguy Frog, White-lipped Green Tree Frog, Roth's Tree Frog, Desert (or Red) Tree Frog, Cogger's Frog and Cane Toad. Northern Leaf-tailed Gecko was seen on a night walk on the first week but disappeared after that. A 2.5m Australian Scrub (Amethystine) Python was seen crossing the orchard whilst we were on a night walk and a Carpet Python was rescued from a room at the nearby nursing home.
If you want to see what happens when you leave foodstuffs out at night in our cook shed have a look at this video of a Fawn-footed Melomys in action. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YJn9ahgHSgs. Thanks to our guests, Alex, Asha and Brenna, for posting this clip.
We have featured this plant, Balanophora Balanophora fungosa ssp. fungosa, previously but not for a while. Balanophora means bearing an acorn (shape of the female inflorescence). We get asked lots of questions about it and the most common one is that people want to know what type of fungus it is. Well it is not a fungus, it is a parasitic flowering plant commonly found on the rainforest floor. It attaches to the roots of rain forest plants and emerges for a few months at this time of year. The Flowering plant emits an odor resembling that of mice/rats (maybe for pollination?) and attracts honeyeaters to the minute flowers. Both male and female flowers occur on the same inflorescence with female flowers forming a densely packed apical cone and male flowers clustered below. It is most common along the path from the orchard to Bushy Creek but also occurs in other parts of the rainforest. This species is found in India, East Malaysia, Taiwan, the Pacific Islands as well as north-eastern Australia.