Sunday, 16 December 2012

16th December 2012 Kingfisher Park Birdwatchers Lodge

Over the past two weeks the weather has been sunny with some patchy cloud and a light shower resulting in only 3mm.

The minimum temperature over the two weeks were relatively cool for this time of year with a minimum of 18.2ºC which was slightly less than the previous two weeks. The maximum temperature was a very warm 33.0ºC, which was higher than the previous two weeks and much hotter than normal. The humidity was still high, up to 91% and even lower than the previous two weeks 40% which was a record that did not stand for long, beaten by 37% for the last two weeks.

Bird sightings for the first week were 94 seen plus 10 heard. The second week had slightly more sightings, 99 seen plus 7 heard. Mammal and reptile species were 24 seen and 2 heard.
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 Little Eagle was seen over the Rex Highway by our bird guiding neighbour Carol Iles within our 1.5km area; there are occasional sightings of this bird but only one every few years. They are more often seen in the Mt. Molloy area. Pale-vented Bush-hen have become quite regular at our neighbours, with sightings most days in their garden between the house and Bushy Creek. We have seen them several times from the Platypus viewing area along Bushy Creek and heard them at night along the edge of the adjacent cane field. A Papuan Frogmouth was heard calling from Mt. Kooyong Road one night and tracked down to an overhanging branch. It was not our regular (ex-regular!) female but a smaller, possibly male, frogmouth. We did spotlight our female Papuan Frogmouth in the orchard one night when she was seen hawking for insects. 

Papuan Frogmouth

Our Buff-breasted Paradise-Kingfisher are always a highlight and this year even more so. With the extremely dry weather they have delayed any nesting activity and are flying around and perching out in the open for the many photographers to snap away. We've not found any sign of termite mounds being dug into, although our neighbours say one of their mounds have signs of digging. We did find one of the regular termite nest mounds had been broken into and destroyed by, presumably, a Short-beaked Echidna. There are a few adjacent mounds which they can use so hopefully they will choose one of them.

Birding Lowlights:-
Murder in Reception
A Spotted Catbird flew into the reception feeding area, chased and caught an unfortunate Red-browed Finch next to the reception desk where it killed it on the floor. It then flew out and proceeded to eat it. Another Spotted Catbird (maybe same one?) was also photographed in the orchard with a large nestling in its bill. Spotted Catbird are the greatest of predators around the Lodge for small birds.

Spotted Catbird

Also a Laughing Kookaburra was seen to fly into a clump of leaves on the edge of the orchard and emerge with a Dusky Honeyeater in its bill. Definitely a bird eat bird world especially if you are a small bird.

Other Sightings:-
Two pairs of Green Pygmy-goose have been regular in one of the McDougall Road lagoons along with a single Hardhead and several Australasian Grebe. Many species of pigeon and dove were again around feeding on a few fruiting trees, we have seen Brown Cuckoo-Dove, Emerald Dove Peaceful Dove, Bar-shouldered Dove, Wompoo Fruit-Dove, Superb Fruit-Dove, Pied Imperial Pigeon and Topknot Pigeon over the last two weeks, quite impressive. Other waterbirds such as Australasian Darter, Little-Pied Cormorant, Great Cormorant, Little Black Cormorant, White-necked Heron, Eastern Great Egret and Intermediate Egret have only been around in ones or twos. A Great-billed Heron was once again seen in Bushy Creek and contrary to our theory of them coming down the creek systems from the Gulf of Carpentaria it maybe that they are present all year around in the Rifle – Bushy Creek system as there have been records for most times of the year. Cattle Egret are still colouring up into breeding condition with few numbers around each week. Raptor numbers have also decreased with a few Whistling Kite and Black Kite sightings along with the resident White-bellied Sea-Eagle family. A Brown Falcon was again seen and heard flying across Geraghty Park whilst we were going to see an Eastern Barn Owl one night. 

Brown Falcon

Red-necked Crake have again been heard without being seen but a Buff-banded Rail was seen foraging around the edge of one of the McDougall Road lagoons late one afternoon. A pair of Bush Stone-curlew with their chick, who were in and around the local nursing home, have moved up to the Lodge grounds. They have been seen and heard most nights coming around the units and working the camping area, the chick is very cute! The Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo reported as being heard last blog were seen for most of the past two weeks foraging in the eucalypt trees around the Lodge and Geraghty Park, at least 17 birds were present. Double-eyed Fig-parrot were also seen foraging in the camping area on some fruits for a few days before disappearing. Channel-billed Cuckoo are around but not calling, two were seen perched in Geraghty Park and several others flying over. Barking and (Lesser) Sooty Owl have only been heard but Eastern Barn Owl have been regularly seen. This one was roosting in the open, look who's in the background, our indicator bird - the Pale-yellow Robin!

Eastern Barn Owl

Blue-winged Kookaburra have been spasmodic with sightings and also calling as have been Noisy Pitta who don't seem to have started nesting yet. Red-backed Fairy-wren have been along McDougall Road while Lovely Fairy-wren have only been heard in our neighbours garden. Large-billed Scrubwren have been very active as food resources have become scarce with the dry weather. This one is very intent on finding something.

Large-billed Scrubwren

The regular honeyeaters have been joined by Helmeted and Noisy Friarbird over the last week as they search for flowering plants which are becoming scarce. Macleay's Honeyeater continue to feed their offspring banana at the feeder. Late in the second week McDougall Road put on a great display of honeyeaters, those present were:- Yellow-spotted, Graceful, Bridled, Yellow-faced, Dusky, Scarlet, Banded, Brown and Macleay's. Quite impressive to have nine honeyeater species in two trees, especially the banded which is rare this close to the Lodge.
Both Barred Cuckoo-shrike and Cicadabird are very vocal as well as being seen at the moment. Black-faced Monarch have been very quiet and maybe trying to breed like Spectacled Monarch who are sitting on a nest. Pied Monarch have come out of hiding and have been seen and heard around the grounds along with Yellow-breasted Boatbill. This image is of a female coming into land with a fly for it's youngster.

Yellow-breasted Boatbill - female

Lemon-belied Flycatcher are vocal in the eucalypt trees adjacent to the Lodge and in Geraghty Park while Pale-yellow Robin are feeding recently fledged young. A pair of Olive-backed Sunbird have started to build their third nest this season, pretty determined pair.

Further Afield:-
11 Spotted Whistling-Duck were reported from Wonga Beach and were easily seen from the road. Please view from road and don't trespass on private property. There have been problems with neighbours previously at this location in past years. A Red Goshawk was reported from the outskirts of Hopevale near Cooktown; they have been reported at Cooktown Airport previously – not sure which flight they were waiting for! At least five Sarus Crane were along Emerald Creek Falls Road, Mareeba mixed in with a flock of Brolga, this is quite a late sighting as most sarus have gone north-west at this time of year. Crested Pigeon were at Mareeba where they have become established. Their range extension has seen them move onto the Atherton Tableland area where they have been regularly seen.

Crested Pigeon

Mt. Lewis has been turning up most of the “Wet Tropic” endemic birds including a sighting of a male Golden Bowerbird. Also of interest was a Satin Bowerbird with a bower, something that used to be quite common in the 1990's but not seen in recent years as the bowerbirds have become scarce here. Also up to six Blue-faced Parrot-Finch have been seen on the mountain, on the lower slopes there have been sightings of (Lesser) Sooty Owl and Papuan Frogmouth. Banded Honeyeater have been turning up regularly in the area over the last few weeks from Hurricane Station to the north back to Mt. Molloy and into Julatten near the school and along McDougall Road. David Crawford (Chook) from Close-up Birding Adventures had one in his garden near Mt. Molloy for the first time.

Reptiles and Mammals:-
There were 24 sightings over the last two weeks which was slightly down on the previous two weeks. JCU students had around ten sightings of Australian Scrub Python over an eight day period, that's probably because they are up all night looking! Up to five Red-legged Pademelon (small rainforest kangaroo) were seen in the orchard at night along with two at the Crake Pool one morning. Good to know that this once common species in the Lodge grounds are hopefully making a come back.

Red-legged Pademelon

Possums have again proved elusive with only a couple of Stripped Possum sightings but Platypus have been performing well with two adults and a juvenile showing most days in Bushy Creek. Spectacled Flying-fox have been taking advantage of fruiting Lychee and Mango trees, knocking plenty of fruit to the ground where Australian Brush-turkey and Orange-footed Scrubfowl have also been taking advantage and mopping up the fallen fruit. Frogs have again been calling but to no avail as their predicted rain has never eventuated but a few individuals have come out of hiding to be seen at night including, Jungguy Frog, White-lipped Tree Frog and Roth's Tree Frog. Several Boyd's Forest Dragon have been making appearances, one was on hand outside reception to welcome a group of Japanese guests much to their delight. Major Skink have been around with one making forays to the feeder for banana before disappearing back under the eating area floorboards.

Mystery Bird:-
Not too difficult :-) it was a female Fairy Gerygone. 

Fairy Gerygone - female
This is the only gerygone with a mainly yellow underbody. The female could possibly get confused with a White-throated Gerygone but their habitat preferences are generally different, white-throated in open woodland and Fairy in rainforest. However there can be overlap especially in areas of woodland adjacent to rainforest, such as Geraghty Park across the road from the Lodge where we have seen both species. The female fairy has less white under the chin which merges into the rest of the underbody, white-throated has a much more prominent white patch covering the chin and all of the throat which is sharply demarcated from the mostly yellow underbody. The fairy also has a obvious narrow white eye-ring. One obvious problem with looking at images of birds is that you don't get much sense of size, this is especially noticeable when guests show us Graceful and Yellow-spotted Honeyeater images which makes identification even more difficult.

Bird Signs:-
Birds, in particular kingfishers, take advantage of man made structures such as road signs and others, probable because they are generally out in the open allowing the bird to have 360º vision. Around the Lodge it is mainly Laughing Kookaburra sitting on signs with the occasional Forest Kingfisher joining in. Here is a selection of kingfishers.

That's all for another two weeks by which time we hope you will have had a great Christmas break. Thank you to all our readers and guests who have visited us during the year. We have certainly enjoyed your company and making friends with you all. Here's to a happy new year and one that will bring you all many great birding highlights. If you have not visited why not?!

Keith & Lindsay.

1 comment:

Madeline said...

Hi Lindsay and Keith,
Thank you for the very informative discussion of the differences in field marks between the Fairy Gerygone and the White-throated. Best wishes to both of you for the holiday seasons!