Well we are back at the lodge after a very pleasant break from work. We will put together a trip report when time permits but briefly it was very hot and not an ideal time to be visiting South Australia. Birding was restricted to early mornings and late afternoon and it was hard work finding birds. We had a couple of lifers and many state “ticks” plus plenty of dips but managed to see some great country along the way. One bird which was particularly common around wetlands was the Australian Spotted Crake, one wetland we saw 50+, always good to see crakes.
|Australian Spotted Crake|
Anyway back to Far North Queensland! The blog is late this week due to our internet supplier having a problem at their exchange which caused us to be without a connection from Saturday until late Wednesday night – the joys of modern technology!
Weather over the last two weeks has been pleasant, up to 31.8ºC and down to 19.8ºC. Humidity ranged from a low of 64%, up to 94%. Rainfall has been very low and not typical for this time of year 47.5mm for the first week and 61mm for the second week, usually we are getting well over 100mm a week at this time of year. The “wet season” has still not happened but there is still time for it too happen. Most of the rainfall has been in the south-east of Queensland.
Past Two Weeks Bird Sightings:-
Bird sightings for the first week were 105, 92 seen and 13 heard, second week sightings were 100, 89 seen and 11 heard. The last two weeks bird lists can be found on the Eremaea Birds Website:-
Buff-breasted Paradise-Kingfisher have ended up with six active nests, one was started and bird sitting but somewhere along the way it was abandoned. So far only one nest has fledged young with two juveniles emerging from one nest after 27 days incubation. The other five nests have loudly calling chicks inside who should be emerging any day. The adult birds have been busy bringing food to the nests but the lack of insects has seen them bringing in smaller than usual prey, mainly small beetles with the occasional worms. Normal fledging period is 26-29 days.This image below shows how tight a fit it is to get into the nest to feed the young.
|Buff-breasted Paradise-Kingfisher - feeding chicks at nest|
This image shows the proud dad from the nest which has fledged two chicks.
A pair of Red-necked Crake have been running around with at least one fluffy black chick, they put on a performance outside the reception area one night running backwards and forwards with chick in tow before disappearing into the forest. They have been seen several other times and three adults were heard calling near the Crake Pool late one evening. Pale-vented Bush-hen have been visiting our neighbours garden and an adult with a juvenile was there late in the week. A Papuan Frogmouth has been roosting around the reception and bunkhouse areas spasmodically over the last two weeks. Another one was seen near the nursing home along Mt. Kooyong Road late one afternoon being harassed by other birds. A second year Spotted Harrier has been around the McDougall Road area as have a few Varied Sitella, not normally this close to the lodge.
Cattle Egret have returned with 15 seen still in breeding plumage. A Horsfield's Bronze-cuckoo was calling outside the reception area late one afternoon, an uncommon visitor. Channel-billed Cuckoo have been gathering in the area, before they continue north to Papua New Guinea and often seen flying towards McDougall Road late evening with up to 22 seen at one time. Both Barking Owl and Sooty Owl have been heard but not sighted. Two Noisy Pitta were heard calling near the Crake Pool in the orchard near where they had a nest 5-6 weeks ago. No reports as to whether the nest was successful or not. A Yellow-spotted Honeyeater has been sitting on a nest located under the eves of the unit accommodation for the past week, at least it is a dry location. An immature Eastern Whipbird turned up one day which is a very uncommon visitor from the mountains behind the lodge. There has been 11 records from 1996 between March and November with 8 of those records between May and July.
Another uncommon visitor was a Yellow Oriole who had a dependant juvenile with it, surprising as there are no records of breeding near the lodge that we know about. A Grey-headed Robin arrived back at the lodge at the beginning of the second week (3rd March).
A small flotilla of 24 Australasian Grebe were swimming around in Brady Swamp at Mareeba along with other waterfowl such as two Pink-eared Duck, both Plumed and Wandering Whistling-Duck, Pacific Black Duck and Hardhead.
Also present were Spotted Harrier and an Australian Hobby. In the Port Douglas area were at least seven Pied Heron and a Pink-eared Duck on a small seasonal wetland, reported by David “Chook” Crawford from http://www.closeupbirding.com.au, he also said that the previously reported Freckled Duck at Hasties Swamp near Atherton were still present during the week (3-9th March) . Mt. Lewis has been accessible over the last week and all 12 Wet Tropic endemics have been seen there. Other birds seen in the Julatten area of interest were one Australian Bustard, two Singing Bushlark, four Black shouldered Kite and a Leaden Flycatcher feeding a dependant young. A Wandering Tattler was reported, on the Eremaea Birds site, at Machans Beach in Cairns along with an excellent image of it.
Reptiles and Mammals:-
The most surprising sighting was whilst we were away when a Spotted Quoll ran across the lawn in front of the accommodation units, this is the first record that we know about here. We have seen them up on the mountains behind us on Mt. Lewis but even there they are rare. Lets hope we see it again before it cleans up all our small mammals! Over the last few weeks there have been a few more sightings of snakes including Amethystine and Carpet Python, Slaty-grey Snake and Macleay's Water Snake. Frog have been surprisingly quiet despite the damp conditions only Jungguy Frog, White-lipped Tree Frog, Dainty Green Tree Frog and Cogger's Frog were seen. A Striped Possum was seen in our neighbours garden when it was tap-dancing along the banana leaves outside the back door.
Hopefully we will be back on track for the next blog!