Sunday, 20 April 2014

20th April 2014 Kingfisher Park Birdwatchers Lodge

Weather Report
Cyclone Ita was the big news, the effects of it arriving at the Lodge on Friday night (11th April) with wind and dumping 296mm of rain over two days. Ita came via the Solomon Islands where it had wreaked havoc, but as it moved on passing Papua New Guinea it increased in strength until it hit landfall on the Queensland coast north of Cooktown as a Category 5 cyclone, the highest rating for cyclones. Once it was on the mainland it lost strength quickly and changed direction to go south slowly causing a lot of damage to banana and sugar cane crops and both the human and natural environment. By the time it passed over us it was a category 1 cyclone, but this still bought winds of 110 -130kmh which was more than enough to topple at least 10 of our trees and take the tops out of at least another 15. It was mainly the effects of the big rainfall which caused damage bringing floods which swept through our orchard and reach at least 2m in depth. Our camp ground was underwater and is still drying out. Access to the Lodge was cut for nearly two days with power and phones/internet going down. Power came back on Monday afternoon after two days off but phones and internet not until the next day. Anyway it could have been a lot worse, the water quickly receded leaving us to clean up. The birds did not seem to be affected much by the cyclone and have been more obvious and call a lot since the event.

Camp Ground Flooding

View from units with large tree limb on roof

Water flowing from our orchard across Mt. Kooyong Road, looking towards nursing home

Cattle sheltering in flooded paddock along Mt. Kooyong Road

Bushy Creek debris at Platypus viewing area where our water pump is normally (removed  before the cyclone)

We ended up with a total rainfall over the three weeks of 328mm. Temperatures were between 19ºC to 26.6ºC. 

Last Three Weeks Bird Sightings:-
Sightings are on the Eremaea eBird site. 30th March - 5th April, 6th - 12th April and 13th - 19th April

Birding Highlights:-
A Black-breasted Buzzard flew over the Lodge grounds heading towards the coast on the 10th April. As it flew over the orchard it put up a flock of over 100 Metallic Starling who were noisily feeding in the adjacent rainforest. This is the first sighting of a buzzard over the Lodge in the nine years we have been here (one was seen in nearby McDougall Road back in 2012). The other exciting bird to be seen also on the same day was a roosting Southern Boobook Owl (sub species lurida Little Red Boobook, thanks to Lloyd Nielsen for identifying this one) in our neighbours Carol and Andrew IIles (Local Bird guides) garden. This was the first seen since 19/11/2006 in and around the Lodge. A rather poor shot was taken of the bird roosting high up in the dark of the rainforest.

Southern Boobook- sub species lurida Little Red Boobook

Both Red-necked Crake and Noisy Pitta have been seen with chicks over the past three weeks, the crakes have three while the pitta has two. Both these species had already bred late last year in December. Migrants that are still with us include Channel-billed Cuckoo (seen on the 17th April), Buff-breasted Paradise-Kingfisher (seen on the 17th April), Adult and juvenile Dollarbird (seen on the 18th April) and Black-faced Monarch. Waterbird species have been spread out over the district with not many in our immediate area, the usual Pacific Black Duck, one Australasian Grebe, one Australasian Darter, one Little Black Cormorant and one White-necked Heron along McDougall Road. The local Barramundi Farm had a Purple Swamphen, several Eurasian Coot and a couple of Dusky Moorhen on their overflow pond. Raptor sightings were light on as well with one Black Kite, one Whistling Kite plus a pair of White-bellied Sea-Eagle heard. The Pale-vented Bush-hen chicks from our neighbours garden are now down to four from six, they seem to be dispersing away from their breeding area. A female Common Koel has been hanging around a fruiting palm tree, also in our neighbours Carol and Andrew IIles (Local Bird guides) garden, for the last two weeks.

Common Koel - female

Barking Owl have been heard a couple of times, so they are still hanging around the area. Laughing Kookaburra have been around our orchard with up to five at any one time, this one was perched on a vine along the edge of the rainforest.

Laughing Kookaburra

Small flocks of Rainbow Bee-eater (6-18) have been around over the two weeks. Lewin's and Bridled Honeyeater have been in and around the Lodge after returning from higher altitudes up in the mountains behind us. Cicadabird have been calling and were still with us on the 20th April. Black Butcherbird have been heard calling but only a brown immature bird has been seen. A Northern Fantail was foraging in Geraghty Park one morning, this was a first for several months. Pied Monarch have been around along with Yellow-breasted Boatbill who have started calling a lot, four were seen on a morning walk. A female Victoria's Riflebird has been coming to our neighbours bird feeder and seen once in the Lodge grounds. Grey-headed Robin numbers continue to increase as more come down from the mountains to spend the winter in the Lodge grounds. Olive-backed Sunbird have been seen nesting again in a nest which has been previously used.

Further Afield:-
 A White Tern found exhausted at Hasties Swamp after Cyclone Ita was the most unusual bird for our region, also many reports of both Lesser and Greater Frigatebird along and just inland for the coast between Cairns and Port Douglas, all a result of the cyclone. Six Grey Teal were at the Ferraro Road wetland Craglie, near Port Douglas, an uncommon species in this area. Our roaming neighbours Carol and Andrew had a few interesting birds in the third week along Euluma Creek Road, Julatten, Spotted Harrier, two Brown Falcon, Wedge-tailed Eagle, Pale-headed Rosella, Australian King-Parrot, Tawny Grassbird and Eastern Whipbird. Blue-faced Parrot-Finch have been seen on Mt. Lewis between 1-2km along the road from the Bushy Creek bridge along with White-eared Monarch. At least 3 Chestnut-breasted Cuckoo were also heard calling in the same area and another along Euluma Creek Road. Female Golden Bowerbird have also been seen on Mt. Lewis several times. Eastern Yellow Robin sub-species Eopsaltria australis chrysorrhoa were seen near Abattoir Swamp, not a common species near the Lodge. Eastern Yellow Robin do not occur in the rainforest here unlike the ones around the Border Ranges of Queensland and New South Wales who co-exist with the Pale-yellow Robin. In our region the Eastern Yellow Robin occur in more open sclerophyllous forests and not rainforests. They are excluded by the Grey-headed Robin who occupy this same niche in the "Wet Tropic" rainforests. ["Directory of Australian Birds" (Passerines) - Schodde and Mason - 1999].

Eastern Yellow Robin - sub-species Eopsaltria australis chrysorrhoa

The Birdlife Australia monthly meeting was held at the Lodge Saturday 5th April where we gave a PowerPoint presentation on the birds and wildlife of Kingfisher Park Birdwatchers Lodge, this was followed on the next day by a visit to a private property in Mt. Molloy. The Birdlife Australia group had visited here on the Australia Day long weekend at the end of January and plan to make this venue a regular atlas site visited at three monthly intervals. Interesting birds here were a pair of Wedge-tailed Eagle, which are not common in the area, a pair of Double-eyed Fig-Parrot which flew over and a male and female Lovely Fairy-wren. We ended up with a species list of 35 birds. 

Birding highlights from around the gulf country, Normanton and Karumba area can be found on the Eremaea Birds site posted by Roger Jaensch. Some of the highlights include a possible hybrid between a Pied Heron and Little Egret (photo), Zitting Cisticola possibly nesting (photo) and Great Crested Grebe, north of normal range.

Reptiles and Mammals:-
The highlight over the two weeks was finding an Australian Scrub Python eating a Red-legged Pademelon, which is a small rainforest kangaroo, (not a highlight for the poor unfortunate pademelon!). When we found it on the edge of our orchard it only had the leg sticking out to identify the prey item. The python was probably 3-3.5m. 

Australian Scrub Python - with pademelon inside
Australian Scrub Python - just finished swallowing the pademelon

Whilst clearing leaves off the roof we came across another slightly smaller Australian Scrub Python curled up trying to have an undisturbed daytime sleep. Another good sighting made by one of our guests was a Green Ringtail Possum hanging by its tail in a tree along Mt. Kooyong Road in our rainforest, then seen again in our neighbours garden. Green Ringtail Possum are becoming increasingly hard to find around the Lodge so it was good to know at least one is still here. A pair of Striped Possum were heard early one evening grunting to each other, possibly a territorial dispute, and then we heard a thump as one fell to the ground. We then located it at eye level clinging to a bunch of vines which were hanging from a tree. A few frogs have been around, mainly Cogger's and Jungguy Frog but when the rain bought on by Cyclone Ita arrived the Dainty Green Tree Frog started calling in unison. A Platypus was seen, whilst on a morning walk, sitting on an overhanging tree trunk at the side of Bushy Creek having a scratch.

When we were doing our bird survey in Mount Molloy we came across this moth larva of Syntherata janetta, a moth which is found across northern Australia and as far south as Sydney.

Syntherata janetta - lava

Also here we had a few Painted Grasshawk Neurothemis stigmatizans stigmatizans dragonfly.

Painted Grasshawk

Around the Lodge we had these two interesting Katydid species. Thanks to David Rentz for confirming the identifications.

Spiny Katydid, Phricta spinosa

Serrated Bush Katydid Paracaedicia serrata - Yellow morph

This Ulysses Swallowtail was sunning in the orchard one morning with its wings outstretched, something they don't do very often.

Ulysses Swallowtail Papillio ulysses

This fungi was also seen on the Birdlife bird survey in Mount Molloy.

Fungi sp.

Thanks to Carol and Andrew Iles for their bird sighting input to this weeks blog, they can  be contacted for bird guiding here .


a-m Burgoine said...

Another great post. So pleased that you are all safely out the other side of Cyclone Ita. Thanks again for these regular tales of life & birds up north.

Keith and Lindsay Fisher said...

Thanks Alan, glad you like the goings on in the Far North of Queensland.