Thursday, 15 June 2017

Travelling North

I'm heading up the track for a while to look for palm cockatoos and golden-shouldered parrots, trumpet manucodes and magnificent riflebirds, so the blog will be quiet for a couple of weeks.

Here are some photos from the Mulligan Highway between Mt Molloy and the turn off to Cape York Peninsula.

Bob's Lookout. The view across the Desailly Creek floodplain to Mount Elephant (left). In the distance, beyond the McLeod River, are the rainforested peaks of Mount Lewis National Park.

Bob's Lookout

James Earl Lookout, South of Lakeland. Looking NNE to Mt Scatterbrain and Mt Earl*.

James Earl Lookout

I'll see you when I get back. I will have pics.

*Might actually be two completely different mountains. 

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Grebe is Good*

There's a bit of water in Hasties Swamp (Nyleta Wetlands) and the graders have been along Koci Road, so this is a good time to visit.

I dropped in a few days ago to photograph Australasian grebes (Tachybaptus novaehollandiae). When I mentioned this to another birdo at the Swamp, they looked at me as though I were completely mad. Which suggests that although they were obviously a good judge of character, they didn't know how to have fun.

Because Australasian grebes provide hours of amusement as you try to take photos of the little f...eathery things.

Here's an afternoon's worth of grebious entertainment:

My next grebe-based goal is to get some good photos of great crested grebes. This might take me a while.

*I am running out of grebe puns, which is for the best.

Sunday, 4 June 2017

Displaced, Misplaced or Misidentified*: Orange Lacewings in the Wet Tropics?

These butterflies have been around the garden all year, never settling for long enough for me to get a good look.

But the other day, this one stopped to bask. So I grabbed the binos. And then I grabbed the camera, because I wasn't convinced that I'd made the right identification. Butterfly IDs R definitely not US.

This fellow looks very much like an orange lacewing (Cethosia penthesilea, family Nymphalidae). There are two lacewings in northern Australia: this species, which is normally restricted to the Top End, and the red lacewing (Cethosia cydippe), from the Wet Tropics and eastern Cape York Peninsula. They differ from each other in the main colour and the extent of black of the upperside of the wings, and the pattern on the underside of the wings. You can see an image of the red lacewing here: Beautiful Butterflies of the Wet Tropics.

I was surprised to see him and his Darwin mates at my place, so I checked the Atlas of Living Australia.

There are only two records from Queensland. The one from the tip of Cape York Peninsula is undated, but the Cairns record is from February this year. Note that in the discussion of the Cairns specimen, there is speculation that the photo might have been taken in a butterfly house. Certainly, the Kuranda Butterfly Sanctuary, near Cairns, has orange lacewings on display.

Now have a look at the records for the red lacewing, the FNQ local. Here's the Atlas of Living Australia's map.

And then have a look at the images associated with those records. Two taken in Cairns are of butterflies similar to the one in my garden. (The third Cairns photo is the one discussed above.) Those records are from 2016 and 2017.

Have I misidentified the butterfly? Is it just so battered at the end of its short adult life that the black scales have worn off, changing its appearance? Has it been brought in by the winds and established here? (The caterpillars feed on Adenia heterophylla (Passifloraceae), which is also the foodplant of red lacewings.) Or has it been released by a butterfly breeder?

Any information gratefully received. In the meantime, I'll keep an eye on the butterflies in my garden and see what else turns up.

* Probably this one.

Braby, M.F. (2009) The Complete Field Guide to Butterflies of Australia. CSIRO Publishing.

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Quite a Few Birds: Update #2 (April – May 2017)

The 2017 list is now up to 176 species. The April – May records are:

Atherton Tablelands
Nankeen Kestrel
Topknot Pigeon
Varied Triller
Sacred Kingfisher
Dusky Woodswallow

Kingfisher Park and Julatten area
Australian Bustard
Double-eyed (Macleay's) Fig-parrot
Eastern Koel
Little (Gould's) Bronze-cuckoo
Buff-breasted Paradise-kingfisher
Graceful Honeyeater
Red-backed Fairy-wren

White-winged Triller
Blue-winged Kookaburra
Olive-backed Sunbird
Northern Fantail
White-throated Honeyeater
Lemon-bellied Flycatcher
Lovely Fairy-Wren
Red-kneed Dotterel
Black-fronted Dotterel
Great Egret
Eastern Reef Egret
Pheasant Coucal

Obviously I've been late in spotting some of the really common species, such as nankeen kestrel, olive-backed sunbird and pheasant coucal. But these things happen.

If things go to plan, by the end of June, I should be well past 200 species. But I'm not going to count birds before they're ticked.

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Rufous Fantail Fan Tale

I have been trying to get a decent image of a rufous fantail (Rhipidura rufifrons) for some weeks. A pair lives on the block, but they are not disposed towards posing for photos. But the other day, one of them dropped in for a quick bath.

And I happened to be outside with the camera. So I clicked away and managed to get a few reasonable shots before the bird flew off.

It was only then that I realised that the setting was a little downmarket. Oh well, the bird is the star and fantails really are rather lovely birds*.

The species is a partial migrant in Australia and birds from southern parts of the range fly to northern Queensland and New Guinea in winter. I'm not sure if these fantails are resident or will soon be abandoning the Atherton Tablelands for warmer regions — either in low altitudes or lower latitudes.

*Does not extend to willy wagtails

Saturday, 27 May 2017

Possum inna Pot

One of the best things about living where I do is the wildlife. There's lots of it and it's close. Sometimes too close. I've had to call a snake catcher to relocate a red-bellied black snake from my living room to a more suitable habitat, and I always have bananas in the fruit bowl because there's no better lure for honeyeaters and possums that have wandered into the house and can't find their way back out.

Whereas only a few animals head inside, many more of them hang around outside. Golden orb-weavers build their webs between the verandah posts, bats and snakes spend the day in the car port, and, after dark, possums use the roof as a shortcut between trees. Somewhere, there's a stash of hobnailed boots that the possums slip on before they trot across the corrugated iron. There's no other explanation for the noise.

A few days ago, I tweeted these photos.

It's a coppery brushtailed possum asleep in a big plant pot. That photo isn't as clear as it could be, because I didn't want to startle the animal with an electronic flash. A possum. In a pot.

Plant pots aren't the usual resting spots for possums — they prefer trees, roof spaces or cupboards — but this one feels quite at home here. 

She appears to be well. She isn't doddery and, as you can tell, doesn't seem to be undernourished.

This isn't her all-day space. She spends most of the time in what I assume is a more possumy haunt.

But in the late afternoon, she shifts to the plant pot next to my office window.

Since the weather is cooler now, she's unlikely to be bothered by amethystine (scrub) and carpet pythons. I don't need to use the pot for its intended purpose, so am happy to let her stay. Her activities are a pleasant distraction towards the end of the day.

Note on coppery brushtails
Coppery brushtailed possums are restricted to the Atherton Tablelands. There's still some discussion of whether they are a rainforest variant of the common brushtailed possum (Trichosurus vulpecula) or represent a separate species. The individuals I've seen here range in colour from dark brown to a bright coppery orange; I've yet to see a grey animal, which is the most frequent pelt colour in common brushtails.

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Snake Tales

A Lewin's honeyeater let me know that a brown tree snake was on the move. (Lewin's honeyeaters complain about everything, but are particularly vocal when snakes are around.)

This individual flew up to my office window to attract my attention — like a feathery Lassie or Skippy with a beak [needs work:– Ed.] — and then led me to the corner of the carport.

It was midday, but this usually nocturnal BTS had decided it was time to shift. No doubt it was muttering to itself about the decline of the neighbourhood. The honeyeater was doing the same, but at the top of its voice.

The snake investigated the possibilities to the west, but decided that area was not up to its exacting standards. So it slithered around the corner.

Where this much larger brown tree snake was already in residence.

There was a small adjustment.

And the first snake headed off again to find another location for a nap.

It eventually found a spot not far from where it started, as is often the case.

And the Lewin's honeyeater flew off, not angry, just disappointed in my lack of action. This, too, is often the case.