Sunday, 13 August 2017

White-necked Heron

Sometimes you can go for months without seeing a white-necked (Pacific) heron. Then, like buses, three turn up at once*

At Musgrave, Cape York Peninsula.

 At Ormiston Gorge, west of Alice Springs.

And at Hasties Swamp, near Atherton.

* Where at once = over the period of two months in three different places**

** Much like buses

Lines from the Road


Is this thing on?

Er...yes...hello. I've been away for a while. I went to the Blue Mountains and Melbourne. Then I came home for a week to do stuff. Mostly laundry, if I recall correctly. It seems so long ago. Then I went back to Melbourne and returned via the Sunshine Coast. Now I've been home for...ooh...ten days and it's as if I'd never been away.

I'm sure you know that feeling.

While I was away, I cracked the Quite a Few Birds in 2017 target of 300 species, thanks to Steve Davidson. We headed down to the Great Ocean Road and Werribee and, despite the rotten weather, racked up the sightings. Bird sp #300 was the hooded plover. The last new species, #317, was a Baillon's crake. The crake was also a lifer, so that was a wet and windy September day well spent!

So now my target is increasing in 25 species increments. Just for fun, of course.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Spotting Catbirds

No reason for this post other than I am very fond of these noisy, rambunctious birds.

Especially as the male brush-turkey has now taken against them and charges if they are on the ground. He also does this to the emerald doves, so I'm not sure if he's antagonistic to all other birds or is just seeing red over green.

Saturday, 5 August 2017

Bollywood! (No, not that one.)

I'm on the road at the moment, with limited internet access, so I'll be posting some photos I've taken through the first half of the year.

Towards the end of the dry season, white bollywood or bollygum (Neolitsea dealbata) produces new growth so pale that it is almost luminous. It is a species that favours disturbance and is abundant at the rainforest's edge. At my place, it lines the driveway. On sunny days, the light makes the leaves look like bunting; coming home is a celebration.

The first signs of new leaves are these candles.

New leaves are covered in dense white hairs. The youngest leaves are almost all down (see first photo), but as they grow, the hairs are more widely spaced and the surface appears smoother. 

Leaves go through colour changes as they mature. Although not as showy as those of lillipillies (Syzygium and allies), bollywood leaves have their own subtle charm.

Tree kangaroos sometimes get stuck into the foliage at this stage. They will often return to the same tree every few days to eat the next batch.

Fine hairs are distributed along the twigs. This is a young stem. The hairs are not so obvious in older growth, where they tend to be worn and covered in lichen and moss.

In contrast to the shiny dark green of the upper surface, the undersides of mature leaves are pale. As are the aphids.

The flowers are modest, but the tree produces a lot of small, berry-shaped fruit, which might, in fact, be berries. Or might not, because 'berry' has a specific meaning in botany and I've never got the hang of it. One of bollywood's (many) alternative common names* is pigeon-berry. Frugivorous birds, including bowerbirds, and wompoos and topknot pigeons, love the fruit, and will stuff their faces with it. If you are planning to plant a few of these trees — and they are very attractive at the new growth stage — this is something to consider. The seeds germinate easily and could end up as a problem outside their natural range, which is is rainforest and wet sclerophyll from the tip of Cape York Peninsula south to about Wollongong.

* Don't get me started. Again.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Jottings from the Tropics: 1 August 2017

It's been cool and wet lately. This has discouraged the brown tree snakes, but encouraged the northern/eastern/settle on a common name long-eared bats (Nyctophilus bifax). While the snakes are inactive, they roost wherever they like and stay in that spot for extended periods.

They seem to get on well. But sometimes they behave like quarreling siblings.

- o O o -

I was working in the office, when I heard a commotion upstairs. A bird had flown into the house and couldn't find its way out again. So far this year, a Lewin's honeyeater and a little shrike-thrush have done the same. This was a bulkier bird. And the swish of taffeta ballgown told me it was a male Victoria's riflebird.

The windows must have confused him. The panes are small; many of them are coloured red or green and are made of rippled glass. They presented him with an unusual perspective.

I placed some banana on the window sill to lure him out. But as soon as I stepped back, the female riflebird swooped in from the forest and carried it away.

A second piece of banana worked and a short while later he was sitting on the carport roof, sharing it with a Lewin's honeyeater. Perhaps they were exchanging war stories.

During his brief time in the house, he had visited several rooms. I spent the rest of the afternoon cleaning up riflebird poo.

- o O o -

After years without much travelling — shopping in Atherton doesn't count — I've been out and about. So far this year, I've visited Bruny Island, Cooktown, Iron Range, and Alice Springs. I've organised a few more trips for the remainder of 2017, including the Blue Mountains, SW Victoria, and Broome, with return journeys to Alice Springs and Cooktown.

The Quite a Few Birds list is currently up to 278 species. That includes a substantial number of lifers, most of which were from Iron Range.I reckon I'll reach my goal of 300 species before the end of the year!

My diary for 2018 is already full.