Monday 4 June 2018

Sparring pademelons

Red-legged pademelons (Thylogale stigmatica) are not sociable animals, but they put up with each other. But every now and then, especially towards the end of the wet season, the males will compete for dominance. This plays out as frantic chases through the scrub until they get to a clearing. Then, with no cover in which to hide, they will front up and fight.

Although pademelons are small – under a metre in height – they can inflict serious damage. These two were fighting on the lawn outside my office.

These fights can last for a long time. They frequently kick each other, using the tail to push off the ground. They will also try to throw their opponent down. It's Nature, but that doesn't make it any less unpleasant to watch.

The male on the left was and remains boss of the garden. The male on the right is still around, but he is kept in place with growls and hisses.

Birds are quick to take advantage of the fights; the swoop down and grab the clumps of flying fur for lining their nests.

Saturday 2 June 2018

Forest kingfishers

(I aten't dead.)

Forest kingfishers (Todiramphus macleayi) are the most frequently encountered kingfisher species in my part of the world. I see them more often that I see kookaburras. There's usually a pair perching on the power lines in the morning. They're often the only spots of colour on overcast days.

Like many other Australian kingfishers, they nest in arboreal termite mounds. But given the rate of tree clearing around here, they might not have many places left to breed.

 I photographed these birds at Tinaroo Dam,

Sunday 7 January 2018

Barking Mad

Several times a week, the birds in the garden get upset at something in the scrub. It could be anything - a tree monitor, a possum, a funny-looking twig. Lewin's honeyeaters are the biggest complainers. One of them (I'm sure it's the same one) will come to my office window and yell at me until I go outside, at which point it will then - and I'm not making this up - lead me to where a brown tree snake is dozing in the carport rafters. Since I am an advocate in letting sleeping snakes lie, the honeyeater is invariably disappointed in my response. I am sorry I don't live up to its expectations.

But one day the complaining was led by less excitable birds, including a pair of barred cuckoo-shrikes. So I grabbed the binos and went to have a look. If they were mobbing a big snake, I wanted to maintain a bit of distance.

It wasn't a snake, it was a barking owl. And they always look that annoyed.

Barking owls are one of three owl species that occur in the patch of rainforest. The other two species are southern boobook and lesser sooty owl. There have also been records of rufous owls in this area, but I have yet to hear them calling.

Sunday 31 December 2017

For Bird Nerds: My 2017 List


Magpie Goose

Spotted Whistling-duck
Plumed Whistling-duck
Wandering Whistling-duck
Pink-eared Duck
Cape Barren Goose
Black Swan
Radjah Shelduck
Australian Shoveler
Pacific Black Duck 
Grey Teal 
Chestnut Teal
Australian Wood Duck
Green Pygmy-goose

Australian Brush-turkey
Orange-footed Scrubfowl

Helmeted Guineafowl

Australian Grebe
Hoary-headed Grebe
Great Crested Grebe

Rock Dove
White-headed Pigeon
Spotted Dove
Brown Cuckoo-dove
Spinifex Pigeon
Common Bronzewing
Crested Pigeon
Diamond Dove
Peaceful Dove
Bar-shouldered Dove
Brown-capped Emerald Dove 
Torresian Imperial-pigeon 
Wompoo Fruit-dove
Superb Fruit-dove (heard)
Topknot Pigeon

Pheasant Coucal
Eastern Koel
Channel-billed Cuckoo
Horsfield's Bronze-cuckoo
Shining Bronze-cuckoo
Little (Gould's) Bronze-cuckoo
Chestnut-breasted Cuckoo
Fan-tailed Cuckoo

Marbled Frogmouth
Papuan Frogmouth

Australian Bustard

White-rumped Swiftlet

Red-necked Crake 
Buff-banded Rail
Baillon's Crake
Pale-vented Bush-hen
Purple Swamphen 
Dusky Moorhen
Tasmanian Native Hen
Eurasian Coot

Sarus Crane

Bush Stone-curlew

Australian Pied Oystercatcher
Sooty Oystercatcher

Banded Stilt
Black-winged Stilt
Red-necked Avocet

Red-capped Plover
Hooded Plover
Banded Lapwing
Black-fronted Dotterel 
Masked Lapwing 
Red-kneed Dotterel

Comb-crested Jacana

Sharp-tailed Sandpiper
Red-necked Stint
Common Greenshank

Australian Pratincole

Caspian Tern
Whiskered Tern
Black-naped Tern
Crested Tern
Pacific Gull
Kelp Gull
Silver Gull

Black-browed Albatross
Shy Albatross

Black-necked Stork

Australian Pelican

Nankeen Night-heron
Striated Heron
Cattle Egret
White-necked Heron

Great Egret
Intermediate Egret
White-faced Heron
Little Egret
Eastern Reef Egret

Australia White Ibis
Straw-necked Ibis
Yellow-billed Spoonbill
Royal Spoonbill

Lesser Frigatebird
Great Frigatebird

Brown Booby
Australasian Gannet

Little Pied Cormorant
Great Cormorant
Little Black Cormorant
Black-faced Cormorant
Pied Cormorant

Australasian Darter

Black-shouldered Kite
Black-breasted Buzzard
Pacific Baza
Wedge-tailed Eagle
Swamp Harrier
Spotted Harrier
Grey Goshawk (white & grey phases)
Brown Goshawk
Red Goshawk
White-bellied Sea-eagle
Whistling Kite
Brahminy Kite
Black Kite

Sooty Owl

Barking Owl
(Red) Boobook (heard)

Rainbow Bee-eater


Azure Kingfisher
Yellow-billed Kingfisher
Forest Kingfisher
Sacred Kingfisher
Red-backed Kingfisher
Buff-breasted Paradise-kingfisher
Laughing Kookaburra
Blue-winged Kookaburra


Nankeen Kestrel
Australian Hobby
Brown Falcon
Peregrine Falcon

Red-tailed Black Cockatoo
Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo
Palm Cockatoo
Major Mitchell Cockatoo
Little Corella
Sulphur-crested Cockatoo

Australian King-parrot
Red-winged Parrot
Eclectus Parrot
Red-rumped Parrot
Mulga Parrot
Golden-shouldered Parrot
Green Rosella
Crimson Rosella
Pale-headed Rosella
Eastern Rosella
Australian Ringneck

Rainbow Lorikeet
Scaly-breasted Lorikeet
Double-eyed (Macleay's/Marshall's) Fig-parrot

Noisy Pitta

Spotted Catbird
Tooth-billed Bowerbird

Satin Bowerbird 
Western Bowerbird
Great Bowerbird
Fawn-breasted Bowerbird

White-throated Treecreeper


Lovely Fairy-wren 
Superb Fairy-wren
Splendid Fairy-wren
Red-backed Fairy-wren
Dusky Grasswren

Rufous Bristlebird (heard)

Dusky Honeyeater
Scarlet Honeyeater
Macleay's Honeyeater
Tawny-breasted Honeyeater

Helmeted Friarbird
Noisy Friarbird
Little Friarbird
Banded Honeyeater
Brown Honeyeater
White-streaked Honeyeater
New Holland Honeyeater
White-cheeked Honeyeater
White-eared Honeyeater
Blue-faced Honeyeater 
Strong-billed Honeyeater 
White-throated Honeyeater
White-naped Honeyeater
Black-headed Honeyeater
Green-backed Honeyeater
Eastern Spinebill
Rufous-throated Honeyeater
Brown-backed Honeyeater
Bar-breasted Honeyeater

White-fronted Chat
Yellow Honeyeater

Lewin's Honeyeater
Yellow-spotted Honeyeater
Graceful Honeyeater
Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater
Red Wattlebird
Yellow Wattlebird 
Bridled Honeyeater
Singing Honeyeater
Grey-headed Honeyeater
Yellow-tinted Honeyeater
White-plumed Honeyeater
'Herberton' Honeyeater
Yellow-faced Honeyeater
Bell Miner (heard)
Noisy Miner
Yellow-throated Miner

Forty-spotted Pardalote
Red-browed Pardalote
Striated Pardalote

Brown Gerygone
Fairy Gerygone
White-throated Gerygone
Large-billed Gerygone
Striated Fieldwren
Yellow-throated Scrubwren
Atherton Scrubwren

White-browed Scrubwren
Large-billed Scrubwren
Tropical Scrubwren
Yellow-rumped Thornbill
Striated Thornbill
Tasmanian Thornbill

Mountain Thornbill 
Chestnut-rumped Thornbill

Grey-crowned Babbler

Barred Cuckoo-shrike
Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike
White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike
White-winged Triller
Varied Triller

Rufous Whistler 
Golden Whistler
Little Shrike-thrush
Bower's Shrike-thrush
Grey Shrike-thrush


Eastern Shrike-tit

Crested Bellbird (heard)

Eastern Whipbird

Australasian Figbird
Yellow Oriole

Yellow-breasted Boatbill

Pied Currawong
Grey Currawong
Black Butcherbird 
Australian Magpie 
Pied Butcherbird
Grey Butcherbird
Black-backed Butcherbird
Dusky Woodswallow
Little Woodswallow
White-breasted Woodswallow

Spangled Drongo

Northern Fantail
Willie Wagtail
Rufous Fantail
Grey Fantail

Torresian Crow
Little Crow
Little Raven
Forest Raven
Australian Raven

Leaden Flycatcher
Shining Flycatcher
Frilled Monarch

Pied Monarch
Spectacled Monarch
White-eared Monarch
Black-faced Monarch

White-winged Chough

Victoria's Riflebird
Magnificent Riflebird

Pink Robin
Scarlet Robin
Yellow-legged Flycatcher

Lemon-bellied Flycatcher
Jacky Winter
White-browed Robin
Grey-headed Robin
Eastern Yellow Robin
White-faced Robin

Pale-yellow Robin
Hooded Robin
Dusky Robin


Olive-backed Sunbird

Chestnut-breasted Mannikin 
Beautiful Firetail 
Red-browed Finch
Star Finch
Masked Finch
Black-throated Finch
Zebra Finch
Double-barred Finch

House Sparrow

Australasian Pipit

European Goldfinch

Eurasian Skylark

Little Grassbird

Fairy Martin
Welcome Swallow


Metallic Starling
Common Starling
Common Myna

Bassian Thrush
Common Blackbird

BirdLife Australia (2016) Working List of Australian Birds, Version 2.

2017: Resolving the Resolutions

Now that 2017 is receding in the rear vision mirror — which needs a bit of a clean, by the way, look at the state of this vehicle — it's time for a wrap up of the year.


So there it is: 2017 in a single word.

As for my year, I went places, saw birds, caught up with old friends and met new friends. All in all that's a bloody good way to spend the time.

I started the year with a plan to see 300 species of birds. I travelled to Tasmania, Iron Range (Cape York Peninsula), Alice Springs, the Blue Mountains, and Melbourne. Thanks to ace bird people (in alphabetical order) Mark Carter, Tonia Cochran, Henry Cook, Steve Davidson, Alan Gillanders, Carol and Andrew Iles, David Mead, and David Stowe, my 2017 bird list reached 323 species. There were lots of lifers.

There were a few notable omissions. Southern cassowary and golden bowerbird should be there because they are local specialties, but I didn't make the effort to drive up the road to take a look. Sheer laziness on my part. They are on the Must See list for 2018. Also, who spots Papuan and marbled frogmouths, but misses tawnies? Just me, apparently.

(The complete list is in the sidebar. I'll also put it in a separate post.)

My 2018 diary is lookin' good. I'm off overseas in February (more on that in later posts) and have one big Australian trip scheduled in July. There will be more.

Because setting a numerical goal worked for 2017, I'm setting one for 2018. It's not huge — 350 Australian species — but it is doable.

I'm also going to make this a water/wading/sea/shorebird year. I'm not very good at IDing these birds — except for ducks, I absolutely rock at duck IDs — so I want to improve my non-duck-related identification skills. There's no numerical goal for waders.; I'd just like to be able to tell a plover from something that isn't a plover, and to be able to distinguish between all those long-legged, long-billed cryptically-coloured species that look like thumbprints on the binocular lenses. Don't @ me, wader specialists. You know I'm right.

Other goals for 2018:
  • a blog post a week
  • finish all these — flicks through 2017 diary — things I started last January
  • read more books
  • write more books
  • learn more stuff
  • invent an EMP that targets leafblowers


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.