Thursday, 16 February 2017

a World of Wildlife for a Dry "Wet Season"


Although the holidays are long gone, it's good to share the highlights to "keep the dream alive" so to speak. I have encountered some remarkable wildlife during summer, and my growing interest in all animals, as a pose to just birds, has led to some awesome new sightings. The post will continue to list the best of these experiences.

1. Bunginderry Station, Channel Country:

"Bunginderry" rainbow.
A trip to a friends cattle property in Channel Country proved very rewarding animal wise. With the drought recently broken by heavy rain, the property was incredibly green, bringing with it, large amounts of birds and other wildlife.

The first to be noticed was the large flocks of parrots that were flying around. It was impossible to go 10 minutes without hearing a flock of Budgerigars or Cockatiels wheel past. These birds were especially entertaining at the local dam, where one could simply sit and watch the birds drink and swim in the water-unfortunately this was usually only allowed from a distance, according to the budgies.

Budgerigar's (Budgies) antics at the dam.


...Coming down to drink.
Drinking was a great way to capture birds out there. Like one of the owners said, "when the temperature gets above 40 degrees, the birds seem to loose all fear of humans and head for a drink and some shade". Well, at 45 degrees one can imagine the action I was getting! After spending a couple of hours sitting on the back step adjacent to some watered depressions, I not only saw, but photographed at least 3 "lifers"-new species for me! The following photos aren't great as I found it hard to take photographs that were in focus, mainly due to the heat and scrubby habitat.

Black Honeyeater (Sugomel (Certhionyx) niger), A Lifer for me.

Red Winged Parrot (Aprosmictus erythropterus) female.
Not a lifer but one of the few decent photos I got!

White Plumed Honeyeater (Lichenostomus penicillatus) coming down for a drink.
Also making the most of the rain were the Green Tree Frogs (Litoria caerulea). Although other frogs such as L.rubella were present the Green Tree Frogs were everywhere! Turns out they like to hide in shoes, which I learned one morning when I saw a small green head poking out! (no photos)

One of many...

An uncomfortable looking position! Notice the blue toepads.

They weren't picky on where they slept for the day!

This one just woke up from his/her daily snooze under a cap.

Of all of the experiences with wildlife out here, one of my best was with a Burton's Legless Lizard (Lialis burtonis). Although few photos that I took manages to keep the head in focus, it was a great experience nonetheless. These lizards intrigue me-they hunt other small skinks, and subdue them by suffocating them in the strong grip of their jaws. I hope to see some here on the coast in the near future.
Burton's Legless Lizard.

This cleaning session would have been great had it been in focus!
Unfortunately these lizards like to keep on the move-not great
for focus! Notice the large numbers of sleeping flys!

2. The Bats and the Bridge:

Upon getting interested in Australian mammals (including/especially microbats) I decided to check out a small microbat colony which roosts in some cracks below a bridge over a wide creek. Unfortunately the mission proved precarious and difficult, as the bats were out of sight due to the depth of the cracks, and were roosting in the middle of the Creek. The following footage shows the colony, but not very well as I was a bit shaky trying to hold the awkward photography contraption!



For those who are intrigued about how I filmed it, the "tool of choice" can be seen below:

Tool of choice-a long stick with Gopro attached via clamp and headtorch!
Still torn on the species, I decided to set up at dusk to try to get some shots in flight. Due to a slow shutter speed and poor lighting conditions, all photographs taken were "fuzzy" and unclear. After much thought and consulting with a mammal field guide, I decided that it may be a forest bat of some description due to the light grey underparts contrasting somewhat with the back. I believe that I would have to identify the bats by hand if I wanted to know the exact species, however I do not have any permits for trapping and very limited experience so i will leave that to the professionals! Anyone who may know more about the subject is welcome to comment at the bottom of the post!


Vespadelus sp. ? This was the best image I could manage.


II


A screenshot from the video.
3. Frogs on the Coast:

With my interest in frogs quickly increasing, it has been good to find some species that I have never seen or photographed before! With the help of my grandfather, I have been to numerous areas, with many thanks going out to environmental scientist Jono Hooper for helping me with locations for particular species. A few weeks after the encounter with L. chloris, we set out to Maleny, where Obi Obi creek crosses the road. As we walked along the track we heard a chorus as Dozens of male Great Barred Frogs (Mixophyes fasciolatus) called to attract a mate. Surprisingly, two male Giant Barred Frogs (Mixophyes iteratus) were found on fresh cut lawn nearby the creek. One can tell the difference between the two species mainly via the brilliant golden eye that is unique to the Giant Barred frog. Remember to look carefully at the eye-size of these frogs as they can look very similar to toads, if one hasn't had experience with them before. If you are not sure Take a photograph and look at the QLD Frog Society's "be Toadally Sure" campaign. They have all the necessary information to help you identify a toad.


Great Barred Frog (Mixophyes fasciolatus) one of many males chorusing.


Great Barred Frog-note the variation in colour and size from the other male.


II


Giant Barred Frog (Mixophyes iteratus). Note the golden eye.


II
After Maleny we headed to Gardener's falls for some shots of the local population of Stoney Creek Frogs (Litoria wilcoxii). Although few photos were taken it was interesting to find a pair in amplexus. What I've noticed is that the smaller, yet "yellower" males are often in amplexus as a pose to the scores of other males with a tinge of brown to their backs.


L. wilcoxii in amplexus.

A lonely "brown" male.
On a more recent note, I finally got the opportunity to get out frogging with Jono Hooper, earlier mentioned. He has been a major contributor to my knowledge and passion for frogs, and a great role-model in how to go about photography in the frog world. After a very dry "wet season", we were hard pressed to find dams with any remaining water-Ben Bennett Park, usually a frog hotspot, was bone dry. Luckily, Jono knew a location near Buderim which was often reliable for Cascade tree Frogs (Litoria pearsoniana). As we arrived we could already hear a couple calling from within the creek. Unfortunately, some technical difficulties with my camera resulted in many photos being poor quality. I did manage to salvage some shots, however.

Cascade Tree Frog (Litoria pearsoniana)


II

III
IV
All up, it was a fantastic night, with plenty of wildlife around-the freshwater pools were full of Longfinned Eel (Anguilla reinhardtii) and yabbies, while Flying Foxes squabbles in the Piccabean palms overhead, dropping fruit everywhere. And, of course, I nabbed a new species encounter with a Cascade Tree Frog!


To conclude, Summer was full of interesting wildlife, and it has been great to be out and about again. Of course, with school being back, I am going to be largely unable to find time outside of study, especially with a decent OP in mind. April holidays are expected to be full of spotlighting for owls and other critters, so expect most future posts to be then. :)


Thursday, 29 December 2016

Brooms head Wildlife Highlights

Below are some highlights from the previous trip to Brooms Head, Yuraygir NP in the weeks leading up to Christmas.

On the first days of the trip, I went diving in the "Lagoon", a reef sheltered from large waves as a result of large rock structures surrounding it, in search of any marine life. The result was multiple Spotted Wobbegong (Orectolobus maculatus) some hunting, some resting under rocks and crevices. Unfortunately, I only managed to take videos so below are screenshots of the most notable individuals.

Spotted Wobbegong (Orectolobus maculatus)

One of the larger individuals at a possible 2 metres!

Resting individual
Many towns have an icon, something that makes it memorable. In the small town of Brooms Head, the most significant icon may be the "Brooms Head Brumby". With no real name, just rumours about its history, this youngish male brumby is supposedly the only survivor of a once large herd that roamed Yuraygir, apparently wiped out by bushfire. An escapee domestic horse may be more likely. 

Despite All this, it is not often seen, unless by the few locals of the town. Always looking for new places to explore, I headed along the main creek towards "Cakora Lagoon", and soon came face-to-face with the elusive horse. it is intriguing to see that brumby tracks can be found fresh many kilometres from the town, either side, all the exact size of the male in question.

"Brooms Head Brumby", Cakora Lagoon

Backlit by the sun
While exploring for wildlife one can often make mistakes-blurry photographs, wrong-place-wrong-time, or misjudging a location. One such mistake was made while looking for a swamp I had seen in an arial photograph of the town. Although there was no path to it, the forest didn't appear too thick so I decided to wander through (barefoot), to find it. Unfortunately, what appeared to be open forest was in fact incredibly dense scrub, laden with Lantana and another vine with short, sharp and strong spines covering it. Progress was so slow that a 5 minute walk took an hour, as I pushed my way through Orb Weaver webs and vines. when I finally found the creek, I had to wade through knee deep mud to get back to the nearby bridge, which I could access the campsite from. No photos, only screenshots of a quick video taken.

The scrub type was similar on the other side of the creek-minus the vines!

The "wetland" turned out to be a grassy, swollen bend in the creek-not happy!

Through the adventures, some nice shots were managed of wildlife and scenery alike, as seen below.

Yellow Tailed Black Cockatoo (Calyptorhynchus funerus)


Yellow Tailed Black Cockatoo (Calyptorhynchus funerus)


Sooty Oystercatchers (Haematopus fuliginosus)


Sooty Oystercatcher (Haematopus fuliginosus) wave  breaking behind


The "Lagoon" seen in background behind the lone pine tree


Yuraygir NP Sandon Road Sector as seen from nearby Candole Range


Unamed Creek, from the bridge earlier described


Temporarily abandoned nest of a Bar Shouldered Dove


Saturday, 26 November 2016

Two Frog Species off the summer list!

As can be seen in my previous posts, I have been out and about a lot, searching for frogs. As the weather warms up and storms become more frequent, I begin to encounter new frogs on many of my trips. Recently, I have encountered two species that I have have been searching for since I developed an interest in frogs.

Due to recent rainy days, I went out with my Grandfather (also a nature photographer, with many years of experience on me!) last week to find Southern Orange Eyed Tree Frogs (Litoria chloris). This frog is a vibrantly coloured species with Bright purple thighs and lemon-yellow underparts. After a large storm swept through, we ventured into Buderim Forest Park, near the falls, to search for them. As we walked downstream, we heard the males calling, about ten of them. we arrived and suddenly there was a chorus, of about 14 frogs! I did not achieve any decent photographs, however my grandfather took some spectacular shots! All photographs below are his.

Southern Orange-Eyed Tree frog (Litoria chloris) (photo curtesy Bill Carroll)


same individual (photo curtesy Bill Carroll)


a very lightly coloured individual (photo curtesy Bill Carroll)
These are vey photogenic frogs, however, due to my excitement, all photographs were either exposed or shaky. Fortunately, another more recent trip enabled me to contain my excitement upon finding the next frog on the list.

The Giant Barred Frog (Mixophytes iteratus) is an endangered species, which can be found along rainforest streams and embankments. As we wandered through the west arm of Mooloolah River National Park (sick of getting excited over annoyingly large toads) my companion exclaimed "look at the size of that brute", and I turned to see a gorgeous female Giant Barred frog! One of the features that strikes the observer most is the strength of the legs, capable of shooting the owner meters away. The other, of course, is that brilliant golden eye.
As I lined up the photographs, I realised that I was shaking again, but ignoring my excitement, I froze and took the shots. personally, I believe that the first photograph may be one of my best photographs ever, certainly not professional level but a new level of photography for me.

Giant Barred Frog (Mixophytes iteratus) possibly one of my best photos!


Notice the brilliant gold of the eyes-simply gorgeous!


Look at the size of those legs!

Now that I am on holidays, I expect to be out and about much more frequently, so hopefully I will take some similar quality shots!

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Frog Wrap-up for the Year, So-Far

Although it isn't truly "frog season" until the first big rains from October onwards (roughly), I have been on numerous frog outings, most of them showing at least a couple of frogs! The outings will be shown below.

1: September Frog hunt, Caloundra West:
I set out with a friend, looking for Tyler's Treefrogs (Litoria tyleri), which was heard calling from about a kilometre after a little rain. It is interesting that they were calling here, as I usually only see them further inland. As we arrived, we heard a cacophany of Eastern Sedgefrogs (Litoria fallax) in a small reedy creek. Suddenly, I hear another call-Stony Creek Frogs (Litoria wilcoxii)! The only times that I have encountered these is in rocky creeks throughout the hinterland-not this dry, scrubby bushland! I traced the calls to a dried creekbed, covered in dense vegetation. This intrigued me, as these frogs are usually found breeding in rocky, or stoney creeks, as their name suggests. I didn't end up finding these frogs, as they were too well-concealed, in tall razor-edged grass.

As we neared the Tyler's Treefrog chorus, we found a Striped Rocketfrog (Litoria nasuta) sitting in a small puddle.
Striped Rocketfrog (Litoria nasuta)
When we found the chorus, it didn't appear promising, as the frogs seemed to be calling in long grass, perfect snake territory, and while the idea of snakes is usually appealing, I was barefoot. Despite this, we continued on, until we reached a large, deep swamp, concealed in the grassland and paperbark swamp. As I entered the swamp, I could hear multiple Tyler's Treefrogs calling, and what was possibly a distant Pobblebonk frog. The frogs proved shy, darting from their exposed perches if one is to make any sudden movement. I managed a couple of shots, but I am not experienced in the feild of nocturnal photograpy, and I didn't have my tripod. Despite this, one can still admire the subtle beauty of these frogs!

Tyler's Treefrog male



This one was quick to hide, jumping straight for the dense foliage



Unfortunately, what would have been a good photo was ruined by shaking!
2: Carnarvon Gorge
The family and I went out to Carnarvon Gorge during the September holidays, to camp at the Takkarakka Bush Resort. On the first night that we stayed, the rain poured all night, to the extent that we were flooded in for the next two days. Surprisingly, there was only a couple of female Stony Creek Frogs, hanging around the creek. The following night was a different story. The whole forest was filled with the calls of Green Treefrogs (Litoria caerulea), and I saw a medium sized male atop a pipe, by the amenities. During the same search, I also encountered Red Treefrog (Litoria rubella), Spotted Marsh Frog (Lymnodynastes tasmaniensis)-A new species for me, Striped Marsh Frog (Lymnodynastes peronii)-surprisingly also a new species, and what I believe to be an Ornate Burrowing Frog (Platyplectrum ornatum) guarding eggs, also a new species. Before I could take any photos, the glass UV lense protecter somehow unscrewed and fell into the creek! After panicking and giving it a thorough clean, I returned to find the frogs again, and in my excitement, took very shaky photos, so apologies.

Spotted Marsh Frog (Lymnodynastes tasmaniensis)


Female Stony Creek Frog (Litoria wilcoxii)


Striped Marsh Frog (Lymnodynastes peronii) shaky photo


Ornate Burrowing Frog (Platyplectrum ornatum) shaky photo


Green Treefrog (Litoria caerulea)
To finish the trip, I found a Peron's Treefrog (Litoria peronii) climbing some corrugated iron.

Peron's Treefrog (Littoria peronii) apologies for exposure difficulties


Peron's Treefrog (Litoria peronii)





3. Early October Frogging-Gardeners Falls, Buderim Forest Park:

We drove out to Gardener's falls, near Maleny, to find any frogs that may be coming out early in the season. When we arrived, I was surprised to find hundreds of male Stoney Creek (Wilcox's) Frogs (Litoria wilcoxii), in breeding yellow coloration. After walking by the creek, it became an effort not to step on them! The only other frog heard was a Tusked Frog (Adelotus brevis) and at the time, I had never seen one due to their habit of hiding in extremely dense foliage.
Stoney Creek Frog (Litoria wilcoxii)
Stoney Creek Frog (Litoria wilcoxii)
Stoney Creek Frog (Litoria wilcoxii)
Our next stop is Buderim Forest Park, at the falls section. Surprisingly, this area only produced two calling Tusked Frogs and a distantly calling Peron's Treefrog (Litoria peronii), with a possible Whistling Treefrog, however the caller was a long way down the creek. I was pleasantly surprised when I found a Tusked Frog (Adelotus brevis) calling from a rock pool. This is the first time I have actually seen this species, as all other times the frog was calling from dense vegetation. I also came across another calling Tusked Frog, however he was hidden behind a wall of frogspawn under a large rock.

Tusked Frog (Adelotus Brevis)

Hopefully, this will be a rainy wet season, providing great frogging opportunities. I plan to head out to Mapleton, as soon as the rains start, to find some Barred frogs and Southern Eyed Treefrogs (Litoria chloris).


UPDATE: AFTER CONFIDING WITH JONO HOOPER (President, QLD Frog Society inc.), THE "SPOTTED MARSH FROG"IS IN FACT ANOTHER ORNATE BURROWING FROG.