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.


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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.


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


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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)


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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. :)


3 comments:

  1. What a fantastic experience to see the budgerigars. I love the Burton's Legless Lizard photos. Their sharp little faces always appeal to me. I can't help with the microbats as I need a little help with them myself, usually I just put them on my wildlife lists as microbats which I admit is a bit unsatisfactory. Look forward to hearing about your adventures in the holidays.

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  2. Fantastic, Ollie! Apparently black honeyeaters are quite elusive, so that's a great lifer to discover, and budgerigars are always a beautiful sight.

    I would love to get to know my microbats better too, but the opportunities for a good look at them are few and far between.

    Love the frog shots - have yet to see the giant barred myself. Love how the yellow stoneys get all the ladies, haha!

    Hope the studying has gone well this year so far and keep up the great work!

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    1. PS I found a Burton's snake lizard in the dune scrub at Alexandra Headland once. They are apparently common and survive in the suburbs, but you just have to be lucky to see one :)

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