Sunday, 9 July 2017

Cape York Peninsula: Rinyirru (Lakefield) NP, Pt 2

Rinyirru NP is more than savannah and magnetic termite mounds. The park is dissected by a network of creeks and rivers, all of which are a) lined by paperbarks and b) full of crocodiles. One of these things is more obvious than the other.

While we watched banded, bar-breasted, and yellow honeyeaters squabbling over Melaleuca flowers, a white-bellied sea eagle watched us. I'm not sure if we were as entertaining to the eagle as the honeyeaters were to us.

Billabongs were home to all sorts of waterbirds, including magpie geese...

 ...and Australian darters.

There were also egrets of all sorts, comb-crested jacanas, azure and sacred kingfishers, and green pygmy geese. Rainbow bee-eaters were abundant.

In more open areas, black-backed butcherbirds hung around, waiting for us to disturb lizards or large grasshoppers. Or possibly drop sandwiches. They are as opportunistic as their southern congeners.

Brolgas lurked at the edges of woodland. I'm sure they were plotting something. (We also saw sarus cranes. At one location, there were seventeen sarus and one slightly embarrassed brolga.)

We spotted a pair of red goshawks. This one was stuffing its face, while its mate built a nest nearby.

And there were golden-shouldered parrots. This is a particularly bad photo of a male (bottom right) and female (upper left), so, if you're not familiar with the species, it's worth searching for better images. They are very beautiful birds.

Although there were fewer massive mounds, there was still plenty of evidence of termite activity.

We spotted a pair of Papuan frogmouths near Lotusbird Lodge. I thought this was my favourite species of frogmouth, until I saw the marbled ones at Lockhart River. I am fickle.

And there was this stick floating in a billabong at Musgrave Roadhouse. It wasn't very interesting, but I took a photo of it anyway.

Saturday, 8 July 2017

Cape York Peninsula: Rinyirru (Lakefield) NP, Pt 1

In mid-June, I went on a birding trip to Kutini-Payamu (Iron Range) and Rinyirru (Lakefield) NPs led by Tonia Cochran and Steve Davidson. There were eight other birdwatchers on the trip, all of them much better at spotting and identifying birds than me. And it was amazing.

We saw some very good birds and I took some very bad photos of them, as you will see. (I also contracted a shocking cold, so skipped a couple of night walks, which meant that I only saw one marbled frogmouth.)

These were our destinations:

The gang at Chilli Beach, Kutini-Payamu NP, looking at black-naped terns.

It turns out that I mostly took photos of birds in the drier areas, so here are some images from Julatten to Rinyirru NP.

This is a northern fantail at Kingfisher Park Birdwatchers Lodge. I hadn't seen this species before my recent trip to Cooktown, but now they're everywhere.

The Julatten -- Mount Molloy area is also an excellent spot for great bowerbirds.

The bitumen disappears north of Laura (although it reappears in places). The Peninsula Developmental Road is wide in quality. This is a good stretch, but it's not always this smooth.

Rinyirru National Park is an extraordinary place. It includes extensive mangroves, wetlands, heathlands, open woodlands, and savannah full of termite citadels.

Apart from a few scrubby trees, the magnetic termite mounds are the highest perches on Nifold Plain. This brown falcon kept an eye on us from the top of one of these edifices. Spotted harriers were also abundant here.

The road was a good spot for birds. I saw my first Australian pratincoles here. Yep, they were lifers.

Adult Australian pratincole

Juvenile Australian pratincole

I ticked a lot of lifers on this trip, including black-breasted buzzard. This one was waiting for us to move on, so it could return to its meal of road kill.

Birds weren't the only animals we saw. Apart from agile wallabies, antilopine wallaroos, striped possums, and melomys, there were also reptiles. This black-headed python started crossing the road, then decided that the car looked like a more interesting destination. We persuaded it to resume its original journey.

To be continued...*

*The trip report, that is, not the python's wanderings.

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Back Home

I'm back, after two weeks on Cape York Peninsula and a week in Alice Springs. I'll be reporting on both trips over the next few days.

As a result of being in the company of people who know what they're doing (Tonia Cochran and Steve Davidson on CYP; Mark Carter, Henry Cook and David Stowe in Alice Springs), my bird list is now at 273 species for the (half) year. We saw some very good birds and I'll tell you all about them later this week.

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.