Little Kingfisher – Ceyx pusillus is one of a special group of tropical Australian iconic bird species. Our wetlands’ designs included areas we hoped would create habitats appealing to this beautiful jewel of a bird and I can now say with confidence that we have indeed achieved our aim!
Cottonwood – Hibiscus tiliaceous which thrives in wet situations and tends to spread (a habit not favoured by some) now helps to provide shade and shelter around the wetland overflow . Both Azure and Little Kingfishers use an overhanging Cottonwood branch to watch the fish in the clear water flowing over the spillway before diving in for a feed.
These secretive, tiny birds with the oversized bills prefer dark well vegetated waterways which make challenging photographic conditions. Allen has been patiently returning to the bird hide, time after time, hoping that he could catch it on one its brief forays into the open. Finally this morning he had some success and although the light was poor due to overcast conditions the blue of this amazing, diminutive bird shines brilliantly.
Increasing numbers of birds do seem to be the most obvious indicator that our restoration projects have been successful, however there are many other creatures finding the habitat suitable for breeding.
A movement among the fallen leaves of the Leichardt trees (Nauclea orientalis) alerted me to the presence of this tiny freshwater turtle. As I wasn’t carrying a camera at the time I brought it back to the house for a short photo session and then released it in our garden pond. Not uncommon to see Saw-shelled turtle (Elseya latisternum) here but we’re always so happy to see a young one.
Saw-shelled Turtle –
Front view with head sideways in protective position
Saw-shelled Turtle – underside view
It must have been a great relief to this little creature to find itself released into the relative safety of rocks and vegetation on the edge of a little pond. Although I find it difficult to gauge a turtle’s reaction, I would imagine that to have its underside exposed would make it feel horribly vulnerable.
I only held it upside-down long enough for a photo and then placed it carefully on the edge of the pond and waited quietly until its head appeared. It wasn’t long before it was in the water and well hidden from view.
Saw-shelled turtle – released on the edge of a pond, well sheltered from predators
I was just reading Snails blog and feeling as gloomy about the weather as she does when suddenly the outside world lit up with brilliant sunshine – I can see blue skies!!!! So we’re heading ‘over the river’ today. For those of you not familiar with our geographical position – we live about 12 km from the Daintree River ferry, so its only a short trip for us to drive into the Daintree rainforest. We’re on a mission today to do a brief assessment of some blocks of land that may be suitable acquisitions for Rainforest Rescue for whom Allen and I do some voluntary work. It looks so good we think we’ll take a picnic lunch and who knows……maybe we’ll even see a Cassowary.
Its been a long time since my last entry – there has been much to achieve while the weather has been fine and we have been enjoying our work outside in such glorious weather. Now we are well and truly into Spring! The strange call of the Barred Cuckoo-Shrike (described by Graham Pizzey as being similar to a toy mouth organ) always signals the arrival of warm weather to me and we have been hearing the calls for nearly a month now.
Our resident pair of Bush Stone-Curlew have hatched an egg! The chick is now only three days old so there is a long way to go, but it would seem with our program of trapping and shooting feral pigs that we have been successful in reducing the numbers of at least one predator.
A pair of Orange-footed Scrub-Fowl have been busy with their mound on a steep slope at the back of our workshop, patiently raking the organic material up the hill to the nest mound. We often see these birds around the garden, particularly early in the morning or at the end of the day. Recently they have been feeding on some of the Malay Apples lying on the ground under the tree. The fruit is knocked down by Spectacled Fruit Bats feeding at night as well as lorikeets and honeyeaters feeding during the day.
The wetlands are still quite full due to “dry season” rains but we now have three pairs of Green Pygmy-Goose residing here plus one extra female who arrived unaccompanied about two weeks ago. The other females were not at all pleased to see her and she spent some time being chased but now seems to have come to “an arrangement” and formed part of what appears to be a fairly stable trio. They are enjoying our plentiful waterlilies as does White-browed Crake and Jacana.
With the above average rainfall this ‘wet season’ the swamps are overflowing and all our newly planted areas have certainly been well watered. It is very rewarding to observe the general increase in our local bird population as our revegetation efforts extend the suitable habitat.
For some weeks we have been listening to flocks of Double-eyed Fig-parrots flying about. We estimate at least 100 of these delightful little parrots are frequenting some of our large native Figs. They make a spectacular sight noisily flying from their feeding trees to other non-fruiting trees nearby where they preen and socialise.
There are many juvenile birds of different species learning to fend for themselves on the property but we have particularly enjoyed watching an immature Spotted Catbird asserting its rights to feed in a Leea indica (Bandicoot Berry) over those of a bossy male Figbird. Other highlights include regular observations of young Buff-breasted Paradise Kingfishers, Azure Kingfisher and Victoria’s Riflebird.
A healthy breeding population of many species of birds is a wonderful reward for us.
A wonderful variety of birds are frequenting the property, many taking advantage of the prolific insect life that is evident in our ‘growing season’.
One of our spectacular sightings this week included several Gould’s Bronze-Cuckoos calling and flying about back and forth as the morning sun shone on their wings which they displayed to best advantage when alighting on a branch. They were high in the trees but our view was excellent and unforgettable.
We have had several sightings of a pair of Great-billed Herons that have been calling for about a week. Late yesterday afternoon we could hear the birds calling from behind the islands and then they appeared on the grassed bund wall, one running after the other which then flew a short distance into a tree. We watched from the hide enjoying the opportunity to observe the birds so clearly without disturbing them.
The Wompoo Fruit-Dove in the photo below hatched its egg and the nestling fledged successfully.
During November the numbers of Wandering Whistling Ducks steadily increased to at least 50. It was pleasing to see that they were able to find plenty of food in the new wetland. However, a storm last Monday diminished their numbers to 9 and the following day there wasn’t one to be seen. It seems very quiet without the constant whistling but perhaps the Spoonbills, Egrets and Magpie Geese are relieved.
The Spotless Crake and Bush-Hen are often observed feeding on the exposed mud banks and the Bush-Hen also enjoys a quick bathe before hurrying into the cover of the sedge to finish preening.
This week I was sitting quietly in the birdhide with visitors, Roland and Anne-Marie, after our walk around the property when we caught a glimpse of a bird flying across the wetland to a little island covered in sedges. We were able to see only its bill at first and then it disappeared down into the sedge only to reappear a few minutes later on the muddy edge. For at least 10 minutes we were delighted to observe this beautiful female Little Bittern feeding undisturbed on the edge of the water. I even had time to dash off and call Allen so we all shared the excitement –
A special day indeed!
We are now starting to see mudflats appearing on the wetlands after a 7-week period with virtually no rainfall.
Notes from the bird hide –
* a small flock of Little Friarbirds hunting for insects over the swamp
* early morning views of a white-browed Crake darting around clumps of sedge
* Clamorous Reed-Warbler in the morning sun on the edge of the wetland
* Brown-backed honeyeaters nest building then enjoying a bath at the end of the day
* Buff-banded Rail making use of the exposed mud
* Latham’s or Swinhoe’s Snipe made a brief stopover
* Large-tailed Nightjar at dusk flying low over the water
Observations from around the property
* a family of Pied Monarchs not far from Barratt Creek
* nesting Wompoo Fruit Dove on the edge of a pathway
* many families of Lovely Wrens
* busy Fig-parrots inspecting potential nesting sites
* Macleays, Dusky, Yellow-spotted and Graceful Honeyeaters feeding on the brilliantly flowered Callistemons
* large numbers of fruit-eating and nectar feeding birds enjoying
our plentiful native food sources