The wetlands are overflowing again due to recent rains, an unusual situation at this time of the year. The regular rainfall through the “dry season” has been perfect for our revegetation works and we are very pleased with the growth. In just under a year the new wetland is providing habitat for many creatures.
Green Pygmy-Geese and Wandering Whistling Ducks are still in residence and the Magpie Geese have been regular visitors since their return in early August with five juveniles. The young are flying but have dark bills, are smaller in build and their calls are still the sibilant whistles of goslings.
Forest Kingfisher, Azure Kingfisher, White-necked Heron, Little Black Cormorant, Little Pied Cormorant, Darter and Great Egret are also frequently observed while White-Rumped Swiftlets and Rainbow Bee-eaters are spectacular to watch as they feed on insects on the surface of the water. And we had our first sighting of a Jacana on August 10th feeding on and around the waterlilies.
The gardens are alive with the sounds of birds ……… Metallic Starlings have returned and make quite an impression when the flock swoops past en route to the nesting tree on the hill.
Green Pygmy-Geese are starting to look ‘at home’ after more than a month in residence. Wandering Whistling Ducks have also been frequenting the wetlands and it is most rewarding for us to watch them diving and feeding, especially in the ponds that were completed less than a year ago.
During the last 10 days we’ve enjoyed some lovely sights here on the property. The appearance of Magpie Geese plus very young goslings on May 31st was quite a surprise but unfortunately they moved on the next day. Our large areas of sedge provide wonderful cover for them but perhaps there is not enough suitable food for the goslings. It was lovely having the opportunity to watch them from the hide as the 6 adults and 11 goslings moved around the wetland.
We had a pair of Hardheads or White-eyed ducks visiting for more than a week, the Little Pied Cormorant, Darter and Azure Kingfisher have been fishing regularly while the Forest Kingfisher and Rainbow Bee-eaters are often to be seen enjoying a bathe.
We are frequently sighting female/immature Victoria’s Riflebirds in the garden environs as well as in the orchard feeding on ripe Black Sapote.
On June 7th we saw a Lewin’s Honeyeater for the first time this year and later heard it calling loudly as if to confirm its presence in the garden.
Today a small flock of Wandering Whistling ducks was to be seen checking out the new ponds, while this is not their first visit it is always lovely to see them.
Already we have had some good rains, the new wetland was overflowing by the end of December. The series of ponds constructed as silt and nutrient traps is working well and we have been busy planting native ground cover, sedges and trees in our new landscape.
There is ample opportunity for fish and crustaceans to move into this new area while the ponds are overflowing, a fact that has also been noticed by an Azure Kingfisher while a regular Egret visitor has been feeding on some of our frogs.
We were delighted to find a Papuan Frogmouth with one chick on a nest in a huge old tree in the garden and we are enjoying our regular observations. Large flocks of Double-eyed Fig Parrots, Metallic Starlings and some Barred Cuckoo-shrikes have been feasting on the same large Ficus benjamina that was last fruiting in September. What a wonderful food source this tree is.
Our long dry period has been relieved by more than 100mm during the last eight days. We started planting on the new island while it was still possible to walk across with dry feet. It is a wonderful feeling to spend an afternoon planting trees and then listen to the rain at night knowing they are all being well watered in.
After many weeks of dry, hot weather the water level in our existing wetland dropped considerably and the easy fishing tempted a Great Billed Heron away from Barratt Creek. The Magpie Geese have been regular visitors for several weeks, often flying in at first light to spend the day eating the water lily corms.
The next stage of wetland works is now under way. The sound of heavy machinery is incongruous with our usual peaceful existence but there is an air of excitement and anticipation as we watch the work progress.
The birds feeding on the nearby Ficus benjamina seem undisturbed by the activity. The mass of fruit is being enjoyed by a variety of birds including Double-eyed Fig Parrots, Barred Cuckoo-shrikes, Metallic Starlings, Fig Birds, Yellow Orioles and Koel.
As the wetland gradually dries there has been more activity on the water and in the shallows. Plenty of fish for Little Black Cormorants, Little Pied Cormorants and our resident Azure Kingfisher. We have also seen Green Pygmy Geese and Wandering Whistling Ducks for the first time here and we were able to enjoy watching them from the bird hide. Pacific Black Ducks, White-faced Heron, Great Egret and a Black-necked Stork have been visiting too, so the word is getting around.
Rain has continued through April with hardly a dry day although the total rainfall for the month is approximately a third of the March total.
The garden is alive with a variety of colourful butterflies and birds. There are lots of honeyeaters, Leaden Flycatchers, regular sightings of Lovely Wren families, Little Shrike-thrush, Varied Trillers, Gerygones, Mistletoe birds and of course our lovely Yellow-bellied Sunbirds. We were pleased to note a juvenile male Sunbird recently. Their babies have such a high attrition rate, especially with our resident Black Butcherbirds, that I wonder what percentage of Sunbird offspring actually reach maturity.
During March we measured more than 1.5 metres of rain which, not surprisingly, flooded our low lying areas quite extensively. It has been several years since we have experienced a “good wet” and the land seems rejuvenated.
We’ve seen flocks of Dollarbirds and Rainbow Bee-eaters flying around above the wetland recently, enjoying the large numbers of insects available at this time of the year. A Juvenile Helmeted Friarbird has been driving its parents crazy with insistent calls and it looks nearly adult size. There are many Drongoes about as well as Metallic Starlings with juveniles recently seen feeding on a bunch of ripening bananas that I had missed.
Many Silvereyes feeding on Glochidion spp. and I was fortunate to be able to observe three Fig-parrots preening and cuddling up to each other on a bamboo culm during a break in the rain.