The wet season has drizzled to a close through June and we are now experiencing some dry weather with mostly sunny days and quite cold nights. River mist is often a feature of these cold, clear mornings as we experienced yesterday at the start of a tour with Murray the Daintree Boatman. In spite of the cold it was a wonderful morning excursion and we were able to enjoy lengthy observations of a Great-billed Heron both on the main river and in Barratt Creek. It was peaceful on the water in the early morning, watching the bird with only occasional quiet talk and the whir of camera motor-drives breaking the silence.
Back at Wild Wings & Swampy Things ……..in early June a little flock of Spotted Whistling ducks arrived and stayed for a few weeks. We watched their movements with interest as they shared a pond with Betty Barratt, the crocodile who frequently enjoys our hospitality. The larger and apparently more senior Spotted Whistling Duck, which we took to be the male, kept a very close look-out after one of the flock went missing.
Betty continues her quiet life in our ponds while they hold sufficient water for her to feel comfortable. She is becoming a little more adventurous this year with more frequent movements between ‘Graham’ and ‘Rupert’ (all our ponds have names) leaving a muddy track on the bund wall separating the two ponds.
Many of the ‘bush birds’ have been a little quiet in the last week, possibly due to cold and sometimes windy weather. A few Magpie geese have been hanging around recently and several days ago, having noticed some trampled sedge, I was able to observe an adult goose with at least four, possibly five goslings. My dusk sighting didn’t enable a good view so Allen and I went out the next morning to see what was happening. We walked to Graham’s hide first; no visible goose activity but Betty was sunning herself amongst the waterlilies looking distinctly satisfied.
We walked down to the ’07 ponds (never properly named!) from where we could hear geese. There were several lookout birds honking from surrounding trees and nervous parents on the water with only two goslings. As Allen saw both a Sea Eagle and a Brahminy Kite having a go at the goslings later in the morning he was loath to blame Betty but the next morning only one gosling remained.
This morning the geese were sounding very unsettled, Betty was swimming around below the trees in which they perched and there was no gosling to be seen. There was, however, a Black Bittern skulking around on a small island in between the sedge plants (Rhynchospora corymbosa). It’s fun to have the opportunity to observe a BB without being seen although I didn’t see any dramatic action. Their ability to hold a pose for minutes on end with no apparent movement is extraordinary.
And so life on the ponds continues, a visiting friend today suggested that a renaming of the property to Wild Wings & Bitey Things might be appropriate as we await our official Crocodile warning sign! My mind immediately thought of the Faulty Towers television series and the fun we could have with an easily altered sign.
I have always found myself attracted to water; whether a vast expanse of sea or a tranquil lake, a cool pool on a hot day, a winding tree-lined river or a waterfall. In my very early days, like most children, my joy was mostly centred around the splashing qualities of water. These days I usually have a reason for getting wet and muddy! Pond maintenance (a bit of weeding) is not really a chore to me as there are so many wonderful distractions, and it is just such a good feeling to be hanging around the ponds.
The cyclical nature of wetlands is a learning process – Allen and I still find the onset of heavy rain and the resulting water flow into the ponds as exciting as always. After months of dry weather it is wonderful to see fresh water flowing over the spillways however there is really so much more to observe when we have mud!
Allen has been spending quite a bit of time with his camera in the bird hide recently; his patience and his quiet observation has resulted in some lovely photos.
Snipe preening – either Latham’s or Swinhoe’s.
Until a definitive photo of the tail feathers being fanned can be obtained we can’t be absolutely sure about this bird’s identification but it is just lovely seeing them so busy feeding.
Snipe feeding together – these two are thought to be Swinhoe’s
Pale-vented Bush Hen – while these birds are resident on the property we mostly only get a glimpse as they dash into the next bit of cover. Their voices however, can be heard loud and clear – a loud and raucous call for a small bird with such a neat appearance.
Black Bittern – standing on the edge of ‘Crake Island’
Another bird that we frequently hear calling at this time of the year but mostly only see once we have disturbed it feeding is the Black Bittern. There have been many calls recently and we expect there may be more than one nest to be found along Barratt Creek.
I had to include a couple more photos of the Great-billed Heron as I get such a thrill seeing these magnificent birds and these photos are better than some of my earlier attempts. We have more than one of these Herons regularly feeding in our wetlands and they don’t seem to be quite as nervous as they used to be although definitely still considered ‘shy’.
Unlike much of Queensland we have not had widespread heavy rains in Daintree, well not yet anyway, just isolated or scattered showers. With many months of ‘wet season’ ahead of us we’re making the most of any sunny periods – Allen is building a bird hide on the ’07 wetland system and I’ve been …..well one of us needs to inspect the tracks and you can’t do that without the camera!
I know there was a bird on this spillway……….
As I have disturbed one, sometimes two, Black Bittern on this outflow from Rupert’s Pond I decided to walk up very slowly and quietly Continue reading →
Sorry there is no photo to go with this story but I’ve got to tell………yesterday at dusk I decided to walk to the bird hide just after finishing my watering chores. Nothing visible on the ponds so I walked down on to the bund wall, I heard a Red-necked Crake cackling so I walked quietly towards the direction of the call. In the shallow stream below the spillway I saw a bird with dark wings splashing in the water so I dropped into a squat and stayed still as it was coming towards me. In the rapidly fading light I was able to see the markings around the bill and the breast clearly enough to realize that I was watching a Black Bittern having a bath. After several seconds it became aware of my presence and froze as I had – finally my knees insisted that I stand. Still no movement from the Bittern and by then it was nearly dark and I couldn’t see it any longer although I was aware of a ripple on the water as I moved away. The poor bird was probably getting wrinkly toes waiting for me to go.
More excitement followed this morning:
Magpie Goose & Goslings
As I walked down to the hide this morning several of the Magpie goose ‘scouts’ in the trees gave alarm calls which isn’t unusual but as I sat down I heard a distant and consistent ‘peeping’. On close inspection through binoculars I could pick out a number of goslings with adult geese on Rupert’s pond and I was soon able to see the ten goslings quite clearly as they moved out of the vegetation and onto the water, closely attended by a gander and two females.
It is not the first time Magpie Geese have bred at Wild Wings but they were not successful last year so it is very pleasing to see the expanded family on the water.
Later in the day the goslings were escorted by a number of adults through thick vegetation into Graham’s Pond on which the hide is situated and so finally we were close enough for some reasonable photos later in the afternoon.
Feeding the kids
One of the adult females appeared to be feeding parts of the water lily flower to the goslings. She was diving for the spent flowers under water which we imagine would have started to form seed and so have a higher protein content.
And no we didn’t get a lot of work done today – we made the most of a special experience and we are very happy and content.
Now that our major restoration projects are complete we are taking more time to simply enjoy the privilege of living in such a beautiful, peaceful and endlessly interesting area.
While there are always a few maintenance tasks the work is not onerous and we can take time out to enjoy our walking tracks as well as to sit and simply look around.
It is immensely rewarding to observe the growth in the vegetation, watch trees mature and to delight in the variety and number of birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, fish and insects both residing on and visiting the property.