24 June, 2008

Return of the Cranes and Bustards

Today along Forsayth Road I came across five Bustards strutting their stuff across a fallow paddock.

Winter on the Atherton Tablelands bring us birds which spend other parts of the year elsewhere. The more distant of these two males Bustards is the older bird. While we often have the odd Bustard on the inner Tablelands, it is now that their numbers increase and one might see a dozen in a paddock. The males can inflate their throat pouch when displaying. Bustards fly with slow deliberate wing beats.
The Sarus Cranes were feeding next door. These stately birds breed in the southern Gulf of Carpentaria wetlands but many winter, or rather spend the dry season, here. Australia's other crane, the Brolga, has only a small red patch on the back of the head. As you can see the Sarus Cranes have an extensive red area. Their legs are pink in contrast to the grey of the Brolga.

Sarus Cranes dance to build and maintain their pair bonds. Pirouettes, bows and high hops are accompanied by high pitched calls. As the season progresses they become more intense in this and will often throw high above their heads the grass or sticks they have in their bills. This second year bird has not yet developed the full red on the head and neck nor the pink legs. It is not stopped by this in practising a few dance steps.

23 June, 2008

Cuckoos love Caterpillars

On Sunday 22/06/08 Maria and I were birding with Birds Australia North Queensland Group at Eubenangee Swamp near Innisfail. Apart from birds we saw a couple of big crocs.

In the trees along the creek we observed the catterpillars of the Four O'clock Moth, Dysphania fenstra, on Carallia, Carallia brachiata . Also known as Corky Bark the fruits of this tree are eaten by many birds. This bright yellow and black larva develops into a very attractive moth which flies in the afternoon, hence its name.

A female Little Bronze Cuckoo, Chrysococcyx malayanus, with some of the features of the subspecies russatus, was feeding in the bushes accompanied by a juvenile. On finding this large larva it set to work for some time before freeing the tenacious caterpillar.

Success at last!

09 June, 2008

Testing Testing

Here I am testing the waters of this technology which is new to me. Actually this is a Coppery Brushtail Possum, Trichosorus vulpecula johnstonii. These are the most common of the possums seen on my nocturnal tours. They eat a wide range of leaves, fruit, flowers, bark and even the odd insect and bird’s egg.