Monday, 16 April 2018

Bowra Birds

Major Mitchell's Cockatoos Lophochroa leadbeateri fly over the lagoon at sunset

Here are some shots of the birds we had around the campsite at Bowra Wildlife Sanctuary, see previous post. For more on the birds caught and banded visit the piece Jon Coleman, who organised the meet, on the Facebook page of Australian Bird Study Association Inc.

Australian Ringneck Barnardius zonarius parrots forage for seeds around the edge of the camp. They like to keep in the shadows. That way their eyes are shielded from the sun and they can see any predators approach.

Parrots are so versatile, they can grip such slender stems such as on this shrub, to reach the seeds still set in the dried flower heads, then pull out the seeds with their tongues and bills.

Over by the lagoon, there were four Willy Wagtails Rhipidura leucophrys hunting insects. This one was using branches lying in the water as perches to hawk from.

This Willy Wagtail was using a kangaroo as a hunting perch.

It wasn't catching insects on the kangaroo's back, just using it as a vantage point to spot prey on the ground nearby, possibly disturbed by the roo.

There were several White-headed Stilts Himantopus leucocephalus patrolling around the water, dipping to snatch insect larvae from the water, mosquitoes hopefully.

And there were six Black-fronted Dotterel Elseyornis melanops feeding in the very shallowest water. Well, their legs are a lot shorter than the stilts'.

In fact they are rather small birds, small enough for the group of them to hide in the sand around a log lying on the shore.

Saturday, 7 April 2018

Campsite Reptiles

Last week I was out at Bowra Sanctuary, west of Cunnamulla, Queensland. This is a nature reserve owned and managed by the Australian Wildlife Conservancy, and I was one of a volunteer team mist-netting birds as part of a long-term project studying the birds in the reserve. More on the birds in a later post. For now here are a few photographs of the gorgeous reptiles we found in the campsite. This first one is an Inland Velvet Gecko Oedura cincta, about 12 cm long and with big black eyes.

This gecko was found by Shoshano Rapley, who was handy to have in the team as she is a specialist in reptiles. She found this one when spotting with a torch around the campsite.

I was sitting watching the various insects scurrying about on the ground one night when I noticed a sigmoid line tracing below the dirt. It was moving, then I saw a glimpse of scales and I thought it might be a snake or a legless lizard, so I called over our expert. And sure enough when I touched the dirt with a stick a blind snake popped out and wriggled across the leaf litter. It was a Prong-snouted Blind Snake Anilior bituberculatus.

These reptiles are very difficult to identify, this one was recognisable by the pattern of the scales on its face. It was incredibly wriggly, so difficult to photograph with flash, but the fineness of its scales can be seen here. It looked and almost felt like a giant earthworm, and it emitted a defensive odour which scented my hands for a while afterwards.

Blind snakes are incredibly difficult to find due to their underground lifestyle. This one was about 30 cm long. They feed on termites and ants, their eggs and pupae.

Our other special visitor, or rather we were their visitors, was a 2 m long Inland Carpet Python Morelia spilota metcalfei. This was spotted crossing the ground between the tents, so we picked it up and placed it a tree, where it soon worked itself into ambush posture and lay there quietly for hours. Well past my bedtime at least. I like the violet forked tongue.

Peter Davidson takes a photograph of the python on the branch.

These snakes are difficult to spot in daytime, and once this one was settled into the branches in the dark, it was very difficult to see at all.

One thing the flash did was highlight the pattern of the snake's scales. I was using a remote flash in coordination with the camera flash. This not only brought out the colour and pattern but added shadows to the layering of the scales. All so soft and warm to touch. The snake was not aggressive at all.

I particularly liked the way the snake twisted back on itself and kinked its neck, all set for ambushing any small rodent that happened to wander too near in the dark.

Sunday, 25 March 2018

March Moths

I was out trapping moths again last week. This time, still in the Namadgi Nature Reserve, along the Corin Road in the ACT, Australia, about an hours drive from Canberra city. As usual the trip was organised by Suzi Bond and Glenn Cocking, to whom I am grateful for the trip and the identification of the various moth species. There is so little known about many of these moths, that I have not tried to add any descriptions. I have simply added some photographs in appreciation of their wonderful colours and forms. To share.

Thailana inscripta

Leucania obusta 

Leucania obusta 

Chenuala heliaspis 

Chenuala heliaspis 

Plesanemma fucata 

Onycodes traumataria

Chlorodes boisduvalaria 

Euloxia meandaria 

Chlorocoma tetraspila

Friday, 16 March 2018

Owlet Nightjar

It's not often that we see a night-bird, which usually roosts in a hole by day, out in the open. So this little bird, an Owlet Nightjar Aegotheles chrisoptus, surprised me when it flew up into a tree in front of me. Seemingly from nowhere.

The bird did not seem sure what to do next and it gave me a good look, watching me as if to determine whether I was a threat to it or not. It did not seem to think so, probably because I had not moved or chased after it.

This is where the bird had flown from, inside the hollow heartwood of this long-ago felled tree stump. The hole was straight down from the top and about 40 cm deep. That is rather low and shallow for an Owlet Nightjar to roost in, so I think it was a young bird of the year, now out on its own to find a territory with food and suitable tree holes to roost in, and nest in next year. It probably felt vulnerable in the small hollow and could see me walk past through the cracks in the timber. I do usually check such sites for animals, and I probably would have discovered it, so it did the right thing.

This is the habitat the stump was in, old farmland, partially cleared for grazing, which is now part of  the nature reserve network in Canberra. Owlet Nightjars hunt invertebrates at night, mostly on the ground, and the leaf litter around the stump would be good habitat for them. However the taller grass would not be so good as the birds can't see their prey so easily, nor land and walk about in tall grass - they have short legs.

I walked past the nightjar, on the far side of the bird from the stump. That way, if it was hoping to go back to its hole to continue its daytime roost it would be less likely to think that I would follow it. And I did not go back to check it, to find out if it had. If I had done so then I would have flushed it twice from its precious home and so might abandon it. It might not be the perfect home for an Owlet Nightjar, but it might have been all it had for now.

Most daytime views of Owlet Nightjars are of faces peering from roost holes. To see this one completely out, was a special occasion. But I do wonder, why do they have such long nasal bristles.

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Namadgi Damselflies

While out at Namadgi surveying moths, as described in the previous post, I took some photographs of damselflies that were hawking up and down a stream side. I could not identify them at the time, but I wanted to collect some site records for the local recorder, Harvey Perkins. He subsequently and kindly identified them for me. See his posts on dragonflies and damselflies at

When I went down to the stream by the campsite at dawn, the damselflies were all hanging from grass and sedge stems over the water, still coated with dew, shining in the rising sun. But the water evaporated quickly and the insects soon warmed up. All I do here, is share those brief magic moments.

Four damselflies hang in their overnight roosts on grass stems overhanging a stream. Soon they were dry, warm and off hunting, mating and laying eggs.

Metallic Ringtail Austrolestes cingulatus, male

Metallic Ringtail, male.

Bronze Needle Synlestes weyersii tillyardi, male.

Common Bluetail Ischnura heterostica, male.

Common Bluetail, female.

Bronze Needle, male.

Bronze Needle, female.

Metallic Ringtail, male.

Metallic Ringtail, female.