For some years now we’ve been conducting tours to Coochiemudlo Island, an attractive and varied little subtropical island with long sandy beaches over which thousands of blue crabs march as the tide recedes, rocky platforms, mangroves, coastal woodlands and red cliffs much prized by the Aboriginals, who used the red ochre for body painting and trade with mainland groups. Bush stone-curlews, with their arresting stares, raptors, butterflies, bush-birds, shorebirds and a variety of sea creatures in rock pools all add to the charm of this island, so close to Brisbane yet often so deserted as holiday-makers rush to the far more commercialized Gold Coast.
Darren and I have recently been employed by Coochiemudlo Coast Care (under a grant from Redlands Shire Council) to conduct a fauna survey o the Melaleuca (tea-tree) Wetlands over four seasons (mid-summer, mid-autumn, mid-winter and mid-spring, with a view to enhancing conservation management plans. We completed the first session in January, with a team of volunteers to help set, check and wash traps (used to capture animals which are promptly released after identification).
The delights of staying overnight, listening to the weird, wild calls of the stone-curlews, watching the sun and moon rise over the waters and wandering safe bush tracks at night are encouraging us to add overnight stays to our island tours. We may also in future involve our tourists in some weed eradication (an on-going threat to the native understorey plants) in conjunction with the excellent programs by Coochiemudlo Coast Care, and spotting species in a monitoring program. Let us know in comments below or by emailing us at email@example.com if interested.
Results will not be public until completion of the survey, but here are a few photos from our visit, which included live trapping and release, walking the trails day and night and setting motion-sensing cameras.
We hadn’t run a Coochiemudlo Island trip for a while, so it was very pleasant to be back on the island, this time with a gentleman from England who had been on three of our other tours and his friend from USA.
The tide was low as we arrived, so as we neared the red cliffs the island derives its name from I was scanning the beach for soldier crabs hoping they hadn’t already finished their foraging and headed back into their burrows.
Soon they appeared as a vague shadow moving across the sand, so we hurried over for a closer look. A white ibis was also very interested, and it was at least good to see one eating something natural rather than picnic scraps
When disturbed, the crabs quickly bury themselves, then reappear a few minutes later. After feeding, they will all o so and wait for the next low tide.
Birds seen that day included the following:
The banksias were starting to bloom, and should soon attract lots of nectar feeders
I almost expect the mangroves here to start walking like triffids
but this rather tattered eggfly found them safe enough to settle on
After a seafood lunch at Red Rock Cafe we headed back to the mainland to look for wallabies for our American guest, and found them at two locations within Redands before our final journey back to the city
Our 6- or 8- day small-group outback tours run on demand, but at a maximum of twice a year (once in autumn. once in spring – summer is too hot, and in winter the reptiles aren’t active and we’re usually busy with other tours).
We’ve had an inquiry for a tour this spring, and could do it in early September or mid-October.
Let us know if you’re interested in joining in, so we can start planning.
The butterfly walk on the Araucaria property has been planted out with the food plants of local caterpillars, divided into the five major families of Australian butterflies.
Every month I walk the trail 5 times on 5 separate days, recording the butterflies I see: once in the morning, twice at mid-day (when butterflies ae most active), once late afternoon and once after dark (when some of the caterpillars are more active). For several years we saw no obvious increase in butterflies, but suddenly this summer they more than doubled in frequency of sightings
So far our butterflies include:
Pieridae (whites and yellows)
Most common: Lemon Migrant and Grass Yellow
Others: Caper White, Albatross and (introduced) cabbage white
Caterpillars: none as yet, but many grass yellows seen apparently laying eggs on Breynia leaves
Nymphalidae (nymphs, browns and danains):
Most common: Monarch (introduced), evening brown, aeroplane, lesser wanderer
Others: common brown, blue tiger, jezebel nymph, common crow, varied eggfly, meadow argus, admiral
Lycaenidae (blues and coppers):
Most common: ? several unidentified (tiny and very fast!)
Others: pencilled blue, speckled line-blue, wattle blue
Caterpillars: none seen
Most common: orchard butterfly (several on finger lime in our butterfly walk, also on orange tree near house)
Others:blue triangle, dingy swallowtail
Caterpillars: orchard butterfly, blue triangle
Hesperidae (skippers and darts):
Most common: orange palm dart
Others: regent skipper, common red-eye, orange ochre and a few unidentified (as for Lycaenid spp above)
Caterpillars: orange palm dart, in roll of palm-leaf
Twice before we’d booked for snorkelling at Cook Island, which we had so many times looked towards on the third day of our tours while watching for dolphins, but had never visited, with Cooly Dive. Each time the weather had been so bad they had to cancel the cruise. With the cyclone up north I was afraid we’d get some rough weather down our way as well.
We had just led a three-day wildlife tour, but added a couple of extra days at the request of our British guest, to include snorkelling and Aboriginal culture, and he was flying out the following day.
Third time lucky!
The sea is always a little rough as you enter it from the mouth of the river, and we were all given life jackets as a precaution
Unfortunately it was rough enough to make my stomach a bit queasy on the way (I hadn’t bothered with seasick pills as it seemed such a short distance, but maybe I shouldn’t have been taking so many photos while clinging to the edge of the plunging boat)
We soon reached Cook Island, well-known for nesting seabirds and turtles
Holding our masks firmly to our faces we each obediently took a big step outwards from the boat and sank swiftly below the water
We soon saw what the dives here are famous for – a turtle (unfortunately the visibility wasn’t good enough for a better photo).
We saw another later in the dive, also a wobbegong shark (a small harmless species, and regrettably I didn’t manage a recognisable photo), toadfish and lots of other fish and scattered bits of coral. Our English guest also saw a pike fish.
Then finally back to the boat:
Darren heading back to the boat
Maybe next time the water will be a little clearer and we’ll get some better photos, but apart from my seasickness (which worsened on the return trip – must remember those pills next time!) it was a nice introduction to diving at the island.
The Central West Queensland section of the Lake Eyre Basin is a magnificent region of the outback that can be very rewarding for birders, and for those wishing to explore the ecological variety of this semi-arid temperate zone. Summer can be over-whelming, but in August the mean mid-day temperatures are around 26 degrees Celsius, and usually only one or two days have more than a few millimeters of rain, making very pleasant conditions for touring, and perhaps a great escape from southern winters
This birding tour, led by raptor-enthusiast Keith Fisher, will visit Lochern, Welford, and Diamantina Lakes National Parks harbouring that symbol of the outback the red kangaroo, biggest macropod in the world, in its natural habitat. Dams that provided water for cattle on Welford National Park when it was a grazing property have now been removed, ensuring that kangaroos in the park are surviving on natural water levels. Sweeping grasslands, often mixed with rocky sections, ensure that kangaroos easy to see. No less impressive are slightly shorter wallaroos, with their apt scientific name of ‘robustus’ - very stocky and powerful animals that often tolerate a close approach. Grey Kangaroos are also common.
The region is home to another Australian icon, the Coolibah tree of Waltzing Matilda fame. These trees send their roots deep under the channels that funnel down into Lake Eyre. Parts of this region are in fact often referred to as the ‘Channel Country’ – a network of watercourses that curve across the country. Channels can be very deep, making it possible to sit on the banks watching birds such whistling kites, white-necked herons and other birds hunting down below.
Some of Australia’s endemic raptors, not regularly seen on the coast, are reasonably common in this region. These include the second smallest booted eagle in the world, the ‘little’ eagle (not all that little), and also the spotted harrier and the so-called black-breasted buzzard (not really a buzzard). The brown falcon, a powerful and common bird, does particularly well in this area, and you will be in a zone of intergradation, where pale, dark, and rufous forms of this species intermix. Australia’s largest falcon, the black falcon, is found in this region, and there is always a possibility, though the chances are slim, of seeing one of the rarest birds in the world: the elusive but rewarding grey falcon.
Australia’s heaviest flying bird, the Australian bustard, lives here, as does Australia’s largest (and the world’s second largest) flightless bird, the emu. Huge flocks of budgerigars are sometimes present. Other flock species which may be seen in large numbers include woodswallows, and flock bronzewings. Along the watercourses, a variety of honeyeaters make their way through the trees, and in the grasslands and in fringing vegetation are finches and quail.
The tour will start 17th August in the outback town of Longreach (which can be reached by train or flight from Brisbane), cover a lot of ground with great variety of outback habitats, clear skies, wide open spaces inhabited by Aussie icons (kangaroos and emus) and of course plenty of birds not often seen even by most Australians.
The waterfalls have been pounding down very nicely after all the rain we’ve had recently. Mostly on this half-day tour we just visit Curtis Falls, but we took a little extra time on our most recent tour to also visit the Cedar Creek Falls, which we haven’t seen so often this year because the road was closed for a while due to flooding.
While there we were visited by a hopeful lace monitor (goanna) while having tea and biscuits under the gum-trees. We don’t feed the wildlife on our tours, but the goannas have learned that some picnickers still do, or at least leave a few scraps behind, so they lumber through the area in with their prehistoric-looking walking style, flicking their forked tongues to determine the direction of whatever scent they find most interesting
Another bit of wildlife action was a female golden orb-weaver spider catching a small dragonfly in her web, and vigorously wrapping it up for later.
The Curtis Falls in the Joalah section of Tamborine Mountain National Park have been putting on a good show – they’re small but in a very pretty setting
Butterflies have been happily fluttering around our butterfly walk on the Araucaria property, Scenic Rim. Queensland, although none of them are captive. And although most people hope there plants don’t get eaten, we’ve been happy to see caterpillars munching away on the leaves.
We’ve added a few features recently:
colour-coding the butterfly families on our walk with coloured ropes along the tracks
planting additional caterpillar foodplants
planting extra plants for attracting adult butterflies
planting low-growing herbaceous and shrubby plants with flowers to match the colour theme for the butterfly family
constructing a cement path in the shape of a caterpillar leading from the wildlife ecology centre towards the start of the walk
construction a “pupa” to walk through after the caterpillar just before the butterfly walk begins
completing the life cycle by painting an egg on the step outside the centre before stepping onto the caterpillar tail
(just as well Darren wasn’t still on that ladder when it fell)