Butterfies in our butterfly walk from winter 2013 to autumn 2015

blue tiger butterfly

blue tiger butterfly

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:

lemon migrant buttefly

lemon migrant butterfly

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
  • Caterpillars: monarch

Lycaenidae (blues and coppers):

  • Most common: ? several unidentified (tiny and very fast!)
  • Others: pencilled blue, speckled line-blue, wattle blue
  • Caterpillars: none seen

orchardswallowtail-caterpillarPapillionidae (swallowatils):

  • 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




Frugivory and seed dispersal at Araucaria, SEQ


Wompoo Fruitdove eating bangalow palm fruits

Wompoo Fruitdove eating bangalow palm fruits

Animals obviously need plants, but many plants also need animals. If all seeds drop beneath the mother tree, they’ll be competing with their mother and with their siblings for light, water, space and nutrients, and there may be heavy shade under the mother. They are also more easily found by seed-eating animals if they are in a big clump  on the ground. The tree has a better chance of contributing to the next generation if its seeds  are spread through the forest (or other habitat) in the  hope that some of the sites are better for germination and survival. Many trees, shrubs, herbs and vines simply scatter their seeds in the wind, but in the rainforest there’s not so much breeze, and when there is, the seeds are likely to hit a neighbouring tree and thus not travel far.

Frugivory (fruit-eating) is obviously useful for the animals that derive the nutrients, and if they also digest the seed (as parrots and many pigeons do) it’s not much good for the plant. If however they only digest the soft parts and regurgitate or pass the seeds through their digestive tracts unharmed (as some of our pigeons do, and also bowerbirds, honeyeaters and many others) they also provide an unwitting service for the tree, vine or other plant they fed on.

I was attracted to the topic because it involves so many disciplines – conservation biology (we can’t think only in terms of conserving species,but need to consider the relationships between them and others they interact with, and are there particular animals that threatened =plants depend on, and threatened animals that depend on particular fruits, especially in lean seasons?), ecology, evolution, animals behaviour and physiology.

A channel-billed cuckoo eating native  figs

A channel-billed cuckoo eating native figs

I’ve been conducting research on frugivory and seed dispersal, especially local birds that eat rainforest fruits, for some years now. One of the most popular fruit in our region – in terms both of of numbers of individual birds and the numbers of species feeding on the fruits – is a native fig Ficus rubiginosa (formerly regarded as  F. platypoda). So why aren’t there more growing around here?

I’m currently looking at this and other local plant species from three angles: (1) what eats them and how frequently? (mostly looking at birds, but other creatures as well) (2) where do frugivorous birds sit when not feeding (and thus likely to deposit seeds) and (3) what conditions do they need for germination and growth?

I do most of the observations alone, but guests on our tours can also assist on  forest walks by helping to find birds that are either eating fruit ( for 1 above) or  doing other things (for 2 above).

For the third aspect of the study, I’ve been germinating seeds in the brush house, but am now about to embark on some experiment field plots. In the photos below, Darren is heeling set up some of these experimental plots which in the future can be viewed by visitors to the Araucaria property and which I hope will help answer some of my queries.

prepare germination plots  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Frugivores other than birds include fruit bats and other mammals, some lizards (especially the larger skinks and dragons), fish (but not many in Australia) and ants, and we’re planning more observations of these.

Frogs in the Araucaria pond

Frogs at home at Running Creek, Scenic Rim, southeast Queensland

Dainty green treefrog

Dainty green treefrog

We’ve been hearing and seeing a few frogs lately, on warm wet evenings (although some of the evenings have been surprisingly cool for a Queensland summer).

Clicking froglets (Crinia signifera) have been very vocal, and we’ve heard a variety of others, including spotted and striped marsh frogs, tusked frogs, the green tree frog and the great barred frogs.

This little beauty is the dainty green treefrog, Litoria gracilenta, on a Dianella (native flax lily) next to the small pond near our wildlife ecology centre.

Birds on the Araucaria property

Birds we’ve seen or heard so far this month (December 2011) on or very near the Araucaria property in the Scenic Rim, southeast Queensland are:

Australian magpie
barn owl
bar-shouldered dove
black duck
brown cuckoodove
brush cuckoo
channel-billed cuckoo
crested skriketit
eastern rosella
eastern whipbird
eastern yellow robin
fan-tailed cuckoo
grey butcherbird
grey shrike-thrush
Lewin’s honeyeater
masked lapwing
noisy miner
noisy pitta
olive-backed oriole
pale-vented bush hen
pheasant coucal
pied currawong
rainbow lorikeet
red-browed finch
rose-crowned fruitdove
spangled drongo
sulphur-crested cockatoo
Torresian crow
varied triller
variegated fairywren
wedge-tailed eagle
welcome swallow
wonga pigeon

The crested shriketit was a surprise – only the second time we’ve seen it here in 30 years.

The pale-vented bush-hen moved in last month, but that was the first time we have seen or heard it here.

Birds at Andrew Drynan Reserve

Birds seen and heard this morning at Andrew Drynan Reserve

This morning before breakfast  I conducted one of my regular birding walks around Andrew Drynan Reserve (just around the corner from the Araucaria property, and the site we usually use for our camping guests). I wanted to do this before school holidays started, and as had I hoped, the reserve was free from campers this morning.


The Pacific Baza used to be called a crested hawk.

Highlights for the morning included:

  • a Pacific baza being mobbed by a couple of very vocal spangled drongos
  • the calls of rose-crowned fruitdove from the forest (hadn’t seen them here since last summer)
  • the calls of a noisy pitta from the forest (only the second time in several months)
  • three eastern rosellas foraging on the grass of the campground (often see pale-headed, not so often the eastern

The baza used to be known as the crested hawk, which more immediately decribed it to those unfamiliar with the word ‘baza’.  The name change was to bring it into line with international naming, as there are other baza species in Asia, Africa and Madagascar. Unlike most hawks, they often forage amongst foliage, eating insects and small vertebrates.

Other birds seen or heard this morning included channel-billed cuckoo (very vocal!) masked lapwing, wonga pigeon, brush cuckoo, common koel, pheasant coucal, rainbow lorikeet, galah (flock of 15 in the camping area), laughing kookaburra,  Lewin’s honeyeater (eating fruit of the introduced lantana), noisy miner, olive-backed oriole, figbird, eastern whipbird, eastern yellow robin, Australian magpie, pied currawong and  Torresian crow

The campsite at Andrew Drynan Reserve, where our guests choosing the camping option stay on the 3-day wildlife overview tour

The campsite at Andrew Drynan Reserve, where our guests choosing the camping option stay on the 3-day wildlife overview tour

Koalas at Andrew Drynan Reserve

Wilbur the koalaDoes Wilbur have a girlfriend?

We hadn’t seen Wilbur ( our more-or-less resident koala) for about a month.  Then a couple of days ago, when I was doing a regular bird survey in Andrew Drynan Reserve (the camping and picnic ground just around the corner from home) I spotted him climbing a gum tree (pictured to the right).

A few minutes later I saw another koala – a smaller one that I think is a female (pictured below). They weren’t exactly close – opposite ends of the campground in fact – but koalas are generally solitary, and males aren’t always very gentlemanly with their mates.

But we’re hoping there has been some romance and that we may see Wilbur’s progeny some time later in the year.

koala at Andrew Drynan Reserve

Loud cicadas!

This is one of those years when thousands upon thousands of cicadas all leave the ground at once, climb out of their old skins with full wings, and all start calling  – no, not quite all, only the males make the sound, but that’s presumably  half the population, and quite enough to make an almost deafening din at times. I’m not seeing so many small birds as I would expect in some sites at the moment, and can’t help wondering if they have moved into more peaceful areas, especially if they rely on sound to some extend to find their insect prey.

The cicadas have their own fascination though, and Darren was able to video one in the process of emerging from its old skin last month. I enjoy their calls most of the time – although a few times have felt like calling out to ask them to give it a rest for just a few minutes.

Twin platypus babies!

I said Darren saw our pair of platypus with their baby, newly emerged from the burrow, here on the Araucaria property.  He took a video, with zoom, from the cliff top, and when he replayed it we realized there was not one baby but two!  They were swimming in circles, apparently play-chasing each other, their little tails and hind legs splashing energetically as though still getting used to this idea that they could really stay afloat and move through this strange new medium.

Having been so concerned that the platypus might never return after the massive flood of early 2008 destroyed burrows, creek banks and riparian vegetation, this was wonderful!

Great night of spotting:baby platypus, bandicoots …

Darren took our Danish guests to  the creek to watch platypus late this afternoon, and instead of two saw three! Their young one has emerged from the burrow. And after dark, a brushtail possum with baby, other possums, a pademelon, a red-necked wallaby, plenty of bandicoot babies and a tawny frogmouth, and a cicada emerging from its larval skin, as well as hearing plenty of frogs.

Frog pond brings in new frog

We used to hear the great barred frog give its deep ‘walk…. walk-walk’ call across the creek on a neighbouring property but never here on our own property.  We put in a frog pond near the Scenic Rim Wildlife Ecology Centre about three years ago and in it we have seen green tree frogs, ornate burrowing frogs, marsh frogs and others.  Tonight I walked outside and heard great barred frogs calling from where?  Our fish pond!