Tuesday, January 23, 2018

WITH the CHINCHILLA NATS at the BUNYAS (Report by Patricia Gardner)

Four Toowoomba Field Nats accepted the invitation of the Chinchilla Field Nats to join them on their weekend outing there a few weeks ago. We had a glorious time of it. Members of the Bunya Mountains Natural History Association joined in (some Chinchilla Nats are also members of this organisation), and for us Toowoomba-ites it was a real pleasure to be surrounded by so much expertise, particularly on the birds, insects, and plants we found there. We have this in our own Club, too, of course, but we all enjoyed spending some leisurely time with a different group of people, who shared so many of our interests but had a different (though overlapping) body of knowledge and experiences. Discussions included the recent mystery deaths of three large bunya trees, the likely future effects on the bunya forests of global warming in a place where this species prefers the highest altitudes. We spent some time looking for young bunyas and wondering whether there might be fewer young seedlings in the forest than perhaps there should be, for the continued health of the forest.
Those of us who “did everything”, from beginning to end, managed five walks between Carbine’s chute at one end of the Bunyas and the Mt. Kiangarow grasstrees at the other, and a visit to "Cedarvale", the historic slab hut premises of the Natural History group.
With its altitude, the area is relatively cool, and most of our walking was in the shade of the forests so the heat which had stay-at-homes sweltering that weekend was not a problem for us. Some of us shared hired houses with the Chinchilla Nats, and were delighted with just how much birdwatching could be done from the shady verandah, with the forest edge so close by.

Yellow Sand Wasp (Bembix palmata)

One of the weekends highlights was watching the ground wasps working at their holes at the end of the Mt. Kiangarow walk. Some of you will remember them from our own club’s visit to the Bunyas a few years ago. Don identified them (tentatively) then, as Bembix palmata (Yellow Sand Wasp). The holes are nests for egg-laying and raising their larvae, which they feed with small flies. On this trip, we noted that more than one wasp seemed to visit each hole. The internet tells us that others have noticed this behaviour, and theorised that one wasp is providing the larva (or larvae?) with food, while the other guards the nest from predators which might parasitise the baby wasps. Are they a male/female pair? We had no way of knowing.
We have also found no explanation for the prevalence of wasps in this patch just a few metres across. Are they a community, or simply a collection of individuals who are all taking advantage of a suitable site? Don and I have noticed the same phenomenon at Bladensburg National Park, where, (unlike at Mt. Kiangarow), there seems to be plenty of suitable ground to choose from. In that case, the diggings were again restricted to a circle 2-3 metres across, slightly raised in comparison with the flat soil all around. Is this communal behaviour? Or were we merely seeing a collection of solitary wasps (or pairs) who were making use of soil improved for their purposes by previous digging?
We found this and plenty to wonder at, on our Bunya weekend. Thank you, Chinchilla Nats, for including us on your wonderful weekend

Bird List from Bunya Mountains outing with Chinchilla Field Naturalists 12-14 January 2018
Thanks to Bernice Seton (Bell Bird Watching group) who collated this list and kindly shared her expertise and experience with our group on our walks.
Eastern Spinebill, Golden Whistler (H), Noisy Pitta (H), Eastern Whipbird (H), Lewin’s Honeyeater, White-browed Wren, Wedgetail Eagle (2), Black-faced Monarch (2), Yellow Thornbill, Satin Bowerbird, Spotted Pardalote (H), Grey Fantail, Grey Shrike-thrush, White-throated Treecreeper (H), Red Browed Finch, Pied Currawong, Silver Eye (H), Brown Thornbill, Brown Gerygone, Yellow-throated Scrubwren (plus nest), Brown Pigeon, Grey Goshawk, Green Catbird, Paradise Riflebird, Eastern Yellow Robin, Large-billed Scrubwren, Fantail Cuckoo, Crimson Rosella, King Parrot.     (H= Heard only)

Bird watching on Westcott Trail

Monday, January 22, 2018

HONEYEATERS in DURIKAI STATE FOREST - article and photos by Al Young

Durikai State Forest (SF) is located about 90 kilometres south of Toowoomba on the Cunningham Highway. Most of the SF is on the southern side of the Cunningham Highway and it covers about 13,000 hectares and is located in what is often called the Trap Rock Country. In this area, the soils are generally shallow with quite low fertility and water holding capacity. However, despite these apparent soil deficiencies the area has a fairly complex vegetation structure and high species diversity of plants and birds, especially honeyeaters.
The main vegetation type is a mixed dry sclerophyll forest dominated by Eucalyptus species, including Tumble-down Gum (Eucalyptus dealbata), White Box (E. albens), Yellow Box (E. melliodora), Grey Box (E. macro-carpa), Narrow-leafed Iron Bark (E.crebra) and Mugga Iron Bark (E. sideroxylon). There are also areas of Cypress Pine (Callitris spp) and Paperbarks (Melaleuca spp) in the moister areas. There is generally a well- developed understory of shrubs and grasses.
One of the most productive birding sites is a small dam, sometimes known as the Durikai Waterhole, which is covered with rushes and reeds. This dam or waterhole provides an excellent drinking spot for birds because in addition to the cover provided by the rushes, the forest vegetation comes very close to the edge of the water, thus allowing birds good additional cover from predators while drinking.

Over the past four years I have visited this dam 10 times over all seasons and have recorded 15 species of honeyeaters. This dam is certainly a ‘hot spot’ for honeyeaters. Although this ‘survey’ mainly concentrated on the birds coming to drink, in order to get photos I also noted other species, such as Brown, Striped, and Spiny-cheeked Honeyeaters which were identified by their calls. The survey method was biased because it concen-trated mainly on the area where most birds came to drink and afforded the best spots for photography. Never-theless, these observations might be of interest to ‘honeyeater fans’.
The number of times each species of honeyeater was recorded (sighting or call) during the study was quite variable, so the graphs (sighting or call) during the study was quite variable, so the graphs below show the frequency of occurrence as a percentage (f%) over the 10 observation periods. (See bar graphs below.)
Fucous Honeyeater
White-naped Honeyeaters

The honeyeaters most frequently seen were: Yellow-tufted (100%), Yellow-faced (100%), Noisy Friarbird (90%) and White-naped (80%). Five species, Little Friarbird, Striped, Lewin’s, Spiny-cheeked were only recorded once. Although no attempt was made to count the number of each species coming in to drink, it was apparent that Yellow-tufted Honeyeaters were the most abundant (or the thirstiest!), followed by White-naped, Fuscous and Yellow-faced Honeyeaters. It was nice to see several species that I rarely see up close, such as Black-chinned, Brown-headed and White-eared Honeyeaters.

Black-chinned Honeyeater

It was also interesting to note that while the honeyeaters were ‘in drinking mode’ there was no apparent aggression or chasing behaviour that is so often associated with honeyeaters. Yellow-tufted, White-naped, and Fuscous Honeyeaters plus Noisy Friarbirds often shared the same space at ‘the bar’.
So why haven’t I recorded any White-throated and White-plumed Honeyeaters at this dam? Wrong habitat or mis-identifications? White-throated and Black-chinned Honeyeaters are very similar in appearance and so are Fuscous and White-plumed. The later species is more often associated with rivers and creeks (riverine habitats) in Durikai rather than dams. It is often difficult to pick the difference between Black-chinned and White-throated Honeyeaters unless you can see the black chin, blue crescent-shaped patch above eye and whitish nape band that reaches the eye in the Black-chinned Honeyeater. White-throated Honeyeaters tend to prefer the moister forest habitats and may be absent from Durikai. It is also a good idea to ‘brush-up’ on the calls of these honeyeaters because they are quite different and will certainly assist with your identifications.
In addition to honeyeaters there are also other interesting species, which included Turquoise Parrot (only seen twice), Dusky and White-browed Woodswallow, Australian Raven, Crested Shrike-tit, to name a few. So, for a great day’s birding head to Durikai Dam/Waterhole and sit quietly near the water’s edge and enjoy the experi-ence. Once the birds become accustomed to your presence they will come quite close in order to drink. Recently White-naped Honeyeaters were dipping into the water and then perched on a branch about one metre above my head and proceeded to ruffle their feathers spraying water droplets on my bald pate. Marvellous!

Brown-headed Honeyeater

Noisy Friarbird

Yellow-tufted Honeyeater

 (Article and photos by Al Young)


A rather more substantial nest than the gerygones was located further around the edge of the dam on a small treed promontory. It was made up from sticks of reasonable size and looked to be a sturdy platform. A whistl-ing kite was flying in the area and the nest matched the general construction expected of that species. There were a number of bones on the ground in the vicinity of the nest. Those collected appear to be part of a wallaby jaw, a possum skull and a smaller skull which has not yet been identified. Whistling kites are scavengers and eat carrion of all descriptions as well as catching the occasional small prey.

(Article and photo by Diana Ball)

OUTING REPORT Lake Cressbrook and the Munro Tramway, Sunday 05 November

Over the course of the day 21 people attended for all or part of this very relaxed outing. Thank you to Diane Pagel for her efforts in organising this. Thanks also to Donalda and Graham Rogers for our morning bird list and Mike Ford for the afternoon recording.
We met at the Cressbrook picnic area for a walk along the shoreline and local area. An abundance of Eastern Grey Kangaroos rested in the shade apparently indifferent to us. Groups of water birds including Pelicans, Cormorants were occasionally disturbed by motorised human activities. Following morning tea, we drove to the camping site where a Koala was keenly observed. We enjoyed a leisurely walk along the shoreline observing the scrub such as Eucalypt and Ironbark trees and various grasses.
Among our general sightings was the tiny White-throated Gerygone which drove off a pair of Noisy Friarbirds from their hanging nest, a Whistling Kite circling and the Red-backed Wren.
Following lunch and a very interesting and well-informed discussion by Diane on the local Geological features, we drove to the Perseverance Creek Restoration project with billboard information of the cattle rest, trees and timber. We then visited the Munro Tramway for a late afternoon stroll (see bird list). In addition to billboarded information, Jan Veacock shared her local historical knowledge of logging, bullock transport and saw milling near Argyle house and Murphy’s Creek. This indeed was a very interesting and informative day.

(Report by Sandy Eastoe)

Bird List Munro's Tramway: Spangled Drongo; Olive- backed Oriole; Sacred Kingfisher; Rufous Whistler; Rainbow Lorikeet; Lewin’s Honeyeater; Grey Shrike-thrush. (Compiled by Mike Ford)

SPEAKER’S REPORT: U.S.Q., Toowoomba and Life Elsewhere

Guest speaker at the November meeting Jonti Horner, Vice Chancellor’s Senior Research Fellow, gave a talk entitled “U.S.Q., Toowoomba and Life Elsewhere”. The idea of life outside Earth started with the erroneous idea that there were canals on Mars. But there are several places in the Solar System that have the necessary requirements for life: a solvent like water, nutrients; and energy, e.g. our Sun. Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons, has an ocean about 100 kilometres deep, with volcanism on the bottom, but there is an outer layer of ice 10-20 kilometres thick that prevents us from detecting any possible life below.
In the past Mars had lots of water, and even now there is ice water underground under intense pressure. Any life there would be primitive life like bacteria. But exoplanets, i.e. planets around other stars, are the main emphasis now. These can be detected in a number of ways. The presence of a planet produces a slight wobble in the motion of a star. And there is a tiny dimming of a star when a planet transits in front of it. Spectral lines, representing the emission lines of elements in a star, are subject to the Doppler effect caused by the star and planet moving towards and away from Earth in their orbit.
Pulsars are ultra-dense neutron stars, which are spinning very rapidly. The pulsar’s radiation is focused into a beam by the pulsar’s strong magnetic field. This blip is regular, but the presence of a planet causes it to occur earlier or later. The Kepler Space Telescope, which was launched in order to detect exoplanets, surveyed only one patch in the sky. NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, when launched, will target all the brightest stars in all of the night sky. Exoplanet detection needs more telescopes. MINERVA is a four-telescope array in Arizona looking for exoplanets in the northern hemisphere. USQ is building a complementary MINERVA multi-telescope facility at Mount Kent. The number of exoplanets discovered has been increasing exponentially, and they have been finding more that resemble Earth.
(Report by Mary Petr)

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Calothamnus quadrifidus - article and photos by Barbara Weller

Calothamnus quadrifidus, commonly known as one-sided bottlebrush is a plant in the Myrtle Family, which is endemic to the south-west of Western Australia. The common name alludes to the arrangement of the flowers in the inflorescence which line up on one side of the stem. It is a shrub with grey-green, pine-like foliage covered with soft hairs and red flowers in spring. This bush is growing in my garden and was planted about three years ago. This is the first time it has flowered.

OUTING REPORT – Lake Broadwater Conservation Park (October, 2017)

Lake Broadwater Conservation Park near Dalby on the Darling Downs is one of my favourite natural history venues in south-east Queensland so, when I was asked if I’d lead an outing there for the TFN some months ago, I was more than happy to accept. This all culminated on Sunday 08th October when a small but enthusiastic party of members and friends met at the main camping grounds at 9.30am for a great day in pleasant company delving into the private lives of the denizens of this wonderful ephemeral wetland; a jewel in the crown of the Southern Brigalow Belt bioregion.  
Ephemeral it might be but at present the lake is brimming full attracting the nemesis of birdwatchers particularly and the contemplative soul generally, the power boater and water skier. After we rallied at the camping site we beat a hasty retreat to the bird hide out of range of this high-octane lunacy where many of the waterfowl had preceded us and probably for much the same reason. Sitting in and wandering around the bird hide produced some great species with and without a spinal cord depending on the proclivities of the questers involved. Everything from a snowy squadron of Gull-billed Terns to a bank of flowering sundews, from pie dish beetles to an old man Forester (Eastern Grey Kangaroo), all was gist for the mill.
Here we got a very impressive bird list, as well as other interesting fauna and flora before heading to the old, now derelict, natural history museum building for smoko where we were treated to a fossil display by Troy and Skye Cox. Troy and Skye are a young and very enthusiastic couple deeply interested and knowledgeable in palaeontology especially that of the Dalby area where they are now resident. Fossil crabs, remains of extinct giant marsupials, ancient crocodilian scutes, jaw bones and teeth all gathered around Queensland provided a fascinating adjunct to smoko and we must sincerely thank them both for making time to attend the day’s outing. Also present today were Dalby residents Malcolm and Marjorie Wilson long time stalwarts of the recently disbanded Lake Broadwater Natural History Association. They are both a wealth of knowledge about the history natural and cultural of the area and it was great to have them along for the day. Malcolm, among his many areas of expertise, is also a keen fossil hunter and somewhat of a mentor to Troy so things palaeontological seem like continuing around Dalby for a good while yet.
Between smoko and a belated lunch Malcolm took us on a conducted tour of the bulloak/cypress country south of the lake but the day had turned hot and we didn’t tarry to long here before heading for the Wilga Bush Camping Area for more food! We had this entire area to ourselves and, after a leisurely lunch, we ambled off down to the lake’s edge recording all sorts of stuff en route including rosella-like plant galls, a magnificent flowering Black Orchid Cymbidium canaliculatum; two species of monitors and some very nice waterfowl.

By the time that we’d finished this walk shadows were lengthening so everyone departed to their various destinations including as far as Brisbane. I’m sure the travel was worth it though. 
Species recorded; Lake Broadwater Conservation Park; 08 October 2017
The centipede Ethmostigmus rubripes (Photo:Glenda Walter)
Birds:Black Swan, Australian Wood Duck, Pink-eared Duck, Grey Teal, Pacific Black Duck, Australasian Grebe, Crested Pigeon, Peaceful Dove, Australasian Darter, Little Pied Cormorant, Australian Pelican, Eastern Great Egret, White-faced Heron, Whistling Kite, Australian Hobby, Purple Swamphen, Eurasian Coot, Black-winged Stilt, Black-fronted Dotterel, Masked Lapwing, Gull-billed Tern, Whiskered Tern, Galah, Little Corella, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Scaly-breasted Lorikeet, Pale-headed Rosella, Laughing Kookaburra, Sacred Kingfisher, Rainbow Bee-eater, Superb Fairy-wren, White-throated Gerygone, Striated Pardalote, White-eared Honeyeater, White-plumed Honeyeater, Noisy Miner, Blue-faced Honeyeater, Little Friarbird, Striped Honeyeater, Grey-crowned Babbler, Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike, White-winged Triller, Rufous Whistler, Grey Shrike-thrush, Australasian Figbird, Olive-backed Oriole, White-breasted Woodswallow, Grey Butcherbird, Pied Butcherbird, Australian Magpie, Pied Currawong, Willie Wagtail, Torresian Crow, Magpie-lark, White-winged Chough, Apostlebird, Australian Reed-Warbler, Welcome Swallow, Tree Martin, Mistle-toebird. Mammals: Common Brushtail Possum (skull only), Eastern Grey Kan-garoo, European Brown Hare Reptiles: Dubious Dtella Gehyra dubia, Sand (Gould’s) Monitor Varanus gouldii, Lace Monitor Varanus varius Dragonflies: Wandering Percher Diplacodes bipunctata, Tau Emerald Hemicordulia tau, Blue Skimmer Orthetrum caledonicum, Wandering Glider Pantala flavescens.

Butterflies: Caper White Belenois java, Meadow Argus Junonia villida, Common Grass Blue Zizina otis Other: Little Basket Clam Corbicula australis, a centipede Ethmostigmus rubripes, Large Brown Mantis Archimantis latistyla (egg-case only), a scale insect (gall) Cylindrococcus spiniferus, Black Orchid Cymbidium canaliculatum (flowering), a sundew Drosera serpens (flowering).

(Report by Rod Hobson)