Urban Wildlife – the Bush Stone-curlew

Curlews b
Bush Stone-curlew, with chick just visible on the right.
The Bush Stone-curlew (Burhinus grallarius) is an Australian bird which is often heard before it is seen.  Their camouflage, along with their ability to be perfectly motionless, helps them blend almost invisibly into their surroundings.  But their loud, eerie call is unmissable.    They also seem to manage well in urban environments.  This breeding pair was found in a narrow garden right beside a busy shopping centre carpark in Brisbane.
Curlews d
Curlews e
Curlews c
Having claimed their site, these parents fiercely guard their chick.
Curlews are a large bird, standing 510–590 mm tall.  And when it comes to protecting their chicks, they are virtually fearless.  Camouflage and stillness are their main protection, but they will aggressively attack anything that comes beyond their comfort zone.
Curlews f
I am perplexed as to why they would chose this particular location as a breeding site, given the hundreds of cars and people that would pass by, quite closely, each day.  And the fact that fairly close to this shopping centre is a bushy, creekside area where they would be undisturbed.  But whatever the reason, it seems a success.  Their chick looks healthy and well-fed.  Another example of the adaptability of native fauna to urban environments.

Urban Wildlife, Brisbane, part two

Golden Orb Weaver Spider
Golden Orb Weaver Spider

The last post included some of the wildlife that’s found right in our backyards, or at least very close by.  Today’s pictures are from the Boondall Wetlands.  Not quite in my own backyard, but just a short bicycle ride away.  Above is the Golden Orb Weaver Spider, and her lunch.  And I say “her” deliberately because the males are tiny in comparison, only a few millimetres across.  I’m fairly sure the eight or so dots on her head are her eyes.  I’m actually quite pleased this photo wasn’t taken in my backyard.

Orange Clawed Fiddler Crab
Orange Clawed Fiddler Crab

The tide was low, and the fiddler crabs were on the move.  Without exception, they all appeared to be right-handed.  Or at least that’s the side that the over-sized claw was on.  Maybe lefties are in the minority with crabs, just like humans.

Black Winged Stilt
Black Winged Stilt
White Faced Heron
White Faced Heron

And lastly a couple of the water birds that are common around this area – a stilt and a heron.  My Slater’s Field Guide to Australian Birds tells me the white-faced heron is probably the most common heron across Australia.

There are always interesting things to see in these wetlands.  But it was disappointing to also see so much litter in the area.  Especially plastics bottles.  Take care people, and don’t ditch your rubbish carelessly.  These places deserve to be looked after.

Urban Wildlife, Brisbane

Ringtail Possum
A morning visit from a possum.

Though Brisbane is a city with a population of more than 2 million people, it’s not unusual to see many species of native fauna that adapt well to urban environments. Possums are a common sight, not only in suburban areas but even in the central business district. However they are most commonly seen at night, as they usually sleep in their nests through the day. But a few days ago we were visited at breakfast time by a ringtail possum, just outside our backdoor. He was obviously getting home late, and had caught the attention of a group of angry crows who were none too pleased to see this nocturnal visitor still in “their” trees in the morning. I managed to get a couple of photos before he scurried off into a neighbouring yard, presumably back to his nest.

Ringtail Possum

Many reptiles and birds also make their homes quite comfortably amid the houses and industry of Brisbane. The Eastern Water Dragon and Purple Swamp Hen are often seen in and around streams and ponds across the city. While they are a common sight, I still enjoy seeing these animals when I walk or cycle around home.

Eastern Water Dragon
Eastern Water Dragon

Eastern Water Dragon

Purple Swamp Hen
Purple Swamp Hen

Purple Swamp Hen

Now that I seem to have my recalcitrant DSLR under control, I hope to get some more photos of our urban, and not-so-urban, wildlife to share on this blog.

Thanks for reading and Merry Christmas to all.

Humpback Whales at Hell’s Gates, Noosa

Humpback Whales at Hell's Gates, Noosa
Humpback Whales at Hell’s Gates, Noosa

In early October, the Antarctica-bound humpback whale migration is moving along the south Queensland coast. Their numbers continue to rise and by some estimates they are now reaching pre-whaling population levels. And while the whale-watching boat cruises do a brisk trade at this time of year, there are plenty of locations on the coast where you can get a great view of the whales from the shore. One of our favourites is Noosa National Park.

Noosa National Park
Noosa National Park

We hiked around the coastal perimeter of the park from the Sunshine Beach end, making our way to the cliffs at Hell’s Gates, the north-eastern point of the park, to see if we could spot some whales. To our great delight, we saw many whales passing by, and the view from the cliffs was clear and uninterrupted. One whale in particular was breaching close to the cliff just as we arrived. But unfortunately I didn’t have my camera at the ready, so I learned a valuable lesson for wildlife photography – be prepared.

Synchronised whale swimming
Synchronised whale swimming

The whale photos shown here are somewhat grainy, as I had to enlarge them quite a bit to get the whale tails into view. I use a moderately powerful zoom lens, but I have yet to master the use of a DSLR. It’s a more complex beastie than I imagined it would be. However that took nothing away from the joy of watching these magnificent animals swimming by, in such a spectacular setting on a clear spring day.

Australasian Figbird
Australasian Figbird

As well as the whales, there are lots of sights to see around this coastline, and my inner bird-nerd enjoyed spotting what I later identified as an Australasian Figbird.  At least I’m pretty sure that’s what it was – any corrections gratefully accepted.  One more to mark as “seen” in my Slater’s Guide.

Cycle trip to Mudjimba – and loads of lorikeets

Rainbow Lorikeet
Rainbow Lorikeet

It has been an unseasonably warm start to March, so KJ and I took advantage of the perfect weather to have a cycling trip to Mudjimba Beach.

Beerwah Forest Trail
KJ appearing as a small speck on the Beerwah Forest Trail

Taking the train to Beerwah Station, we set out along the forestry trails, aiming to reach Caloundra by midday.  We did so – more or less.  A couple of shortcuts, suggested by me, turned out to be not so short after all.

Let's go this way
Let’s go this way

What began as a promising shady alternative route, ended up being blocked by some minor flooding on the trail, which was probably caused by the recent impact of Cyclone Marcia.  I thought that by unloading the panniers I would be able to carry the bikes around the water, but it wasn’t meant to be.  We returned to the sunny, but dry track and continued to Caloundra.

It's easy - just watch me.
It’s easy – just watch me.

Back on the trail, we continued with the beautiful Glasshouse Mountains visible in the distance.

Glasshouse mountains in the background
Glasshouse mountains in the background – each side of KJ’s helmet.

After a few hours of occasionally challenging riding – the cyclone had caused a lot of damage to some sections of the trail – we reached the seaside just north of Caloundra, near Currimumdi.  A short rest, a bite to eat, and then onto lovely Mudjimba.

Arriving at the beach
Arriving at the beach.

Having rested after a long day’s ride, we spent the following two days exploring the area by bike.  It’s a liberating experience, leaving the car behind and travelling under one’s own ‘steam’.  We weren’t limited in any way, and we even brought fishing rods with us on our bikes.  As it happened, the fish weren’t biting this week, although it may have had something to do with the skills of the fisher-persons!  Just a bit.  KJ did hook a garfish at one point but it skipped off the line at the last minute.

Mudjimba sunrise
Mudjimba sunrise

We took a trip to nearby Peregian Beach, passing through a lovely area called Yaroomba.  There is a strong protest movement underway there at the moment, hoping to reject the council’s intention to alter the local town plan and permit high rise development.  It would be heartbreaking to see the character of this relaxed and peaceful region undone by the construction of high rise resort buildings.  Hundreds of home that we rode past had signs out rejecting the high rise plan.  We thought this one with the sea turtle was particularly arty and original.

Turtle power
Turtle power.

Continuing on to Peregian Beach, we found a cafe for the dedicated cyclist where, if you wanted a coffee but didn’t want to stop pedaling, you could pedal along while getting your dose of caffeine, and not spill a drop.

Pedal seats
Pedal seats. The chains could do with a clean.

Walking along the sand near Peregian, we noticed hundreds, possibly thousands, of jellyfish that had been washed ashore.  The local newspapers reported that a bloom of Catostylus mosaicus jellyfish, aka ‘blue blubbers’ or, as we affectionately called them as kids, ‘snotties’, had been caused by the warm weather.  They do have a mild sting but are not regarded as particularly harmful to humans.

Blue blubbers
Blue blubbers

And then there are the lorikeets.  As noisy as they are colourful.  These attractive birds are common all over the coast, and are especially vocal in the early morning (no sleeping in for us) and late afternoon.

Lorikeet conversation
Lorikeet conversation
A most noisy neighbour
A most noisy neighbour

We adored Mudjimba.  It’s peaceful, picturesque and has great cycling all around.  The Mooloolaba Triathlon was about to start and many of the locals asked us if that’s what we were there for.  It was flattering, but we didn’t much resemble the speedy lycra-clad athletes zooming around the area on their bikes, in preparation for the big day.  We were perfectly happy to just roll along at our relaxed pace and take in the glorious sights and sounds of the coast.  This is a definite do-again trip.

First bike tour, Brisbane to Tin Can Bay, part three

Tranquil morning at Tin Can Bay
Tranquil morning at Tin Can Bay

Day five – 26 September, Tin Can Bay to Lake Cootharaba  (70km)
Having found Cooloola Way a bit too challenging, I was keen to take an alternative route back to Lake Cootharaba.  Some helpful locals suggested I take the (only) road out of TCB and then look for Counter Rd, a long straight dirt road running south which meets up with the Kin-Kin Pomona road.
From TCB to the Rainbow Beach turnoff, the road has a reasonably wide shoulder, making it safe enough to cycle on.  However, past that point there is no shoulder at all and the road is quite narrow.  Safe cycling on the road was out of the question, as the trucks take all the available room and don’t seem very patient with other road users.  Fortunately there is a forestry track running parallel with the road so I opted for that as a safer – but slower and bumpier – option.

Toolara forest
Toolara forest

After a few kms I turned off into the forestry, taking the Toolara-Como road hoping to find my way to Counter Rd.  I got a little lost, but realised I was heading in the right direction when I came to the crossing at Coondoo Creek.  This was a nice shady spot to take a break.

Coondoo Creek
Coondoo Creek

Soon after, I found Counter Rd and headed south.  There was still a long way to go, but I knew that navigation wouldn’t be a problem from here on.  Counter Rd is a long, long road with a few steep hills.  But nowhere near as tough as Cooloola Way.

Counter Rd, looking north
Counter Rd, looking north
Counter Rd, looking south
Counter Rd, looking south
Turn off to Harry's Hut Rd
Turn off to Harry’s Hut Rd

Eventually I reached the bitumen at Kin-Kin Pomona road, then turned off towards Harry’s Hut Rd.  From here I could retrace my original route along the Boronia Trail, crossing Kin Kin Creek and through Elanda Point to Lake Cootharaba.

Elanda Point kangaroos
Elanda Point kangaroos

Riding back through the lush grassland near Elanda Point, I came across the now familiar sight of kangaroos grazing in the cool of the afternoon.

Day six – 27 September, Lake Cootharaba to Coolum  (56km)
Slept like the dead after yesterday’s long ride.

Garden visitor
Garden visitor

My host at Cootharaba lives alongside a large area of forest, and the wildlife often walks, flies, slithers or hops in to visit.  This morning a very large kangaroo bounded into the vegie garden to inspect what was on offer.

After breakfast I headed for Tewantin, and got the only puncture of the entire trip on a smooth stretch of bitumen.  All that distance on tough, stony dirt roads and rocky forestry tracks and my only flat tire was on a “proper” road!  No problem though – I was carrying spare tubes and was on my way again soon.

View from Coolum boardwalk
View from Coolum boardwalk

Another perfect Spring day, with lots of great ocean views along the cycleway.

Little Pied Cormorant (Microcarbo melanoleucos)
Little Pied Cormorant (Microcarbo melanoleucos)

Arriving at Coolum, I stopped for a break at one of my favourite ocean viewing spots.  Soon after, a Little Pied Cormorant flew into a tree beside me and proceeded to dry and preen its wings.  This is a different species to the Little Black Cormorants I saw at Tin Can Bay.

Day seven – 28 September, Coolum to home (69km)
The last day of my first bike tour and it was a glorious sunny morning in Coolum.  A quick dash to the seaside in case there were any whales to be seen (nope, still none) then onto Mudjimba for a big breakfast.

This final leg of the trip was roughly in two halves – bikeway from Coolum to south of Caloundra, then the forest road to Beerwah station.  The construction in the photo above is at Alexandra Headland, it’s the HMAS Brisbane Mast Memorial.  In 2005 the ex-HMAS Brisbane was scuttled off the coast here to create an artificial reef and is now a diving site.

Beerwah State Forest
Beerwah State Forest

Back in the Beerwah State Forest again, on the home stretch to Beerwah Station and then on the train to Brisbane.  The Glasshouse Mountains can be seen in the distance.

Home again
Home again

And after a grand total of 405km and a week on the bike, finally home again.  This had been a wonderful experience, with plenty of challenges as well as relaxation and tranquillity.  Travelling in this way gives you a great sense of freedom and independence.  And to have gone all that way without burning up fossil fuel in a car is doubly rewarding.  I hope this will be just the first of many bike tours in the days ahead.  Thanks for reading my blog everyone!

First bike tour, Brisbane to Tin Can Bay, part two

Day four – 25 September, rest day at Tin Can Bay

Rainbow Lorikeet (Trichoglossus haematodus)
Rainbow Lorikeet (Trichoglossus haematodus)

Feeling well rested after a quiet night at the motel, I had a day of gentle cycling around the bay, seeing the sights and enjoying the perfect weather.

Viewing the dolphins

One of the most popular things to do here is see the dolphins. Tin Can Bay is one of the few places in the world where wild dolphins regularly visit the shore to interact with people. Most mornings, two or three Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins come into the shore near the Snapper Creek boat ramp. Tourists can feed the dolphins and get up close and personal with them, albeit under close supervision from wildlife volunteers.

These dolphins are smaller than the bottlenose and are a coastal species, generally staying close to shore. There are sharks in the bay and in Snapper Creek, and the dolphins have visible scars from their encounters with them.

Though they aren’t bottlenose dolphins, one had decided to pretend he was by carrying a discarded bottle on his snout, which he’d retrieved from the seabed. It was amusing to see, although I despaired at the mentality of the knuckleheads who throw their rubbish into the water.

Tin Can bay has a lot of bird-life to see.  At this time of year, the flowering trees are full of nectar, and attract lots of hungry and very noisy lorikeets.  And of course, there are lots of water birds – pelicans, cormorants and herons.

This was a relaxing day, with beautiful Spring weather.  Just what I needed to be refreshed for the journey home.