Seasonal Report. April, Atherton Tablelands. much off topic

To: "birding-aus" <>
Subject: Seasonal Report. April, Atherton Tablelands. much off topic
From: "Alan Gillanders" <>
Date: Sat, 1 May 2004 11:45:23 +1000

Following the positive response to my last effort I have decided to try and
do this on a monthly basis.


In early April the King Parrots returned in good numbers with their high
pitched squeaky calls and will be around Yungaburra for some months. The
flocks of White-headed Pigeons in the village of Yungaburra are the largest
they have been for three years.. Double-eyed Fig-Parrots are still feeding
in the village but in smaller flocks than in summer.

Along Petersen Creek one can see small Chelids, side-necked turtles, baby
Eastern Water Dragons as well as Platypus in the evenings and early
mornings. The Queensland Blue-Gums Eucalyptus teriticornis are in wonderful
bud so we should have huge flocks of honeyeaters along the creek soon. A
recent early morning walk revealed Lewin's, Brown, Dusky, Macleay's, and
White-throated Honeyeaters as well as Helmeted Friarbirds..

Huge Golden Orb Spiders Nephila pilipes are in profusion along the creek
this year. The females have a span like a man's hand. Her abdomen is dark
grey while the cephalothorax may be light brown to silver. The abdomen is
striped green in young females. The joints or knees along her legs are
golden. When gravid, bearing eggs, her abdomen grows as big as the last
knuckle of a thumb. Eggs are laid in the ground and the spiderlings use a
paraglider of silk to drift on the wind to a new home. Living in her golden
web may be many other spiders. Four tiny males is not uncommon. They are red
to brown and the same shape as the female. Being so tiny means he is
unlikely to end up as the wedding breakfast, unlike some less fortunate
spider males. His short club-like palps have a sabre shaped point used in
the transfer of sperm packages. Even smaller Dew Drop Spiders Argyrodes spp.
glisten in the light. These little spiders make use of the prey which is too
small for their host, helping to keep the web clean. Robber Spiders and
Red-Headed Spiders may also live in her web. The males of the local species
are all red while the females have black abdomens which grow darker as the
grow bigger. Once the females are gravid the males all disappear.

April is late for honeyeaters to be breeding but a pair of Lewin's
Honeyeaters started sitting on two eggs on the 8th . They have built their
nest in a bush under the eves of the house where they are protected from the
elements. The breeding attempt was unsuccessful.

Easter Saturday morning was a dangerous time for insects in our garden. Two
mixed flocks of insectivores worked their way around that part of the garden
visible from the breakfast table.

The groups did not seem to have tight allegiances with some individuals
moving between them frequently. The first group consisted of two immature
Black-faced Monarch Flycatchers, a Macleay's Honeyeater, an adult and
immature Willy Wagtail, a pair of Leaden Flycatchers and a female Rufous
Whistler. The second flock was dominated by Gerygones, both Fairy and Brown,
along with another Willy Wagtail, the male Rufous Whistler and a Lewin's

The Gerygones always stayed together while the Black-faced Monarchs moved
between flocks at the greatest frequency. They would do this as individuals
but when in the same flock would work closely.

Some out of season displaying by Victoria's Riflebirds has been attracting
the attention of bird watchers but not the females. It seem that after
molting the hormones are so high that they just have to show off their new
finery. It has been a particularly good year for Brush Turkeys with many
young surviving the first few months and now really looking like miniature
adults. In some rainforest patches they did not produce any young during the

Dorothy, the Lumholtz's Tree-Kangaroo which lives near the gate, seems to be
carrying a pouch young again. We do not know what happened to her young male
but as he had taken to playing on the road he may have come to a nasty end.
The mother and young which live along Petersen Creek have been seen
irregularly. Many sightings of Green Ringtail Possums have been reported
from the Curtain Fig Tree where tree-roos are sometimes also seen.

The Bumpy Satinash, Syzygium cormiflorum, is in bud so soon we will be able
to track down the elusive Longtailed Pygmy Possum which is an important
pollinator of this strange tree. Large white flowers grow out of the bumps
on the side of the trunk from ground level to among the first branches. The
fruit which follow are as big as an apple and anything from white in low
light conditions through pinks to dark purple if the tree is growing in the

A pair of Black-necked Storks or Jabirus graced Petersen Creek south of the
village for a few days in late April. Another bird more common on the coast
than in the mid-altitude rainforests are Sacred Kingfishers but a number
have been seen around the village in April. Azure Kingfishers continue to
fly along Petersen Creek giving tourists a glimpse of their cobalt and
orange. The Kookaburras have been having 'turf wars' during the month.
Family groups will gather at the edge of the territory they are claiming and
call in chorus. When confronted by an adjacent group there will be short fly
overs which invade each other's airspace. I am not sure how they sort it out
in the end but they do not come to blows like some other species.

One of the most remarkable sights of this time of year on the Atherton
Tableland is the return of the white and yellow butterflies which have been
largely absent for the last month and a half. Blue-banded Eggflies and
Australian Leaf-wings have caterpillars devouring a little herb,
Pseuderanthium variable. The most common local form of this highly variable
plant has white flowers, dark green slightly variegated leaves which are
purple below.

We have had enough rain in April to keep the rivers and creeks flowing and
any grassed areas with a lot of traffic are showing the strain but there has
not been enough wet weather to dampen the spirits of holiday makers.

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