The Dawn Chorus: Urban Style


Sometimes underappreciated, the urban environment can provide habitat for wildlife. Gardens and parks and even nature strips offer food and shelter through native plants and trees as well as palms and even urban infrastructure. This short video provides a glimpse of a “dawn chorus” in the urban environment.

You may have heard of the dawn chorus where scores of wild birds announce their presence through song just before and after sunrise. Even in urban areas we get examples of this behaviour where birds reinforce their territories and bonds with their mates.

The players (L - R) Little Wattlebird, Rainbow Lorikeet, Little Corella

The first visitors to the garden are a pair of Little Wattlebirds with the male announcing his presence with his distinctive call. Within minutes the pair are joined by Rainbow Lorikeets who watch on and join in with their own twittering.  

Recent summer rains have seen a proliferation of seed providing fodder for Little Corellas. Unlike...

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Richmond Birdwing: A special butterfly


Scientific name: Ornithoptera richmondia

When we think of conservation and icon species we almost always think of charismatic mammals such as koalas, blue whales and quolls. Very few invertebrates draw the same attention, except in the case of the Richmond Birdwing, a species of swallowtail butterfly.

Once a widespread species, for decades it's population and distribution has been shrinking. It feeds on nectar, like many butterflies, and has a special relationship with one species of vine Pararistolochia praevenos, which grows in lowland subtropical rainforest. The Birdwing's larvae are specialised and dependent on this vine's leaves for nutrition. Unfortunately the vine has been decimated through the destruction of lowland rainforest due to urban development, inappropriate fire regimes, weed invasion and farming. Consequently, viable Birdwing populations no longer exist in the greater Brisbane region.

Fortunately there has been significant work carried out by scientists and...

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Rainforest: A climate control system


Rainforests have been named well, for they are associated with higher levels of rain than surrounding areas. The distribution of rainforests has been associated with geography (e.g. mountain ranges) and prevailing winds. But it's more than this.

In recent times, it has been discovered that these forests actually create their own rain. Many broad-leafed green plants expire water though transpiration, but they also have the capacity to emit aerobacter (bacteria) into the air.

Diagram One: Rainforest foliage emits aerobacter as well as water vapour through transpiration

These bacteria form nuclei for the formation of raindrops, effectively cloud seeding. Research has shown that, rainforest vegetation is an extremely efficient emitter releasing these particles high above the canopy.

Combined with the water vapour from transpiration and the creation of aerobacter, the rainforest creates its own cloud cover, sheltering it directly from prolonged periods of sunlight and even reflecting...

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Fungi: The other "Matrix!"

ecology fungi Dec 21, 2021

The other "Matrix"

Many of us may be unaware of a vast network of threadlike mycelia, which connect species, landscapes and ecosystems. This network of threads connects and interacts with organisms within the soil creating a living matrix, which underpins and supports our terrestrial ecosystems. These threads are the bodies of fungi and they range in size from microfungi (microscopic) to macrofungi, which intermittently produce fruiting bodies known as sporocaps (Qld Herbarium, 2021). 

Often, especially after rain, we can see an emergence of these mycelial fruiting bodies also known as mushrooms/toadstools. However, they take on many forms and if you look at the video above you can see some examples of various sporocaps from South East Queensland. There are many species of fungus yet to be discovered and described, and across the globe its believed that there are 3 million species of fungi (and only 150,000 have been identified)!

At times, you can see fungi in our backyards,...

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A Green Turtle: A case study in South East Queensland

Image: Downloading the data from a satellite tag of Green Turtle T40221. (Courtesy of DES)

Although there has been a great deal of research on all the turtle species little has been known about our local Green Turtles that visit Moreton Bay. That was until researcher and turtle expert, Col Limpus provided some in-depth data around one individual Green Turtle T40221, including nesting and foraging data. Thanks to GPS tracking and monitoring efforts from Col and his volunteers we can now give you an outline of T40221’s nesting and foraging activities over a period of last 30 years.

Nesting data

“T40221”, a female Green Turtle, was first tagged at Mon Repos as a nesting turtle in 1989. Her carapace (shell) length was 103 cm and during that season she came ashore and laid a clutch of eggs on 6 occasions. She returned to the site on many occasions right up until this breeding season, 2020/2021. In this case T40221, demonstrated the capacity to lay many clutches over a...

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The Logrunner: A character of the forest floor


When you spend some time in the rainforests of South East Queensland, especially at dawn or dusk you are likely to hear the calls of one of the endearing characters of the forest floor. In this video you can see a female logrunner (red chest) foraging and feeding on the forest floor. You can also hear her responding to her mate (who has a distinctive white chest) who continually calls in the background - just to let each other know where they are.

Generally quiet for most of the day, they can certainly fire up their vocals when required. They are territorial birds and will defend their territory from other potential interlopers with vigorous calls and displays. 

They spend the majority of their life on the forest floor where they feed on invertebrates in the leaf litter. They forage by vigorously scratching from side to side with their relatively large feet, using their stiff tail as a prop and securing the small worms and invertebrates exposed in the scattered leaf litter....

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Albert's Lyrebird


At this time of the year, we like to head up to Lamington National Park and O'Reilly's to participate in their Spring Bird Week. One of the highlights of this area is the chance to see an Albert's Lyrebird. 

The Albert's Lyrebird prefers gully areas in rainforest and wet sclerophyll forests

 The male is well known for its courtship display usually seen and heard in the autumn and winter months. The male is a superb mimic and uses its own calls as well as copying the call of other birds. It will spend hours each day during the peak winter season.  

They tend to live a solitary life and apart from the courtship display little is known about their mating system. The female looks after the young and occasionally you will see her with a juvenile. I was fortunate to come across such a pair, feeding by scratching the leaf litter and exposing insects, larvae and worms along with other invertebrates.

Since European settlement, much of their rainforest and wet sclerophyll...

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Powerful Owl Project

bird wildlife wonders Nov 05, 2021

A few months ago, I had the privilege of seeing one of Australia’s less common birds, the Powerful Owl. Just seeing the bird in the flesh, one can only be impressed. A big owl, it is at the top of the food chain in the forest and feeds on arboreal animals including both brushtail and ringtail possums. 

The owl can be found along the East Coast of Australia where they are associated with the forests of the Great Dividing Range. They are listed as vulnerable in Victoria and New South Wales. 

They usually breed in the winter months and require a large hollow (up to 2 m in depth) and in trees which have a diameter of 80 cm or more. Dr Rob Clemens from Birdlife reckons it can take 100 to 300 years for a tree to reach the appropriate size with hollows! 

If you have the fortune to see or hear one you could report it to the Urban Birdlife Program - Powerful Owl Project.  You can contact them via their website at Powerful Owl Project | BirdLife.

Its a sight you...

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Mosaic burning: Fire hazard reduction and a biodiversity strategy

ecology land management Jun 01, 2021

In early 2012, a series of bushfires impacted the western side of the Redcliffe Peninsula including Hays Inlet, the Chelsea Street Reserve, and the Bremner Road rehabilitation area. In particular the Melaleuca forest (normally capable of handling fires) suffered a lot of damage in the Silcock Street Reserve with many of the hardy trees killed by the intense heat. The incident led to the formulation of a plan by the Redcliffe Environmental Forum (REF) and the Moreton Bay Regional Council (MBRC) to protect the area from future intense bushfires. Apart from replanting endemic trees one of the main strategies used to rehabilitate the area is through an intense weeding program. Many weeds in the area are not adapted to fire and in fact burn at a much higher temperature than endemic vegetation. Its this higher temperature fire that kills the Melaleuca.

                  A Striated Pardalote inhabits the coastal vegetation including Casuarina


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