Dollarbird

greenish bird with red beak

Asian Dollarbird, Eurystomus orientalis, on a powerline in the Ross Dam car-park

The Dollarbird, Eurystomus orientalis, is a wet-season visitor to the Townsville region. Slaters Field Guide says it frequents “forest and woodland” when it’s here (September to April), which I guess is why I have yet to see one in the suburbs.

It reminded me of the (too) common Indian Mynah but is a bit bigger and much more beautifully coloured: its jade-green wings, brown-green back and blue throat set off the red beak and feet very nicely. It gets its name from white patches which are highly visible in flight, the ‘dollars’, under its wingtips.

Dollarbirds are aerial predators taking insects in flight like our Rainbow Bee-eaters. For more information, visit the Birds in Backyards page about them.

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In other news …

There are two new posts on the Wildlife Queensland Townsville Branch blog which I thought deserved a mention because they fit so well with what I have been doing here on Green Path.

The first records a field trip (they are a monthly activity of the branch and I have been on several this year) to a park I visit often, Lou Litster Park which follows Ross Creek either side of Queens Road. From urban wasteland to city oasis, however, does something I couldn’t, presenting the park’s history as a long-term revegetation project. The project was led by Christine Dalliston and Lynn Saunders who acted as guides on the day, so WQ members learned a lot about how its present state was achieved.

There are some nice photos there – not mine, because I wasn’t able to go on the trip – but I thought I might add here a flower which is mentioned there but not shown, the unusual blossom of the Leichhardt tree, Nauclea orientalis.

spiky brown and cream flower

The chestnut-like flower of the Leichhardt tree, around golf-ball size

The second post, What’s in your [Mundingburra] backyard, is even closer to home in two ways: the photos in it are my own because I was invited to drop by with a camera and see if I could get a few good portraits of a curlew family, and the location is within very easy walking distance.

Curlews (more correctly Bush Stone-curlews, Burhinus grallarius) are common enough in our suburb but it is rare for the history of a particular breeding pair to be so well observed over such a long period and the account is well worth reading.

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Skippers

orange and brownish butterflies

Mating pair of Orange Palm Darts on pentas leaf

Skippers are a family of butterflies which look as much like moths as like ‘real’ butterflies: they are smallish, heavy-bodied, mostly rather plain in colour, and often rest with wings spread. Their flight is often fast and abrupt (that’s where their name comes from) but when this couple flew-fell past me early yesterday evening they seemed quite out of control. Still, they landed on a pentas leaf and seemed happy enough there.

The family, Hesperiidae, comprises nearly a third of Australian butterflies. They are very easy to distinguish from other families but distinguishing one species from another within the family is quite difficult, especially working from photos – visit this collection of my older photos or this collection of all Australian species by Don Herbison-Evans and Stella Crossley  to see why.

The couple above made identification easier than usual because I knew I had male and female of the same species. (That is one reason I take photos of mating pairs when I can; the other is that they tend to stay still longer than if they are just feeding.) They are Orange Palm Darts, Cephrenes augiades, and Braby’s big book of Australian butterflies says that, of ten subspecies worldwide, “only C. a. sperthias is found in the Australian subregion.”

Their larvae feed on the leaves of palm trees. The butterflies were native to the tropical east coast but they have been accidentally spread all around the country by people growing palms in their gardens. Their diet has expanded along the way, too: they have been recorded feeding happily on more than 100 exotic (i.e. introduced) species of palms.

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Heads in the Sand

bondi-lead
We did it here first but the Bondi event on November 13 was good to see, too. It certainly drew attention from the world’s media – Reuters, the BBC, CBC and many other mainstream outlets covered it.

It also appeared on Mashable (with a particularly good collection of images) and the blogosphere; one denialist blog tried to make a joke of it, apparently forgetting that there is no such thing as bad publicity.

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Mound-builder at work

black bird on mound of leaves

Male Scrub Turkey on his mound

I thought that the Scrub Turkeys I saw at Pallarenda and mentioned so cursorily in my previous post deserved a little more attention because one of them was working so hard.

He (and it was he, not she, since the males build the mounds) was well into the construction of a nesting mound on the edge of the little park just before the gate to the Conservation Park and old Quarantine Station. He already had a mound two or three metres across and kept on working in spite of people and cars moving around nearby.

I saw two or three more Scrub Turkeys in the uncleared area in the background, just across the road (presumably at least one will have been a female), but I didn’t see any on the Town Common proper although there may well have been some.

black bird kicking leaves higher on the mound

Mound-builder in action

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