Dove’s disappointment

ringneck pigeon in dry birdbath
Where’s my water?

We had a bit of rain a while ago but nothing but drizzle since then so our birdbath still gets a lot of use. This Spotted Dove, an early-morning visitor, looks quite put out at the low water level.

I, of course, blame the other birds, especially the Mynahs,  for splashing it all out. They, more fairly, blame me for not refilling it fast enough. Never mind – we do try, and I did top it up when I noticed the problem.

Incidentally, the bird has had a Latin name change: it is now Spilopelia chinensis rather than Streptopelia chinensis. Birds in Backyards still has it as Streptopelia, as do BirdLife Australia and my 2004 edition of Slaters’ Field Guide, but Birdway has been updated (it’s usually well up to date with name changes) and Wikipedia explains the change here.

It’s still a Spotted Dove or Spotted Turtle-dove, of course, since common names don’t change by decree, and it’s still a naturalised foreigner, introduced from China and South-east Asia as long ago as the 1860s.

Charlie Veron: A Life Underwater

veron life underwater coverCharlie Veron: A Life Underwater

Penguin Viking, 2017

As has happened with other books, particularly where I have some personal connection to their authors, I have come across a published review which says what I would have said (and says it at least as well as I could have said it) and decided that it was better for me to quote excerpts than to write my own review. The quotations below are drawn from the extended review by Tim Elliott for the SMH (you can read it in full here).

… Equal parts memoir, coral reef primer and requiem to a planet, [A Life Underwater] charts a career that could scarcely be imagined today, a love affair with science birthed from childhood wonderment, free-range academia and happy accidents.

… Veron’s achievements are, quite literally, unprecedented. He was the first to compile a global taxonomy of corals – a monumental task that effectively became the cornerstone for all later learning. He was the first to show that, contrary to received wisdom, the Indo-Philippines archipelago has the world’s greatest diversity of coral, not the Great Barrier Reef.

A Life Underwater is a very approachable introduction to reef science since it allows us to learn the science sequentially through Veron’s own journey of discovery. Most of us would benefit from that before tackling his masterly A Reef In Time.

… He also originated a whole new theory about how corals evolved – which is kind of a big thing. Reticulate evolution, as it’s known, was born in large part from coral’s taxonomic complexity, and … describes how the ocean environment has made the boundaries between marine species, such as coral, much more “fuzzy”. …

Just to enlarge upon that: the conventional model of evolutionary change has always been the ‘tree of life’, branching endlessly from primordial beginnings. That paradigm, however, depends crucially on an assumption that branches never recombine, an assumption which failed so spectacularly with corals as to force Veron to replace it with a model which looks more like a mesh.

The best natural analogy for the model I know of (though I’m not sure that Veron has used it) is the ‘braided’ watercourse of (e.g.) Western Queensland’s Channel Country: there is still a clear overall direction but cross-links are common. In the real world, of course, the braiding represents gene flow between species, which has long been known but discounted as exceptional and unworthy of serious attention.

While his rapture at the natural world remains intact, [Veron] has become fixated on climate change, the effects of which, he believes, are now irreversible. “It’s a catastrophe,” he says. “We are looking at a future that is barely comprehensible. There will be immense social disruption, mass starvation, resource wars, cyclones the likes of which we’ve never experienced. Mass extinctions. And it’s going to happen much sooner than people think.” …

A Life Underwater deserves a wide readership, documenting as it does both a fascinating career and an endangered ecosystem of unsurpassed beauty.

As for Veron’s warnings on climate change, we had better believe him and do our best to avert the looming catastrophe.

Nobbi, the cute dragon lizard

nobbi
Nobbi – ready to run, but assessing the situation first

Green Path doesn’t spend much time on lizards other than geckos or skinks, mainly because its author doesn’t see them terribly often, so a quick overview may be in order.

The lizard families we have in Queensland are Geckos, Skinks, Dragons, Monitors (Goannas) and Flap-footed Lizards (Legless Lizards). (Wikipedia has a beautiful taxonomic chart that places them in relationship to each other and all the other families worldwide, if you’re interested.)

We don’t have as many Dragons (Agamidae) as Skinks or Geckos but they are attractive and distinctive and some, e.g. the Frill-necked Lizard and Thorny Devil, are very well known. Most of them do best in dry country, and in the Townsville region we have only half a dozen species of which the Frill-neck and Nobbi are probably most often seen.

The Nobbi (Diporiphora nobbi, formerly Amphibolurus nobbi) is a diurnal hunter and is usually seen on the ground but the one in my photos was high in the foliage of a hibiscus bush until I disturbed it while pruning. After sitting still on the ground long enough for me to grab the camera it scurried off into the undergrowth.

nobbi
The long hind legs assist nobbis’ characteristic upright running posture

Ringlets on grassy hillsides

Brown Ringlet
Brown Ringlet at Paluma Dam

Ringlets (Hypocysta spp.) are smallish, brownish butterflies showing attractive flashes of orange in flight but camouflaged at rest unless they spread their wings to bask. Their wingspan is about 30mm, very much the same size as the common Grass-yellows (Eurema spp.) but noticeably smaller than Migrants, Crows and Tigers and larger than the Blues.

All six Australian species are found on the East coast and we have three of them in the Townsville region, the Orange, Northern and Brown Ringlets (H. adiante, H. irius and H. metirius) although the last of these is not common close to Townsville. In fact, we rarely see any of them except on the rocky grassy slopes of Castle Hill, Mt Stuart and the Many Peaks Range. Why not? Continue reading “Ringlets on grassy hillsides”

Birds beside Rollingstone Creek

These bird photos were taken on a visit to Rollingstone Creek with Wildlife Queensland a month ago. That visit, like their other monthly expeditions, would normally be reported on the WQ branch blog but hasn’t appeared yet so I will give a little more detail than I usually do.

The location was Rollingstone Creek Bushy Park (Google Maps) and the broad, well vegetated creek bed beside it. Access to the park (part of which is a very quiet, pleasant camping ground) is from Balgal Beach Rd and the old low-level highway bridge, or from the Servo turn-off, north of the creek, and Rollingstone St.

We walked along the creek – very slowly, because there was so much to see – before returning for morning tea in the park. Most of the bird sightings were along the creek but the Bar-shouldered Dove, White-browed Robin and some others were seen in the park.

The dominant honeyeater in this well-watered strip of paperbark woodland was the Brown-backed, Ramsayornis modestus. It’s one I hardly see elsewhere, and I am gradually realising that each habitat favours one or two of our many (nearly thirty) honeyeater species above the rest: Lewin’s in the open woodland on Hervey’s Range, Blue-faced in my suburban garden, Brown in the mangroves of Sandy Crossing, Dusky along the rocky banks of Alligator Creek, and so on. Perhaps I should say ‘absorbing the fact’ rather than ‘realising’ because I’ve known it in theory for some years.

In addition to those pictured we saw a Striated Heron (Butorides striata), Yellow Honeyeater, Dusky Honeyeater, Peaceful Dove, Cuckoo-shrike (not sure which one), Forest Kingfisher, Mistletoebird, distant Pelicans and Crows, and many more; the full bird list was much longer than mine because I tend to forget about all the common birds as soon as I see them, unless they are doing something particularly noteworthy or pose for my camera.