PHOTOS from Bunya Mtns NP
Bunya Mountains NP is famous for its rainforest dominated by bunya pines. We camped at the Westcott campsite for three nights in April, 2015. It was the first time that we had been there so we had no idea what to expect, but Laura had done the research and it was supposed to be rich in birdlife.
It is always a bit risky camping in places that you have never seen before. Unfortunately on our our first night a couple of men drove in at about 9 o'clock and spent several hours afterwards noisily setting up camp and clinking bottles. And then another group, in three cars, arrived at 3am, and again proceeded to set up camp in the picnic ground. We had to ask them to be quiet so that we could sleep. Never before have we met with such bad manners, when camping in national parks. Usually people are very courteous and considerate.
Then on the second night we had very strong winds, which continued through the next day and night. So we suffered a bit from lack of sleep. But all was redeemed on the third afternoon as Laura and I sat trying to improve our plein air painting techniques at one of the tables in the picnic ground near the campsite. A woman wearing a headscarf, who was sharing a barbecue with her husband and three little girls, came over to us, introduced herself, and offered us some "Arabic food". We were very touched by this act of spontaneous generosity. Thankyou, Mullah.
That is the great thing about bird photography and camping in national parks - you meet the very nicest people!
The Westcott campground is located in a clearing in rainforest and is bordered along one side by a grassy slope. Within the campsite and picnic area we saw the usual very common birds that hang around places where people eat food, including yellow robins, Lewin's honeyeaters, white-browed scrub-wrens, brown cuckoo-doves and crows. Less common birds included golden whistlers, silvereyes, crimson rosellas, red-backed fairy wrens, fan-tailed cuckoos, a shining bronze cuckoo, green catbirds, top-knot pigeons and the wedge-tailed eagles that soared above the western slopes. A grey goshawk flew over once or twice, and we could hear a noisy pitta calling from the slopes above.
We don't just look for perfect portraits of wildlife in our photos. We also like action shots, and photos that show something of the subject's habits and daily activities. Grey Fantails (Rhipidura albiscapa) hunt by dashing out from lookout perches and capturing insects in flight. Although they are very common birds, they are constantly in motion, and not easy to photograph. So I was pleased to catch this one just at the turning point in its flight when it was about to return to its perch.
Brown Cuckoo-Doves (Macropygia amboinensis) are amongst the most pigeons that we encounter on our trips to national parks up and down the east coast. This female has been attracted to the tree by the ripening fruit. You can tell that it is a female by the scalloped pattern on its neck, and the bright rufous colouring on the top of its head.
Red-necked Wallabies (Macropus rufogriseus) were very abundant near the Dandabah campsite in Bunya Mountains NP, and we had a couple at the Westcott site where we camped, too. This young female with a loaded pouch is indulging in a bit of a scratch.
This Red-necked Wallaby (Macropus rufogriseus) was impressive, I thought, due to the enormous burden that she was carrying in her pouch! The joey must have been a quarter her size. At least, in our species, offspring can be handed over to their fathers for some of the time, when they reach this size, comparatively speaking.
Red-backed Fairy-wrens (Malurus melanocephalus) at the Westcott campsite. The males are spectacular with bright red and black colouring, but the females and juveniles are alike, with brownish backs and tails, and are paler underneath. Laura did manage to photograph the partly coloured male of the group, which had a sprinkling of red feathers on its back. Females and young birds can be distinguished from other fairy-wren species by the slightly yellowish patch of feathers beneath their eyes.
There was a group of King Parrots (Alisterus scapularis) feeding on the lawn at dusk at the Dandabah campsite. This one has the brown eyes and yellow beak that distinguish juvenile birds from the adult females of the species.
These two Brush-turkeys (Alectura lathami) were in a great hurry for some reason. Brush-turkeys are a common large ground bird of east coast rainforest regions, and apparently are now becoming a pest in the suburbs of Brisbane. They are very destructive in gardens, where the males constantly rake over the soil, collecting humus for their enormous nest mounds. Photographed on the lawn at Dandabah, at dusk.
Also feeding on the lawn at Dandabah was a pair of Crimson Rosellas (Platycercus elegans). A bit smaller than the brilliantly coloured king parrots, these common rosellas are amongst the most spectacular of Australian birds. This pair were delicately using their beaks and tongues to extract the soft sweet parts of the lower grass stems.
Golden Whistlers (Pachycephala pectoralis) are amongst our favourite birds to photograph. The male, shown here, is blessed with both beautiful colouring and a a very sweet voice, with a variety of whistling sounds. The females lack the yellow colouring. I watched a group of half a dozen males chase each other round and round a particular tree for half an hour or so as we were packing to leave the Westcott camp site.
This Silvereye (Zosterops lateralis) is moulting. Note that its eye-ring is incomplete and it has the sheaths of new feathers growing at the top of its wing.
We encountered migratory flocks of silvereyes in Bunya Mountains NP. Walking through the clearing around the side of the mountain at the Westcott campsite, in the sunny early morning light, there were hundreds of them moving restlessly through the treetops and the scattered shrubs sprinkled around the grassy slope. Although we have often encountered them, we have never seen them in such large numbers before.
We heard cuckoos calling around the Westcott campsite but this Shining Bronze-Cuckoo (Chrysococcyx lucidus) was the first that we spotted. Its call was a high-pitched descending wavering sound, repeated several times in a row. Cuckoos are parasitic, laying their eggs in the nests of other species, and according to Wikipedia, this small bronze-cuckoo almost exclusively parasitizes the nests of Gerygone species.
It was amazing! We had heard cuckoos calling, and spotted the bronze-cuckoo in the previous photo, and then a minute later, here was this Fan-tailed Cuckoo (Cacomantis flabelliformis). In the three days that we were there, we only had one chance to photograph the bronze-cuckoo, but there was a pair of fan-tails, and they turned up several times. Fan-tailed cuckoos have a descending tinkling bubbling musical call that is repeated several times.
A second fan-tailed cuckoo showing its underside. According to Wikipedia, fan-tailed cuckoos parasitise the nests of wrens and thornbills. It is easier to locate cuckoos by their calls than to see them, and they are still on our "valuable to photograph" bird list. We don't actually see them very often.
White-browed Scrub-Wrens (Sericornis frontalis) are amongst the most ubiquitous of birds on the east coast. We encounter them in every camp-site, and they like to announce their presence with noisy rousing calls. They forage for insects on the ground and in low shrubs, and often also nest on the ground. In fact if you find a scrub-wren that persists in hanging around and rousing at you it is likely that there is a nest nearby.
We saw Wedge-tailed Eagles (Aquila audax) soaring above the western slopes, from the Westcott camp-site, every day that we were in the Bunya Mountains NP, sometimes two or three at a time. But our most spectacular sightings were on the Mt Kiangarow walk, accessible from the Burton's Well camp-site, where they swooped by, seemingly just above our heads. You had to be very quick, though, to capture a photo as they disappeared between the gaps in the canopy. I wasn't quick enough!
Eastern Yellow Robins (Eopsaltria australis) have a very wide distribution along the eastern seaboard and we often see them at camp-sites. They are also usually easy to photograph as they hunt by viewing the ground from a stationary position, such as on the side of a tree trunk, as with the bird above. They may hold a pose for minutes at a time as they look for moving insects. They are one of our most photographed species, but nevertheless we always find them charming!
We could hear the distinctive, cat-like call of Green Catbirds (Ailuroedus crassirostris) in the forest, tantalisingly close to the fringes of the Westcott campsite and were very keen to try to get photos. But these birds like dark places and stay within the rainforest. The opportunity came in the very early morning of our last day when we could hear a pair calling from the narrow band of trees sandwiched between the campsite and the road. Not a good photo, but my first one of a wild catbird!
We stopped a few times on the roadside on the way home, after leaving the national park before we reached the nearby village of Maidenwell, to photograph birds in the eucalypt woodlands. We spotted this group of Grey-crowned Babblers (Pomatostomus temporalis). As they moved along the roadside they were followed by a Noisy Miner (Manorina melanocephala), which can be seen in the photo in the act of dive-bombing the babblers.
At another roadside stop between the national park and Maidenwell we came across a group of Apostle Birds (Struthidea cinerea). Like babblers, these birds live in highly sociable small groups and crowd in on top of each other when perched on branches.
We photographed this pair of Galahs (Eolophus roseicapilla) by the roadside before Maidenwell. They may have been nesting in a hollow in the dead branch they were sitting on, as they remained on it for the ten minutes or so that we stood taking photos.
We stopped near a creek that had a bit of eucalypt woodland around it, and happened upon a large number of small birds including a flock of these Double-barred Finches (Taeniopygia bichenovii). Other birds there included wrens, silvereyes, red-browed firetails and whistlers. Different species of small birds often pool their resources and forage in close proximity while maintaining their own group identity.
I took this rather poor photo of a Yellow-rumped Thornbill (Acanthiza chrysorrhoa) at Coomba Waterhole near Maidenwell. Also there, were grey fantails and a yellow-faced honeyeater. We had a nice chat there with another couple of bird photographers, a father and daughter who were doing a comparison test of their cameras. One had a Nikon D700 with a 300mm prime lens, and the other had a Nikon D810 camera with the Tamron 200-600mm zoom lens. It would have been interesting to see the results.