Tuesday, January 26, 2016

November 2015 Outing Report: “Highwoods”, Jimbour SEQ

Our November outing was conducted on the property “Highwoods” about ten minutes’ drive from the small Darling Downs settlement of Jimbour. The outing, which included a night’s camp out was held over the week-end of the 07th and 08th November with most attendees opting for a day visit only on the Sunday.
“Highwoods” is owned by Martin and Karen Ambrose of Dalby and Martin was on site for the weekend to show people around the property and share with us his knowledge of its fauna and flora over our stay. “High-woods” was purchased by the Ambroses in November 2012 and is named after Karen’s ancestral home in East Sussex in England; an area of extensive intact oak forest says Martin. The Antipodean “Highwoods” covers 188 acres and comprises elements of Regional Ecosystems R.E.11.8.5 and 11.8.3 that, in turn form part of the Brigalow Belt Bioregion (South) of Queensland. Although R.E.11.8.5 is stated to consist primarily of Eucalyptus orgadophila open woodland this eucalypt is not present on “Highwoods”, however a discontinuous canopy of other dominant species such as Corymbia erythrophila, E. melanophloia and E. crebra are present. A well-developed shrub layer is present under these trees including softwood scrub species forming both tall and low shrub layers. These include elements of R.E.11.8.5a such as Geijera parviflora, Callitris glaucophylla, Pittosporum angustifolium, Alectryon oleifolius and Notelaea macrocarpa. The ground layer is quite dense and dominated by species such as the grasses Aristida lazaridis, A. ramosa, Borthriochloa ewartiana, Dicanthium sericium, Chrysopogon fallax, Heteropogon contortus and Themeda triandra. Herbs present include Brunon-iella australis, Evolvulus alsinoides, Galactica tenuiflora and Indigofera linnaei. 
Regional Ecosystem 11.8.3 consists of semi-evergreen vine thicket that usually has emergent Acacia harpo-phylla present. However this species is absent from “Highwoods”. Dominant species in this R.E. include Eucalyptus spp. and Casuarina cristata. A feature of “Highwoods” and one of the deciding factors in Martin and Karen’s purchasing of the property is the many and magnificent Bottle Trees Brachychiton rupestris that have been retained including one individual known appropriately and affectionately as Fattso. 
Little short-nosed bat (insectivorous) (photo by Jean Gundry)
On the Saturday Martin and I arrived about midmorning to be joined by Lesley and Ben that evening to check three harp-traps that Martin and I had set up that day to try for microbats inhabiting the property. One trap proved successful taking one each of a female Little Broad-nosed Bat Scotorepens greyii and a male Little Forest Bat Vespadelus vulturnus; both new species for Martin’s property list.

The other two harp traps proved fruitless. Other species recorded during Martin’s and my rambles about “Highwoods” on the Saturday included Red-necked Wallaby, Eastern Grey Kangaroo, European Brown Hare, Brown Quail, Rock Dove, Crested Pigeon, Peaceful Dove, Straw-necked Ibis, Nankeen Kestrel, Brown Falcon, Galah, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Cockatiel, Scaly-breasted Lorikeet, Little Lorikeet, Red-winged Parrot, Pale-headed Rosella, Blue Bonnet, Red-rumped Parrot, Tawny Frogmouth, Southern Boobook, Pheasant Coucal, Channel-billed Cuckoo, Horsfield’s Bronze-Cuckoo, Superb Fairy-wren, Variegated Fairy-wren, Weebill, Yellow-rumped Thornbill (nesting), White-throated Gerygone, Noisy Miner, Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater, Brown Honeyeater, Striped Honeyeater, Grey-crowned Babbler, Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike, White-winged Triller, Australasian Figbird, Olive-backed Oriole, Pied Butcherbird (with nestlings), Australian Magpie, Torresian Crow, Common Myna, Silvereye, Zebra Finch and Plum-headed Finch. Most members who came for the weekend opted for the nocturnal comforts of the Bell Caravan Park whilst Martin and I spent the night under the star-spangled canopy of “Highwoods” around the campfire and in our swags. Not a mosquito to be heard/felt; a beautiful night with a Southern Boobook lullaby. 

Caper white ovipositing (Photo: Jean Gundry)
On the Sunday morning about 20 members rallied at “Highwoods” for a very good day’s natural historying. We visited several of Martin’s “special” places during the day all of which were generally short and easy ambles from our campsite. One of these included a dam that Martin has fenced to exclude stock and is now a riot of water plants and sedges including, on the day, the very attractive and profusely flowering Water Poppy Ottelia ovalifolia and Water Primrose Ludwigia montevidensis. This is a favourite spot of Martin’s and mine for Plum-headed Finch, which didn’t disappoint with all members getting good looks at these charming finches  that morning. Dragonflies and damselflies were also here in abundance including many Red and Blue Damsels Xanthagrion erythroneurum, also Common Bluetail Ischnura heterosticta, and the ubiquitous Blue Skimmer Orthetrum caledonicum and Scarlet Percher Diplacodes haematodes. Further on from the dam we entered an area of cypress where the find of the morning, and a “first” for “Highwoods” revealed itself in the guise of a male Common Nobbi Dragon Diporiphora nobbi with his show-off mauve flanks. Aside to this great little lizard others of his ilk that we recorded today were Lively Rainbow Skink Carlia vivax, Elegant Snake-eyed Skink Cryptoblepharus pulcher and Boulenger’s Snake-eyed Skink Morethia boulengeri. A veritable potpourri of species ended up on our list for these two delightful days of great sightings and good fellowship that included creatures as diverse as dung beetles, frogs and butterflies. Of these latter animals I’ve notes on two species of carcass beetles (Trogidae), a native dung beetle Onthophagus atrox, the introduced dung beetles Onthophagus gazella and Onitis viridulus as well as Cane Toad and Emerald Spotted Treefrog and the butterflies Orchard Swallowtail, Caper White and Tailed Emperor to which, no doubt, Lesley will add somewhat. 

Nobbi dragon (male) (Photo: Mike Ford)
By Sunday afternoon the weekend drew to a close and members dispersed to their respective destinations. As the shadows lengthened they heralded in a blustering, storm-driven evening in which Martin and I got trapped pulling down the harp traps; a frenzied conclusion to a weekend’s idyll but it all ended well in the long run and we both eventually headed home replete with the weekend’s adventures.
Report by Rod Hobson 


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