Monday, August 8, 2016

OUTING REPORT - Sunday 03 July, 2016 to Irongate and Yarramalong Weir

Twenty-two Toowoomba Field Nats and nine U3A Birdwatchers from Pittsworth came together for our outing on a glorious winter’s day. The excursion was led by Alistair Silcock, local historian, birdwatcher and natural-ist, who tailored the outing to cater for the varied interests of our group. We met at 8.45am at the Irongate Nature Conservation Reserve where we enjoyed a leisurely walk. This is a remnant of the vegetation which was once predominant in this area of the Downs. There are three distinct vegetation groups in the reserve based on the Mountain Coolabah (E.Orgadophila), Brigalow (Acacia harpophylla) and Belah (Casuarina cristata).
Yarramalong Weir
After morning tea, we travelled in convoy to Yarramalong Weir, with a stop at Brookstead en route. The journey took us off the beaten track, affording us an opportunity to gain an insight into the scale of agriculture on broad-acre cotton and grain farms. We noticed a variety of raptors, confirming the presence of plentiful mice in the paddocks and road verges. After arriving at Yarramalong Weir we had a walk beside the Condamine River which, after recent rain was flowing well. Sightings of water birds, finches and honeyeaters confirmed this as a favourite spot for birds; however a mid-week excursion with less human activity would no doubt yield more sightings.e 

Koala in Grey-topped box E. moluccana at Kincora
After a relaxing lunch, we continued to the private property of Tania and David Garratt at Kincora. Tania has been actively creating a bird and insect haven in her home garden. About 14 years ago she and David discover-ed that they had a population of koalas on their property and they began planting trees suitable for koala food and habitat. We were fascinated to find one koala in a very small Grey-topped Box (E. moluccana) near the house and another well camouflaged koala in a more advanced tree further from the house. Tania has noticed koalas in other planted eucalypts including Yellow Box (E. melliodora), Poplar Box (E. populnea), Forest Redgum (E. tereticornis), Black Ironbox (E. raveritiana) and remarkably, the local eucalypt, Mugga Ironbark (E. sideroxylyn) which is seldom recognised as a preferred food tree for koalas. Tanya and David’s ambition is to create a corridor of koala-friendly trees all the way to the rivcr which is about five kilometres away. This will require a co-operative community effort.

Pied Butcherbird, Gunbower Road cemetery
Xanthoria sp. Sunburst lichen at Irongate

After leaving Tania and David’s property, Alistair led some of us to a nearby cemetery in Gunbower Road. This little cemetery is of historical interest. The Kincora School was also established on this site in 1878 and closed in the WW2 era. The cemetery continued as the Stirling family private cemetery. They were the early Scottish settlers, whose homestead was called “Gunbower”. It was interesting to see such a tiny cemetery surrounded by cropland, with its grand Nineteenth Century headstones, as well as the more recent columbarium honouring the descendants of the district’s first settler farming family.
Most memorable and of naturalist interest was the rising of perhaps 200 cockatiels (quarrions) from the trees adjacent to the cemetery. We had been aware of perhaps 20 of them in a dead tree in afternoon sunlight – but with the movement of a raptor in the skies about 300 meters away, all the cockatiels rose in one movement and settled in trees across the road.
Thank you Alistair for planning and providing us with such an informative and enjoyable Naturalist outing.  Details on the conure parrots we saw at Yarramalong Weir.
Bird list for Irongate compiled by Nicci Thompson
Striped Honeyeater, Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater, Yellow-faced Honeyeater, Noisy Miner, Weebill, Yellow Thornbill, Pied Butcherbird, Australian Magpie, Pied Currawong, Grey Fantail, Torresian Crow, Eastern Yellow Robin, Pale-headed Rosella (Jean Gundry and Len Mengel).

Bird list for Yarramalong Weir compiled by Nicci Thompson
Maned Duck, Australian White Ibis, Royal Spoonbill, White-necked Heron, Australian Pelican, Australian Darter, Black Kite, Whistling Kite, Nankeen Kestrel, Galah, Pale-headed Rosella, Superb Fairywren, Noisy Miner, White-plumed Honeyeater, Striated Pardalote, Pied Butcherbird, Australian Magpie, Australian Golden Whistler, Rufous Whistler, Aust-ralian Raven, Common Myna, Double-barred Finch, Chestnut-breasted Mannikin, Pacific Black Duck (Jean Gundry ).

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