Tuesday, January 23, 2018

WITH the CHINCHILLA NATS at the BUNYAS (Report by Patricia Gardner)

Four Toowoomba Field Nats accepted the invitation of the Chinchilla Field Nats to join them on their weekend outing there a few weeks ago. We had a glorious time of it. Members of the Bunya Mountains Natural History Association joined in (some Chinchilla Nats are also members of this organisation), and for us Toowoomba-ites it was a real pleasure to be surrounded by so much expertise, particularly on the birds, insects, and plants we found there. We have this in our own Club, too, of course, but we all enjoyed spending some leisurely time with a different group of people, who shared so many of our interests but had a different (though overlapping) body of knowledge and experiences. Discussions included the recent mystery deaths of three large bunya trees, the likely future effects on the bunya forests of global warming in a place where this species prefers the highest altitudes. We spent some time looking for young bunyas and wondering whether there might be fewer young seedlings in the forest than perhaps there should be, for the continued health of the forest.
Those of us who “did everything”, from beginning to end, managed five walks between Carbine’s chute at one end of the Bunyas and the Mt. Kiangarow grasstrees at the other, and a visit to "Cedarvale", the historic slab hut premises of the Natural History group.
With its altitude, the area is relatively cool, and most of our walking was in the shade of the forests so the heat which had stay-at-homes sweltering that weekend was not a problem for us. Some of us shared hired houses with the Chinchilla Nats, and were delighted with just how much birdwatching could be done from the shady verandah, with the forest edge so close by.

Yellow Sand Wasp (Bembix palmata)

One of the weekends highlights was watching the ground wasps working at their holes at the end of the Mt. Kiangarow walk. Some of you will remember them from our own club’s visit to the Bunyas a few years ago. Don identified them (tentatively) then, as Bembix palmata (Yellow Sand Wasp). The holes are nests for egg-laying and raising their larvae, which they feed with small flies. On this trip, we noted that more than one wasp seemed to visit each hole. The internet tells us that others have noticed this behaviour, and theorised that one wasp is providing the larva (or larvae?) with food, while the other guards the nest from predators which might parasitise the baby wasps. Are they a male/female pair? We had no way of knowing.
We have also found no explanation for the prevalence of wasps in this patch just a few metres across. Are they a community, or simply a collection of individuals who are all taking advantage of a suitable site? Don and I have noticed the same phenomenon at Bladensburg National Park, where, (unlike at Mt. Kiangarow), there seems to be plenty of suitable ground to choose from. In that case, the diggings were again restricted to a circle 2-3 metres across, slightly raised in comparison with the flat soil all around. Is this communal behaviour? Or were we merely seeing a collection of solitary wasps (or pairs) who were making use of soil improved for their purposes by previous digging?
We found this and plenty to wonder at, on our Bunya weekend. Thank you, Chinchilla Nats, for including us on your wonderful weekend

Bird List from Bunya Mountains outing with Chinchilla Field Naturalists 12-14 January 2018
Thanks to Bernice Seton (Bell Bird Watching group) who collated this list and kindly shared her expertise and experience with our group on our walks.
Eastern Spinebill, Golden Whistler (H), Noisy Pitta (H), Eastern Whipbird (H), Lewin’s Honeyeater, White-browed Wren, Wedgetail Eagle (2), Black-faced Monarch (2), Yellow Thornbill, Satin Bowerbird, Spotted Pardalote (H), Grey Fantail, Grey Shrike-thrush, White-throated Treecreeper (H), Red Browed Finch, Pied Currawong, Silver Eye (H), Brown Thornbill, Brown Gerygone, Yellow-throated Scrubwren (plus nest), Brown Pigeon, Grey Goshawk, Green Catbird, Paradise Riflebird, Eastern Yellow Robin, Large-billed Scrubwren, Fantail Cuckoo, Crimson Rosella, King Parrot.     (H= Heard only)

Bird watching on Westcott Trail

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