Architecture Birds Brisbane

August 30, 2014 … nature at its best, close to the city

At home again and Queensland is rapidly receding into memory.

Coochiemudlo Island is a small slice of tropical paradise near Brisbane

Of course, photographs are a wonderful aid to memory, and yesterday I made a lot of images. We went to Coochiemudlo Island at the Southern end of Moreton Bay. It is accessed by a ferry that runs a half-hourly service to and from Victoria Point in Redland. It is just over an hour’s drive from Brisbane through very pleasant country, though the farmland is under pressure from growing suburbia. The first thing you see on the island is a classic tropical island white and beach. Yesterday’s weather was perfect for this.

Brahminy kite nesting in a tree on an inhabited street in Coochiemudlo

The locals seem friendly and offered a lot of helpful, though not always accurate advice about where to find birds. I was looking for the Bush Stone Curlew (of which, more later) but one old gentleman suggested that if I went up this street and along that street until I found the blue house and then looked for a certain tree, we would see a Sea Eagle nesting. We followed the instructions and indeed found a handsome raptor nesting in the tree. However, according to the field guide, this bird is the Brahminy Kite (Haliastur indus). She had a substantial nest and like the osprey from a few days earlier, was defending it from lesser birds.

Black-chinned honey eater on a Pandanus fruit

We resumed our walk around the island in pursuit of the curlews, but I was side-tracked again by the proliferation of honeyeaters of various sorts. The first I saw was a Black-chinned honey eater (Melithreptus gularis) sitting on the fruit of a Pandanus tree.

Blue face
Blue-faced honey eater on garden shrubs

On a nearby suburban street (on this remote tropical island) we next encountered the Blue faced honey eater (Entomyzon cyanotis) extracting honey from the flowers of garden shrubs.

Wetland bush on Coochiemudlo

Soon we found ourselves in the Melaleuca wetlands on the North East corner of the island and the bush there was full of birdsong, though the birds remained cleverly hidden.

A group of Bush Stone-curlew

Around the corner, facing North, there were nice views back in the direction of the city which may have excused me from seeing the very birds I was hoping to meet. Fortunately, David has younger and sharper eyes than mine, and he spotted a group of three. By means a forceful whispers and urgent hand signals, he indicated that he had seen something, so I did my twinkle-toed pink panther imitation back to where he was pointing. Oh great joy, there were three birds. The  mainly nocturnal Bush Stone-curlew (Burhinus grallarius) is reportedly secretive by day, and hard to find.  And there were three of them in plain sight. Their defense mechanism is to stay perfectly still if they sense danger. This may be the cause of their rarity except in the far North of Australia. I speculate that what we saw was a cock bird guarding two hens on the nest.

These seemed to be sitting on a nest

In the end as we walked the island, we encountered no fewer than seven of them, and as a photographer, I was delighted that their defense mechanism posed them perfectly.

Back to civilization (?) … I was pleased with this shot through the front windscreen of the car.

Sadly, a problem at home meant we had to curtail our walk and head back towards the mainland. Never mind,  what we had seen already was a delight. My last shot of the day was of the Gardens Point vicinity as we came back through the city on our way back to the North side. As you can see, there is no shortage of construction in this city.

And so to bed.


Animals Birds Brisbane Light Rivers Trees

August 29, 2014 … a close encounter of the marsupial kind

Our time in Brisbane is almost at an end.

Bamboo is nice to look at, but in my experience is host to a million biting insects.

Yesterday afternoon, I went with David to collect Isaac from school. I liked the textures of the tall bamboo growing near the classrooms, though I have the idea that they are a haven for all sorts of biting insects in a land where there are too many already.

Egret with injury … help was called but I could do no more

I went next to the Barungwarra reserve on the South Pine River, and was delighted to see a large egret. However, I was distressed to see it was injured with a spike sticking out of its lower bill, and was probably unable to eat. We called the bird rescue people who promised to look for it and to see what could be done.

Kangaroos pause from grazing to keep a wary eye on the photographer

Next I went back to Tinchi Tamba wetlands and again to my delight, there were kangaroos browsing in the afternoon sun. The perked to attention when I got out of the car, but resumed their grazing as I drove off to do the walkway.

A big solitary kangaroo at close quarters

Halfway round the loop walk, I encountered a large solitary kangaroo. We looked at each other startled, and then it bounded off, but paused to look back at me. I am aware that kangaroos, if threatened can inflict severe injuries, so I held back. This one was about my height when standing upright so definitely not to be taken lightly. It watched me for a while then resumed its journey into the cover of the bush.

Homeward bound in the morning, but with one more day’s stories from Queens;and to tell when we get home.

Animals Architecture Brisbane Rivers Trees Weather

August 28, 2014 … weather or not

Brisbane is every bit as fickle as Wellington.

Beautiful cloudscape over Brisbane

We caught the train to the city and walked across the Kurilpa Bridge to Southbank. The view down the river was just splendid. After a bit of a wander we found a very nice Japanese restaurant and enjoyed lunch in the open air.

Looking North from the Goodwill Bridge, the weather had changed its demeanour in the space of about 90 minutes

We continued up the Bougainvillea walkway to the Goodwill Bridge and crossed back to the other side. I enjoyed a stroll through the grounds of Queensland University of Technology at Gardens Point, having enjoyed several weeks in residence there during a sabbatical while I was still employed. The view to the North as we crossed the bridge should have warned us of an impending change in the weather.

The Moreton Bay Fig

In the botanical gardens there are some magnificent examples of the Moreton Bay Fig tree.

Eastern Water Dragon basking

At the duck pond near the exit to the city we encountered some of the Eastern water dragons that abound around Brisbane. This particularly fine specimen was unperturbed when I lay down near him to meet him eye to eye. We caught the train and arrived back at Bald Hills in the midst of a lively thunderstorm and had to scramble to rescue a very large load of washing from the clothes line.

That’s enough for today.

Animals Birds Brisbane

August 27, 2014 … chance encounters of the hopping kind

Various opportunities arose yesterday.

magpie lark
The magpie lark didn’t stay long

David was at work, and Mary was doing some stuff fr the family,and I had the use of a car, so I went back to the Tinchi Tamba wetlands near Bald Hills. Like many of the wildlife zones in the region, it has excellent walkways. I had not gone far when I spotted this Magpie-lark (not to be confused with the magpie itself.

The mob of kangaroos on a coastal reserve were an unexpected delight

As I was taking the shot, a man coming the other way with his kids told me to watch for a mob of kangaroos. Sure enough in an open area in the park there were a group of kangaroos. I am guessing they are landlocked by the sea on one side and the increasingly dense housing on the other.

Coastal forest

The walkway passes through some delightful coastal bush, much of which is the casuarina tree.  It is a good place to contemplate the world.

Galahs have a reputation for stupidity. This one seemed to have life well planned.

Back at the family home, there was a solitary galah sitting in a tree beside the verandah. It seemed to sleep for an hour and then flew on.

That will be enough today.

Arachnids Bees Brisbane Children

August 26, 2014 … hidden treasures in the wetlands

Better weather than expected gave some nice opportunities.

A small spider with exquisite skills as a weaver

Isaac was starting at a new school, so there was a bit of juggling around that. While I waited for David to return, I turned my camera on a very delicate web spun by a small spider. The sun was gleaming on it nicely.

Our first trip of the day was to a nature reserve specializing in the preservation of the local osprey population. We did see an osprey being harassed by crows while we were there, but the situation was not conducive to good images.

Second only to the kangaroo in the symbolism that says “Australia” it was a delight to get this close to a koala in the wild

On the other hand, someone told us that there was a koala up a nearby gum tree with her joey. She was high in the tree and the angle didn’t allow me to see the joey, but I was happy to get into a position to see her face.

The kookaburra is a large kingfisher

On the way back to town, David saw a kookaburra sitting on a farm fence so we  stopped. As I lined up the bird swooped to the ground quite close to me and began to eat something there. I have no idea what.


From there, we visited the Boondall wetlands and wandered around the walkways. There was a great deal of birdsong, but it took a while before we were able to spot them. Perhaps the most plentiful were the noisy miner birds which conceal themselves in the foliage very cleverly.


Another handsome local was the butcher bird. It is very melodious despite the sinister look of that hook at the end of its beak.


Saving the best until last, we came across a tawny frogmouth. Despite its superficial resemblance to the owls, it is in fact, a member of the  nightjar family. During the day, it pretends to be part of the tree it sleeps in, and its plumage looks remarkably like tree bark. The bird has a character-filled face with a delightful set of whiskers around its beak.

It was a good day.


Architecture Rivers

August 25, 2014 … into the city centre

Yesterday was about visiting extended family.

Downstream to the city from Auchenflower

We got a lift with our son to the general area, then walked along the riverbank walkway to visit Mary’s brother and his wife at Auchenflower. The views of the city from the riverbank are a delight to me.

Rail bridge
The rail bridge just downstream from the Go-between bridge.

After lunch, I walked with my brother-in-law and his grandson into the city (2.5 km) and enjoyed other perspectives on the river, its bridges and the buildings.

The Kurilpa Bridge is an incomprehensible tangle of posts and wires that somehow hang together. Public opinion is mixed.

Somehow, Brisbane is unafraid of quirky architecture and engineering, and I am fascinated by the variety of styles to the many bridges across the river. The most extreme is the new Kurilpa pedestrian bridge which seems to be a case of doing “because we can”.

City contrasts
Contrasting colours and textures

In the city itself, I enjoyed the contrasting colours and textures and incongruous juxtapositions of buildings old and new.

Glass wall
Reflections from the Queensland Supreme Court

Reflections in glass curtain walls are often interesting, especially if isolated from the surrounds.

Brisbane city
Old buildings and new

The city is blessed with many handsome buildings and a good system of trains and buses. Except for the summer temperatures, it’s a city I could live in.

That’s all today.

Birds Brisbane Children Family Food

August 24, 2014 … candles and feathers

One of the major reasons for our visit was our grandson’s birthday.

Isaac blows out the candles on his cake

Isaac was seven yesterday, and like most boys of his age in the developed world, he was excited about it. He woke early in the morning, waited patiently for the rest of the household to emerge and opened his various gifts in an orgy of shredded wrapping paper. Later in the day, he celebrated with the gathered family at the home of his other grandparents, and got to blow out the candles on a Lego-themed cake made and decorated collaboratively by his mother, sister and father. It was a joy to be there for him.

Glossy ibis on the soccer pitch

In the morning we went to watch him play soccer. The opposing team didn’t turn up, so a game was arranged between various members of Isaac’s team. It rained steadily for much of the day and this meant that the senior grounds were closed. The unusual amount of rain drove ants and other insects to the surface, and this was an opportunity for the birds to eat very well. A bird that I have not previously got close to was the glossy ibis.

Crows flying in the rain

Crows were also plentiful, and because they are not present in New Zealand I was surprised by their size.

Low and fast, a swallow chasing insects

Also present in large numbers were swallows flitting across the fields. The seemed to fly a straighter path that the ones that gather airborne insects over the ponds at Pauatahanui.

A great egret, close cousin to our white heron

White egrets were present in the waterways, and were less skittish than the ones at home.

Australian pelican

Strangest to my eyes were the pelicans which were simply crouched against the rain.

That’s all for now.

adversity Animals Birds Brisbane Scenic Rim

August 23, 2014 … wet feathers and a bouncing surprise

It turns out that our stay in Australia will be a wet one.

Crimson Rosella hoping for food

For the most part that’s no big problem, but I would have liked a dry spell yesterday for our visit to Lamington National Park near the border with New South Wales.It’s spectacular countryside, but so much better when it’s not shrouded in mist. However when we arrived at O’Reilly’s resort the birds were immediately visible. First to arrive were the spectacular crimson rosellas which sat on the car as we got out.

Bower birds
Regent bower birds, male and female, being fed by tourists. These are free flying birds, not captive.

We went around the track that includes a wonderful boardwalk, but the rain increased in intensity as we went around. I saw honey eaters and various small birds but things were dark and it was hard to see the birds in the gloom. We were forced to give up, and went back to the centre where tourists were feeding a variety of birds including the splendid Regent bower bird.

Wallaby posing

After lunch with the rain now quite heavy we set off down the hill again. On the way. David spotted this handsome Wallaby. It sat for its photograph and then disappeared into the grass.

Bounding into the rain

Closer to Canungra he spotted what I think is a kangaroo (as opposed to a wallaby). It too sat for a while and then bounded off into the mist and rain.

Weather or not, it was a good day.

Airport Aviation Birds Brisbane Weather Wellington

August 22, 2014 … slipping the surly bonds of Earth*

Yesterday started impossibly early.

“oh-dark hundred at Wellington Airport”

My belief is that there is no such time as 2:30 am, yet my alarm clock woke me then. An hour later we were on our way to the airport to check in for our trip to Brisbane. By 6:00 am we were on the plane being pushed back from the terminal on the first flight to leave after the end of the night curfew.

A new day dawns mid-Tasman

It was a smooth trip, albeit with one of those airlines that gives you what you pay for and no more (so I had breakfast in the terminal before boarding). About an hour after leaving a wet and chilly Wellington, we were suddenly bathed in the glad light of the new day.

Gold Coast
The fabled Gold Coast

After three hours we arrived over the Australian coast at Coolangatta and turned North towards Brisbane. I was impressed by the clean clear view of the Gold Coast high-rise buildings.

butcher bird
Butcher bird, a first class singer

David met us at the airport and we were delighted to have his company for the day. When our grandson, Isaac came home from school we went over to Deagon where his other grandparents live. Isaac walked with me along the nearby creek and to my delight I saw three white herons (or egrets) and four royal spoonbills. We heard a delightful warbling song and it turned out to be the butcher bird. Despite the vicious hook on the end of its bill it is a superb singer.

West from Bald Hills

As the sun was going down, it seemed there might be a spectacular sunset, so David took me up to Gympie Road where there was a clear view to the West. It was perhaps not as David hoped, but I liked what I saw.

It was a long day, but a happy one.

* High Flight, by John Magee

adversity Maritime Reflections

August 21, 2014 … a major fumble

I got some shots I rather liked yesterday.

Unfortunately, they are on a disk drive in Wellington, and I am in Brisbane with no way to connect to them. I have just given myself a reason to make more intelligent use of the cloud. It is an error I shall not repeat. The only image I can access from yesterday is one I posted on Facebook and retrieved (with consequent image degradation) to show again here. 10557065_10152330784228333_5654855398175146507_o


The water at the Seaview Marian was beautifully magically perfectly still. The light was gentle and I was pleased with what I found. And because of my error, that’s all I have today. Tomorrow will be about another place.