Image credit: Grant Turner
Field observations of feeding behaviour, aggregations, and individual interactions in adult Johnstone River Snapping Turtles Elseya sp. are described. Turtles fed by day on windfall plant debris (leaves, flowers, fruits) at the water’s surface especially during the driest months and on filamentous algae and other vegetation on the substrate by day and night year-round. Turtles were recorded feeding on 17 different plant species but were very selective in what they consumed. Significantly more adult females were observed surface feeding compared to males; subadults and juveniles rarely engaged in surface feeding. Some turtles partially or completely emerged from water to seize food items. The nocturnal movement of adult turtles from the river into anabranches during the driest months to feed on algae growing on stones was recorded with some displacements exceeding 150 m in a single night. Adult female aggregations were recorded: (i) feeding beneath flowering and fruiting trees, (ii) in pools adjacent to nesting sites within days or weeks of nesting, (iii) as daytime ‘processions’ with all females heading in the same direction along the substrate, and (iv) repeatedly in clear shallow pool with minimal cover and no obvious food source. Adult male aggregations were also recorded in the context of feeding on the substrate while mixed-sex aggregations were recorded near in-flows where turtles selectively fed on plant debris washed into pools. Two apparent instances of courtship and one of mating were recorded.
Grant S. Turner
Feeding behaviour, aggregations, and interactions between Johnstone River Snapping Turtles Elseya sp.
Image credit: Martin Willis (martinwillisphotographs.com.au)
The Golden-shouldered Parrot (GSP) Psephotellus chrysopterygius (Gould, 1857) is a distinctive threatened species that is endemic to Cape York Peninsula (CYP), and a totem for First Nations Peoples. Its distribution has contracted since European occupation. We trawl the literature and public and private archives to provide a definitive set of historical records for the period 1845 to 1990 to help establish the species' former distribution and pattern of decline, and to compare these with the progression of pastoralism across the peninsula. We assessed the positional accuracy and veracity of all records, and consolidated records that had been replicated in multiple sources. We eliminated records from outside CYP; with a positional uncertainty of more than 15 km; or with errors that could not be corrected. This filtering process rejected 42% of records from BirdLife Australia, 62% of WildNet records and 37% of records from Atlas of Living Australia, and identified numerous others as duplicates, even though they had sometimes been allocated widely different coordinates. Hence, we advise close scrutiny of each individual record used for mapping and modelling species’ distributions. The GSP’s distribution has been obscured by confusion between the three antbed-nesting parrot species; difficulty in differentiating GSP eggs from those of Varied Lorikeets; the anecdotal nature of most records; and attempts to massage qualitative locational information into a spatially-robust format. Addressing these issues, we accepted 212 unique GSP records from 103 locations. Of these, 9.4% were verified with specimens, 64.2% were highly reliable, and 67.3% were accurate to 1 km or better. Until the early 20th century, GSPs were abundant across CYP, breeding wherever grassland or open tea tree woodland contained suitable magnetic or conical antbeds for nesting, including across extensive alluvial and coastal plains. Nesting progressively contracted to the flat edges and seepage area in hills, where conical antbeds predominate. This decline followed the displacement of First Nations Peoples and the establishment of the cattle industry, and the resultant loss of food plants, vegetation thickening and deterioration of the magnetic antbeds. The birds disappeared within 20–70 years of property development, remaining only in areas with access to rocky country with a lower level of disturbance (particularly grazing pressure), in which the birds can most easily find food in the early wet season. Recovery will depend on excluding cattle grazing from the remnant areas of the species' distribution – or carefully managing grazing pressure where this cannot be achieved – along with feral animal control, and fire management to control woodland invasion of open vegetation. First Nations Peoples are the original custodians of the parrot and its habitat, shared their knowledge about them with the first scientific collectors, and will be essential to the species’ recovery.
Gabriel M. Crowley and Stephen T. Garnett
Distribution and decline of the Golden-shouldered Parrot Psephotellus chrysopterygius 1845–1990
Image credit: Cameron de Jong
A population of the shrub Solanum cookii Symon was discovered in a small, isolated patch of semi-evergreen vine thicket on granite scree north of Collinsville in the northern Brigalow Belt, Queensland. This is a 140 km southward extension to the known range for this species and is in an area of lower annual rainfall than it has previously been recorded in. This observation highlights the importance of small, disjunct patches of semi-evergreen vine thicket in dry landscapes for maintaining biodiversity.
Rhiannon M. Williams and Cameron W. de Jong
An extension of the known range of the shrub Solanum cookii Symon in the northern Brigalow Belt
Image credit: Alexander / Adobe Stock
Restoration of forest ecosystems is a global imperative, yet there are relatively few studies assessing the success of old forest restoration efforts in the tropics. We assessed the vegetation structure, species diversity and composition of a 25-year-old wildlife corridor restoration site linking two patches of mature rainforest in the uplands of the Wet Tropics of Australia. Our results show that the vegetation structure of the restored rainforest was similar to that of mature reference rainforest in profile, in the overall stem size class distribution, in plot level means of stem basal areas and in the number of individuals. Reference mature rainforest had significantly higher plot-level mean biomass than was found in restored rainforest. Species richness and diversity indices of the two forest types also showed differences, and these were significant in terms of species composition, with the mature rainforest having a higher percentage of wind or mechanically dispersed species, and restored rainforest having more animal dispersed species. Although the restored rainforest is not compositionally similar to mature rainforest, the habitat it provides for wildlife and the presence of many mature rainforest species recruiting in the restored rainforest are positive restoration outcomes. Future monitoring and comparisons with other revegetated sites or naturally regenerating forest will provide deeper insights into the processes of recovery in restored forests.
David Y.P. Tng, Nigel I.J. Tucker and Deborah M.G. Apgaua
How does the forest structure, diversity and species composition of a restored rainforest 25 years after planting compare with that of mature rainforest?
Image credit: Sandy Carroll (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Remnant protected areas are essential for the survival of rainforest bird species within agricultural landscapes. The Lake Eacham section of Crater Lakes National Park on the Atherton Tablelands, Far North Queensland, is a 450 ha remnant of mid-altitude tropical rainforest in the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area, surrounding a 52 ha volcanic crater lake, and 3 km from intact forest. It has been ‘hyper-disturbed’ by edge effects and periodic tropical cyclones, and has high tourist visitation rates. From 1993-1998 a volunteer group, the Tablelands National Park Volunteers, conducted monthly bird surveys in three sites. These sites supported a significant rainforest avifauna, with 7,496 bird records of 87 species. Most birds were dependent or largely dependent on rainforest, including 28 Wet Tropics endemic species or subspecies of which four were rainforest obligates. Arboreal insectivores were most abundant, followed by disperser frugivores. Birds seen included nine threatened and four near threatened species. The suite of species at Lake Eacham was comparable with that found in nearby intact forest. We believe this important remnant should be resurveyed, as recent surveys in intact rainforest in the region have detected declines in a number of species including 17 that we recorded as common or abundant. Further, two severe tropical cyclones have impacted the Park since 1998 and Lake Eacham is central to two major revegetation linkage projects, the Peterson Creek and Lakes Corridors. As the volunteer group disbanded in 2016, we provide the complete data as a supplementary file, to give others the opportunity for resurvey.
Elinor C. Scambler and Simon B. Burchill
Birds of a ‘hyper-disturbed’ rainforest remnant: volunteer surveys at Lake Eacham on the Atherton Tablelands, Far North Queensland, 1993-1998
Image credit: Matthew Mo
This note documents a rare observation of an adult Spectacled Flying-fox (Pteropus conspicillatus) nursing two pups in the wild. The pups were visually in different stages of development, which is suggestive of superfoetation.
Free-living adult Spectacled Flying-fox (Pteropus conspicillatus) observed with two pups
Image credit: Imogen / Adobe Stock
Few studies have been published about woodland bird assemblages in north-east Queensland. Here we present results of a census of birds in eucalypt woodland at Koah over three two-month periods. A 12.8 ha property was surveyed in three 2-ha plots, birds in each plot being counted for 20 minutes on nine occasions within each two-month period. 20-min 2-ha area searches are a nationally recommended method for censusing woodland birds, but adequate replication is required for local studies. Incidental observations were also recorded over seven years. Assemblage data provided strong discrimination over time and between plots notwithstanding little variation in vegetation between them, but only limited discrimination at the level of species. Fifty-four species were detected in plot surveys and 138 species opportunistically over seven years. The species assemblage differed markedly from that of a similar study 35 km away for reasons that are unclear. Our study suggests that nine replicate counts using this standard protocol is a good level of replication with which to document changes in the avifauna over time and at local scales.
Scott C. Morrison and Donald C. Franklin
Bird counts in eucalypt woodland at Koah, Far North Queensland