When Ambush Turns to Active Pursuit: Brown Goshawk Vs. Australian Raven

The Brown Goshawk (Accipiter fasciatus) is one of Australia’s most acrobatic aerial hunters. They are within the Accipiter genus of raptors (birds of prey) that is the global Goshawk genus. Ever Accipiter is known to utilise cover and perches to catch their prey unaware. The Brown Goshawk in particular is known to weave through dense forest and capture and kill unsuspecting birds before they can move a wing!

Brown Goshawk - Accipiter fasciatus Copyright Chad Beranek

Brown Goshawk – Accipiter fasciatus (Copyright Chad Beranek)

However, on rare occasions the hunt go wrong, and something unexpected happens. In these rare instances, a Goshawk can either make the decision to commit to the hunt, or pull out to conserve energy. In this short article I will describe one of these instances: A Brown Goshawk in a long distance aerial pursuit on an Australian Raven (Corvus coronoides).

I was on Broughton Island, which is not far from Newcastle on the east coast of Australia, where I observed lots of commotion in the bird world. Seagulls squawked and took flight in a large white undulating mass, while I saw two ravens joining the mass. The ravens seemed particularly frantic compared to the seagulls. And that’s when I spotted a fast dark shadow tailing them that darted from the other side of the bay…

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“Initially the Goshawk pursued the Raven in a westerly direction, at first observing the Raven from behind, then gathering speed and making contact with it in what appeared to be a beak-first attack. The Raven changed angle after the first observed attack, and proceeded to dive. The Goshawk appeared easily faster than the Raven in diving flight, and again made aggressive contact using its beak.” From Beranek (2017)

The hunt

The hunt

The Raven once again changed direction, this time angling north-west and slightly upwards. The Goshawk circled to adjust its position and once again pursued the Raven, this time coming from below. The Goshawk attempted to attack the Raven but missed. The Raven appeared to flap its wings frantically as the Goshawk approached. After this attack, the Goshawk let the Raven gain a lead before closing the distance for another attack. At this stage, the interaction was proceeding further out in the bay and it was impossible to obtain distinct images with a camera. Further observations were made with binoculars. On the sixth and final attack, as the Goshawk approached the Raven, the former outstretched its talons and grasped the Raven in mid air. The Raven did not appear to be struggling to break free and looked limp; presumably it was either dead or exhausted.” From Beranek (2017)

These kinds of long distance aerial and acrobatic pursuits are rare in nature for Goshawks, and represent less than 3% of hunting observations. A variety of factors can lead to such behaviour, such as prey availability and the condition of habitat. To read more into the science side of these kinds of hunts visit either one the links below:

Researchgate link

Australian Field Ornithology Link

Chad T. Beranek (2017) A successful long-distance aerial pursuit of an Australian Raven Corvus coronoides by a Brown Goshawk Accipiter fasciatus. Australian Field Ornithology 34, 87-90.

 

 

Wildlife of Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park

Wildlife of KCNP: Where to find it and how to protect it

With the Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park Plan of Management up for review (to comment, visit: https://engage.environment.nsw.gov.au/ku-ring-gai-chase-national-park-consultation ) I thought it’d be important for local residents and stakeholders to know exactly why KCNP is so important from a faunal point of view. Recently, I gave a lecture to a booked out crowd of 90 people, on the Wildlife of Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park however if you couldn’t make it to that lecture or would like a refresher, the information below will help you gain a greater understanding of the importance of Ku-ring-gai Chase NP.

At 14,997 hectares in size Ku-ring-gai Chase NP acts as a refuge away from most human disturbance, allowing wildlife to persist uninfluenced by growing human pressures. The large size of the National Park means that there are patches of land that are unexplored by humans. Conversely, the West Head and Bobbin Head sections of the National Park are easily accessible and allow visitors to interact and reconnect with nature, something that I believe to be crucial if we plan on tackling Climate Change and other key environmental issues.

Birds

Birds are by far the most commonly seen class of animals within the National Park and indeed within our daily lives. Birds are so abundant and diverse meaning that per hour of searching you will sight more species than any other terrestrial class. This diversity is extremely evident within Ku-ring-gai Chase and it only takes a walk down Chiltern Trail or along the creek at Gibberagong Track to realise this. Commonly encountered families include Honeyeaters, Insectivores, Birds of Prey and Parrots.

The Eastern Yellow Robin is a commonly found bird species in KCNP

The Eastern Yellow Robin is a commonly found bird species in KCNP

 

Key Birds Species of KCNP Where to find them
Glossy Black Cockatoo Commonly encountered Vulnerable species often seen at McCarrs Creek Reserve or any trail along West Head Road. Feed on Allocasuarina and Casuarina species.
White Throated Nightjar Nocturnal species found in low abundance all throughout the National Park in the spring/summer months. Loud, distinctive call
Swift Parrot Critically Endangered winter migrant. Occasionally visits the National Park near West Head lookout and Chiltern Trail
Yellow-Tufted Honeyeater Rare in Sydney found at Chiltern Trail and Bobbin Head.
Chestnut-Rumped Heathwren All trails throughout the National Park. Secretive bird often heard during their breeding season but less frequently seen.
Rockwarbler Only bird which is endemic to NSW. Found anywhere there is Sandstone. Try Waratah Track and West Head lookout but present throughout.
Square-Tailed Kite Vulnerable bird of prey becoming increasingly abundant. Look for this species at Waratah or Elvina Track.

 

Mammals

Mammals are by far the most infrequently encountered Class by the general public. This is predominantly due to the nocturnal habits of most mammals as well as they’re general secrecy. Within KCNP there are several very rare and threatened mammal species and some of my best finds have been of the mammalian variety. In order to find these interesting animals I encourage you to spotlight – i.e. go out at night with a torch to look for these nocturnal mammals. All up, 42 Terrestrial Mammals have been recorded in the NP. Ku-ring-gai Chase NP’s claim to fame is that the New Holland Mouse was thought to be extinct until it was rediscovered in 1967, in Ku-ring-gai Chase NP!

 

Grey Headed Flying Fox

Grey Headed Flying Fox

 

 

Jayden Walsh’s Best Mammal Finds in KCNP Info
Common Dunnart 1st record for Northern Beaches. ~10th Record for Sydney. 1 individual crossing West Head Rd near Duckholes Picnic Ground on December 11th 2015.
Yellow Footed Antechinus 1st record for Northern Beaches. 1 in May 2015 at Chiltern Trail on sandstone ledge warming up during early morning.
New Holland Mouse Vulnerable Species: 1st record in Northern Sydney in 13 years. 1 found roadkill in late 2016, 1 seen in early 2017 and 1 seen 2 weeks later.
Southern Brown Bandicoot Endangered Species: 1 seen in May 2015 at Chiltern Trail and 1 found dead at Waratah Track in late 2015

 

Reptiles

KCNP is one of the best spots to see reptiles in all of Sydney however as discussed in my lecture, reptiles have a very bad, undeserved reputation. Unfortunately reptiles are the class most commonly found as roadkill within the National Park accounting for over 80% of total fatalities. In order to reduce the level of roadkill actions must be implemented immediately such as the installation of speedbumps. 44 species of reptile call the National Park home including 13 species of snake and the Threatened Rosenberg’s Goanna. Over the past 2 years I’ve seen all the species listed below plus many more.

  • Southern Death Adder
  • Bandy Bandy
  • Tiger Snake
  • Cunningham’s Skink
  • Elegant Snake-Eyed Skink
  • Common Scaly Foot
  • Rosenberg’s Goanna
  • Eastern Stone Gecko
  • Lace Monitor
  • Burton’s Legless Lizard
  • Diamond Python
  • Brown Tree Snake
  • White’ Skink
  • Eastern Brown Snake
  • Yellow Faced Whipsnake
  • Red-Throated Skink
  • Weasel Skink

 

Southern Death Adder - the fastest striking snake in the world! Often found on the move at night time during Spring

Southern Death Adder – the fastest striking snake in the world! Often found on the move at night time during Spring

 

Amphibians

13 species of Amphibian reside within the NP however there is the possibility that 4 other species occur. Amphibians are a species that is mainly seen at night time, so again, I would encourage you to spotlight in order to see them. Try McCarrs Creek near Duckholes picnic area for species such as Striped Marsh Frog, Common Eastern Froglet, Green Stream Frog and Eastern Sedge Frog.

Two other amphibian highlights of the national park are the Vulnerable Giant Burrowing Frog and Red-Crowned Toadlet.

  • Giant Burrowing Frog: lives on ridge tops where there are deep beds of sand and sandstone. Spring and autumn breeder. Sometimes referred to as the Eastern Owl Frog due to it’s hooting call. Widespread on the West Head landmass. My highest count of Giant Burrowing Frog’s in one night was 26 individuals!
  • Red-Crowned Toadlet: tends to live on the side of Sandstone escarpments and under leaf-litter where there is moisture year round. Like other pseudophryne species they make a nest of eggs with tadpoles that complete part of their development in this egg, once rain arrives they then complete the rest of their development in a puddle/body of water. The Red-Crowned Toadlet has a fascinating call that sounds a bit like a baby crocodile!
Giant Burrowing Frog bioblitz

Giant Burrowing Frog on Elvina Trail

 

 

ISSUES WITHIN THE NP

Issues Required Action
Lack of Funding for NPWS Automate both the gate closure at West Head Rd and all ticket offices
Lack of Funding for NPWS + Community Engagement Run guided wildlife tours within the NP that are low impact and educational
Roadkill Installation of regular speedbumps to control speed of vehicles throughout the NP
Roadkill Close West Head Rd gate 30 minutes earlier all year round to reduce risk of roadkill (predominantly occurs at dusk and night-time)
Lack of current information regarding Threatened Species within the NP Contract local, skilled ecologists/Naturalists to conduct regular fauna surveys within the NP
Community Engagement Install additional interpretive signage regarding wildlife of KCNP and install additional seating
Possible Development I strongly object to any development within the NP.

 

In conclusion, I strongly recommend that you comment upon the Plan of Management in order to protect the Wildlife of Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park. It is imperative to the long-term survival of the NP that the wildlife is the key concern of Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park and all management decisions must revolve around the protection, preservation and restoration of the wildlife and its habitat. Your voice has the power to determine the fate of our bushland. Finally, I urge you to go out and visit Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, to discover for yourself just how amazing it is!

To comment, visit: https://engage.environment.nsw.gov.au/ku-ring-gai-chase-national-park-consultation

If you have any questions or comments feel free to email me at gumnutmail@gmail.com

Jayden Walsh

 

Sydney’s Secret Swamp

Sydney's secret swamp 4 GN

Melaleuca linariifolia and Livistonia australis within the ‘Secret Swamp’

Sydney is Australia’s most populated city and as such most things are known about the area. Despite this, I am constantly reminded of the lack of knowledge regarding the Wildlife of Sydney, thus new discoveries are always possible and make bushwalking all the more exciting!

About 2 years ago I stumbled across a Swamp on Quaternary Alluvium that has likely had less than 10 visitors since Europeans colonised Australia. The swamp itself is known by NPWS however little is available on its whereabouts and wildlife diversity, thus the remoteness of the location coupled with its lack of public knowledge make it an exceptional location to see wildlife. Even more surprising is that it is resemblant of the monsoon wetlands and paperbark forests of Darwin some 4000km away!

Sydney's ectre swamp 3 GN

Secret Swamp

Looking down into the Swamp

When looking at why fauna occurs where you have to first look at the soil type. The unique alluvium soil in conjunction with the topography of the area is why there is such unique flora and thus fauna. Species of tree present at the swamp that are not often recorded in the area include Large-Fruited Red Mahogany, Swamp Mahogany, Blackbutt, Melaleuca … Woolbutt and large stands of Lilly Pilly and as such a unique array of animals call this swamp home.

Superb Lyebird for GN

The Superb Lyrebird is a common sight foraging amongst the leaf litter of the swamp

Currently, some of the most interesting fauna species I have recorded in this ‘Secret Swamp’ include (but are not limited to) White Headed Pigeon, Bassian Thrush, Brown Antechinus, Red Bellied Black Snake, Whistling Tree Frog, Eastern Sedge Frog, Rose Robin and Diamond Python however additional surveying is required in order to better understand the fauna assemblage of the area.

Following are a list of species which have a possibility of occurring in the swamp and adjacent area: Tyler’s Tree Frog, Green Tree Frog, Platypus, Brush-tailed Phascogale, Greater Sooty Owl, Masked Owl, King Quail, Greater Glider, Squirrel Glider, Tiger Snake and Australasian Bittern.

Bassian Thrush GN

The Bassian Thrush is a shy species that breeds within the swamp

 

In September-November I plan on surveying this area more extensively particularly for amphibians and mammals,if you’d like to assist with surveying at this location please send us a facebook message or email us at gumnutmail@gmail.com

Finally, above the swamp I made an interesting historical discovery. Whilst bushbashing – about 800m from the nearest track – I discovered an assortment of alcohol, milk and medicine jars in a small cave overlooking the valley. Whilst I am unsure of the exact date of these items it appears that they are from the 1930s or 1940s! Sydney's Secret Swamp GN 1

 

Ultimately, I encourage you to go out this weekend and visit a location that not many people go to. Once you’re there, record a list of all the animals you see and we’d love it if you email it to us – gumnutmail@gmail.com – so we can build up a database of wildlife in remote and little visited locations!

Jayden

 

 

Illegal logging causes habitat DESTRUCTION of a threatened owl in Beecroft

There is a piece of bushland known as Byles Creek Valley which is home to many different animals, and is even a stronghold for many threatened species such as the Powerful Owl (Ninox strenua) and the Red-crowned Toadlet (Pseudophryne australis). This amazing bushland is found at the bottom of Malton Rd, Cheltenham in the northern suburbs of Sydney, and is considered a natural treasure by many of the locals. Unfortunately, a developer has purchased this piece of land with full intent of destroying it and developing it. Thankfully the community is in opposition due to the natural history of the area, and the presence of threatened animals also warrants special conditions and restrictions of development.

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However…. On the 17th of February 2017, the council was alerted that trees were being felled on this iconic site. Council staff and other concerned residents attended the seen immediately. It was determined that the logging contractors were engaged by the property owner to carry out land clearance and tree felling. In this instance the property owner has acted illegally and unlawfully, going against the conditions set out by the Land and Environment Court.

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Not only were 20 trees cut down, some of them potential roosting sites for the local threatened Powerful Owl, there were copious amounts of rubbish left within the bush. It’s infuriating how much damaged and destruction can occur in one day from one mans selfish greedy decision. Everyone should be outraged by this blatant disregard for the environment from this property owner. They clearly have no empathy for the native plants and animals who call this area home, and would happily wreak havoc and put threatened species more at risk of extinction, just for short term monetary gains. They will even go against the law to get what they want. The only word that comes to mind when thinking of someone like this is GREED.




Please share this post far and wide so that this atrocity is highlighted. We can’t let crimes against nature like this go unnoticed!

Ingleside Land Release set to destroy Critically Endangered wildlife

Ingleside is a suburb situated on Sydney’s Northern Beaches, renowned for its laid back approach, large tracts of bushland and impressive wildlife. The region has been earmarked for large-scale development since the mid 1990’s, however little action was taken as the primary focus by developers was the Warriewood Valley Land Release which is currently in its final stage. Fast forward to 2014 and ideas of development in Ingleside began reappearing after 20 years of constant pressure from and for a growing population (Can our Earth and its resources really hold more people?). Ingleside currently has a population of 1,100 residents spread over 700 hectares of which a vast majority of the land is native bushland with an abundance of wildlife – much of which is listed as Nationally Vulnerable, Endangered and Critically Endangered!

The Vulnerable Powerful Owl is believed to nest in 2 locations in the development precint

The Vulnerable Powerful Owl is believed to nest in 2 locations in the development precinct

The plans as of 2017 are to build approximately 4000 homes to house an additional 10,000 residents placing pressure upon wildlife, roads and inadequate infrastructure. Of the 700 hectares in the precinct area, approximately 200 hectares are set to remain as bushland which superficially appears to be a win for conservation, however when looked at closely, there will be a net loss of approximately 320 hectares of bushland – a huge loss to wildlife and it’s habitat. Additionally to the immediate loss of bushland, there will be an extraordinary increase in population which inevitably results in increased pollution to waterways, bushland and noise pollution. Creeks such as Cicada Glen Creek, which flows to Kuringai Chase National Park and Mullet Creek, which flows through to Warriewood Wetlands will be severely affected by pollution. An increase in human habitation will also directly lead to an increase in roaming cats and dogs into Kuringai Chase and Garigal NP further harming both Threatened and Non-threatened species thus reducing the long term viability of these animal populations. If no action is taken to halt these above issues the environment will suffer at the hands of ‘jobs and growth’.

Is this the future of wildlife in Ingleside? Tiny patches of habitat enshrouded by overdevelopment?

Is this the future of wildlife in Ingleside? Tiny patches of habitat enshrouded by overdevelopment?

Gumnut Naturalist staff member Jayden Walsh has completed extensive surveys throughout the Ingleside area over the past 2 years in order to discover and better protect the Threatened species that call this important bushland home. Walsh stated ”some of the more significant finds I have made in Ingleside include 2 Critically Endangered Birds – the Regent Honeyeater and Swift Parrot, both species are part of populations that are comprised of under 1000 birds. Other threatened fauna I’ve spotted includes the first nesting and breeding record of Little Eagles in Sydney ever, Black Chinned Honeyeater, Varied Sittella, Powerful Owl, Southern Brown Bandicoot, Masked Owl, Eastern Pygmy Possum, Giant Burrowing Frog and numerous sightings of Red Crowned Toadlets”, emphasising the importance of this land for conservation. “Of particular significance is the impact of future pollution in Mullet Creek upon the only known population of breeding, Vulnerable Giant Burrowing Frogs outside of a National Park in Sydney, the future impact is obvious, these frogs can’t handle large chemical and physical changes in their environment, and thus this population is highly likely to become locally extinct, as a direct result of the Ingleside Land Release, this is an unacceptable and preventable occurrence

An individual from yhe only breeding population of Giant Burrowing Frogs outside of a National Park in Sydney!

An individual from the only breeding population of Giant Burrowing Frogs outside of a National Park in Sydney!

 

Summary of key issues:

  • Loss of 320 Hectares of Bushland
  • Destruction of Vulnerable, Endangered and Critically Endangered Animals and their habitat
  • Increased predation from pet Cats and Dogs both in the precinct area and in Kuringai Chase and Garigal National Parks
  • Increased noise, chemical and visual pollution
  • Increase congestion on the Northern Beaches overall

Note: if you and I were to do any of the following we would receive up to 7 years in jail and/or up to a $250,000 fine.

  • Destruction by developers of Endangered Angus Onion Orchid specimens which are only found in Ingleside
  • Destruction of Federally and State Listed Vulnerable Giant Burrowing Frog habitat through increased sedimentation and pollution
  • Destruction of State Listed Vulnerable Red Crowned Toadlet specimens and high quality habitat through construction of roads, gutters and houses.
  • Destruction of Federally and State Vulnerable Australian Masked Owl, Powerful Owl and Barking Owl high quality habitat
  • Destruction of State Listed Vulnerable Eastern Pymgy Possum specimens and habitat
  • And many, many more highly illegal activities that are permissible due to the supposed benefits of overdevelopment!

 

Pristine Mullet Creek is set to be polluted from Houses and Bussinesses if the land is developed, thus destroying the breeding habitat of the Vulnerable Giant Burrowing Frog

Pristine Mullet Creek will become polluted from Houses and Businesses if the land is developed, thus destroying the breeding habitat of the Vulnerable Giant Burrowing Frog

What can you do to help?

Ultimately, the Ingleside land release will result in the irrevocable destruction of numerous Threatened Species which is not acceptable in the 21st century when we are equipped with the knowledge of their presence and the power to do something about it. It reflects poorly both upon the Authorities and Developers alike, that they are willing to sacrifice our native bushland and threatened species for the sake of profit and a growing population.

Send a submission against this overdevelopment at http://planspolicies.planning.nsw.gov.au/index.pl?action=view_job&job_id=7873 by the 28th Februarys to influence the fate of our wildlife

Please sign and share this petition to show your support against the overdevelopment of the Northern Beaches https://www.change.org/p/stop-over-development-of-northern-beaches

Jayden Walsh