Citizen Science: Questagame

A few months back I wrote about Citizen science and the Birdata app. Another app that I use is Questagame. It is for documenting any living species, whether plant, fungi, fish, bird, insect, spider etc. Questagame is an Australian app but can be used world wide.

Pricklybark (Eucalyptus todtiana) is flowering in the Perth area in February and March. This image was submitted to Questagame, identified and will become a record in the Atlas of Living Australia. For plants it is best to include in your submission photographs of each of the flowers, fruits, leaves, stems and entire plant.

You can use the app to submit photographs and locations etc of plants or creatures that you have found to find out what they are and to have them added to the Atlas of living Australia. Or you can help identify other peoples submissions. Either way, you are contributing to the knowledge of living species for use in research and conservation.

This cicada was found dead on a track near Denmark, Western Australia in February and submitted to Questagame. It is a Red Bandit (Pyropsalta melete) with and this species only has 53 records in the Atlas of Living Australia as seen here.

The phone app is set up within a gaming structure with clans, points, leaderboards etc. So it can become a competitive and social experience. But you don’t need to be concerned about either of these aspects if you don’t want to!

Puppet Orchid (Caladenia incrassata) photographed in the Helena Aurora Ranges. This image was the first image in the Atlas of Living Australia of this species. This species only has 38 records in the Atlas of Living Australia.

It is very exciting if your record is the first one in the Atlas of Living Australia or if it provides the first photographs to the Atlas of Living Australia!

Chamaexeros macranthera photographed in the Helena Aurora Ranges. This is the only image of this species in the Atlas of Living Australia. While this was photographed in a fairly remote area, you can still find species in the Perth area that represent the first record of a species or the first for the state etc.

One thing that I have been doing is documenting flora and fauna in some of my favourite places or places that I am concerned may be bulldosed for a future development. These records become very useful in the future if they provide evidence that something endangered may be present in the area. Just take a look at some of the over 6000 species within 10km of Perth already in the Atlas! These records come from museum records, birdata observations, Questagame submissions and many other sources.

If nothing else, it gives you an excuse to get out in the bush and photograph what you see!

Black-shouldered Kite (Elanus axillaris)

Perth Bush Giants

When I am bird watching or looking at wildflowers, I am often looking at the sky, the shrubbery, the ground, the water or the tree tops. But I don’t often look at the trees! Sometimes a tree or group of trees will stand out and look simply stunning. Driving thru the Wandoo east of Perth, is one of those moments when I find myself looking at those beautiful trees!

Wandoo National Park east of Perth.

Trees provide the structure of our bush, food and shelter for birds and other animals, and in a hot summer, some very welcome shade.

Tawny Frogmouth camouflaging and resting near the trunk of a Flooded or Swamp Gum (Eucalyptus rudis).

A tree is biologically defined as a perenial plant, greater than 4 metres in height, with woody stems and branches and with a truck tightly bound to the earth. There is quite a variety of trees that are native to the Perth area. Some of those that are flowering in January are:

The Western Australian Christmas Tree or Moojar (Nuytsia florabunda) is the largest parasitic plant in the world! Moojar is a highly significant plant to the Noongar people as a ghost tree or tree of souls (see more).
Moonah (Melaleuca preissiana) is a tall paperbark that grows from about Geraldton to Albany in sandy soils and swamps. It is a prolific flowerer. The Noongar people used the leaves to treat colds and headaches and the bark was used for a variety of purposes (see more)
Jarrah (Eucalyptus marginata) is found from about Greenhead to Bremer Bay and is a very common tree in Perth bush. Jarrah furniture has a rich red colour and can be found in many furtinature stores in Western Australia. It grows to a height of 40 metres!
Slender or Candlestick Banksia or Piara (Banksia attenuata) is a wide spread species which can be found from Shark Bay to Bremer Bay. Its beautiful yellow flowers are long cylindric shaped and grow to 26 centimetres long! The flowers are used by Noongar people for medicine and as a refreshment (see more).

Trees also provide habitat for nests, either to be built on a branch or fork or in a hollow. Some trees take many decades before they can provide nesting hollows for many birds.

These Australian Shelduck (Tadorna tadornoides) were seen in a Tuart (Eucalyptus gomphocephala) forest near the beach during breeding season. Tuart trees drop branches and provide hollows for many bird species to nest in. Tuart are another tall tree that flower in January. Find out more about Tuarts here.

We all need to protect and take care of our trees. Many thousands are cut down in Western Australia each year and many thousands are also planted by conservation groups, farmers and those that care. Unfortunately, a newly planted tree will take a very long time to provide the habitat that an old one, cut down provided, sometimes hundreds of years. But it is very important to plant trees for the future generations of people and animals alike. You can usually find an environmental group that is planting trees in winter, where ever you live in Perth. Join in with them – it’s good for the soul, good for the environment and you will enjoy the company of happy, caring people!

Yippee it’s Spring!

Wow that felt like a long winter! Spring has been in the air for most of August and now its here! Spring means so much – more stunning wildflowers, birds arriving for summer stays, birds looking gorgeous in their breeding plumage and the bush looks super with all those beautiful flowers and gorgeous brightly coloured birds.

Prickley Hovea (Hovea pungens) bringing beautifully bright colour in late August 2021 at John Forrest National park.

All the social media seems to be full of fantastic wildflowers with many locals heading north where the amazing everlastings are literally colouring the country in white, yellow and pink! Luckily for us in Perth that means that the wave of colour is arriving here in Perth! A few months ago social media was lighting up with the colours of the Kimberly and Pilbara, now its the Gasgoyne, Northern Wheatbelt, Northern Goldfields and eastern Goldfields. The wave of colour will roll all the way into the deep south west of Australia before Christmas.

Masses of Swan River Daisy see on tour with Kathy and Doug at the begining of September 2021

Every patch of bush has a nice variety of flowers showing in central, eastern and southern WA in spring! Including in and all around the suburbs in Perth.

Granite Boronia (Boronia cymosa) bringing delicate pink to the Darling Scarp. Photographed in late August 2021.

It will make you feel better to walk down the road to your nearest patch of bush and really look at the flowers. Get down and smell them. Look for Spring Green Beetles in the Wattles (Acacia species) and Buttercups (Hibbertia species).

A green shiny beetle in yellow Acacia flowers.
Spring Green Beetles (Diphucephala species) in Prickly Moses (Acacia pulchella) shine bright and reflect different colours when they move!

Of course, we are more than happy to take you on a Wildflower Tour to show you some super places!

Bright orange flowers
Orange Stars (Hibbertia stellaris) is just starting to emerge near Manjimup. It looks like the road side is on fire!

Just get outdoors, feel the warmth of the sun, smell the wildflowers and listen to those marvelous birds! Spring will disappear before we know it!

Citizen Science: Birdata

It’s National Science Week and time to think about Citizen Science!

I really enjoy doing Citizen Science and there are many different projects that you can join in to assist science in general but the science of nature in particular! My favourites are Birdata, iNaturalist and Questagame but over the years I have got addicted to a few other Citizen Science projects. The Zooniverse Numbat Discovery project comes to mind! I am not sure whether I reviewed hundreds or thousands of photos for that one!

Birdata is probably the one that I have been involved with the longest. My first survey entry for Birdata was on 13 February 1999. Since then I have submitted 1,649 surveys or about 75 bird surveys per year. I would hate to think how many surveys I could have submitted if I had entered a survey ever single time I go bird watching!!! Lots of lost data there!

The Curlew Sandpiper has has been recognised as a Critcically Endangered species in Australia thanks to Birdata surveys documenting the decline in their numbers over the past 30 years. While this is no reason to celebrate, its important to recognise declines so that conservation actions can be prioritised.

Birdata is for documenting birds in Australia. There are international citizen science project such as eBird and iNaturalist that can be used to document birds you have seen in Australia as well as other countries. However, the survey types in Birdata such as 20 minute 2 hectare surveys make it particularly useful for scientists.

Carnaby’s Black Cockatoo is a local and endangered species that benefits from Birdata surveys.

The reason for entering the survey data into Birdata is to contribute to Australian bird science. Australian scientists use the data to provide insights into our Australian bird species and to conserve them. All of the projects undertaken by BirdLife Australia rely on the surveys submitted to Birdata. One particularly important one that encompasses all Australian bird species is the State of Australian Birds project. But other scientists from Universities, Museums and other groups also can access the data and use it in their research and conservation projects.

The data is documenting species declines, species recoveries, changes due to Climate Change, and a lot more!

The change in the Red-tailed Black-cockatoos local distribution in Perth due to a massive fire in the Perth hills was documented with Birdata.

One interesting thing you can do with Birdata is to explore the data to work out where to find species that you have never seen before. This is particularly useful if you are visiting a region you haven’t been to before to see how many lifers are awaiting you there!

Australian Raven
Australian Raven are very common in Perth and surrounding areas.

Its also interesting to see the statistics of your own and everyone elses data entry! I am not surprised to find that the bird I have added to the most surveys is the Australian Raven! These are very common birds in the greater southwest of Australia where I do most of my birdwatching. As are my number two and three: Australian Magpie and Red Wattlebird. Across the nation with everyone who contributes data, the Australian Magpie is number one, Magpie-Lark number two and Willie Wagtail is number three!

Australian Magpie
The Australian Magpie is a very common species throughout Perth.

At the other end of the tally sheet are a bit of a who’s who of vagrant birds I have recorded on Birdata or less common species from other states of Australia that I haven’t spent much time in.

This vagrant Sabine’s Gull at Bremer Bay January 2019 was a lifer and the only record in my Birdata of this species.

If you spend time birdwatching, then I encourage you to start a Birdata account and start documenting the birds you see. Perhaps make a pledge this National Science Week to do a Birdata survey or part take in another Citizen Science project!

Numbat!

Numbats are an Australian endemic and endangered species with an estimated population of less than 1000 individuals. They were once found in five Australian states but massive declines in the population has resulted in them now only being found in a small part of Western Australia. These gorgeous critters deserve our respect and protection!

A Numbat searching for food.

The closest places to Perth where you are likely to see a Numbat are in Drandra Woodland Reserve and Boyagin Rock. These are a few hours drive from Perth. But before you hit the road I recommend having a good look at the information on the Project Numbat Website. The good people at Project Numbat are raising funds to help research and conserve the species as well as rise community awareness. They have some absolutely adorable products on their website shop so that you can also help raise funds for this important work! You can also become a member and give them a donation. All these things will assist with protecting some of the most amazing and beautiful characters on the planet!

Numbats eat termites, termites and only termites! They are pretty small and measure from the tip of their nose to the tip of their tail about 32 to 50 cm. But they have a comparatively long and thin tongue that is about 10 cm long so they can lick up termites out of logs, dirt etc.

A less cropped photo gives a better idea of the Numbat’s small size.

Numbats are carniverous marsupials but feeds during the day. This is very unusual for marsupials. It means that you can see these from Perth on a day trip. But their small size and small population make them not the easiest to find. I spent a full day driving from Perth to see this Numbat from my car for about 2 to 3 minutes. Watching them from a car enables you to see the Numbat going about it’s business without frightening it. Stressing animals is not the aim of enjoying natures wonders!

Numbat foraging for termites.

Numbats only come together as a pair to breed. So mainly you will only see one at a time.

A Numbat digging for termites near a log.

Twitching a nomad

We can probably all agree that the past 18 months have been very strange! A lot of us in the nature tour business are turning the negatives into positives. I have been improving my contacts within the industry and enjoying the wonderful birds and bush in Western Australia a little more than normal!

So when my son (also a bird watcher) started his university mid year break, it was time to plan an escape to see something new. We had heard that a few weeks earlier up to 40 Scarlet-chested Parrots had been seen about 1 hours drive from Coolgardie. These are nomadic parrots that are usually easiest to find in much less accessible Great Victoria Desert. But here they were only about a seven hours drive from Perth, seen in numbers only a few weeks ago, we were looking for an adventure and feeling lucky!!!

So we packed the camper and headed off on a three day adventure. Unfortunately, only three days as we had to tuck the trip in between other commitments. We basically had one day and an hour to actually find the parrots but we did have some latitude and longitude coordinates from a fellow birdwatcher.

Typical vegetation in the Coolgardie area consists of woodlands and shrublands broken up with floodplains. This photograph from our destination at Credo Station shows the typical shrubs of Eremophila, and Acacia with Eucalyptus trees.

We arrived in Coolgardie, set up camp and the drove one hour to Credo Station. We only had time to get there just a few minutes prior to sunset, but wanted to get our bearings and hoped we would see some gorgeous birds! The first thing we heard when we got out of the car was a single call from a Scarlet-Chested Parrot but after driving 7 hours during the day our ears were a bit dazed and we weren’t sure where the call came from. We scouted around and found a lot of Yellow-plumed honeyeaters, Crested Bellbirds, Tree Martins, other birds and human footprints. But no more parrot calls! We couldn’t decide if we really heard the parrot or just convinced ourselves that we had heard what we most wanted to hear! As the light was nearly gone we headed back to Coolgardie for a delicious dinner at the Gold Rush Motel.

The next day we got up pretty early and headed back to Credo, within 10 minutes we saw a small parrot flush up into a tree. It took us a while to get a good look at it but it was definitely a young Scarlet-Chested Parrot! We were thrilled! We wandered around for another couple of hours finding more individuals, hoping to see a male adult with a bright red chest!

A juvenile Scarlet-chested Parrot with a pale bill and not much blue on the face. They are cute!

We did find some nice females and an immature male.

Female adult with a gorgeous bright blue face and no scarlet chest. When these parrots flew the outer yellow tale feathers were a real treat! The blue, yellow and green are really superb bright colours!
Immature male with a dark bill and a few flecks of red on the chest and more blue on the face than the juvenile.

We decided it was time for morning tea and have a bit more of a think about what to do next. We decided to scout around a few tracks in the car to see whether there were more birds in the near vicinity but this was fruitless. So we went to a spot near where we found the parrots to walk thru some different patches of bush. At one point I got a distant glimpse of a male with a scarlet chest but we couldn’t find it again. Eventually we found another immature male with much more red on the chest back at our original location.

Older immature male with more extensive scarlet on the breast, really stunning blue face and absolutely gorgeous yellow underparts! Its not called Neophema splendida for nothing!

After seeing this stunner we decided to take our time heading back to Coolgardie and enjoy some other spots and birds. There were a few wildflowers out and we found Rowles Lagoon to be full of water with lots of Zebra Finches in the camp area. That night we celebrated with a delicious meal at the Denver City Hotel! A very successful trip and many thanks to the birders who found these delightful birds!

Zebra Finch at Rowles Lagoon
Velleia Rosea/Goodenia rosea was just starting to bloom.
Eucalyptus oleosa flowering along the Coolgardie North Road.
Eremophila scoparia is a super common goldfields species and it was just starting to flower. As was Eremophila granitica.
Goodenia havilandii growing on the verge on the Coolgardie North road on Credo Station.

Swampy September Wildflowers

Wow it’s that time of the year! The Wildflowers are looking magnificent and there are hundreds of different species in bloom in and around the Perth Metropolitan area.

One type of habitat that really appeals to wildflower lovers but is poorly misunderstood by the general public are swamps, creek flood plains and damp lands. They have a great species diversity as they tend to have wet, damp and dry ground which provide a mix of different flower groups. Some of the stunning September flowers in these damp areas are below:

Green Kangaroo Paw (Anigozanthos viridis) flowers August to Oct.

Dwarf Milkmaids (Burchardia multiflora) July to October.

Rusty Spider Orchid (Caladenia ferruginea) flowers in Sept and October.

Cowslip Orchid (Caladenia flava) flowers July to November.

Comesperma ciliatum flowers from September to December.

Bee Orchid (Diuris laxiflora) flowers from September to November.

Drosera menziesii is a carniverous plant that flowers from September to October.

Swamp Rainbow (Drosera heterophylla) flowers from June to September.

Butterfly Plant (Philydrella sp.) flowers August to November.

Fringed Leek Orchid (Prasophyllum fimbria) flowers from June to September.

There are 4 small Stylidium species in this photo in a creek edge damp land.

Daddy-long-legs (Stylidium divaricatum) flowers from September to December.

Foot Triggerplant (Stylidium ecorne) flowers September to November.

Jumping Jacks (Stylidium longitubum) flowers in Spring.

Pinafore Triggerplant (Stylidium obtusatum) flowers from September to November.

Thumbellina Triggerplant (Stylidium pulchellum) flowers from Sep to Dec.

Blue Lady (Thelymitra crinita) flowers September to December.

Vanilla Orchid (Thelymitra antennifera) flower from July to October.

Twisted Sun Orchid (Thelymitra flexuosa) flowers September to October.

Pink Petticoats (Utricularia multifida) flowers in July to December.

Walking Beeliar Wetlands Part3

This section of the walk was done two halves. Not because the walk was going to be too long! But as I do shorebird counts each winter and summer at Thomson’s Lake and Kogolup Lake. Doing shorebird counts takes more time as you need to get a good view of all (or nearly all) of the water birds at the lake. These counts for BirdLife Australia’s National Shorebird Program.

So on the 7 July I stepped off where I ended at the south end of Yangebup Lake to walk Kogolup Lake and Swamp and on 7 August I went around Thomson’s Lake.

The walk trail is on the west side of Kogolup Lake.

There were a few wild flowers in bloom but in July there are only a few flowers out. The birds were busy feeding in the bush but there was not many waterbirds. In late winter and early spring there is lots of water in most of the lakes and the water birds spread out over more wetlands.

There were a lot of Black Swans on Kogolup Lake.

In total I saw 38 species of birds with the most seen being 137 Black Swan, 67 Australasian Shoveller and 52 Australasian Swamphen. It was very pleasing to see and hear a Fan-tailed Cuckoo calling from a high tree branch.

Kogolup Lake has a lot of bullrushes growing on its western side.

The survey also recorded 26 Rainbow Lorikeet, only 1 Australian Ringneck parrot and no Red-capped Parrots. This is very sad reflection of how this invasive lorikeet is taking over habitat and pushing our native parrots out of the Perth area.

The path walked along the west side of Kogolup Lake. This has only recorded half of the walk as the app went a bit crazy on the return journey!

Thomson’s Lake is a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance and a much bigger open wetland than the twin wetlands of Kogolup.

Thomson’s Lake in early August was filling up but still had a large damp edge.

As the lake was still very shallow, the water bird diversity was quite poor. But there was 270 Black Swans present with a number of them constructing large nests. Virtually all of the Typha has been removed from the lake in the past few years and it is interesting to see the swan nests out in the open. This may make predation of the nests more likely.

There are hundreds of Western Grey Kangaroos in the Thomson’s Lake reserve. They often feed at the edge of the lake.

A total of 39 bird species was recorded for the National Shorebird count at Thomson’s Lake. The summer shorebird counts always have more species and a greater number of water birds.

The walk taken at Thomson’s Lake is marked in red.

It was interesting that at Thomson’s Lake there was only 6 Rainbow Lorikeet recorded, while 6 Australian Ringneck Parrots and 2 Red-capped Parrots were recorded. This wetland is surrounded by more bush and market gardens, rather than suburban house blocks.

Thomson’s Lake has a walk path that goes around the lake, however, in late winter and early spring you need to wear rubber boots as a section of the path is covered in water. This is because at this time of the year a drain from the east of the lake is flowing into the reserve and the water goes over the track.

There is one section left to walk but I will not be have time to do this section until some time in September. Now that the wildflowers are out I am very busy looking for new wildflower sites and species that I haven’t seen before. So I suspect that my next blog post will be a wildflower one! It is looking like a good wildflower season!

Walking Beeliar Wetlands Part2

The second part of the walk started at Murdoch University and finished at the south end of Yangebup Lake. This was an enjoyable walk and largely thru natural areas. This part of the walk went past Frog Swamp, North Lake, Bibra Lake, South Lake, Little Rush Lake and Yangebup Lake as well as the bushland in the south of Murdoch University. It was a beautiful sunny winters day which must be the perfect conditions for walking!

I have to confess I did this walk in late June 2020 and have been very slow to write this in my blog! So it is likely that there is more water in the lakes now as we have had more winter rain since my walk. Our wetland water levels usually peak in October when the bulk of our annual rainfall has occurred.

North Lake was starting to fill and the Black Swans were gathering to build there nests.

Frog Swamp was still dry as this is a very shallow wetland but North Lake was starting to fill and the Black Swans were looking for food, a partner and a suitable nest site! There were only a few people walking in the North Lake Reserve and so it was very peaceful.

Bibra Lake had a good cover of water and there were hundreds of water birds using it.

Bibra Lake is deeper than North Lake and so had more water in it. It is also a much more popular place to walk, ride or jog around. There were a large number of Black-winged Stilts and a few Banded Stilts feeding on the lake as well as a good variety of ducks, heron and egrets. These could easily be seen from the two bird hides on the east side of the lake. I stopped for a delicious morning tea at The Bistrot Cafe which was bustling with happy diners.

Grey Fantail at South Lake.

The South Lake reserve is a very quiet spot as it has no parking areas near it and is surrounded by other bush reserves and a light industrial area. The lake was filling up and there was water over most of the lake.

Little Rush Lake was once part of a farm and still has fence posts traversing it.

From South Lake you need to walk to North Lake Road to go around the railway line and then enter the Little Rush Lake Reserve. This is a nice small lake with a good limestone walk trail going around it. There was water in the lake but very few water birds. The biggest excitement on this part of the walk was seeing a Quenda or Southern Brown Bandicoot which quickly scampered into some thick bush when it saw me!

Yangebup Lake has sedges around the edge of most of the lake providing nesting habitat for reed-warblers, grassbirds, crakes and ducks.

The next and last lake on the mornings walk was Yangebup Lake. This is a large and very deep lake. It is the deepest of all the Beeliar wetlands and has water in it all year. This lake has a good firm bitumen walking path all the way around it. A bird hide was installed there in the north east of the lake earlier in the year.

The walking route taken from Murdoch University to the south end of Yangebup lake.

In total the walk was about 16 kilometers with only about 135 meters elevation gain. It took me about 4 hours to walk which is quite slow but it was a relaxed pace that allowed enjoyment of the birds, flowers and scenery!

There are two more sections to go. One has already been completed and hopefully the blog post will be up  next week!