Cairns Birding Forum

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Pogonomys - New animal for Boardwalk

A new mammal for the Centenary Lakes Boardwalk.
This photo was taken by Hidetoshi Kudo (Mikey) on the Centenary Lakes Boardwalk on the 21/7/2011.
We found it on a spotlighting expedition and were surprised and excited to find it. We had it identified by John Winter,Steve Van Dyck and other mammal experts who were equally surprised.
Along with other things like the Bandicoots, Striped Possum,Water Rat and White-tailed Rat it shows the dynamic and vital nature of this habitat.
Let us hope that the Cairns Regional Council realises this vitality in any future plans for development.
Brian Venables

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Meeting With Cairns Regional Council

The following is a copy of some of the conversations I had with Cairns City Council yesterday 12/4/11. The meeting was called by Michael McFadden of CRC in response to my complaints concerning the further clearing of mangrove habitat in Saltwater Creek similar to that done in the Lakes section in 2009. While I feel some progress has been made I also feel very strongly that habitat loss is something we never stop protesting about. Please read the following and make your thoughts on habitat loss known to Cairns City Council.

"Meeting with Cairns Regional Council. Saltwater Creek at Collins Ave. bridge 14:15 – 12/4/11

The Meeting was to discuss the Council's forthcoming work in removing mangrove habitat from Saltwater Creek.

Present at the meeting were Michael McFadden(CRC), Tim Smith (Hydrologist), Russell Wild (CRC), Kevin Colligan (CRC) and myself, Brian Venables.

I started things by asking what guarantee the Council could provide flood victims when this work was complete.

Tim Smith (hydrologist) addressed us saying that this work was inevitable from the time a large portion of the natural ponding sump for the Saltwater Creek catchment was given over to housing development from hitherto farmland. This new work (and that of 2009) he said is to create an artificial sump in the tidal section of Saltwater Creek to replace that lost by this housing development which is above the high tide. He then said it would give flood victims a 30% better chance of avoiding inundation provided luck was on our side with the tides. He further said this is his estimation as a Hydrologist and could see no benefit to flood victims in clearing mangroves downstream of the Cook Hwy. (It is very unfortunate then that the Cairns Airport is about to clear more mangrove habitat in this very section of Saltwater Creek.)

I pointed out that my concern relates to a persistent lack of understanding of the importance of mangroves as habitat and nursery, for a host of land based fauna and Barrier Reef and commercial fish species. This lack of understanding has resulted in a litany of monumental blunders such as East Trinity, Riflerange/Chinaman Creek and Cairns Airport reclamations. This is just to mention three instances and is part of the "death by a thousand cuts"of this most precious habitat. (Everyone at the meeting sympathised with me but all were helpless.)

I mentioned the fact I was aware that Council had conducted a fauna and flora survey in the area to be cleared. This was a promise (which I applauded)  made by Mayor Val Schier in 2009 when Council destroyed large swathes of forest in Saltwater Creek upstream from the Collins Ave. bridge. While I found this survey work encouraging my euphoria was shattered when I realised that the survey was done just four days prior to commencement of the work leaving no time to consider the data.

I also pointed out to the meeting that the fragmentation of habitat has a significant impact . It would be better to leave an in tact corridor instead of alternating from bank to bank. Council agreed as did Qld Fisheries, but alas it is the large forests which occur on an alternating basis, as the river bends, which have to be removed.

Another topic of discussion was on going monitoring to gauge the impact of works such as this. Russell Wild of CRC came in and said Council was looking to JCU in the hope they could see merit in a study project for biology students for this purpose. (Let us keep up pressure for this to happen.)

Finally I asked if certain older trees of the various species that grow on the bank (and never in the creek itself) could be preserved,as happened to a limited extent in 2009. Kevin Colligan of CRC who supervises the work said he would endeavour to flag and preserve such individual trees. This might reduce the impact of fragmentation. (Lets hope he able to do this.)

It was a much better meeting than the one we had prior to the 2009 round of habitat loss. This is notwithstanding the fact that we were once again unsuccessful in preserving these wonderful forests. As Michael McFadden (CRC) recognises, they are as much a part of the attraction of Cairns as a tourist destination as are some of our more well known attractions.

(I would urge all concerned fellows to write to Mayor Val Schier and express our on going desire for environmental protection.) "

Brian L Venables
527 McCormack St.,


Brian L Venables
527 McCormack St.,

Monday, 11 April 2011



I spoke yesterday to a chap doing a fauna survey for Council in Saltwater Creek downstream from the Collins Ave. Bridge. I was at first gladdened by the fact that Council is doing this then I realised that in all
probably this would mean that Council was about to remove more mangroves habitat. Can you tell me if this will happen ?
Later that day I noticed the attached sign telling all that the "marine plant management works" were due to
start on the 11th. April. I must ask is there enough time to consider the data in this fauna survey before
work is to commence ?
With respect to the mangrove habitat removal of 2009 (upstream of Collins Ave bridge) I have grave concerns for the Large-billed Gerygone population (Gerygone magnirostris). This species is heavily dependent on mangroves for habitat and from my personal observations the population in the section of Saltwater Creek where mangroves were removed in 2009 is well down from that prior to the 2009 removal.
We do have data on this population from work done in 2007 by Golo Maurer and others (ANU). This data is available in my attachment "Large-billed Gerygone data". Can I ask the Council to extend the fauna survey to look at the area affected by the 2009 habitat removal and compare this with the data of Golo Maurer of 2007?
I do accept that flood mitigation is the Council's reason for doing this work but I do also have a deep
concern for the environment and the devastating effects of habitat loss.

Brian L Venables

527 McCormack St.,This morning on my rounds I was surprised to see a BLACK BITTERN ♂ in the saltwater lake of the Centenary Lakes at 06:45. In the Centenary Lakes,this largely nocturnal or crepuscular species is of course common in the summer months but has always been absent in the winter (from my observations). The PAPUAN FROGMOUTHS (2) were tucked up against the trunk of a Melaleuca leucadendra beside the footbridge over Saltwater Creek and the COLLARED KINGFISHER was vocal. A trio of BAR-SHOULDERED DOVES was there in the mangroves to break the monotony of the SPOTTED TURTLE-DOVES in surburbia and 3 STRIATED HERONS were counted along Saltwater Creek.
Around the freshwater lake the LITTLE KINGFISHER was busy flashing about with its “sweeet” call and a pair of BLACK DUCKS was in the company of 10 WANDERING WHISTELING-DUCKS.
Along the Fearnley Street drain between Anderson and Grove Streets the STRIATED PARDARLOTE was insisting “rigby-dick” and the  FOREST KINGFISHER chimed in, in what seemed, an expression of sibling rivalry.
Heading to the Esplanade the BRUSH CUCKOO was in full voice outside the Cairns Private Hospital in Upward Street (as it has been for some days now) . The Esplanade itself had a smattering of “all the usual suspects” of waders providing an excellent learning opportunity for anyone starting out in waders. The BLUE-FACE HONEYEATER was not in evidence this morning but has been on the Esplanade during the week the same for the BEACH STONE CURLEW.
The mangroves at the northern end of the Esplanade had a pair of MANGROVE ROBINS at first calling from inside but eventually one came out and began pouncing on lawn grubs (or some such). There was also a SHINING FLYCATCHER calling from the inside the mangroves not too distant from the robins.
As I write (10:30) a PACIFIC BAZA is calling from the Flecker Botanic Gardens outside my window.
Brian Venables.

Sunday, 28 February 2010


                                             ON MY ROUNDS (On the bike)
                                             Things not seen every day
                                              Brian Venables 28/2/2010
Out to Cattana Wetlands on the highway and back to Edge Hill through Smithfield, Freshwater and Aeroglen.

PHESANT COUCAL- (2) Between Hollaways and Yorkey's turn-offs two birds in duet but not seen. 05:45
WHITE-BROWED CRAKE (2) Dillon Road two birds calling to each other and eventually seen. 05:50
WHITE-BROWED CRAKE (4) At the intersection of Cattana Rd and Yorkey's access. Two pair calling in the medium length grass but not seen. 06:05.

At Cattana Wetlands itself.
BLACK BITTERN- (1) Calling not seen.

All the way through the cane fields SINGING BUSHLARKS were in full song as were TAWNY GRASSBIRDS and GOLDEN HEADED CISTICOLAS. CRIMSON FINCHES and CHESTNUT-BREASTED MANNIKINS were seen but were outnumbered by the SPICE FINCHES.
Regrettably there were 4 road kills along Dunne Road BUSH STONE-CURLEW-WHITE-BREASTED WOODSWALLOW – WATER-RAT (Hydromys chrysogaster)-and an unidentified FRESHWATER TURTLE. An otherwise delightful morning.

Saturday, 20 February 2010

                    ON MY ROUNDS 

                    Things not seen every day.

                                      Brian Venables 18/02/2010
LITTLE KINGFISHER – One bird fishing from mangroves in the Fearnley St. drain where Upward St. terminates.Have not seen species since October 2009. Still have not seen them in the Centenary Lakes so far this year and I have been looking. 07:00 S16.55'23" E145.45'35".
                                     Brian Venables 15/02/2010.
BLACK BITTERN – (1 F) Freshwater Lake (Centenary Lakes) 06:30 hrs. 
                             S16_ 54'_ 11” - E145_ 44'_ 56”.
COMMON SANDPIPER – (2) Saltwater Creek downstream of Greenslopes St. bridge 06:40
                                   S16_54'_12” - E145_45'_02”.
BLACK BITTERN – (2 M&F) Anderson St bushland adjacent Cemetery. 06:45 hrs.
                           S16_54'_32” - E145_45'_08”.
SHINING FLYCATCHER – (1 M) In the mangrove lined gutter between sports oval and                                                
                                    vacant land at northern end of Lake St.
                                    S16_54'_01” - E145_45'_33”.  
ORANGE FOOTED SCRUBFOWL – (1 juv)  In the back yard at my McCormack St home      
                                                opposite Botanical Gardens. This bird was as tiny as a                                                          
                                                King Quail. 08:30 hrs.
                                                S16_53'_56” - E145_44'_47”     

Friday, 4 December 2009

Habitat Audits

I have lifted the comment made by Blue Chaffinch (there will be some among you who recognise the Canary Islands connection) and put it on the main page.

Tristan's company exists by contracting to (mainly) local bodies, e.g city and regional councils, in the UK who have to undergo an independent audit (independent of any government agency) of the habitat whenever habitat change is desired (by that particular local body council); this could take 12 months or longer.
The entire case, for and against, would then go to the equivalent of a national Environmental Protection Agency which might take a further 12 months to make a decision.

You will all note his incredulity that mangrove clearing is allowed in Queensland without any public input at all, let alone a habitat review by an independent authority, although DERM (Dept of Environment and Resource Management) through it's Fisheries Management arm was apparently closely consulted.

Throughout Europe and in most North American states an independent and ecologically rigorous audit is required by law in cases such as this; seems Queensland is quite a way behind world's best practice.

So, as Brian Venables suggests, we should move towards a new regime of habitat auditing BEFORE habitats are threatened.

Andy Anderson,
Birding Cairns.

Blue Chaffinch said -


Blue Chaffinch said...
I've just been fortunate enough to spend some time in and around Cairns with Andy Anderson and saw for myself the vegetation clearance undertaken on Saltwater Creek. Here in the UK this kind of work would absolutely have to be preceded by a full ecological survey and assessement, ideally a full calendar year's worth. This would then allow a robust mitigation strategy to be devised and implemented. I'm not at all au fait with the legislative framework in Queensland but I can't believe that the local authority can get away without protecting the environment, even when the work is deemed essential and/or 'minor'. Maybe they simply don't give a damn? The reasons given for the clearance are highly dubious it seems to me - how can mangrove removal be an acceptable method for conserving fish stocks or flood defence? Aren't mangroves and other wetland habitats a natural defence against flooding as well as spawning grounds for fish? Basic ecology. Anyway, my advice is to gather as much detailed information on these unprotected sites as you can - species lists, breeding territories, population estimates etc - as it is only hard evidence that will ever stop this kind of pointless destruction of valuable habitat. What's the local university doing for goodness/ sake? Ideal project for students as well as local birders... OK, best of luck. Tristan Norton Winchester, Hampshire, UK

Friday, 27 November 2009

Vigilance about environment

White-lipped Tree Frog Litoria infrafrenata
Photo by Rebecca Diete

Striped Possum Dactylopsila trivergata Photo by Rebecca Diete

I took some friends down the Centenary Lakes Boardwalk last night and got these photos.(26/11/09)
Just looking at these I am prompted to ask everybody to stay vigilant in defending the environment and keep the pressure on our Council to take more care than they have done considering the recent habitat destruction in Saltwater Creek. 
The most disappointing feature of this is that no thought at all was given to the importance of this mangrove forest as a habitat and as a consequence no thought of any means to preserve it. We must strive to change the thinking of those who govern us, we have much to lose. 
Brian Venables,Edge Hill.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Better Luck Next Year

Well that Rufous Owl Saga is over for another year. Talked to front desk Ann in the local DERM today (Dept of Environment & Resource Management - old National Parks & Environmental Protection Agency combined) but Scott Sullivan from Townsville who has been in charge of the Rufous Owl protection permit is away from his desk until Fri 27th and Ann didn't know for sure if he had lifted the protection order.
Ann also mentioned that a woman had rung in, complaining that the mangrove clearing had been delayed simply because of an owl! Not good enough apparently.

So I rang Russell Wild and asked if the Council intended to cut down the 3 Melaleucas the owls nest/socialise in, when mangrove clearing recommenced. He told me that there had never been any intent to cut the trees down.

He also said that replanting of certain mangrove species had already begun from the Collins St end. He added that the Council was satisfied that the mangrove clearing will decrease the likelihood of upstream flooding from once in 5 years to once in 20 years.

We look forward to future co-operation between the Council, DERM, and Birding Cairns on this and other matters.
Andy A.,
Birding Cairns.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Events of November 18 - 2009 - Changing of the Guard ?

At 0600 hours on the 18th November I made the gruesome discovery of this dead Rufous Owl chick under an adjacent Melaleuca to the nest tree at Saltwater Creek, Centenary Lakes. I immediately informed EPA and also Council (through Martin Cohen) and collected the specimen in case the Qld. Museum wanted it. The shell of this egg did seem to be paper thin.
A group of volunteers watched the nest hollow tree until 21.30 that evening with no sign of the owls. Could this be the end of this years breeding ?
A Great-billed Heron apparently thought so as it took up roost in the owl nest tree as this photo of Jun Matsui   shows.
The Great-billed Heron has recently begun to show on our (Cairnsbirds) species list for the Centenary Lakes a function I believe of the improving habitat with the mangroves developing into a mature forest. This species could prove a good litmus test for the rehabilitation of the mangrove forest currently being destroyed by Cairns Regional Council.

                                          Photos by Jun Matsui.
Brian Venables Edge Hill.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Rufous Owl Update Saltwater Creek

Sat 14 November,1830 hrs. Graham Snell,Carlos (visitor from Florida) and myself visited the Rufous Owl nest hollow in the big melaleuca by Saltwater Cr. in the Centenary Lakes. At 1845 hrs. one bird appeared from the hollow and flew overhead towards the Freshwater Lake. We waited until 1930 hrs but saw no further sign of the bird.
Later that evening I received an email from Jun Matsui and he supplied the photo above.  Jun had arrived some time after our departure and got this shot round 2000 hrs.
An inspection this morning by Graham Snell,Andy Anderson and myself revealed  no on ground evidence of the nestling seen in Jun's photo but did reveal fresh remains of a Pied Imperial Pigeon. It would seem the pair are still very active at the nest hollow.
Brian Venables, Edge Hill.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

New look" Fish Sanctuary"

This is the new look "Fish Sanctuary " in Saltwater Creek at the Collins Avenue bridge. We should hang our heads in shame if this is the way we manage our sanctuaries.
Brian Venables, Edge Hill.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

4/11/09 - RUFOUS OWLS
Nice one Jun. Good that Russell Wild and his wife were there to see. Let's hope this experience increased his understanding of the needs of wild animals in a man-controlled plant environment, as it's curious that so many nests of so many birds in all of those mangroves were allowed to be destroyed during the breeding season. And so much feeding habitat destroyed for those birds raising young in contiguous habitats.
Andy Anderson,
Birding Cairns.

03/11/09 - RUFOUS OWLS, Saltwater Lake, Centenary Lakes Cairns.
Brian Venables, Jun Matsui, Russell Wild (Cairns Regional Council Environmental Officer)and his wife Maria.
Round 1900 hrs we all met at the nest tree and were treated with an unexpected display. One bird emerged from the hollow and posed at the rim for Jun's camera. It then left the hollow and met another owl in an adjacent melaleuca (more pix). One bird appeared to pass something small to the other and eventually one bird went back to the hollow and disappeared down into it. My bet is the chicks have not yet fledged. I have been advised by council that an environmental assessment is underway.
John Seale.

Monday, 2 November 2009

Cairns Birding Forum

Cairns Birding Forum

Photos of the Rufous Owl pair Saltwater Creek Cairns.
Note female with Brood patch.
2/11/2009 by Jun Matsui

Cairns Birding Forum


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