Busy twittering

Delightful little Silvereyes, with their gentle high-pitched chatter, are not an uncommon species.   They can be found all down the east coast, in Tasmania and in south-west Australia with some variation between the different identified races.  We have Zosterops lateralis;  race vegetus  –  a long name for such a small bird.

 Silvereye in Common Pepper Vine

Silvereye in Common Pepper Vine

 Eating the fruit of Common Pepper Vine

Eating the fruit of Common Pepper Vine

Plentiful fruit in this native Pepper vine, Piper caninum, is proving very popular  and they seem to slide down whole without any apparent problem.   While Silvereyes are known as a pest in some orchards and especially in vineyards we have the luxury of enough Black Sapote to share.  Now that the crop is nearly finished the fruit-loving birds are competing with each other for a share and so the Silvereyes have shown their feisty nature as they compete with various Honeyeaters for the softest fruit.

 Silvereye with Black Sapote

Silvereye with
Black Sapote

Still lichen this Phasmid

24 hours after my initial sighting this beautiful insect, known as a Spiny-leaf Insect or Macleay’s Spectre, hadn’t moved very far and was looking very vulnerable hanging on under the eaves. After some research regarding suitable species I gathered a few leafy twigs, put them in a jar of water on the table and transferred the Spiny-leaf Insect onto them.
Next morning, after some initial concern at her disappearance, she was located on our ceiling and gently moved back to the vegetation in the jar.  There was no sign that she had eaten anything from the selection provided so obviously these young shoots were not her preference.
A local Phasmid lover and friend, Daintree Boatman, was called for advice regarding suitable food plants.  Murray dropped in for an inspection, so did our friendly next door potter and nature lover, Ellen with exclamations of delight over such a wonderful creature.
So, Allen made an extensive search by torchlight for exotic Guava but without success.  It would appear that we have very effectively managed to eliminate this weed from the property!
Alphitonia petrei was the next on the list and finally we have had success.  There was great excitement at finding droppings on the tablecloth this morning – like all Spiny-leaf insects, she prefers to eat in the dark.

Spiny-leaf Insect or Macleay's Spectre on Alphitonia petrei

Spiny-leaf Insect on Alphitonia petrei

So now I can confidently put her on the correct species and hope that a hungry predator doesn’t spot her.  Its a wild world out there so perhaps just one more night in the relative safety of our house?

Lichen on the wall?

I found this tiny Phasmid (about 7 cm in length) hanging onto the wall of our house late yesterday afternoon.    Extatosoma tiaratum is known to sometimes mimic lichen as a camouflage at an early instar, however as our house wall is not covered in lichen it looked very exposed and vulnerable.

20150907_Wild_Wings_Swampy_Things_ Spiny-leaf Insect

Very young Macleay’s Spectre

With the light rapidly fading we had trouble getting a satisfactory photo.  A second attempt after dark with a torch as well as the camera flash has yielded better results.  I haven’t adjusted the colour at all – it really does look quite green.

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Very young Macleay’s Spectre showing its tail curving back towards its head

After the photo session we moved it onto a plant so it had a better chance of avoiding attack by predator.  This morning it was back on the underside of the eaves;  although the plant may have looked an okay place to us, it apparently wasn’t considered suitable by the Phasmid.

Not just birds …..

Increasing numbers of birds do seem to be the most obvious indicator that our restoration projects have been successful, however there are many other creatures finding the habitat suitable for breeding.

A movement among the fallen leaves of the Leichardt trees (Nauclea orientalis) alerted me to the presence of this tiny freshwater turtle.  As I wasn’t carrying a camera at the time I brought it back to the house for a short photo session and then released it in our garden pond.  Not uncommon to see Saw-shelled turtle (Elseya latisternum) here but we’re always so happy to see a young one.

 Saw-shelled Turtle - Front view with head tucked sideways in protective position

Saw-shelled Turtle –
Front view with head sideways in protective position

20150831_Wild_Wings_Swampy_Things_Saw-shelled turtle underside

Saw-shelled Turtle – underside view

It must have been a great relief to this little creature to find itself released into the relative safety of rocks and vegetation on the edge of a little pond.    Although I find it difficult to gauge a turtle’s reaction, I would imagine that to have its underside exposed would make it feel horribly vulnerable.

I only held it upside-down long enough for a photo and then placed it carefully on the edge of the pond and waited quietly until its head appeared.  It wasn’t long before it was in the water and well hidden from view.

20150831_Wild_Wings_Swampy_Things_Saw-shelled turtle head out

Saw-shelled turtle – released on the edge of a pond, well sheltered from predators

The end of winter chill

The whoosh of Metallic Starlings en masse, as they swoop fast and low through our garden, is indicative of warmer weather on its way.  Although still a very pleasant temperature for gardening activities, our cool winter weather is giving way to our warmer ‘growth’ months.   Pruning and weeding keeps me busy but it’s not a chore when you’re able to stop and watch the birds nearby.

Large-billed Gerygone

Large-billed Gerygone

We’ve been listening to Little Bronze-cuckoo calling, probably a prelude to mating and egg laying ……… but in whose nest?  A pair of  large-billed Gerygone have just started nest building, conveniently within lens distance of one of the bird hides, but nicely placed in the foliage of a paper-bark.  (Melaleuca cajaputi)

Large-billed Gerygone at work nest building

Large-billed Gerygone at work nest building

Lovely Fairy Wrens, looking particularly lovely just now, are always a delight to observe as they dart in and out of cover in their search for insects.  The climbing fern, Lygodium reticulatum, is wonderful shelter for them although it’s tough twining stems can be troublesome for young trees.

Female Lovely Fairy-wren

Female Lovely Fairy-wren

A glimpse of the male through some foliage, showing his glorious colours in the sunlight.

Male Lovely Fairy-wren

Male Lovely Fairy-wren

Pacific Baza

Too many months have passed since our last update for any explanation or list of excuses for the absence ………….. we are both well, happy and enjoying life.

I’m inspired by some lovely photos Allen is producing with his new lens.  He is currently participating in  Bird A Day 2015 ‘though if we don’t go travelling soon he is going to run out of birds as many of the local species have been ‘used’.  The discipline of having to find a different bird each day has been quite a challenge but from my observations I don’t think he is finding it a chore!

Today’s feature is the handsome Pacific Baza or Crested Hawk which can be frequently heard and sighted around Wild Wings & Swampy Things.  The first time I saw one I was alerted to its presence by a disturbance in a nearby Eucalypt.  I watched as it repeatedly fell off a branch and fluttered through some leaves, a cunning method of stirring up some insects which form an important part of their diet along with frogs and small reptiles.

Pacific Baza

Those brilliant yellow eyes are apparently able to facilitate the detection of green objects (ref. Penny Olsen “Australian Birds of Prey”) and studies have revealed that Bazas will choose green insects in preference to brown.

2015.07.wild_wings_swampy_things_pacificbaza-002 front on crop

The last photo was taken on a different day and of a different bird, perhaps a little younger than the other as the barring seems less defined.  It is nonetheless in a very typical, watchful pose high in a Eucalypt.

2015.07.wild_wings_swampy_things_pacificbaza-013 typical pose

We’re really pleased to have so many opportunities to enjoy these beautiful birds – whether they are calling as they soar above us, or hunting for insects in the trees, they are welcome here.

Ecoproperty For Sale

After a glorious winter, the warmer weather has heralded the arrival of our ‘summer birds’.  Loud calls from Koels are particularly evident in the morning and at dusk while the chortling of Orioles is a constant in the background.  Allen recently observed 20+ Double-eyed Fig Parrots in a flock flying from one part of the property to another and today there were 60+ enjoying a fruiting Fig (Ficus benjamina).  Gould’s Bronze-Cuckoo, Brush Cuckoo and Cicadabirds have also been very vocal and Pheasant Coucal make their ‘bottle glugging’ sound late in the afternoon.

Gould's Bronze-Cuckoo with a  Four O'Clock Moth (Dysphania fenestrata) larva

Gould’s Bronze-Cuckoo with a Four O’Clock Moth larva (Dysphania fenestrata)

The loudest call is from Great-billed Heron, clearly heard from the creek and occasionally much closer as it has been regularly feeding along the edge of our wetland.

Great-billed Heron waiting patiently in the shallows

Great-billed Heron waiting patiently in the shallows

As the water level in our ponds drops Great and Intermediate Egret, White-necked Heron, Black-necked Stork, White-faced Heron, Royal Spoonbill and Australian Ibis join the Great-billed Heron in the shallow water.

Female Black-necked Stork

Female Black-necked Stork

One of the resident Azure Kingfishers provides a dazzling splash of colour as it dives for fish from a variety of perching posts which it shares with Pied Cormorant and Darter.  Pacific Black Duck feed happily nearby.



After lengthy consideration we have decided to place Wild Wings & Swampy Things on the market.  http://www.ecorealestate.com.au/1639750/

Our major restoration projects are complete and will only become more attractive habitat in future years.  While it is rewarding to observe the growth in the vegetation, watch trees mature and to delight in the variety and number of birds residing and visiting the property we feel it is time for us to move on.

Until we find a suitable buyer we are enjoying our paradise and while continuing to maintain and improve many areas, we are also taking time out to just enjoy what we have helped to create.  It is a delight to walk along our tracks observing birds and other wildlife so we are going to make the most of just being here.


Feathered Palm with Feathered Friends

Alexandra Palms (Archontophoenix alexandrae) provide a valuable food source for many fruit eating birds in the wet tropics of the Daintree region.  Native to this area the palms germinate easily and a fruiting palm usually has many young palms at its base.  For many months Alexandra palms have been providing a source of fruit, so for a long period our garden has been full of colour, movement and the soft ‘wuk, wuk’ of Wompoo Fruit-doves as they enjoy the plentiful fruit along with Fig birds and Orioles.   There was a regular Wompoo visiting some palms in front of our verandah where we enjoy morning coffee so it was quite entertaining to watch its reaction to the other birds eating from the same panicle of fruit.

20140721_Wild_Wings_Swampy-Things_Wompoo_ Fig birds

Wompoo with female Figbird above, male Figbird below

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Figbird grabs fruit while upside-down

20140721_Wild_Wings_Swampy-Things_Wompoo_ Fig birds1

Wompoo gulps down another

However, in the last few weeks the dynamics of the garden have changed dramatically since the return of Metallic starlings from their winter sojourn further north.  The fruiting palms in our front garden have been stripped by flocks of these voracious feeders as the slower eating Wompoos made hopeless attempts to discourage them.

The Wompoos are now making the most of the fruiting Quandongs (Elaeocarpus angustifolius) – their blue fruit is also popular with Top-knot pigeons and Cassowarys,  and being much larger in size it is not consumed by Metallic Starlings.

Busy birds

I have managed to take a better photo of the Macleay’s Honeyeater – its not perfect but I am improving!  The birds enjoy our well sheltered bird baths but it does make photography more challenging in the low light.

20140606_Wild_Wings_Swampy_Things_Macleay's Honeyeater on birdbath

Macleay’s Honeyeater after enjoying a bath

Victoria’s Riflebirds have been seen feeding all about the property recently, all those sighted (so far) have been female or immature birds and most commonly eating fruit of the Bleeding Heart tree, Homalanthus populifolius.   However, we have also watched a Victoria’s Riflebird  feeding on the fruit of the native Costus,  Costus potierae,  which we have planted in our house garden.  Yellow-spotted Honeyeaters have also been eating the Costus fruit, so this plant is not only an attractive ornamental but a useful food plant for the birds.

Victoria's Riflebird, female or immature

Victoria’s Riflebird, female or immature

This male Double-eyed Fig Parrot was sitting on a branch close to my vegetable garden.  It had been feeding on the fruit of Red-leaf Fig, Ficus congesta. 

20140606_Wild_Wings_Swampy_Things_DE Fig Parrot

Double-eyed Fig Parrot race macleayana, male.

While this particular tree had obviously been visited by a number of fruit eating birds, it is not often the fruit of choice.  Many times we see the fruit quite untouched when other, more desirable, fruit is in abundance.  Red-leaf Figs are common pioneer species in areas of regenerating rainforest and provide a reliable source of food at times when the fruit of preferred species is unavailable.

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Red-leaf Fig, Ficus congesta. Detail of fruit on tree trunk.

After several different ‘poses’ on the branch this gorgeous little parrot stretched his jaw open wide, probably necessary after much processing of the tiny fig seed, although I confess it did look to me like a yawn.  And then he moved up higher in the tree out of sight and our photo session was over.

Double-eyed Fig Parrot stretching his jaw

Double-eyed Fig Parrot stretching his jaw

After ‘the wet’

So much colour outside our kitchen window!  After what seems like a long wet season,we are not the only ones enjoying some sunny days and our garden is busy with many birds and butterflies.   Golden Penda, (Xanthostemon chrysanthus) is a very popular ornamental native species which has been extensively planted in our region and it is now flowering prolifically, leaving a carpet of golden yellow stamens lying on the ground beneath each tree.

20140523Wild_Wings_Swampy_Things_Dusky honeyeater on Penda

Dusky Honeyeater frantically feeding

20140523Wild_Wings_Swampy_Things_Macleay's honeyeater in Penda

Macleay’s Honeyeater – the eye only just visible in the flowers.

Its a wonderful time of the year to be out in the garden, not too hot and there is lots to do but also much to gaze at and I’ve dashed back to the house for my camera on several occasions.  The Macleay’s Honeyeater just won’t stop for moment in its feeding frenzy so I’ve had lots of trouble getting a shot that is even partially in focus.

20140523Wild_Wings_Swampy_Things_Cruiser female on Costus

Female Cruiser (Vindula arsinoe)

20140523Wild_Wings_Swampy_Things_male birdwing on Costus

Male Cairns Birdwing (Ornithoptera priamus)

The flower in these photos is a native Costus (Costus potierae) which looks very similar to the exotic Costus speciosus but can be identified from the latter by the hairy upper leaf surface.  Costus potierae can be found in Cape York, some of the Torres St Islands and N E Queensland but it only occurs very close to sea level.  The white flowers attract many butterflies and small birds while the beautiful red bracts provide a brilliant colour accent amongst the verdant garden foliage.

20140523Wild_Wings_Swampy_Things_Ulysses on Costus

Ulysses butterfly (Papilio ulysses)

The flashes of blue from several Ulysses flying around is impossible to capture in a still photo – this splash of blue gives the general idea.

20140523Wild_Wings_Swampy_Things_yellow-spotted honeyeater1

Yellow-spotted Honeyeater

Yellow-spotted Honeyeaters are probably our most commonly sighted bird species and I was delighted that this one posed so nicely while deciding on where to fly next.