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.

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WILD WINGS & SWAMPY THINGS IS FOR SALE

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.

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Wompoo with female Figbird above, male Figbird below

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Figbird grabs fruit while upside-down

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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.

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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.

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Dusky Honeyeater frantically feeding

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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)

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

Feathered Friends

In recent months at least two pairs of Black Butcherbirds have produced 3 offspring in the vicinity of our house garden.  Of course the adults have been very busy hunting - frogs, lizards, snakes and fledgling birds are all on the menu – which means that the diminutive Sunbirds, like many of our small birds, are faced with quite a challenge to find a sufficiently camouflaged nesting site.

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In our early years here, prior to our revegetation efforts, the rather sparse garden supported very few birds so we delighted in the Sunbirds nesting close to the house, often on our verandah.  Sunbirds build beautiful hanging nests with a side entrance and they will suspend them from anything that takes their fancy.  The plastic coated clothes-line proved impossible (thank goodness as it would have been most inconvenient) but any rope left hanging was irresistible to them.

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In recent years, as our general bird population has increased, it has become too risky for the Sunbirds to use such an exposed area as the verandah, which is regularly patrolled by Butcherbirds who have taken advantage of many unwary frogs and lizards.  Although we don’t find sunbird nests near our house now, they are breeding successfully and this year we have been enjoying the sight of a young male who has been feeding on Heliconia ‘Sexy Pink’ which is adjacent to our outdoor shower – we have also observed him drinking from the shower rose when a few drips remain.

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This is the only Heliconia allowed to grow in our garden, which is in the residential exclusion zone of the Wild Wings & Swampy Things Nature Refuge.  It does take some maintenance to look its best but it is not as rampant as some varieties  …. and the flowers’ popularity with the Sunbirds makes it worthwhile.

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Hopefully the young fellow will manage to avoid predators and live long enough to gain the glorious colours of a mature male.

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Cool pool rewards.

Since we converted our salt-water chlorinated swimming pool to a fresh-water swimming pond 6 years ago it has gradually become a more inviting habitat for many local creatures as well as being a delightful place to cool off during the summer months.

Fresh-water swimming pond with fish and plants.

Fresh-water swimming pond with fish and plants.

I walked into the pool garden this afternoon and was amazed to find a male Macleay’s Spectre hanging, in a typical pose, on the strap-like leaf of a Louisiana Iris that is growing in a pot on the steps.  This extraordinary Phasmid is widespread in parts of New South Wales and S.E. Queensland and it also inhabits North Queensland rainforests ‘though as you can imagine they are not easily found. After taking a few photos I invited it on to my finger so I could move it onto a shrub in the garden as it looked so vulnerable on the edge of the pool.  After waiting more than 20 years to find a Macleay’s Spectre on the property I didn’t want it to indulge in unnecessarily risky behaviour.

Macleay's Spectre (Extatosoma tiaratum tiaratum)

Macleay’s Spectre (Extatosoma tiaratum tiaratum)

In order to take a better photo of the head I had to gently encourage the insect to the top-side of the branch where it ‘froze’ in position no doubt trusting that its amazing camouflage would protect it from attack. After the photo session I watched as it made its way further into the protection of the twigs and leaves.

20131217_Wild_Wings_Swampy_Things_Macleay's Spectre -close-up of head

Macleay’s Spectre head detail

Another delight in the pool garden this afternoon was the discovery of this exquisite nest which I am fairly certain has been built and used by a pair of Graceful Honeyeater although  as the nest is now abandoned I can not be sure of the owner/builders.

Hanging nest in Callistemon.

Hanging nest in Callistemon.

Chiltern – Mt Pilot National Park

Chiltern-Mt Pilot National Park is somewhat fragmented and the camping areas marked on the map are not widely advertised however,  we did find a lovely quiet spot where we enjoyed a few days on our own.  This lovely pond was a few metres from our camp ….. beautiful reflections in the still water.

Reflections

Reflections on the pond

There was more activity on the water surface than was first apparent! This pair of Australian Emperors were flying ‘together’ while the female laid eggs in several locations around the pond.

Australian Emperor - Hemianax papuensis

Australian Emperor – Hemianax papuensis

Awake with the birds on our first morning, we set off early on the Tuan Track walk, collecting a leaflet provided by the Friends of Chiltern National Park on our way.  It is a lovely walk  and the weather was perfect with some sun to warm us and only a gentle breeze.

Tuan Track

Tuan Track

With the aid of the descriptions in the leaflet we were able to not only appreciate the change in vegetation as we progressed along the track but also identify a few species.  It was also interesting to note the dominant bird species associated with particular flowering plants and along different sections of the track.

Dillwynia phylicoides

Dillwynia phylicoides – thanks to Eileen Collins from Mt Chiltern NP Friends for help with identification

Diuris sp. - Donkey Orchid

Donkey Orchid – Diuris sp.

Petalochilus carneus - Pink Fingers

Pink Fingers – Petalochilus carneus

Cat's claw Grevillea - Grevillea alpina

Cat’s claw Grevillea – Grevillea alpina

Other highlights of our few days exploring the variety of tracks in this national park included a morning walk at the Yeddonba Aboriginal site.  A very pleasant stroll along their well set out ‘self-guided’ tour gave us a different perspective and a chance to imagine how the country looked before our European ancestors cleared much of the beautiful forest.

We then drove on to the Mt Pilot section, parked the car for a short walk up to the summit and Allen spotted this delightful creature snoozing in a dead Callitris.

Koala woken briefly by our conversation.

Koala woken briefly by our conversation.

A short stroll to the summit revealed 360 degree spectacular views.

Easterly view of Mt Pilot range

Easterly view of Mt Pilot range

Looking north from the summit

Looking north from the summit

Enormous granite boulders on the summit support a surprising variety of vegetation that manages to not only survive but thrive in the extremes of summer heat and winter cold.

Leptospermum sp. with bee

Leptospermum sp. with bee

Some plants have found shelter between granite boulders or have taken root in cracks of the boulders but the most entrancing ‘miniature garden’ grew around a large pond which had formed in a dip in the rock.

Summit vegetation

Summit vegetation

Mossy garden in the granite

Granite rock-pool garden

After exploring the summit for a while we returned to the carpark to enjoy our morning coffee as well as the sight of a Scarlet Robin followed by a chestnut-rumped Heath-wren.   We kept our eyes out for a glimpse of a Spotted Quail-thrush – no luck there but we did find a lovely patch of Greenhood orchids.  We are not certain of which Greenhood but someone may be able to help us.

Greenhood Orchid

Greenhood Orchid – Pterostylis curta (thanks to Denis Wilson for identification)

Then we drove on to Woolshed Falls with its impressive granite race leading to the main falls – extensive paving with granite steps makes for very easy access to the viewing areas.

Granite race - Woolshed Falls

Granite race – Woolshed Falls

Woolshed Falls

Woolshed Falls

As we quietly enjoyed our picnic lunch we heard the unmistakeable creaky calls of some Gang-gang Cockatoos who alighted not far from us and sat in the tree  apparently undisturbed by us walking around trying to get a better angle for a photo.

Male Gang-Gang Cockatoo

Male Gang-Gang Cockatoo

Female Gang-Gang Cockatoo

Female Gang-Gang Cockatoo

On our last day in Chiltern-Mt Pilot  we were finally rewarded with a good sighting of a Turquoise parrot which, although not a first for us, was another on the list.
This is my final entry for our 2013 camping excursion – it was a wonderful journey, we did cover a lot of ground and there are many places to which we would like to return.  We have been considering calling it our ‘parrot trip’ as we saw many species of parrot, new to us.
And so we travelled on to the Brisbane environs where  we enjoyed some special time with grandchildren for a couple of weeks before travelling home up the coast.