Cassowary update

I often enjoy some bird watching while working in the kitchen – at any time of the day.  However this was a first!  I looked up when I saw movement in my peripheral vision and was absolutely gobsmacked to find this Cassowary wandering about in the garden just outside the window.  I quietly alerted Allen and we watched this amazing bird walk right up to the window and apparently eyeball us …… what it was probably doing was looking at its own reflection.  Allen managed a few shots through the glass and the fly-screen before it calmly wandered off around the garden.

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Fabulous being able to see it so close and know it wasn’t aware of our presence.  When Allen did take a step outside later it moved away quickly but once he returned to the house the bird reappeared to continue foraging under the palms and under the fruiting Mischocarpus exangulatus [Red bell Mischocarp]

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Many of the trees we have planted, in the hope of attracting cassowary along with other native birds and mammals,  have matured sufficiently to produce fruit.  We hope we will be lucky enough to have occasional visits from this young bird so we can witness his/her growth into an adult cassowary.

Young visitors

We have been lucky enough to have family, including 3 grandchildren aged 5 years and under, visiting us during these school holidays . While it was rather chaotic at times, it was a very happy time with many special moments shared.

Children love talking about poo so I was thrilled to find a very special deposit near our vegetable garden that I could show them. While I understand that not everyone gets excited about poo, for us to find evidence of a youngish Cassowary feeding on the property is particularly pleasing.  I knew the dropping to be less than 24 hours old as I had been in the same area the previous afternoon.  Mostly the seeds of Eleocarpus grandis  [Blue Quandong] fruit with at least one Cryptocarya oblatus [Tarzali Silkwood].

Juvenile Cassowary dropping

Juvenile Cassowary dropping

A few days later Allen and I were enjoying a cup of tea with Celia on the verandah while the children played nearby.  She suddenly started pointing in a very excited and apparently speechless manner.  As Allen and I turned around to look in the direction she was indicating she managed to gasp “Cassowary!” At this we all quietly got out of our chairs and went to look as the bird had wandered out of sight.  It wasn’t far away and was just calmly foraging so we called out to the 5 year old cousins to come and look very quietly.  I am pleased to say that they did just as we asked and did manage to get a look at the bird.  I don’t expect them to grasp the significance of the event but I did want them to at least have a look.

Juvenile Cassowary

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAllen managed to grab some record shots but he didn’t want to chase it away by following it and hoping for a better photo.

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Nearly out of sight – Cassowaries have a wonderful ability to merge into Rainforest and ‘disappear’.

We have seen more droppings in the house garden today so the bird is definitely still around.

Ugg boots and thermals

We are feeling the cold here in the tropics – especially today as the windy gusts bring an extra chill factor.  Putting on some warmer clothes and shutting the doors certainly helps but as the sun goes down we start planning warm meals!  This is not a complaint merely a subjective observation as we don’t possess a thermometer.

Considerable time has recently been spent on some much needed home maintenance as well as some work in the garden and beyond – pruning, dealing with weeds and overgrowth of vines.  Allen continues with regular bird observing while my own efforts tend to be a little haphazard.  We have both enjoyed listening to some interesting night calls, Lessy Sooty Owl and the noise of some Striped Possums [Dactylopsila trivirgata] caught our attention last week.  I heard the possums early in the evening and took a spotlight out to locate them, waiting for them to call before I could work out where to look.  No eye shine but eventually I caught sight of a fluffy tail hanging down from a branch and the back of a small possum.  The surprisingly loud, harsh noise which had alerted me to their presence was coming from another possum higher up and hidden in the foliage.  After a short time they both dropped through the branches out of sight and disappeared further down the gully.

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Striped Possums are often located at night when they are ripping bark to feed on grubs in rotting wood using their elongated 4th finger to scoop out the delicacies.  They also feed on nectar, pollen, fruit and leaves.  Their ‘skunk-like’ appearance is enhanced by a musky odour which is only obvious at close range.

Allen took these photos in our garden in May 2017.

Striped Possum

Pruning hazards

During a pruning frenzy yesterday I came across this rather large Spiny Leaf Insect or Macleays Spectre (Extatosoma tiaratum).  She was looking decidedly nervous as I approached enthusiastically with my secateurs, snipping away at branches and so removing leaves she had been happily feeding upon.

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I don’t blame her for feeling under threat as she was left somewhat exposed, despite her good camouflage.  Needless to say I changed course and left that area of the garden for another day.  Luckily we have planted quite a number of Xanthostemon verticillatus as it appears to be a favourite food for a variety of stick insects.  A quick check today has revealed that she is on the same bush but safely tucked under some green cover.  This garden surrounds the pool where I found a male Spiny Leaf Insect in 2013.  Which leads me to wonder if I need to improve my powers of observation ….. or perhaps I haven’t been spending enough time tending to the shrubs in that garden.


And in other news ……….. the Amethyst python curled up around her eggs since November last year has now moved on.  My granddaughter and I checked under the cover on Jan 1st and both snakes were there.  When I checked on Jan 3rd the Carpet Snake was still guarding her eggs but only the empty shells of the Amethyst were left.  No sign of young snakes and no sign of the adult.  The Carpet snake is still curled up in the same area but in recent days I have seen her stretched out and I can see her eggs are empty.  We have no idea why she remains in the same position.

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A Snake update; under the covers

A peak under the weed pile plastic yesterday afternoon didn’t reveal any reptiles but Allen did find a small clutch of eggs.  However, when he returned after dark, once the day had cooled down, he found a Carpet Python curled tightly around her eggs.  About 400 mm apart, also taking advantage of the warm, dry place was an Amethyst Python nestled well under the vegetation.

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1-Carpet with eggs on left; Amethyst on right

The pink arrows point to the snakes.  Carpet python on the left and the Amethyst Python on the right.

This morning they were both still there – we moved a bit of vegetation away from the Carpet Python’s head and as she moved it was possible to get a glimpse of an egg.  After a couple of quick photos we carefully replaced the plastic and weed mat and left them both in peace.

As far as we know there is only one clutch of eggs – we’ll try to keep an eye on events under the cover without causing too much disturbance.

Warm fuzzies and heady aromas

Travelling slowly down our ‘green tunnel’ driveway this morning, on our weekly expedition to the Mossman Market, I noticed a different shape on the bamboo hand-rail across the culvert at the bottom of the hill.  The ‘shape’ rapidly resolved itself into several perching ducks!  And there were more on the pond …. so nine Spotted Whistling Ducks came back.

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After several days of rain a couple of weeks ago there has been no sign of them in our main wetland system.  No-one else has reported any local sightings but there are lots of little ponds hidden away in our gullies so perhaps they just seek out more shelter?  Whatever their story, it is always pleasing to see them; gives us a nice warm fuzzy feeling knowing that we’ve provided some habitat for them.

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Orchard News:
Our Durian trees are flowering and there is a heady, slightly musky aroma around the orchard.  A couple of nights ago, with the moon still not quite full, we went for an evening walk to enjoy the flowers and watch the moths and blossom bats flying in to feed on the copious nectar.  The night was so still the sound of nectar dripping, onto the carpet of old leaves and spent flowers under the tree, provided a background to the fluttering of wings and an occasional bat squeak.
I still marvel at the sheer number of flowers produced by these trees.  They start opening in the afternoon and by morning there is a carpet of flowers on the ground.

 

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Durian flowers beginning to open in the early afternoon

Blossum Bat in Durian Flowers

Some flowers now fully open with Blossom bat feeding.  

 

 

Sunny days again

A beautiful sunny morning after several days of rain and I wasn’t the only one happy to enjoy the warmth of the sun today.
This Carpet Python was basking on the weed pile plastic this morning ……. the Amethyst Python photographed a couple of days ago wasn’t visible but we didn’t check under the plastic as we didn’t want to disturb whatever arrangement they had.  The two species don’t usually hang out together so we suspect they are taking turns.

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Carpet Python (Morelia spilota)

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Meanwhile the chooks are having green feed brought into their outside run as we think it’s a bit risky to let them out when the weed pile is one of their favourite places to scratch.  I enjoy having pythons around but I draw the line at providing them with a feathered meal!

It’s not always about the birds ……

Several days of rain has cooled our ambient temperature somewhat and I found this beautiful Amethyst python (Morelia amethistina) lying on some black plastic that I use to cover my weed pile.   The snake was seemingly content to absorb the warmth from the plastic and made no attempt to move but as the pile of weeds is quite close to the chook pen I decided to leave the girls inside for a while.

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Maximizing exposure of its’ body to the warmth of the plastic.

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A closer view showing a glimpse of the iridescence shining on the skin.

Then a short time later Allen called me outside to look at a different snake he had uncovered while cleaning up a dead palm that had collapsed.  It’s not a particularly good photo as this little reptile was feeling rather vulnerable and was not wanting to pose for a photo.  As we were not entirely sure of its’ identity at the time, we were not inclined to pick it up for closer examination.

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Identification has been suggested to be Small-eyed Snake (Cryptophis nigrescens)

 

Early Rains as predicted ….

Allen measured 220 mm in the gauge this morning (that included about 15 mm from the day before) and with steady rain continuing  all day our ponds are nearly full …. in October!!
Spotted Whistling ducks back on the ponds yesterday – 19 of them, right in front of the bird hide some feeding in the shallows, some preening and enjoying the warmth of the sun after a couple of wet days.  We think that some of these ducks began their lives here as they appeared to be ‘at home’ and were not at all disturbed by our movement.

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Busy searching through the mud which had been completely dry two days ago.

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Enjoying the sun after a good feed

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Relaxed and resting – how marvellous to be able to sleep on top of a post!

The Great-billed Heron, who has been making the most of our mudflats may be disappointed at the sudden inundation but hopefully he/she will continue the regular visitation.

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Great-billed Heron quietly moving around the edges of the pond 

From dust to green

After nearly four months camping in our tent, while we travelled north to Darwin then west across to Roebuck Bay, we have left the dust behind and returned to the lush green of Daintree.  We’ve now unpacked, cleaned up most of our gear before storing it and the vehicle is mostly clean inside.  Although it’s taken a few days to truly feel ‘at home’ again we are both appreciating the space, the green and the peace as well as our walking tracks.

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Reflections

The water levels in the wetlands are low, as we would expect at this time of the year, and we are not the only ones enjoying easy access.  This lovely girl was enjoying some sun in the swamp this morning and was undisturbed by our presence on the driveway.

Swamp Wallaby

Female Swamp Wallaby

Floscopa scandens ,which we now have growing in several areas around the wetlands,  is looking very lush and healthy with lots of pale pink flowers.  Although the water level has dropped the ground is still holding a lot of moisture, the grass is still green and we’re happy to be here.

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