Category Archives: Bird Observations

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.

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

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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.

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.

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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.


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.

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.


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.

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

WW20101011_Wild_Wings_Swampy_Things_Birds_Olivebacked Sunbird

Quack, Quack – Nine little ducks came back

Well not so little really, 9 Spotted Whistling Ducks have been observed feeding in our wetlands and although it is getting a bit crowded in our shrinking ponds they are finding food.  The first two photos were taken earlier this morning on our Spring Fed pond – there was at least 1 duck perched in a tree as lookout but when later on they flew over Allen on their way to Graham’s pond he counted 9.

Spotted Whistliing Ducks

Spotted Whistling Duck

Graham’s pond was also hosting approximately  fifty Spoonbills but they are more nervous than the few that have been here for a while and took off for a more secluded area on the property.  One Glossy Ibis, a new entry for the Wild Wings bird list is keeping the ducks company.

Spotted Whistling Ducks with Glossy Ibis

Spotted Whistling Ducks feeding

Spotted Whistling Ducks preening

Exploring new territory

My erratic blogging has not improved recently but a visit to Brisbane environs to spend time with my first grandchild (as well as other family members in the area) took priority over everything else.
It was a wonderful time to share with the new parents but now I’m home and we are readying ourselves for a camping adventure in the national parks of Central West Qld.  House-sitters Bill and Pauline will be looking after things here and we will attempt to post  a few snippets from our travels but as Telstra coverage is limited in the areas we are travelling I’m not certain how that will go.

We are not the only ones exploring new territory;  a few weeks ago we had a call from Murray Hunt who specializes in bird watching tours on the Daintree river.  On a good tide he had gone a long way up Barratt Creek, along our boundary, and saw a sub-adult cassowary on our side of the creek, which he photographed and sent to us.  Around the same time we found small cassowary scats in some of our revegetated areas.

Cassowary dropping at Wild Wings

The flecks of blue are the remains of the skin from Blue Quandong (Elaeocarpus grandis) fruit, the large seed on top is a Cassowary Plum (Cerberus floribunda) and the fruit starting to germinate are a native Mahogany (Dysoxylum alliaceum).  Allen later collected the Mahogany seeds  to grow on as the ‘poo’ was right on one of our paths so the trees wouldn’t be able to stay there.
While we haven’t actually sighted this young bird we are happy knowing that it is exploring a new area and finding some suitable food.

Daintree Rainforest

What a beautiful day – the warmth of the sun, beautiful trees and the blue sky in the background which we appreciated all the more after the damp, gloomy weather we have recently experienced.   After checking out a couple of properties for possible acquisition by Rainforest Rescue we went for a walk along the boardwalk at Jindalba.  It is a short stroll through some lovely forest that we have visited many times because we enjoy it and it is the first National Park boardwalk along the Cape Tribulation road, only about 20 minutes north of the ferry crossing.  I must admit to hoping we would see a Cassowary there as there have been many recent sightings.
Jindalba boardwalk
Allen found this Cassowary dropping just as he got out of the car, it must have come from quite a young bird as it is only a small pile of seed – we didn’t notice many fruiting trees yesterday and this poo is mostly full of palm seed from Alexandra Palms (Archontophoenix alexandrae).   The owner of this little pile was not visible to us and we didn’t see any adults.
Cassowary dropping Jindalba

Our travels took us a little further north into the Cow Bay subdivision where a number of blocks have been purchased for conservation, by Rainforest Rescue as well as through the Daintree Rescue Program which was jointly funded by the Federal and Queensland State governments.  “Save the Cassowary”  gives some background on the Daintree Buy-back  for those who are not familiar with the history of the area.

One of the most significant conservation efforts is The Baralba Corridor Nature Refuge.  The original purchases were made by Daintree Rainforest Foundation – a small group of dedicated conservationists who raised money by holding raffles and selling tickets to tourists as they waited in line for the car ferry.   DRF merged with Rainforest Rescue in 2004 and  additional blocks have since been added to the corridor which provides a valuable link from the heights of Alexandra in the south to the Bailey’s Creek wetlands.   While we were driving along one of the roads on the edge of the corridor we saw a cassowary cross the road quite a distance ahead of us.  By the time we arrived at the point where she had walked into the forest Allen managed one quick shot.   Although the photo is poor quality there is enough detail of the head, with the distinctive casque,  for us to keep the photo on the Daintree Region Cassowary Group data base as a useful identification tool.   This particular female cassowary has been known to regularly use the Baralba Corridor for many years, the size of her casque is indicative of a great age.    This is a typical view of a cassowary, walking into the forest and disappearing from view rapidly but we were delighted to have this glimpse.

Cassowary in Baralba Corridor

While there are still blocks of land with the potential to be developed which need to be bought and conserved,  it is wonderful to see what has already been achieved through buy-back and through revegetation of previously degraded areas.

Keeping a low profile

We’ve been aware that our resident pair of Bush Stone-curlew have taken to spending more time in the area around the house rather than in the orchard which is adjacent to the creek.   Perhaps the regular calls of the Dingoes along the creek and in the hills was making them nervous or they just enjoy a bit of company – for whatever reason they have been hanging about amongst the clumping bamboos.   The culm sheaths which litter the ground under these giant clumps make quite good camouflage.

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The bird became a little nervous about the intrusion of the lens into its personal space but remained in the one place so we are wondering if it might be sitting on a egg or two.  The somewhat frantic evening serenade has been absent for a few nights now so they might be trying to keep their present locality a secret.   We’ll leave them in peace and hope they have some success in their breeding endeavours.

wild_wings_swampy_things_ bush stone curlew

Living in harmony

During the last few weeks we have frequently heard dingoes calling, mostly at night but there have been one or two occasions during the day.  Last night there were three animals harmonizing quite beautifully on the hills;  on a still, moonlight night it is quite an eerie sound and I wonder how all the creatures vulnerable to their attack might be feeling.   In spite of their, at times, close proximity (we found a scat only a few metres from the carport) we have been unable to see them and so have no idea how close to a true dingo they are.

This afternoon we spent a couple of hours enjoying a walk around the property – I was trying not to focus on the various weeds I noticed that required attention and for the most part we talked about the progress that had been made in various areas.  We took cameras as well as our binos. but many of the birds we saw were busy feeding and were often in shade so photographic opportunities were very limited.  The arrival of our winter birds has been announced by the return of Rufous and Grey Fantails, which we observed feeding with Fairy and Large-billed Gerygones, Grey Whistlers, a female Golden Whistler, lots of Lovely Wrens and Little Shrike-thrush.  We also saw Spectacled and White-eared Monarchs, the latter sighting being two immature birds which is of particular interest as Tyto Tony reported  a similar sighting.  Our list also included Varied Triller, Spangled Drongo, Figbirds, Helmeted Friarbird, Yellow-spotted, Dusky, Macleays and Graceful Honeyeaters, Yellow Oriole, Sunbirds, Silver Eyes, Mistletoe bird as well as a Laughing Kookaburra and a Shining Flycatcher.  No sign of the other Kingfisher relatives which was unusual and no sign of the small flock of immature Metallic Starlings which has been feeding frantically and doing practice flights for the last few weeks.  Perhaps they have left for the winter along with the Brown-backed Honeyeaters  and the Black Bittern neither of which were evident this afternoon.

We heard but could not see Pale-vented Bush-hens but Orange-footed Scrub-fowl are now well established here.  We heard and saw Rainbow Bee-eaters and watched them bathing in one of the ponds.

Two Whistling Kites were soaring around with a Darter, while later we saw a Pacific Baza circling in the vicinity of a flock of Top-knot pigeons and unusually the pigeons were wheeling around, apparently enjoying a thermal with the Baza.

And just to finish off with some colour – we did manage a few shots of the Lovely wrens enjoying their favourite shallow bird bath – we think they must have had a good breeding season as numbers seem to have increased considerably ……. plenty of room and lots of food for them here.Wild_Wings_Swampy_Things_Daintree_Birds_LovelyFairyWren_male_frontview

Wild_Wings_Swampy_Things_Daintree_Birds_LovelyFairyWrens bathing

Forest Kingfisher

Recently we had a phone call from an elderly resident in Daintree Village who had picked up a small Kingfisher which, although fully feathered, seemed unable to fly.  We arrived with a small box to find a distressed immature Forest Kingfisher being carried around in the hand – a quick glance didn’t show any major problems so we put the bird into our box and brought it home.  After a period of rest (for the bird) we gave it some water with a little glucodin and then tried unsuccessfully to get it to take some food.  As dusk deepened into dark we decided to leave the poor creature to rest and reassess the situation in the morning.

The bird, while immature, looked capable of being independent and as there were no Kingfisher nests in the vicinity we did wonder why it had been found hopping around on the ground.  On opening the box the next day we were greeted by a very lively looking bird so I suggested to Allen that we just see how well it could fly.  Not even a thanks as it took off through the garden!  So we now think it must have been a case of concussion, most likely caused by collision with a vehicle as it was found near the road.  This bird is one of the lucky ones and appeared to make a full recovery.

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On several occasions Allen observed it feeding around Graham’s pond and then one day he was able to take these photos from the bird hide as a nearby branch made an ideal perch for the consumption of a small insect or spider.  We are sure this is the same bird we rescued and we’d like to have a happy ending to this story.

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wild_wings_swampy_things_forest kingfisher