Category Archives: Daintree Mammals

Metallic Starlings

At the start of June only a small flock of immature Metallic Starlings remain on the property and these birds may stay in these environs for the winter months. For a week or so in April we had a large flock of mostly immature birds, swooping through our garden in a frenzy of feeding. We imagined the young birds were readying themselves for their flight north to spend winter in Papua New Guinea. The towering Melaleuca leucadendra in our garden gully provided a perfect venue for them to congregate in the late afternoon light while they preened and grabbed any available grubs.

Still sporting immature plumage but the eye is the slightly creepy solid red of an adult bird.

These highly sociable migratory birds which visit the Qld coast during their breeding season from Aug-Sept to April-May weave nests in a huge colony which they revisit every year. In the days before our revegetation efforts blocked our view, a huge fig tree was visible on the hills at the back of the property. Late in the afternoon we could watch huge flocks of Metallic Starlings dipping and swirling before coming to rest on their nests. For a few years a Brahminy Kite made its nest in the centre of the tree but the presence of a predator was not enough to cause the colony to find another tree. When the Kite was on it’s nest the colony was calm but any movement to and from would cause the Metallic Starlings to take off en masse and swirl around the tree until they deemed it safe to land again.

Metallic Starlings in a nesting colony.

Our orchard trees, especially the Mangosteens, benefit enormously from the attention of these active birds as they eat many of the caterpillars and grasshoppers which can cause substantial damage to the trees’ foliage. The birds also enjoy some extra sweet benefits from our orchard.

Adult Metallic Starling feeding on Black Sapote – Diospyros digyana

The spectacular iridescence of the plumage is clearly visible in this photo. While a large flock can be rather noisy and they do ‘take over’ an area, temporarily displacing other smaller birds, we still look forward to their annual arrival.

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.

Striped PossumStriped Possum

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

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.

1-SWD perched on the bamboo hand-rail

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.


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.


1-Fallen Durian flowers

1-Durian flowers early afternoon

Durian flowers beginning to open in the early afternoon

Blossum Bat in Durian Flowers

Some flowers now fully open with Blossom bat feeding.  



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.

1-Swampy 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.

1-Floscopa detail1-Floscopa

Looking for a dry place to nest

One of the hazards of keeping vehicles in a rainforest environment is the frequent occurrence of Native Rats taking up residence under the bonnet of vehicles and creating a nest.  I have heard tales of very expensive nests made from the wiring …….. we have had a few chews over the years but nothing too serious.
Our main problem has been with Fawn-footed Melomys deciding that the chamber which houses the fan of the air-conditioning unit is the perfect place for a nest.  When we drove out earlier in the week we put on the air conditioning, as its fairly warm at the moment. At first it sounded like a leaf was caught in the air con. fan but the noise rapidly became a loud, “thwack, thwack” so we turned off the fan and wound down the windows.  Today we took our vehicle into the mechanic for him to have a look at the problem and about 30 mins later there was a call to say it was all fixed.

There were some leaves in the chamber, also a piece of twine AND a sock!! Clever little Melomys! Thank goodness she didn’t do any major chewing damage, well apart from my sock which doesn’t look quite the same!

No wonder the fan was having trouble operating with all that tangled around it.

Nesting material

Nesting material

The King’s batty attendants

We could smell the heavy, musty scent of the flowering Durian  (Durio zibethinus)  as we approached our orchard last evening.  We only have 4 trees but they are laden with flowers and attracting quite a lot of attention, especially at night.

This photo only captures a portion of the tree with flowers  in various stages along the main and smaller lateral branches up to a height of approximately 10 metres.   As well as many blossom bats (possibly Northern Blossom Bats but we haven’t a positive ID), there are moths and beetles attending the flowers at night.  The flowers open from mid afternoon to late evening with most pollen being shed before midnight and all flower parts excepting the pistil fall to the ground.

Blossom bat on Durian flower

We walked under a tree and shone our headlamps upwards to watch the diminutive blossom bats flitting in and out, hardly seeming to stop on the flowers.  Blossom bats make a ‘kissing’ sound and when I imitated them I would have them swooping really close so I could feel the air movement from their wings on my head.  In the photo above you can see large drops of nectar spilling out – no wonder the bat has buried itself  in a flower!

Blossom bats on Durian flower

Allen didn’t realize he had caught one in flight until he looked at the photos on the computer screen.  We are fascinated by the tiny muscular ‘arms’ – the bats don’t waste any time when they are feeding, a brief moment on a flower and they are on the move again.

Blossom bat  tongue

All these photos can be enlarged by clicking on them and it is particularly worthwhile in this case to see the detail of the tongue in action.

This rather attractive (as yet unidentified) moth was also taking advantage of the plentiful nectar  – and the next morning native bees were landing on the carpet of spent flowers lying under the tree, apparently gathering pollen.  So while we look forward,with cautious optimism (having had past disappointments), to a bountiful crop of this glorious King of Fruits many other creatures have benefited from the flowers already.

Reference:  “Tropical Tree Fruits for Australia” Queensland Department of Primary Industries 1984

One in the pouch

We have previously written about a female swamp wallaby, that we were seeing quite regularly, becoming quite used to our presence.  One of her daughters has been enjoying the area around  ‘Wallaby Hill’ upon which Allen has just built a little hide and she has been very tolerant of the associated construction noises.  We have been concerned about the older female’s well-being as a neighbour reported finding a dead wallaby in front of his place several months ago and neither of us had seen her anywhere for months …………..until yesterday.

Allen was delighted to see a cheeky little face peering out from its safe, secure pouch and very pleased that he just happened to be holding the camera.  The mother Wallaby just looked up in surprise and when reassured by a familiar voice she then went on inspecting the building that was gracing the sunny knoll named in honour of her trust and acceptance.

wild_wings_swampy_things_wallaby with joey


Out of the Swamp

Wild_Wings_Swampy_Things_Daintree_Swamp_Wallaby Swamp Wallaby (Wallabia bicolor) are found all along the east coast of Australia, from tropical rainforest to cool-temperate woodland.   As they do not live in mobs it is quite usual to observe … Continue reading

Just hanging around

Since our return from Brisbane environs we have been appreciating the peace and quiet at home as well as enjoying the wildlife around us.  One of our large and prolifically fruiting Ficus benjamina has been providing food for a number of birds during the day as well as for Spectacled Fruit-bats during the hours of darkness.

Well the daylight must have arrived a little earlier than this fellow expected or perhaps he was just too full to fly off – whatever the reason he didn’t seem bothered by our attention.  Allen and I have both had the pleasure of rearing orphaned fruit-bats in past years and we’re very fond of them.