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.
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.
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.
Little Kingfisher – Ceyx pusillus is one of a special group of tropical Australian iconic bird species. Our wetlands’ designs included areas we hoped would create habitats appealing to this beautiful jewel of a bird and I can now say with confidence that we have indeed achieved our aim!
Cottonwood – Hibiscus tiliaceous which thrives in wet situations and tends to spread (a habit not favoured by some) now helps to provide shade and shelter around the wetland overflow . Both Azure and Little Kingfishers use an overhanging Cottonwood branch to watch the fish in the clear water flowing over the spillway before diving in for a feed.
These secretive, tiny birds with the oversized bills prefer dark well vegetated waterways which make challenging photographic conditions. Allen has been patiently returning to the bird hide, time after time, hoping that he could catch it on one its brief forays into the open. Finally this morning he had some success and although the light was poor due to overcast conditions the blue of this amazing, diminutive bird shines brilliantly.
The weather conditions have been as expected for this time of the year – hot and humid. Some days it seems more extreme than I remember but probably I’m just using the weather as an excuse to only work outside for a relatively short time in the morning.
Another update on Spotted Whistling Ducks: when we had some heavy rain for a few days the Wandering Whistling ducks departed along with the large flock of Magpie Geese which had descended upon us. Our resident Magpie Geese are still here and one suspects they may be rather relieved that peace has been restored. The Spotted Whistling Ducks stayed for a day or so longer but then for nearly a week we didn’t see them anywhere. However, they are now visiting again and have been trying out all our ponds, we can see where they’ve been by the remnant pieces of water weed, Vallisneria, and shredded water lily flowers! They actively feed through the heat of the day both on the water surface and diving, staying underwater for 15 – 20 seconds. After a period in the water individuals will fly to a suitable horizontal branch, or in some cases a perching post, where they busily preen and dry off before returning to the water for further feeding.
There have been flocks of Double-eyed Fig Parrots feeding on Glochidion, commonly known as Cheese Tree, and we have also observed them feeding in Melaleuca cajuputi. These paperbarks provide food and shelter for many birds, insects and fruit bats and we’re pleased that much of our swampy areas that were cleared of paperbarks in the early 1900’s are gradually returning to useful habitat.
This week the Melaleucas have started flowering, the event was announced by a loud humming sound accompanied by the sweet, nectar laden scent.
An Azure Kingfisher flew past Allen yesterday with a fish in its bill and two younger birds following behind; a Little Kingfisher used one of our perching posts as a take-off point for fishing and Black Bitterns are frequently disturbed at the spillways both here and at our neighbour’s place, we estimate at least three regulars are moving between the two properties. We suspect Shining Flycatchers are nesting again but haven’t yet confirmed this. They are quieter than a couple of weeks ago when we watched some amazing displays from two males competing for a female’s attention as they went through their repertoire of calls.
Spangled Drongos have, once again, successfully harassed a Great-billed Heron until it flew back to the creek. I confess it is a little disappointing as it would be rather fun to have more regular visits from this majestic bird but I can’t blame it for leaving as the Drongos are very persistent in their attacks.
So we’ve been enjoying the birds this month as we make the most of the sunny mornings and mostly fine ‘though cloudy afternoons – it looks like rain is heading our way.
No word from us for weeks but we are still here! The weather has been fine and sunny and we’ve been very busy with lots of different jobs.
Last week I thought about writing a blog entitled ‘perspectives’ as I pondered the many hours I have recently spent removing a vine called Scindapsus aurea (Devil’s Ivy) from the gully below our rental cottage that Allen is currently renovating.
When I was a student at Burnley Horticultural College in the mid ’70s I learnt to propagate this same vine which we grew carefully in the controlled environment of the greenhouse. I remember being astounded when I first visited Port Douglas (also during the mid ’70s) and observed it growing rampantly outside over the ground as well as climbing nearby trees. I was overawed by the wonders of growth in the tropical environment …… and I still feel the same way although a little daunted when the plant in question is not so desirable. Continue reading