It’s been more than 12 months since we have seen a cassowary at Wild Wings & Swampy Things. During recent seed collecting excursions Allen has observed a few cassowary droppings which pleased us as it was good to know that a cassowary was feeding on fruit from trees we had planted. Then, a few days ago we saw a bird outside our kitchen reaching up into the Jaboticaba tree for some fruit. Allen was immediately sure that it was the same bird which had visited regularly for some time last year but I took a bit more convincing.
The slightly naïve trust that the younger bird exhibited when in our proximity has been replaced by nervousness at our appearance, and our first sighting was very brief as it disappeared quite quickly after seeing me in the garden. Today I started talking quietly as I stood inside the house behind a screen door and then I was able to open a door and get a couple of photos while the bird walked about on the lawn
We were both talking quietly, telling her not to worry about her reflection and after a couple of light pecks at the glass she walked off. Cassowaries have been known to kick and break glass when convinced that their reflection is another bird threatening their territory. If this is the same bird that visited last year, (and I’m beginning to agree with Allen that he/she is the same) then the wary behaviour must be a result of encounters with other cassowaries and quite possibly other humans and that is a good sign.
On Saturday my afternoon watering routine suddenly lost it’s meditative qualities when a juvenile cassowary appeared. She (we have decided on ‘she’ due to her size) was probably attracted to our house garden by a fruiting Jaboticaba tree which is now stripped of all fruit within her reach! A bird with a seemingly laid-back attitude she is not disturbed by us going about our daily chores so long as we avoid sudden or loud movements.
Although she has obviously been able to find enough food while with her Dad she now has to forage alone. Ripe fruit is not plentiful at the moment, apart from more Jaboticaba in our orchard, so she is wandering through the forest picking up small numbers of a variety of native fruit. In spite of our concern for her well being we will not provide supplementary food. The thought of this ‘big chook’ running after me for food, like our laying hens do, is sufficient to quell any desire of mine to make sure she doesn’t go hungry.
This morning I made up a grain mix for our laying hens and called out as I approached their pen ‘special breakfast for you!’ I went into the outside section of their pen to put down the container and straightened up to see this cassowary looking at me through the wire. I explained politely that this was not for her and she soon moved on and disappeared into the forest again.
I am relishing the opportunity to observe a sub-adult cassowary investigating our world and hope that she will continue occasional visits.
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.
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]
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.
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
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.
Allen managed to grab some record shots but he didn’t want to chase it away by following it and hoping for a better photo.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I just can’t resist putting up one more photo – over the past two weeks we have had a number of sightings of this beautiful bird. She appears to be coming in daily to forage on whatever fruit is on the ground.
On Allen’s first walk to the orchard this morning he was very pleased to be able to observe a female Swamp Wallaby without disturbing her – we often see her and she is becoming more used to our presence. When Allen returned to the orchard about 10 minutes later he saw this Cassowary feeding under an old Leichhardt tree (Nauclea orientalis) on the edge of a revegetated area. Needless to say he returned to the house for the camera and I followed behind so that we could get a photo before disturbing the big bird.
This is only the second time we have seen a Cassowary on the property. Our first sighting was of a bird that had walked onto our house lawn, she was understandably ill at ease and wandered off quite rapidly. This is not the same bird, her casque is quite distinctive, tall with a very obvious bent top. We were careful to move quietly but she seemed unconcerned about our presence, eventually walking off only to be observed a little later in the orchard standing and preening.
It is difficult for me to put into words the sheer delight and gratification that we are experiencing. After many years of restoration work this is our most cherished reward. We never doubted that we would eventually see a Cassowary feeding here but to see one of these magnificent birds feeding and looking content in her surroundings is quite simply ………wonderful!
Just after lunch today we observed a Cassowary for the first time on our property. We were more than a little surprised as, although we have been hoping to attract Cassowary with our plantings, neither of us had expected our first sighting to be on the house lawn! This large adult is probably a female and we surmise that she has been attracted by a number of fruiting Cassowary Plums (Cerbera floribunda). There is not a great abundance of fruit available in the rainforest at the moment and so hunger may have prompted her to expand her usual feeding ground.
Now that our major restoration projects are complete we are taking more time to simply enjoy the privilege of living in such a beautiful, peaceful and endlessly interesting area.
While there are always a few maintenance tasks the work is not onerous and we can take time out to enjoy our walking tracks as well as to sit and simply look around.
It is immensely rewarding to observe the growth in the vegetation, watch trees mature and to delight in the variety and number of birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, fish and insects both residing on and visiting the property.