Category Archives: Atherton Tablelands, far north Queensland

Moths

Australia has 20-30000 species in the order Lepidoptera, of which about 450 are butterflies. There isn’t a big difference between butterflies and moths. Both usually have a coiled proboscis and four scaly wings. Some butterflies are active at night, and numerous moths  fly during the day,  many of those have clubbed antennae. One of our  more conspicuous species is the large Queensland Day Moth, Alcides metaurus (family Uraniidae):

Classifying moths is often not easy: one might have to look at their genitals, which are usually withdrawn into the abdomen! Therefore, some of the moths featured in our blog posts do not have a name to them (feel free to let us know, if you can identify them!), sometimes we cannot even  determine the family (there are about 80 families in Australia). Birds are so much easier!

A few nights ago, our mothlight attracted, amongst many Christmas and Rhinoceros beetles and other moths:

Aglasoma variegata (family Lasiocampidae): viewed from another angle:and a portrait, showing off the ‘woolly legs’:

Another species, holding the abdomen in an upright position, maybe for better camouflage:

Praesusica placerodes (family Limacodidae):

A front view reveals the striped legs:

and some more moths:

Hawk Moths (family Sphinghidae) are plentiful at the moment:

and so are the often very large Wood Moths (family Cossidae). The famous ‘witchetty grubs’ belong here.

The variety of patterns and shapes seems endless. These moths are well-adapted to life in eucalypt forests. You wouldn’t be able to spot them  amongst dried gum leaves:

or this moth on the bark of a Red Mahogany:

There surely will be more posts to come about moths, featuring our more unusual and/or colourful species!

A most beautifully presented, and very useful guide for identifying our local moths, is Buck Richardson’s book

Tropical Queensland Wildlife from dawn to dusk, Science and Art”.

Contact details for Buck are:

buckrichardson@leapfrogoz.com.au

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Atherton Tablelands, far north Queensland, Australia, butterflies and moths, insects and 'minibeasts', tall eucalyptus forest, tropical rainforest, wildlife

Birdlife in December

After some rain (cyclone Owen didn’t have much effect on us), many more birds are breeding now. There are more insects around for feeding their offspring. We also have a large number of honeyeaters taking advantage of the mass-flowering of Red Mahoganies.

The Victoria’s Riflebirds are still displaying, although they have started their yearly moult, and the males don’t look their best.riflebird moulting2_1

That additional row of emerging wing feathers looks quite attractive!riflebird moulting_1

Despite the lack of fruit at the moment, some Superb Fruit-doves have decided to nest here. We observed one nest (from a long distance!), where the chick fledged after only one week, which is normal for Superbs.IMG_3214.j2pg

In typical pigeon style, the nest is a very flimsy affair. No wonder, the chick doesn’t stay!IMG_3296

An unusual visitor to the cabin was a Varied Sitella. They normally occur in  drier forests (Springvale Road is more their habitat), and we’ve seen them once before in the Casuarinas in the western part of our forest.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Atherton Tablelands, far north Queensland, Australia, birds, tall eucalyptus forest, tropical rainforest, wildlife

Little Red Flying-foxes and Spectacled Flying-foxes

The Red Mahogany trees (Eucalyptus resinifera) in our area finally began to flower a couple of weeks ago, and, as expected, are attracting large numbers of Little Red Flying Foxes (Pteropus scapulatus).

They are easily distinguished from other large fruit bats: their wing-membranes are translucent in flight and they are considerably smaller than the other large flying- foxes. Brush-like tongues (like lorikeets) make collecting nectar and pollen very efficient.

They feed at night, although at the moment they are arriving in our forest as early as 3pm. We very much enjoy listening to them: they constantly call to each other with soft, fluting whistles, and, of course, also squabble noisily. In this video, the calls in the background are being made by Scaly-breasted and Rainbow Lorikeets.

 

During the day, Little Reds gather in campsites, which they occupy for as long as there are flowering trees nearby.

The summer months are mating season, so you can watch them courting, play-fighting, mating

and cuddling up:

Males are well-endowed, and, like other flying-foxes, anoint their neck ruffs with a smelly liquid from their penis, which they rub onto branches for scent-marking.

There was a severe heatwave in North Queensland in late November, which caused the death of thousands of the much rarer Spectacled Flying-foxes (Pteropus conspicillatus) along the coast (Little Reds are more heat-tolerant). It is  birthing season for the Spectacleds, and many babies were orphaned.

The Bat Hospital near Atherton has currently more than 500 bats in care, with volunteers working around the clock to look after them.

For more information, booking a guided tour, or donations:  http://www.tolgabathospital.org

Ex-tropical cyclone Owen just passed over our area, bringing wind and lots of rain. Interestingly, the Little Red Flying-foxes came in to feed very early (at 3pm) the day before yesterday, and not at all yesterday/last night. They may have known something…

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Atherton Tablelands, far north Queensland, Australia, mammals, tall eucalyptus forest, wildlife

Riflebirds and Tree-kangaroo

While I was watching the adult riflebird performing near the cabin, I spotted a Lumholtz’s Tree-kangaroo in the large wattle (Acacia melanoxylon) nearby.

Then it was the young male’s turn:

“Hey you, I am talking to you!”

Trying to get a better view from another angle:


We have seen tree-kangaroos  in that tree on several occasions. This male stayed in the tree all day, taking naps between short episodes of  feeding.

He tried several branches for a comfortable seat, but this one was has favourite:

Here you get a good view of his long claws and huge hind feet:

What a day! I didn’t know where to point my camera.

What’s next? Tree-roo joining riflebird on the dance pole?

Leave a comment

Filed under Atherton Tablelands, far north Queensland, Australia, Australian birds, birds, Lumholtz's Tree-kangaroo, tall eucalyptus forest, Tree-kangaroo, tropical rainforest, wildlife

New Tree-kangaroo Baby

Winter in Wondecla: reptiles and insects are making themselves scarce. Leaf-tailed Geckos are hiding in hollows,Gecko April2018

this Carpet Python is seeking out warm rocks.Python April2018

There are still a few stick-insects around, like this Maclaey’s Sceptre.Mackleay's Spectre April2018

Crested Shrike-tits are calling often, and are checking lose strips of bark for spiders and ants (as do  Victoria’s Riflebirds). Several smaller species of birds are also patrolling the tree trunks, not just the White-throated Tree-creepers, but Pied Monarch Flycatchers and even  Mountain Thornbills.

crested shrike-titApril2018

The platypus in our creek is active even in the middle of the day, sometimes travelling surprisingly nimbly and fast overland to avoid obstacles in the water.PlatypusApril2018

One of our Northern Brown Bandicoots, a nocturnal species, is often out and about in the afternoons.bandicootApril2018

The Rose Gums are still flowering, so there is a cacophony of Scaly-breasted and Rainbow Lorikeets in the canopy, especially in the mornings.

Creek Satinash (Syzygium smithii) are fruiting heavily, attracting flocks of Satin Bowerbirds and King Parrots,King Parrot in Lilly-pillyApril2018

which are being often scattered by a juvenile Collared Sparrowhawk, honing its hunting skills (still a lot of honing to do!)

Amongst the Sparrowhawk’s distinguishing features is the elongated middle toe (longer than in the similar Brown Goshawk).

Sparrowhawk juv April2018

A big surprise was this female Tree-kangaroo, who was spotted a few days ago by our guests near the cabin. What looked like a black foot was, on closer inspection, the head of a very small joey sticking out of the pouch!new tree-roo joey June2018(photo taken by Stacey Rod)

It looks like this might be a different female than the one we saw a couple of months ago with a large daughter by her side (see our March blog).

Another proud mum is this Red-legged Pademelon:pademelon April2018

Leave a comment

Filed under Atherton Tablelands, far north Queensland, Australia, Australian birds, insects and 'minibeasts', Lumholtz's Tree-kangaroo, mammals, reptiles, wildlife

Juvenile Cassowary visiting

Just before dark yesterday, we had an unexpected visitor: a juvenile cassowary emerged from the the forest,  near our veranda. It has probably walked along the creek in search of fallen fruits, mushrooms and, if it is lucky,  the occasional frog. cassowary March18.1

It is about 2/3 adult size, with clearly visible brown juvenile feathers on the thighs and tail, a bright blue neck and short, pink wattles, making it 1-2 years old.                                                                                                          cassowary March18.2

Wattles and casque still have a lot of growing to do.cassowary March18.3

It might be a young male, as the tail feathers seem longer than on a female.cassowary March18.22

The colouration along the neck is already quite vivid.cassowary March18.4

He was back this morning, pecking at some mushrooms, before wandering down to the creek and into the forest.

Leave a comment

Filed under Atherton Tablelands, far north Queensland, Australian birds, cassowary, tropical rainforest, wildlife

Regent Skippers

Regent Skippers (Euschemon rafflesia) are the largest of the Australian skippers, and beautifully coloured, especially our tropical subspecies E.rafflesia alba.                            The first butterflies appear in late September, and it seems they complete 3 generations before they make themselves scarce towards the end of March.RS2

RS on flowerThey are very unusual in having a feature, which normally is an important difference between butterflies and moths: males have a spine on the hindwing (a frenulum), which couples it with a loop under the forewing.

They are easy to observe, as they often settle on shrubs for a while. This one even sat on my hand for a while!RS on handThe food plant for their caterpillars (Wilkiea pubescens, a tall shrub) grows in abundance on our property. Wilkiea fruits are very popular with many birds, like Superb Fruit-doves, and we’ve even watched a tree-kangaroo eat mouthfuls of the unripe berries.RS on Wilkiea

RS1Sometimes they even come to lights at night:RS at nightThe female skippers lays a single, ribbed egg on the underside of a leaf.RS laying egg

RSeggThe emerging larva builds a shelter by cutting out part of a leaf and folding it back onto the upper surface. They emerge to feed at night.

skipper caterpillar

2 Comments

Filed under Atherton Tablelands, far north Queensland, Australia, butterflies and moths, tall eucalyptus forest, wildlife