Category Archives: Australia

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



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



From 2017, we shall have a new cabin near Atherton: “ATHERTON TABLELANDS BIRDWATCHER’S CABIN”.

The cabin has already been completed and has been approved by the local “building inspector” (a young female cassowary made an unexpected appearance):

building inspector

May in May2016 2

cabin bcard

It is situated on our 35 acres (14 hectares) of forest, close to Mount Hypipamee National Park (“The Crater”), bordering onto Herberton Range National Park (in the Wet tropics World Heritage area), 25 minutes south of Atherton.

Our property shares a 250m boundary with the national park, and is the perfect place to enjoy peace and tranquillity.

The 1000m elevation makes it cooler and less humid than Kuranda.

The vegetation consists of tall open forest (‘Wet Sclerophyll Forest’) with the dominant trees being 30-40m high Rose Gums (Eucalyptus grandis), Red Mahogany (E. resinifera) and Turpentine (Syncarpia glomulifera). The diverse understorey contains many rainforest species, which also grow along the creeks.

forest 4

The transition zone (ecotone) between rainforest and tall eucalyptus forest supports an equally rich fauna:

There are more possum and glider species here than anywhere else in the world (10 identified on our property, including the northern subspecies of the Yellow-bellied Glider(YBG)), Lumholtz’s Tree-kangaroos, a number of ground-dwelling marsupials and more than 10 species of frogs. Leaf-tailed Geckos, Water Dragons and Boyd’s Forest Dragons are numerous.

The Rose Gums readily form hollows (perfect homes for all those tree-dwellers), Red Mahoganies are the favourite food trees for the YBG, which make incisions into the bark with their teeth to then feed on the exuding sap –and they are often joined by Sugar Gliders and Feathertail Gliders.

The gullies and creeks are corridors for rainforest plants and animals.

forest 5-our creek

Birds of the rainforest, like Victoria’s Riflebird and Superb Fruit-doves, can be seen as well as those at home in the drier forests, like Crimson Rosellas, Crested Shrike-tits, lorikeets, many flycatchers and honeyeaters.

The cabin’s veranda, orientated towards our small creek, is an ideal spot for watching wildlife. You may even be so lucky as to see a tree-kangaroo!

cabin 6

Tree-roo in distance

A bird list of the about 100 species, which occur on our property, will be on the “birds and birding” page of our soon to be established website.


Leave a comment

Filed under Atherton Tablelands, far north Queensland, Australia, Australian birds, cassowary, tall eucalyptus forest, Tree-kangaroo, wildlife


Lumholtz’s Tree-kangaroos (Dendrolagus lumholtzi), one of the two Australian species (the other one, Bennett’s Tree-kangaroo, only occurs further north), are rare in the Kuranda area. Their stronghold are the Atherton Tablelands, and we are privileged to have them on our large forest property near Mount Hypipamee National Park, south of Atherton.
Lumholtz’s Tree-kangaroos, despite their size (like a small koala), are difficult to spot in the rainforest.

Tree-roo in distance

On our property, where the forest is more open, the resident male can sometimes be seen making his way along the creek -either on the ground or amongst the trees.

Tree-roo, climbing
Recently, we spotted him in a tree near our cabin while we were having lunch on the veranda.

Tree-roo, full view

Initially, when he noticed us, he was a bit nervous, as indicated by his tail-swishing, but he soon relaxed.



Tree-roo, close-up

After more than an hour he went on his way again.
Tree-kangaroos are not strictly nocturnal, they can often be observed during the day, too.


Leave a comment

Filed under Australia, Lumholtz's Tree-kangaroo, mammals, Tree-kangaroo, wildlife

Green Ringtail Possum keeping cool

We had some good rainfalls two weeks ago, but the recent cyclones didn’t affect us at all- we had sunny and very hot conditions again.

Sitting on our back veranda yesterday afternoon, I noticed a big lump high up in a tree, about 20 metres away. My binoculars revealed this Green Ringtail Possum (Pseudochirulus archeri):


Green Ringtail Possum

Green Ringtail Possum

Green Ringtail Possums spend the day curled up on a tree instead of in a tree-hollow, their greenish fur provides good camouflage.

This one was sitting on a very exposed branch, probably to catch the cooling breeze.

She repeatedly licked the bare underside of her tail and her hands/wrists, which might also help with cooling. It really was a very hot afternoon.


How do I know it was a female? For a brief period she turned and showed me her belly:


She has an admirable sense of balance: most of the time she only gripped her seat with the right foot, letting the left one dangle and using both hands to manipulate the tail.

I spent more than two hours watching this beautiful possum -it is so much easier from my deckchair during the day than trying to find and watch possums while spotlighting at night! She finally left when a thunderstorm approached.

Excuse the shaky last seconds, I was trying to get a photo before she disappeared.




Filed under Australia, tropical rainforest, wildlife

The (almost) invisible python

Loud scolding by several species of small birds late in the morning brought a 2 meter long Amethystine python (Morelia amethistina) to our attention.
It was making its way up along the frond of a large tree fern, and when it had reached the crown of the fern, it began to coil itself into ever tighter loops until it almost appeared to tie itself into knots! A short while later it had all but disappeared from sight.

amethyst python 1

( Can you see it? Just to the right of centre):

amethyst python 3_1

Soaking up the sunshine in its elevated position, it stayed there all day, but in the early evening started to travel down a fern frond, through a fig tree towards our bird feeder, which also attracts small native rainforest rodents during the night -the python probably detected their smell.

amethyst python 4.0_1

The following photo gives you an idea of the beautiful iridescent coloration of the Amethystine Python:

amethyst python 4_1

In this picture, you can see the heat-sensitive pits  along the lower lip, which is typical for pythons:

amethyst python 6

Yesterday  a rare visitor arrived: a juvenile Satin Bowerbird (Ptilinorhynchus violaceus). It spent all day opposite our front veranda, nibbling fruit. This is our first sighting of this species in Kuranda; Satin Bowerbirds usually occur above 600 meters in north Queensland.

Satin Bowerbird

The fruiting Pandanus  and palm trees, of which we have many, are attracting several Spotted Catbirds (Ailuroedus melanotis) and Victoria’s Riflebirds (Ptiloris victoriae). At present we can watch three brown (female or juvenile) and one adult black riflebird in our garden every day.

Victoria's Riflebird

A few weeks ago  the first of probably many (last year we had a flock of over 50) Chestnut-breasted Mannikins (Lonchura castaneothorax) arrived; they were joined yesterday by another pair with very demanding and vocal offspring in tow.

A rather enervating youngster, a juvenile Sulphur-crested Cockatoo (Cacatua galerita) is keeping its parents busy regurgitating food with a constant, demanding wail.

Sulphur-crested Cockatoo



Human activities and the survival of cassowaries are almost always mutually exclusive:

Unfortunately, last week the resident female was killed by a vehicle on Black Mountain Road . As Dad has not made an appearance over the last two weeks, our hope is  that he is currently sitting on her eggs, at least partly keeping her genes in the pool (they had been mating for the last few weeks). She had only replaced Dad’s partner of many years, “Missy”, last year, and was in the prime of her life. Missy is still in the area and will, hopefully, mate with Dad again.

“Wattle”, also known as “Harriet”, was easily recognized by her unusual wattles:



1 Comment

Filed under Australia, Australian birds, cassowary, tropical rainforest, wildlife

Pygmy- possums

We found our first Pygmy-possum while spotlighting last week. There are 5 species of those very small (about 10cm head-body length) possums in Australia. Here in the tropical rainforest of North Queensland we have the Long-tailed Pygmy-possum ( Cercartetus caudatus). They are quite common in their restricted habitat, but not often seen, due to their minute size and arboreal habits.
The superficially similar Tree Mouse (Pogonomys sp.), a rodent,  also lives here, but they are very flighty, when discovered, and we have not been able to get a good photo of one, yet.
This Pygmy-possum is probably a juvenile, there is only a hint of its dark eye-patches and it was about 7cm long from head to base of tail. When it saw us, it tried to hide by sticking its head into the fold of a Pandanus leaf, but  peered at us with its big eyes after a short while:

Pygmy-possum 2



Leave a comment

Filed under Australia, tropical rainforest, wildlife

Cassowary Surprise

After mating throughout June our male cassowary (“dad”) disappeared, presumably sitting on a new clutch of eggs, while the local female continued to visit our garden infrequently.

She was here a few days ago, and after eating some palm fruits and lilly-pillies, made a deep, booming call. Shortly after that, there were two adult cassowaries drinking from our pond – dad was back!

Apparently he had been off his nest for a few days, abandoning it – maybe driven away by the pigs, which have been around recently.

Something looked strange about the female, and then we realized she was a stranger! She is at least as tall as “Missy”, our resident female, but with a taller casque and dark blotches on her two red wattles, one of which has two tips.

She might be the one who had a fight with Missy near “Cassowary House” recently.

Presently we are seeing dad always in the company of the new female, while Missy has been busy chasing the 10-month-old juvenile, which is, surprisingly, still visiting the area.

There does not seem to be a lot of ripe fruit available in the forest at the moment, but cassowaries also eat fungi and animals like worms, grasshoppers, mice and lizards.

Hopefully, dad will be able to put on enough weight to sustain him through another period of brooding. Male cassowaries sit on eggs for about 2 months without feeding.

dad and new female:

dad and new female,August2013

new female:

new female,August 2013_1

new female,August2013

juvenile cassowary:

juvenile cassowary July 2013

The September issue of the “National Geographic” magazine has an article on our ‘Big Birds’, with more photos of  Dad, Missy, and last season’s chicks.


Leave a comment

Filed under Australia, Australian birds, cassowary, tropical rainforest, wildlife