Category Archives: tropical rainforest

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.

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

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

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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.

 

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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

 

CASSOWARY UPDATE:

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:

Wattle

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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

Pygmy-possum

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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.

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