Category Archives: wildlife

north queensland wildlife

Victoria’s Riflebirds

Victoria’s Riflebird (Ptiloris victoriae) is one of 3 species of birds of paradise (family Paradisaeidae) in Australia.

They are common in our part of the world, and relatively easy to observe on our property. They often investigate rough-barked tree trunks for insects and spiders, behaving like treecreepers. They also check out strips of hanging bark on Rose Gums.

The males use the tops of dead tree trunks, or sometimes horizontal branches,  to perform their courtship dances, mainly between July and December.

Knowing their preferences, we levelled the top of a splintered dead trunk near the cabin, and it worked much faster than anticipated! Within a couple of days,  a juvenile and an adult bird took turns on the new perch.

Looking impressive, but  not a patch on the adult version:

It takes 4-5 years until a young male develops  his velvety black adult plumage with iridescent metallic cap, throat and tail. Until then he looks very similar to the female birds.

Still wearing his immature outfit doesn’t stop him from displaying, though. It takes years of practice to get the moves right and entice a female!

The adult male watched for a while and then flew in to give a more refined performance. He  even dazzled the camera, which quickly lost its focus!

Well, the difficulty of focussing might  be related to the fact, that the riflebird’s black is the blackest black in nature. It absorbs 99.95% of light, so that even our eyes can’t focus on it properly. A possible reason for being so black might be that the contrast with his brightly coloured feathers makes those look even brighter, and, presumably, more attractive to the female. (You can read more on that topic in the June 2018  Australian Birdlife magazine).

 

These two males displayed without a female being present. Probably just showing off to each other!

 

 

 

 

 

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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

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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.

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

Tree-kangaroo mum and baby

The large Acacia tree between cabin and creek seems to be a favourite for our Lumholtz’s Tree-kangaroos. They were back in that tree 2 weeks ago, eating and resting for a few hours in the morning, before descending and seeking more shade for the hotter part of the day in a  smaller Symplocos tree nearby.tree-roos in distance

tree-roos suckling

They are difficult to photograph in bright sunshine (at least with my little compact camera), one can hardly see their eyes in their dark faces.tree-roos tail up

tree-roos close

They were very relaxed:tree-roos on branch

and more relaxed:tree-roos resting

You hope they don’t fall off their perch!

Here  are a couple of short videos:

 

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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

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

Superb Fruit-Doves

Every summer Superb Fruit-Doves  (Ptilinopus superbus) come here to take advantage of the fruiting trees, shrubs and vines in our forest. The first birds arrived in October, but their numbers greatly increased in January, and we can hear them calling all around us. They are particularly vocal for a few hours in the morning and again in the late afternoon. When they are breeding, they are sharing incubation duties, with the female sitting from about 5pm to 8am and the male sitting during the day.

Superb males are very colourful and easy to identify:Superb male Jan2018

The female is mainly green and white, with a purple cap:Superb female

It might seem difficult to image how such a colourful bird can hide from predators, but try to spot the male dove in this photo:hiding               He is in the centre, looking at me over his back.

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When the rain eased a little, he emerged to pick a few fruits:emerging

Other birds have discovered the abundance of fruit, too. Several species of Honeyeaters, Silvereyes and many Satin Bowerbirds are having a good feed. This young male bowerbird  is one of several visiting the Symplocos tree near our veranda many times a day.                                                Satin Bowerbird Jan2018

Another regular visitor is this male Olive-backed Oriole:Olive-backed Oriole

The last few days the doves have been quieter than usual, maybe because those two predators are hanging around more often.                                                                                        Grey Goshawk:Grey Goshawk Jan2018

Collared Sparrowhawk:Collared Sparrowhawk Feb2018

Superb Fruit-Doves are very nervous when building their nest, so we try not to disturb them and avoid going on regular walks in the forest during their main breeding period. Once they start incubating their single egg, they are quite approachable, but I would never go near a nest. I stumbled across this one while spotlighting 2 years ago, the nest was right next to our walking track on an old tree stump. After taking one photo from a distance,  I quickly left. You can see the chick’s back sticking out from underneath mum’s belly.            with chick Feb 2016

It takes only about a week from hatching to fledging (you don’t want to be a sitting duck for longer than necessary with those birds of prey around!), and several juvenile doves have joined the adults searching for food and exploring the forest.

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A juvenile male or female? We have to wait and see…

Today is a beautiful sunny day,  I couldn’t resist taking more footage:                                Two males were hanging out in the Symplocos for about 2 hours, picking a few fruits, then having a rest before eating a few more. Very relaxed, seems they’ve finished with brooding duties for this season.  They have pretty pants, too:sunny Superb

Their brilliant colours make them quite easy to see:two Superbs

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Jewel Beetle in Wondecla

On a sunny afternoon, this Jewel beetle (probably Temognatha variabilis, subfamily Buprestinae) scrambled along the middle of our driveway. Quite a big beauty!

big beauty

What I, at first sight, thought to be attempts to become airborne again (a laborious undertaking for such a big, heavy insect), turned out to be scraping movements it (she!) made with the end of the abdomen, presumably to lay  eggs.

She didn’t get anywhere on that hard surface, but didn’t appreciate a softer, sandy spot, to which I carried her, and buzzed off.

The next day, I watched a similar (the same?) beetle fly in tight spirals up around the trunk of a large tree, down again and then it disappeared straight into the opening of one of our possum nestboxes. Is she going to lay eggs in there?

 

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