Cassowaries mating, July 2016

Today Dad spent half an hour feeding, preening and relaxing in our garden.

When he started to make himself really tall and strutted towards the cabin, I knew that Socks, his new mate for the last three weeks, must be within sight.

As you can see, he is not afraid of her anymore! Indeed, the first of their matings happened the day after I wrote the last blog.

She sat on the ground afterwards for a while, looking slightly dishevelled:

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This close-up (doesn’t she have great “eye-brows”!), shows what looks like a new tip of her beak:

sock's beak_1

From a greater distance (she’s on the left), her beak looks perfectly normal:

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ANOTHER BIRDWATCHERS’ CABIN!

 

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.

 

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Cassowary Relationships

Recently a new female cassowary moved in, and she seems to have filled the vacancy left by “Missy”.

Socks May2016

Her wattles have a distinctive shape, and we decided to call her “Socks”.

Socks
She still has a few brown tail feathers, but is already bigger than the resident male, “Dad”. Our guess is, that she is about 3-4 years old, and this might well be her first mating season.
He is definitely interested in her: initially, he frequently made soft contact calls (similar to a chimpanzee’s or gorilla’s grunting), while standing several meters away from her. She pretended not to be interested, having her back turned to him. As soon as she started to slowly approach him, he got scared and took off like a chased Brush Turkey, protesting loudly.

You can identify the male by his longer tail feathers. ‘Dad’s’ casque tilts to the right, whereas ‘Sock’s’ is straight and unblemished. You can also make out a dash of brown on her backside.

In this short movie, the female is strutting towards the male, who can be seen in the background:

(Unfortunately, my camera does not pick up his vocalizations well,the frequency is very low, just audible to humans.)

Nevertheless, he can’t stay away from her, and the whole scenario kept happening again and again. For a while, you had to be careful in the garden, as Dad might come crashing through the forest or across the lawn at high speed!
Now, after several weeks of travelling together (but at a safe distance from each other), she readily follows him, but he still gets spooked when she gets too close.

Here, she is feeding, and Dad is making his way past her , before they walk away together:


Probably hormone levels have to rise for mating behaviour to start.
Hopefully, we’ll have a new generation of cassowaries visiting later in the year!

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Tree-kangaroos

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.

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Sulphur-crested Cockatoos attacking Lace Monitor

This morning, while watching Musky Rat-Kangaroos in our garden, we heard Sulphur-crested Cockatoos (Cacatua galerita) screeching quite differently from their normal calls.

Musky Rat-Kangaroo

We discovered a group of 5 birds in the large Kuranda Quandong tree behind our house, harassing a Lace Monitor (Varanus varius), who had been minding her/his business, only trying to warm up in the early morning sun.

Cockatoo and Goanna

The cockatoos were quite brazen, getting very close to the lizard, even pulling on its tail, which the poor lizard then curled up in front of it.

Goanna

The cockatoos started snipping off twigs and branches close by, fortunately the goanna was sitting on a very sturdy branch. It didn’t show any aggression towards the annoying cockatoos, unless it was provoked. The reaction then was an inflated throat and a gaping mouth.

After about half an hour, the cockatoos flew away, and the lizard could finally relax.

Goanna at peace

As you can see, the tail with its long, narrow tip is unscathed, but you often see lizards with the tip missing. Brush turkeys also relentlessly attack them when they are on the ground, often biting into their tails. They have reason to scare off the lizards: goannas often raid nests and the Brush turkeys’ breeding mounds.

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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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