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.

IMG_8486.2

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

IMG_8507.2

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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Frogs and Snakes

Frogs turn up in unusual places:

This is a female Stony-creek Frog (Litoria jungguy):

IMG_7400

 

This  Common Green Tree-frog (Litoria caerulea) spent  the long dry spell in the overflow of an outdoor basin, quite safe from a butcherbird’s beak or a snake’s gaping jaws.

frog in  a hole

Another frog often hopped  back to its hiding place underneath our veranda roof via the birdbath on the veranda railing, leaving behind tell-tales signs :

frog splash

 

After the first substantial showers, our pond hosted several frog orgies. This pair of Barred Frogs (Mixophyes coggeri) was still active after sunrise. The female was keen to get rid of the male, telling him with several deep, short grunts to release his grip on her . This is the only occasion when one hears female frogs calling.

Barred Frogs Feb2015_1

She was probably keen to seek shelter for the day, and rightly so: this large Keelback entered the pond just moments later. When I saw it emerge from the water and disappear into the forest, it did not sport a big bulging belly!

The Keelback (Tropidonophis mairii) is the only Australian snake which can eat the toxic cane toads without ill effect. Its ancestry lies in Asia, where snakes had a long time to adapt to poisonous toads.

Keelback Snake 2015_1

Named for its strongly keeled scales, which give it a “rough”-looking skin, it is easy to identify. The only other snake, which looks similar is the highly venomous Rough-scaled snake (Tropidechis carinatus), which fortunately lives at higher altitudes in North Queensland, and not around Kuranda. You can tell them apart by having a close look at the scales between their eyes and nostrils (preferably by taking a photo and zooming in, rather than approaching the snake too closely!).

Most colubrid snakes, like the Keelback, have a loreal scale between eye and nostril,

Keelback 2015_1

 

whereas in venomous elapid snakes (to which Death Adders, Taipans and Brown Snakes belong), the scale containing the nostril touches the scale which is near the eye:

Rough-scaled Snake2015_1

 

 

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Wet Season February 2015

With the recent advent of rain we have seen an abundance of insects (many stick insects !).

As big as my hand, this Hawk Moth (Coequosa australasiae), came to our light-sheet on a very rainy evening:

Hawk moth

 

Another visitor was this Stag Beetle:

Mueller's Stag Beetle2015

Spotlighting in our rainforest, we came across a pair of sleeping dragonflies:

Sleeping Dragonflies

 

and a group of sleeping male native bees (Mellitidia tomentifera):

sleeping bees_1

This Blue-backed Bee is one of many, collecting pollen in our garden:

Blue-backed Bee,Feb2015_1

 

If you are interested in native bees, you’ll find many photos and descriptions under the native bee project at http://www.bowerbird.org.

Another interesting insect is the Stalk-eyed Fly: The males have their eyes arranged like hammerhead sharks:

stalk-eyed flies

A piece of banana served as battleground:

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News and not- so- good news from the Kuranda rainforest

The one remaining cassowary chick ( see last blog), was not seen again from mid-November 2014. The female (“Missy”) initiated mating  almost immediately. Male and female cassowaries visited us jointly a few times in December, January and early February. There were fewer, compared to previous years, visits by the male. We do not know whether he is sitting on eggs, visiting us in his spare time (this would be unusual), or taking a sabbatical.

By early January most of the daily-visiting Chestnut breasted Mannikins (Lonchura castaneothorax) had left. For many species this is the breeding season. In the case of birds it means they are more vocal/territorial.  This helped in observing Yellow-breasted Boatbills (Machaerirhynchus flaviventer) on our property, they have a distinctive call.

Pacific Bazas (Aviceda subcristata), too, have a very characteristic call, and they have been very noisy around our place recently, flying through or just above the canopy and snatching katydids and other juicy insects from the foliage, which they then ate leisurely.

Pacific Baza Feb2015_1
Again the Sunbirds (Nectarinia jugularis) had a very hard time producing offspring: the Butcherbirds (Craticus quoyi) destroyed two nests with eggs, which were not consumed. Anecdotal evidence around our house: fewer than one in four attempts to raise chicks has been successful .

The Spectacled Monarch flycatcher (Monarcha trivirgatus) have more success,  although their nest sites appear to be quite exposed to aerial predators. All the nests, which we have found so far, were neat cups,  located in the fork of a small tree, just 2-3m off the ground.

This one is not quite finished, yet:

Spectacled Monarch flycatcher

Until early February North Queensland, including the rainforest areas, was in drought and considerably too hot. Flora and fauna showed signs of heatstress. This pair of Victoria’s Riflebirds (Ptilotis victoriae), was hanging out in a shady spot for almost half an hour – giving me plenty of time to fetch my camera.

Victoria's Riflebird pair

A Red-leafed Fig (Ficus congesta), which we planted near the cabin a few years ago, is fruiting several times a year, and not only attracts Double-eyed Fig Parrots (Cyclopsitta diophthalma) . We also observed two Blossom Bats (Syconycteris australis) and one Tube-nosed Bat (Nyctimene robinsoni)  feasting on figs in December.

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