Tag Archives: Kuranda

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:

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):

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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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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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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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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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New Cassowary Chicks, December 2012

“Our” cassowary made an appearance, with his 3 two-month-old chicks, one week ago.
The chicks are inquisitive, yet still keep very close to dad.
They all look very healthy and well fed. Quite a few trees are fruiting; several species of figs and laurels, Black Palms (Normanbya normanbyi) and Kuranda Quandongs (Elaeocarpus bancroftii)- the latter two might still be a bit too  large for the chicks to swallow.
Unfortunately,”our” cassowary’s core territory , he had his nest there,  is under threat:
the 28 ha rainforest property between us and Kuranda National Park has been advertised for sale.
Without interest and support from governments we are trying to raise funds to purchase and conserve said property in perpetuity.cassowaries December 2012cassowaries December 2012.2cassowaries December 2012.3

new cassowary chicks

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