Geckos and other Lizards, October 2012

Grey Goshawk

Digging a trench through the rainforest has its rewards: A northern leaf-tailed gecko (Saltuarius cornutus) fell out of the canopy close by, hotly pursued by a spotted catbird. The catbird was quite persistent in its effort to get to its prey, and human intervention was not what it had expected.

We wouldn’t have thought a catbird might be preying upon a gecko almost its own size.

This gecko’s tail is not the original one (it is smoother, not as spiky) : they can regrow a new tail after injury or deliberate discarding ( in order to distract a predator, while making a get-away – the discarded tail even wriggles around for a while).

Now that it is getting warmer, reptiles are more active. Our resident spotted tree monitor (Varanus scalaris) is clambering up and down its favourite post on the cabin every day, and we are encountering more snakes.

A female water dragon (Physignathus lesueurii) was observed laying eggs in a small sandy hill very close to a creek and  only about 1 metre above the waterline. The last 2 years we watched a water dragon digging her nest about 20 metres from the creek, and several metres higher. Could this mean that there won’t be any flooding rains in the foreseeable future? The eggs  take about 2 months to develop.

Finches and Termites, October 2012

Grey Shrike-thrush

After 12 weeks of mostly dry weather we finally had some welcome rain last night and today (25mm), which led to an interesting observation:

Red-browed finches (Neochmia  temporalis)  and chestnut-breasted mannikins (Lonchura castaneothorax) were hopping around in our driveway, picking up termite alates (winged termites), which had just swarmed from their mound, and even catching them in mid-air.

It was surprising to see such typical seed-eaters gorging themselves on insects – and performing some very acrobatic manoeuvres.

Maybe the female finches are stocking up on protein for the production of eggs.

We normally do not have finches on our rainforest property- the grassy areas are rather small. A few pairs of red-browed finches usually arrive in November to build nests, mainly in the palm trees, but then leave at the end of the wet season.

This year, two pairs decided to stay (possibly because we left a few patches of lawn to go to seed), and we put out some bird seed for them. This must have stopped a small flock of chestnut-breasted mannikins in their tracks (we never had them here before) – and they told their friends! We now have a flock of over 100 (they are really difficult to count, being very flighty).

red-browed (firetail) finch

one chestnut-breasted mannikin

many chestnut-breasted mannikins

CASSOWARY UPDATE

We are eagerly awaiting dad’s return after he disappeared  more than 2 months ago.

He never brooded the clutch of 8 eggs he had in early July and abandoned that nest.

Hopefully, the female produced another batch for him.

She is still visiting every 5 to 15 days, looking a bit worse for wear, having lost the rich gloss of her plumage and rather threadbare thighs ( the male scratches her thighs with his claws, when she is sitting down, and he tries to get into mating position). So, presumably, she has been mating with another male.