Spring is here

Tree-roo baby close-up

The Turpentine trees have begun to flower, attracting honeyeaters and lorikeets during the day and Little Red Flying Foxes at night. The smaller Symplocos trees are in full bloom and some of our large Rainforest Rock Orchids have just finished flowering.

Symplocos flowers

 

Rainforest Rock Orchid

Several small flocks of Scaly-breasted Lorikeets are coming down from the canopy for a drink at the bird baths and pond.

Scaly-breasted Lorikeet

 

Many Scarlet Honeyeaters are setting up territories and building nests.

Scarlet Honeyeater, female gathering nesting material

White-throated Treecreepers, Rainbow Lorikeets , Macleay’s Honeyeaters, Golden and Rufous Whistlers are among the many other species also breeding now. Spangled Drongos arrived yesterday. Sacred Kingfishers are calling often.

Sacred Kingfisher, fluffed up

Everyone is very busy and it is difficult to decide where to sit and watch all that activity. Well, I happened to pick a good spot: while others are working hard,

David Parer filming riflebirds
David Parer filming riflebirds at the cabin

I am sitting on our veranda to write this. A female Lumholtz’s Tree-kangaroo is sitting about 5 metres away from me in a small Acacia, resting and feeding occasionally.

Tree-roo female

When she eventually turns around, I can see the joey, too .

Tree-roo mum with baby in pouch

Tree-roo baby in pouch

Tree-roo baby close-up

 

It is still very small and I am looking forward to see it leave the pouch!

Dancing and Prancing – Riflebirds and Cassowaries

immature male Victoria's Riflebird displaying

The Victoria’s Riflebirds have been displaying all year round on a tree stump near the cabin and activity picked up in August. Now two immature males and an adult bird are jostling for pole position. The young males often also perform on other branches.

Recently, one female was observed with nesting material in her beak, another female is still watching the males.

immature male Victoria's Riflebird displaying

Meanwhile, the one year old cassowary, so abruptly abandoned by his father, when a large female turned up and convinced dad to mate with her 3 months ago, is visiting occasionally and can sometimes be seen honing his kicking skills. Like many young birds and mammals, play-fighting is an important part of growing up. Lacking siblings, “Chicko” has to make do with shrubs, logs and small trees. He doesn’t fall over as often anymore, but still has to work on his target practice!

Afterwards, he had a good rest:

For Love of Trees and Nature: Dendrophilia Nature Refuge

nature refuge

We are proud to announce that our property is now a Nature Refuge, the highest conservation status for private land in Queensland (comparable to National Parks).

Future owners (hopefully in the far distant future!) will be bound by this conservation agreement.between the QLD government and ourselves.

With increasing average and extreme temperatures, the Herberton Range is, together with the tops of Mt Bellenden Ker and Mt Bartle Frere, a most important refugium for many heat-sensitive species in the Wet Tropics (e.g. Lemuroid and Green Ringtail Possums, Golden Bowerbirds).

Professor Steve Williams of James Cook University has undertaken intensive studies over many years in that regard. You can listen to his talk on “Climate Change and Biodiversity of the Wet Tropics” by visiting the “Tree-kangaroo and Mammals Group” website:  https://www.tree-kangaroo.net/documents   or  youtube:

We harbour a faint hope that local councils will eventually awake to the fact that efforts like ours should be encouraged.

 

Cassowaries and Riflebirds

young Southern Cassowary, by Steve Bond

The cassowary mating season is in full swing and we can hear a lot of  booming in the forest. The large female, “Wattle” and her mate, “Goldfinger” have been seen together several times. Another 2 cassowaries have also turned up: “Dad” with one chick is visiting us almost daily, often they are enjoying this sunny spot between cabin and house:

Southern Cassowary male and chick, enjoying the winter sun

Dad is apprehensive in the presence of the female and takes off when she approaches. She doesn’t seem to be really aggressive towards him and is very nonchalant towards the chick. It could well be her own, as Dad and Wattle were together last June, when he came through with 2 chicks (who were about 3 months older than this year’s single survivor).

Yesterday, Dad tried another tactic to evade the female: he crouched down in the densest patch of shrubs, lying as low as possible. Of course, she knew he was there, especially with that chatty chick nearby, and slowly walked towards him. When she got within a few metres of his ‘hiding’place, he lost his nerve and ran.

“M”, the young male or female bird, has drawn the short straw, being chased vigorously by Wattle and very afraid of Dad. This beautiful image was taken by one of our guests, Steve Bond:

young Southern Cassowary, by Steve Bond
young Southern Cassowary, by Steve Bond

 

Our Victoria’s Riflebirds don’t seem to know that they are supposed to take a break from all that displaying business. The adult male and one immature male, who changed into adult plumage last summer, kept going throughout  the molting season and are displaying daily on the favourite post near the cabin whenever a female comes into view.

Here are a couple of Steve Bond’s images:

mature male Victoria's Riflebird, displaying, by Steve Bond

mature male Victoria's Riflebird, displaying, by Steve Bond

We haven’t noticed any offspring this year, so maybe the adverse conditions (a long, very dry 2018, with very little flowering/fruit-setting taking place) didn’t get the female riflebirds into mating and nesting mood.

 

Cassowary mating season 2019

cassowaries female & Mr March

For some time, a young, male cassowary (we call him “Mr March”, because he first visited us in March 2018) has been around several times a week. Judging by his droppings, he is finding rainforest fruits, as well as eating fungi and berries from several sclerophyll shrubs.

He is chasing the other young bird, who occasionally shows up (“Goldfinger”) away, whenever it came too close.

Following up on our last post about the difference of the two, here is another feature: you can see quite clearly.  “Goldfinger” has a ‘hairy’ fringe around its (we are not sure, yet, whether it is a male or female -*see postcript below) crest:

cassowaries Mr March & Goldfinger

Now the tables have turned: A large female made her appearance, and she always gives chase when she sees or hears ‘Mr March’. It is quite a funny sight, when a cassowary gallops down the track with wildly swinging bottom! But you do not want to get between the two running birds!

The female is easy to identify, as she has very distinctive wattles (so we named her “Wattle”) and also a tall casque with a ragged top:

cassowary female
cassowary female

cassowary female, portrait

Here is a comparison of “Mr March” and “Wattle”:

cassowaries female & Mr March

Despite her aggressive behaviour, the male keeps coming back, which makes us think it is the start of the mating season. In that case, the female’s aggression should slowly wane, and the male will become less frightened.

Below a sample of her booming, and you can see her whole body vibrating.  You can hear as much as feel the sound when you are close. It is like an elephant’s rumble! Cassowaries call at the lowest frequenzy of any bird, as low as 24-30 Herz (infrasound). This booming call carries a long distance – perfect for communication in dense rainforest.

The casque on the head, which is spongy inside, might function as an amplifier as well as a receiver of the bird’s infrasound vocalisations. Latest research by scientists from La Trobe University suggests that it s main function is thermoregulation.

Postscript:

Today, June 1st, we watched ‘Wattle’ and ‘Goldfinger’ mating. She sat down next to a Rose Gum, and he shuffled up from behind. It was a quick affair (‘Dad’ and ‘Missy’ in Kuranda always took their time!). Goldfinger definitely is a male!                                                                                                                                                                                               Maybe ‘Mr March’ is a “Miss March’! Time will tell.