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.

 

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.

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