Cicadas

Most cicada species spend many years living as nymphs in the soil, feeding on plant roots. Depending on the species, and probably external conditions, there are mass hatchings in some years, when thousands emerge from the ground and hatch into the relatively short-lived (days to weeks) adult stage.

Greengrocer hatching

This summer is  such a year, not just for the Red Roarers (Psaltoda aurora), but also the Northern Double Drummers (Thopha sessiliba). The Northern Green Grocers (Cyclochita virens) are quite abundant every year, but they only call for about 15 minutes at dusk.  All three species are 60-70mm long – quite large!

Red Roarer and Northern Greengrocer

Double Drummer

 

Red Roarer

You can tell the difference between males and females by the difference in size of their opercula, which cover their sound organs.

Red Roarer female and male

Males have a mainly hollow abdomen and large sound organs.

Cicada-killer Wasps obviously can tell the difference between males, which are full of air, and females which are full of eggs, as they always catch females to drag into their burrows as food for their offspring.

 

Cicada-killer-Wasp-with-Red-Roarer
Cicada-killer-Wasp-with-Red-Roarer

To give you an idea how noisy Red Roares can be (and they call all day!), listen to this, with the volume on maximum:

 

 

If you’d like to hear the songs of, for example, the Deafening Cherrynose, the Sprinkler Squeaker or the Jungle Grinder, go to Dr Lindsay Popple’s website:

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.