Seasonal Newsletter February 2005
Alan's Wildlife Tours
What has happened to the wet season. This report should be full of stories
of torrential downpours and the like but the few tourists who have been
visiting enjoyed great sunny weather, warm days and cool nights.
On Friday, 11/02/05, my guests and I witnessed a behaviour I have not seen
before. Two male Green Ringtails, Pseudocheirus archeri, were chasing each
other around the trees in the western part of Yungaburra State Forest. They
would bump into each other, grapple briefly and then take off again.
Sometimes one leading and sometimes the other. For those of you who know
Stewart, he was one of them. All this happened silently. So far this is
normal behaviour for Greens when there is a female in oestrus around. At
other times they are the most slothful of possums.
Then came the behaviour which was new to me. One animal was hanging by both
hind feet from a small branch, the other hung from one foot and took hold of
the first one's hind knee. The were front to front, with their backs arched
away from each other and slapping with their forepaws. I think one glancing
blow to the head was struck but mostly they missed and occasionally hits the
other's leg or foot. This lasted about five seconds before the chase
resumed. After about 20 seconds they repeated the behaviour but our view was
largely blocked. They next time they hung by their tails and actually seemed
to grapple with all eight limbs but again we did not have a clear view. Soon
we had a perfect view. The leading individual initiated the hanging after it
turned to face its pursuer. They struck at each other and the leading animal
dropped from the branch. The two males where hanging from the vine with the
tails 8-10 cm apart. Each had the other's left hind leg held in their right.
(So much for them being left footed!) Again the backs were arched away from
each other and they slapped without seeming to get a blow home. This lasted
about four seconds. The first possum to hang was the first to come upright ,
became the pursuer for about two metres and then turned and fled with the
other hot on its heels. The whole of what I have reported above lasted less
than three minutes. However we had heard them crashing around for at least
two minutes before we found them and for about 30 seconds after we lost
sight of them.
The presence of a Calamus tangle and guests who had not yet seen a
tree-kangaroo discouraged me from ascertaining that there was indeed a
female in the vicinity.
Talking of tree-roos, Dorothy is back! She had not been seen since September
with her young at heel. It seems that she has a small pouch young. No sign
of a young at heel which could mean that she has raised neither of her first
two offspring to independence. Of course after all that time I am not 100%
that it is Dorothy but it is in her territory, looks like her and was
prepared to move around in the open and eat while we had the spotlight on
her from twenty metres away. Not the behaviour of an animal you are
spotlighting for the first time! Jill has taken to using that part of her
range which was occupied by her male offspring, Jack. John, her current at
heel young is growing well. He is still pale for males of this population so
the black paws and tail make quite a contrast. They have both been seen
feeding on the exotic Turbina vines. Unfortunately the vine thickets
sometimes make it difficult to get clear views.
Sightings of Platypus are regular in the village and always excite people
seeing them for the first time. The Agile Wallabies come out to graze along
the Petersen Creek walk in the early morning and late evening.
There have been a few sightings of waders on the Tablelands, including
Little Curlew at Kaban and near the Curtain Figtree. However with most of
the waters slowly rising there is a lack of muddy foreshore. On the Cairns
Esplanade some of the waders are moulting into their northern summer
plumage. This is well advanced in Black-tailed Godwits, Great Knot and
Golden Plovers..Although only a few of the Great Knot have the red on their
wings, all that I saw were darkly spotted on breast and flank A few of the
Lesser Sand-Plovers have red breast bands while the Curlew Sandpipers are
just starting to show red through on the breast. In March they will be at
their most beautiful as the red forms a filigree lace bib. Later it will
become a solid block of colour. I could not find any of the Broad-billed
Sandpipers on my excursions to the Esplanade but that does not mean they are
not around. Large numbers of Little Terns have replaced The Bull-billed
Terns for the moment.
Varied Honeyeaters were feeding nestlings in trees of the Esplanade in mid
February. This probably represents a second brood. Scruffy looking young
Helmeted Friar-birds making a poor imitation of the adult call have misled
some into believing they have found Silver-crowned. Metallic Starlings are
still nesting in the large Kauri tree opposite the entrance to Lake Barrine.
Young birds will join in nest building soon after they fledge but I do not
think they breed at this stage. Under the colonies one can pick up all kinds
of small seeds and numerous bird lice.
Blue-faced Parrot-Finches have been seen along the escarpment country to the
east of here. At this time of year they are to be found feeding on grass
seeds at the edge of the rainforest and in gaps. They like to have trees and
bushes nearby in which to escape.
The Tooth-billed Bowerbirds have been calling as we approach the end of the
month. This is most unusual as they stopped calling at their stages about a
month ago and normally remain silent during the rest of the year. All the
birds I have found were high in the trees with no sign of a stage. The usual
ploy of the males of this species is to make a stage of upturned leaves on
the forest floor. First he will clear an area between one and two square
metres of all the fallen leaves. Fresh leaves are picked with a white or
grey bloom on the underside and placed there, upside down to make his stage.
He then sits above the stage and calls. He is a great mimic. If he is lucky
enough to attract a female he plays coy, hiding behind a sapling and then
jumping out like a begging youngster. The female does all the nest building
and raising of the chicks.
Dollarbirds have still been seen this month but it wont be long before they
head north after breeding here. I think that the Channel-billed Cuckoos and
adult Koels have flown off already. A few young Koels are still around and I
have seen three Oriental Cuckoos in the last week.
While visiting a garden which I planted about twenty years ago I was able to
point out a cluster of Cairns Hamadryad butterflies, Tellervo zoilus. What I
did not realise at the time is that this was a lek. Males of this 4.5 cm
black and white butterfly gather to show off to potential mates. Lava of
this species feed on Parsonsia vines and it is assumed that they hold the
toxins from the vine in fat cells through to the adult stage. This may
provide some measure of protection from predation for themselves and other
small black and whites like the Common Plane. It has been a good year for
Helena Browns but I have only seen one female Danaid Eggfly. Last year they
On a drainage impeded slope of Hallorans Hill I saw some insects with
apparently two pairs of wings and two filaments from the abdomen. They had
black bodies, transparent wings and hovered like Mayflies. I do not know
what they were and was hard pressed to capture one in a way that would not
We have had a number of beautiful lacewings flying of late. Some have
diaphanous wings without any pattern while others are most delicately
coloured and patterned. Such beautiful little predators.
In the rainforest there are many ripe fruits dropping at this time of year.
While some are edible it is best not to try them as many are very nasty.
Acid Drop fruit are sweet and acidic little chains of orange nodules, five
centimetres long. The purple fruit of White Beech make a vivid splash on the
forest floor. River Cherry fruit can be anything from crimson through pink
to white but most are red. A rather drab fruiting body is of special
interest. Bowenia sectabilis is a cycad. The cones of female plants start to
emerge above the leaf litter in January and by the end of March will be
splitting to reveal two seeds per scale. Imagine a grey-green pine cone the
size and shape of a large man's fist and you will be close to the mark. The
male cones were evident in November. While some cycads are wind pollinated
it is little heat seeking beetles which visit the male and female plants of
Bowenia, spreading the pollen in the process. Butchers used to used the
toxic green fronds to decorate their displays. The dark glossy green fronds
of the "everlasting fern" would contrast with the colour of the meat, making
it appear more fresh. It is only toxic if eaten.
The Bumpy Satinash, Syzygium cormiflorum, which flowers from bumps on its
trunk is now in bud. The first flowers should be open in early April. These
flowers are visited by many animals but of great interest is the Long-tailed
Pygmy-Possum. In flower are Silver Quandong, Candle Nut and Ivory Curl
Flower. The small growing, small fruited form of the latter which is
favoured as a street tree comes from the rainforests near Yungaburra.
Alan's Wildlife Tours
2 Mather Road
Phone (07) 4095 3784
Int + 61 7 4095 3784
On the beautiful Atherton Tablelands
145* 33' 25"E 17* 16' 40"S
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