Seasonal Newsletter

To: "Alan Gillanders" <>
Subject: Seasonal Newsletter
From: "Alan Gillanders" <>
Date: Sat, 26 Feb 2005 17:39:21 +1000
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 

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 were numerous.

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 kill it.

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 

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 Gillanders

Alan's Wildlife Tours
2 Mather Road
Yungaburra 4884
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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