23 January, 2009

Laughing Gull

It is no laughing matter flying from North America but when you have to do it under your own steam it must be rather tiring. This first winter Laughing Gull is spending the northern winter at the north Cairns holiday spot of Palm Cove. The photographs were taken by Jun Matsui.

10 January, 2009

Weekend Wildlife

Being modern spiders, jumping spiders have only three pairs of eyes. Four eyes look forwards and the other two cover the sides and back. Most are small and beyond the capabilities of me and my camera. This one had a total length of about 2cm. Note that the fangs can work in opposition from each side in contrast to the older, eight eyed spiders which need to rear up on their legs to strike downwards with their fangs together. This is because the 'big hairy' spiders have backward facing fangs.
On wet windy nights these huge Spiny Katydids, Phricta spinosa, come to the forest understorey to avoid the vagaries of the weather. Females also come to the forest floor to lay their eggs. Nymphs are much more commonly seen than the adults. This animal was over ten centimetres long. The red and black of the inner thighs is diagnostic.
I would have driven past this Frilled-neck Lizard, Chlamydosaurus kingii, if it had not been for a sharp-eyed passenger. These wonderful dragons hunt invertebrates and take the occasional lizard.

Their threat display is wonderful to see. They erect their frill, hiss and will even jump towards the threat before turning tail, running on their back legs to the nearest tree and climbing it on the side opposite the observer.
Unlike snakes, they lose their skin in a rather patchy manner.
Just down the road from the Frill-neck were these Eastern Greys and two Agile Wallabies. Before they raised their heads to look at us they were well camouflaged in the termite mounds.

Size differences between the sexes is common in macropods, kangaroos. It reaches its maximum in the Antilopine Wallaroo and minimum in the tree-kangaroos and rock wallabies.
I have mentioned the short faces of tree kangaroos before but did you know that in most macropods the molars erupt in series, migrate to the front and fall out. A young kangaroo might have only its two first in position and use behind the premolar. An older animal may have numbers 1 to 3 in use with number 1 where the premolar was and an old animal only molars 3 and 4 in use. The Nabarlek, a small rock wallaby, has molar teeth erupting and moving forward throughout its life.
This serial use of molars is shared with elephants and allows much more grinding area to be used during the animal's life than could be accommodated in the jaw at one time.

06 January, 2009

Early Wet Season Activity

On the morning of January 4th before the start of the cricket I visited the Curtain Figtree to see what the rainforest pigeons were up to. Wompoos and Rose-crowned Fruit-Doves had shown signs of nest building and there were fruit around to attract them to feed. All the local species of rainforest pigeon and monarchs were seen or heard with the exception of one of each group.

I met a lovely young family from Townsville and their three kids were having great fun trying to figure out where the sounds were coming from and what the noises were. After being shown a few pictures the kids were great at finding the birds and animals. This Wompoo was doing a fast head nodding display with its partner until a third party interrupted and a fight ensued. Wompoo Pigeons are large fruit eating birds of the rainforests of eastern Australia. The smaller fruit-doves were present but not providing photo opportunities.
Whipbirds are normally secretive skulkers of the rainforest floor but this male was spending most of his time in the bushes above eye level. When Whipbirds duet the female usually makes the introduction, he emits the loudest noise and she has the last word. I have never heard of such behaviour in another species!!!

Which raises that great philosophical question: If a man is alone in the forest, without his wife to hear, and he makes a statement; is he still wrong?
Boyd's Forest Dragons are medium to large rainforest predators. They sit on trees and other vantage points from which they observe for the movements of prey which is largely taken on the ground.
Lots of plants are in flower or fruit at the moment and the Atherton Suaropus, Sauropus macranthus, is doing both. This little bush of the understorey is a rare and threatened plant of the Atherton Tablelands.
Calamus, or Wait-a-whiles are climbing palms which uses hooks to get to the light without making their own trunk. The flowers are tiny and the small fruit are sweet but covered in a flaky skin. The plants are also known a lawyer vines but as it is the new year I'll be nice.
Boat-fruit, Neisosperma poweri, usually come in pairs but there are a few triplets around this year. The milky sap of this plant is a cautioning feature. The fruit are poisonous though eaten by Musky Rat-Kangaroos and Giant White-tailed Rats. The seeds are covered with an endocarp with branching ribs reminiscent of some palms.
This Caper vine, I think it might be C ornans, flowers at night only, is highly fragrant and produces a large globular fruit.
After leaving the forest I walked along the creek on my way home. Here I saw the tiny Silver Wisp and a Brown Ringlet enjoying the sunshine. i am starting to get my head around some of the local Dragonflies and Damselflies so that might be my next blog.
Silver Wisp
Brown Ringlet enjoying a bit of dull sunlight after a wet night.