Saturday, December 27, 2008

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Mangoes for Christmas and Daintree Video

The first mangoes are ripening just in time for Christmas! I'm just about to cut these up for Christmas morning's breakfast fruit platters for our guests (the date here is now the 24th December - Aussie-time!). We have "full house" with lovely folk from Minnesota and others arriving this afternoon are from Canada. I don't think anyone is missing their weather at home! Ali and Zack have just left for a leisurely drive and walk through the rainforest with probably a dip in a fresh-water swimming-hole to cool off on this hot day.

If you're interested in a little local scenery I have just embedded a video "The Magnificent Daintree" into the sidebar to the right. This was professionally created by David Vivian of DVDesign for the Daintree Village Tourism Association - of which I am Secretary - and we think David's done a pretty good job (nice background music too!). It mainly covers our beautiful and, as you can see, very diverse region between the Daintree River in the north and the Mossman River to the south. (Tourism Daintree Coast which covers the region north from the Daintree River to Cape Tribulation like it so much they are going to produce one themselves too - well they do say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery!)

Peter and I would like to wish everyone a very happy festive season!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Tropical Weather

It's such a beautiful day today and we know that many of our blog visitors live in the northern hemisphere so it's hard not to gloat a little bit!

We see on TV that many of you are suffering arctic conditions and, having been born and lived in the UK - many years ago! - I can very well sympathise. So I thought you might enjoy a little view of sunshine and I took the top photo a few minutes ago just outside our front door. The other was taken a while ago from our kitchen.

It is now very hot and humid with a few afternoon storms which so far have mostly just circled us. The nights are also hot with temps in the mid-20's celcius and getting up to the mid to high 30's during the day. But our bedroom, office and all the guest bungalows are air-conditioned and also have ceiling-fans so everyone's very comfortable - in fact many of our recent (and current) guests have been from the US, UK and Europe and all very happy to escape their winter weather!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Happy ending!

Well, I did say earlier that I was hoping to get a better close-up photo of one of our many Buff-breasted Paradise Kingfishers but I wasn't anticipating getting quite this close! A few minutes ago Peter and I were having coffee here in the office when suddenly there was a thump on the window and there was this very stunned little Kingfisher flopped on the verandah - happily it was only a couple of minutes before it recovered and flew off.

There are now four nesting pairs that we know of on our 30-acre property and there are probably more - much of the land is rainforested so the nesting mounds and birds are not all easy to spot.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Marmalade!

The first Lemonade Fruits of the season are starting to ripen and I've just made the first of many batches of marmalade which should see us through for the next year.

This delicious semi-sweet citrus is a cross between a Myer and a true lemon and is good to eat by itself and also makes a lovely marmalade from a simple recipe of fruit, sugar and water. A small pot goes onto every breakfast-tray and most of our guests seem to enjoy it - as we do too!

We only have one tree and so far every year it's been loaded with fruit, which are green and grow to about the size of a tennis-ball and eventually turn to a greeny-yellow colour, and are edibly sweet from early maturity.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Bandicoots

We're forever finding small deep holes in the ground and these are made by Bandicoots as they dig for insects and foodstuffs.

They are nocturnal creatures and every evening we have quite a few of them scurrying around the gardens.

The top photo is a Long Nosed Bandicoot which is tucking into a piece of bread just outside our kitchen-door.


Underneath is a Northern Brown Bandicoot which is a bit larger - about the size of a large rabbit - with a shorter nose and is generally more common than the Long-Nosed.

An interesting fact is that these marsupials have rear-facing pouches so that the pouches don't get filled with soil while they are digging!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Brahminy Kite

Rather a fuzzy photo of a Brahminy Kite (haliastur indus) in a tree on the far side of our rapidly-evaporating wetlands-dam. These are medium-sized birds of prey and are common throughout India, Asia and northern Australia and we often see them gliding effortlessly overhead.

It is very hot and humid now with an occasional afternoon storm to cools things down but, thankfully for us, nothing like the storms that other parts of Australia have been suffering. Our weather pattern is very typical for this time of year as we approach the beginning of our wettest time of year which is usually February and March.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Giant Grasshopper

Walking through the shed a few minutes ago I spotted this huge grasshopper on one of the chairs. I wasn't sure what species it was so, having 'Googled', I've discovered it is a Giant, or Hedge Grasshopper (valanga irregularis) which is the largest in Australia. I believe it's a female and she kindly allowed me to measure her against a ruler - 3.5 inches or about 80 mm from nose to tail.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Guest's photos - Great-billed Heron

We were delighted this morning to receive some beautiful photos from Sebastian Heldt, a guest from Germany who stayed with us last year. I will add some of them to our website (www.daintreevalleyhaven.com.au) soon, when I do our next update.

Meantime I'm adding his Great-billed Heron to the blog, with Sebastian's description below. The photo was taken while he was on a wildlife-watching cruise on the nearby Daintree River. The bird is indeed quite rare but is spotted fairly frequently here - and is one of the"'must-see's" for visiting birders.

One guest on the boat spotted this Great-billed Heron (Ardea sumatrana) walking slowly out of cover on the sandbank for a few moments before returning behind dense vegetation. Our guide told us that this was a rare scene and we could be happy to have seen this elusive bird. At the first I didn´t pay much attention to this picture because it is a little blurred. But after researching a little about this species I see it with other eyes because it shows the birds environment and its elusive way of life. According to the "Handbook of the birds of the world" this bird is widespread but nowhere common and is classified as "near threatened" and poorly known.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Fig-Parrots and Kingfishers

We thought we were hearing things but the Double-eyed Fig-Parrot's nest (see earlier posts) is definitely in use again! Here is the female sitting inside the nest and the male is once again busily feeding her.

According to a local birding expert it's not unusual for them to nest twice in a season, using the same nest.

-----
We now have at least two pairs of Buff-breasted Paradise Kingfishers on the property. We often see a flash of blue with the very distinctive white tail but I haven't so far been able to take a sitting shot.

So far we have only found this nest which was also used last year. The birds apparently have a good relationship with the termites and will only return to a termite mound which shows signs of occupation. When the birds leave the ants rebuild over the nesting hole and in fact you can just see that this brand new hole has been created in the 'repaired' part of the mound, which is about 18 in high.

The birds only returned last week and the hole appeared two days ago so they aren't wasting much time!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

The Kingfishers are back!

This year's unusual weather pattern has meant that some species of migratory birds are returning later than normal. A few days ago it started to feel more like the onset of our summer with warmer moist northerly winds replacing the cooler drier south-easterlies and with the northerlies have come birds which have spent the winter months in Asia.

We heard the first Buff-breasted Paradise Kingfisher two days ago and yesterday spotted one in a tree just outside the window - we are really delighted as we have guests arriving tomorrow whose main reason for staying here is to see THE Kingfisher! Last year we had about half a dozen nesting pairs and we believe they often return to their old nests - they excavate holes in termite-mounds.

I will try to get a better photo but in the meantime this is a distance-shot I took last year - actually in almost the same spot as the bird we saw yesterday. Perhaps it's the same bird - or maybe one of last year's offspring!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Daintree Valley Haven - a short video

video
Daintree Valley Haven
(website link)

Torch Ginger

We've been very busy over the past week so the Blog has had to take a back seat. Now we have a quiet couple of days before our next guests arrive over the weekend so we have time to catch up in the gardens. Lots of beautiful Torch Gingers (Etlingera elatior) are out now - this one, as big as your hand, is one of many near one of the guest bungalows.

We are really hoping that the magnificent Buff-Breasted Paradise Kingfishers will return any day - they migrate to Asia over our winter and normally come back in October but with the strange weather patterns this year we have yet to see or hear any - and guests are coming next Sunday especially expecting to see them!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A slightly-dazed Little Shrike-Thrush!


A light 'thump' against the office window and there was this Little Shrike-Thrush sitting on the verandah. It's not unusual for a bird to fly into the reflection on one of the windows ... which leads to the occasional amazing 'up close' photo opportunity! Fortunately most of them do survive and happily this little bird sat recovering for about 20 minutes before flying off.

www.daintreevalleyhaven.com.au

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Fig Parrot and Star Apples

video
I'm not sure if this is 'our' baby Double-eyed Fig Parrot (see earlier posts) but she has just been feeding on ripe Star Apples in the tree next to the 'nesting tree'. Again rather wobbly but she was pretty high up so hard to keep the camera steady!

Dove Orchid


I have just noticed that our Dove Orchid, Dendrobium crumenatum, has flowered again, although there are now only a few blooms left. This beautiful little orchid is found growing naturally on tropical trees in parts of Asia and flowers when there is a drop in temperature, usually associated with rain - and yes, two nights ago it was quite cool and rainy! The blooms are about 3-4 cm across and only last for a couple of days.

The Malay people believe it is a talisman against evil and often plant one near their front door, something we didn't realise when we 'planted' ours alongside this tree-fern ... near our front door! Touch wood, to date it seems to have been working!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Saw-shelled Turtle

Often spotted on the bank of 'Turtle Pool' at one end of our wetlands-dam, overlooked by Birdwing Bungalow, are several of these Saw-shelled Turtles (Elseya latisternum). They grow up to about 30cm, or 12 inches, and are one of only 16 freshwater species in Australia. They feed on molluscs, fish, crustaceans and start breeding in September, laying up to 20 eggs in the banks of creeks and waterways.

www.daintreevalleyhaven.com.au

Friday, October 17, 2008

Lorikeets and Lychees

All the lychees are now almost ripe enough for picking and this year is the biggest crop we have had for several years. The Rainbow Lorikeets love them by day and the Spectacled Flying Foxes have a go at night ... and they're not even fully ripe yet. Unfortunately they have to stay on the tree to ripen but at least this year there should be plenty for ALL of us ... and I'll be able to make another batch of lychee liqueur!

I've just been to check on the enormous trees at the front of our property and dozens of Lorikeets are having a wonderful time squawking and helping themselves - very hard to see in the dense foliage but I spotted this one high up in one of the trees.

Monday, October 13, 2008

After a very busy few months we had a quiet few days with no guests booked in so we 'escaped' for a couple of days and stayed at Club Tropical in Port Douglas (highly recommended!) and really enjoyed lots of sleeping, reading and eating-out. A real change-of-pace from our peaceful valley Paradise, and now we're home again with our "batteries recharged" and ready for another busy couple of months.

No activity at the Double-Eyed Fig Parrot's nest now so our little bird must have flown!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

These tiny wasps, which are only about 1cm or just under half an inch long, are quite docile unless they are disturbed ... then watch out! I think they are a variety of Paper Wasp and build their nests in the foliage of various trees. If you are unfortunate enough to happen to brush up against one they strike with unbelievable speed and give a very painful sting.

It's another magical Daintree day and the Fig-Parrots are furiously feeding their chick (we're now pretty sure there is only one) - I took this photo a few minutes ago and you can now see that it is a female - we guess it won't be long before she takes wing.

Any day now we are expecting the return of the magnificent Buff-Breasted Paradise Kingfishers as they return from wintering in Asia. Last year we had at least five nesting pairs and as they often return to their old nests (which they build by excavating holes in termite-mounds) we are hoping most of them will be back. Watch this space!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Brown Cuckoo-Dove and Collared Kingfishers

It's another beautiful Daintree day today and especially after a little recent rain the country is really looking fresh and green.

I spotted this Brown Cuckoo-Dove next to our walking-track yesterday - they are not very shy birds so it was easy to get quite close.

(Update - the Double-eyed Fig-Parrots are still busily feeding their young in the tree outside the office!)

A pair of Collared Kingfishers (sometimes called Forest Kingfishers) have a nest in a hollow in the next tree to the Parrots' but it is almost impossible to take a photo of them feeding as they move so fast. "Mum and Dad" sit on a nearby branch and take turns to swoop up to the nest and back again.

We had another interesting visitor yesterday. David Stickley who is one of Australia's leading Crossword compilers called in with his family as they are holidaying here in the Far North of Queensland. I'm an amateur cryptic crossword compiler myself and have had a number of my puzzles published in "Crozworld", the magazine of the Australian Crossword Club, although running Daintree Valley Haven means I don't have as much time for crosswords these days.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Shining Fly-catcher

Almost an inch of rain last night, which is quite unusual for this time of year, but very welcome.

Spring has really sprung and the valley is alive with birds - lots of mating-calls, chick-feeding and quite a few "punch-ups", especially amongst the Orange-footed Scrub-Fowl, with several newcomers entering into noisy and quite violent dispute with our resident birds!

Yesterday lovely bird-calls in the Hawaiian Peach tree and I spotted this female Shining Fly-catcher in full voice.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Fig Parrot


Female Fig-Parrot feeding her young. Not very clear so will try to get a better shot later!

video

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Jade Vine ... and Fig-Parrot update

No updates for a few days - computer problems!

This beautiful vine is a native of the Philippines and is very slow to produce flowers. We planted it about 7 years ago - last year it flowered for the first time but each year so far only two bracts of flowers. This one is about 60cm or 2ft long.

Now for an update on our nesting Double-eyed Fig-Parrots. A few of days ago I took this other shot of the male while he was again feeding his mate as she sat on her eggs - she makes a 'chirring' noise when she's demanding to be fed. She had been in there for about three weeks! Then yesterday afternoon we heard a slightly different sound and when we went out to look saw both male and female taking turns to fly up and feed the chicks. Unfortunately the camera wasn't handy but I hope to get a shot of the female outside (she has the pale cheeks whereas the male has red ones).

Australia has three species of Double-eyed Fig-Parrots and these are race macleayana and they range from Cooktown to the north of us down to around Mackay.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Wallaby with Joey

Looking out onto the lawn a couple of days ago there was this little Swamp Wallaby feeding on dropped fruit - and she very obviously has a fairly large joey in her pouch.

These Wallabies are about 3ft tall, much smaller than most of Australia's Kangaroos. No Kangaroos in Daintree - they are mostly found in the dryer inland parts of the country.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Giant White-lipped Green Tree-Frog


I found this lovely Giant White-lipped Green Tree-Frog asleep on a leaf while gardening the other day. It's quite a large one although they can grow up to about 14 cm (5.5 inches). They also have a very loud croak, especially if one gets into an 'echo-ey' drainpipe!

Monday, September 15, 2008

White-Faced Heron

A little more rain over the past few days has really freshened things up and started the grass growing again, but not enough to add much water to the dam.

This White-Faced Heron has been here every day 'fishing' in the shallow water, often joined by a variety of Egrets, a Spoonbill and a pair of Little Cormorants.

Today is a picture-perfect Far North Queensland day with brilliant blue skies and a forecast maximum temperature of 29 deg C.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Malay Apples and Flying Foxes

At last we have had a little useful rain to help keep the gardens green - 15 mm last night, or just over half an inch. Unfortunately it hasn't helped to refill the dam which is now getting very low - but it will very quickly fill up again when the rainy season arrives in a few months' time.

The Malay Apples are now ripe, although they are quite small this season. They are, as the name suggests, a native of SE Asia and look quite attractive on our guests' breakfast trays with their thin red skin and soft white flesh. Not very much flavour but quite pleasant eaten with other fruits.


Unfortunately the Spectacled Flying Foxes have also found them and are attacking and eating them every night! We've picked quite a few but they do not keep for more than a couple of days.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Double-Eyed Fig-Parrot

We were delighted yesterday to find a pair of Double-Eyed Fig-Parrots nesting in a hole in a fruit-tree just outside the office. The nest is about 6 metres up the tree and they have dug a hole (looks as if it's their third attempt!) in one of the decaying branches.
The female is sitting on the eggs and is visited from time to time by the male (below). They are such beautiful little birds - only about 15cm - and often very hard to spot as they blend in so well to the foliage.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Rainforest vegetation


Elkhorn Ferns are a common sight in our rainforests and I took this photo yesterday when I went for a walk at the back of our property.
It measures about 4-5 ft across and I guess could be possibly 10-15 years old.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Spring has sprung


1st September and it's the first day of our spring and this tiny female Yellow-bellied Sunbird (photo taken this morning) is furiously building her nest at the front of the old shed. It's really amazing how fast they construct these nests, usually suspended from the flimsiest strands of vegetation, in this case a small piece of dead vine. Just then Claude, the Spotted Tree Monitor mentioned before, came out to watch her (he's just above her and to the left) so we really hope he is not eyeing up a meal! Hopefully she is well out of his reach!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Amazing Fungus

We often find weird and wonderful fungi and this interesting specimen is growing on the base of a tree behind
"Birdwing Bungalow". This was taken when it was quite 'young' and it now measures about 7 inches (17cm) across. We don't know what it is called so would be interested to hear from anyone who recognises it!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Daintree Region


View Larger Map

Warming-up and Wompoos

It's really beginning to feel as if winter is almost over as last night was much warmer and the forecast temperature today is a pleasant 28 C. Unusually for this time of year the past few days have been quite overcast and this morning there are a few sprinkles of rain, which is just what we need to freshen up the vegetation.

As we approach the start of spring next month the dawn bird chorus is building-up and this morning a Wompoo Fruit-Dove was calling just outside our bedroom window. They are spectacular birds and their distinctive call is a deep "Wom--Poo". This one was feeding on the berries at the top of a palm tree outside the house.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Rainbow Bee-eaters

We really do need a little rain now to freshen things up as the dry season progresses. We are very fortunate to have a good water supply from a rainforest creek so can at least keep the grass fairly green (after all if we don't use the water it will simply run out to sea!).

The Rainbow Bee-eaters are having a great time swooping down over the surface of the dam after insects and this beautiful shot was taken by John Gordon, a recent guest. In fact it was John and Meg's second stay with us and while they were here John took some wonderful photos which he has kindly given us permission to use. We will be adding some to our Daintree Valley Haven website soon. Thank you John!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Black Bittern

Yesterday I saw the first Black Bittern of the season taking off from 'Turtle Pool' in our wetlands-dam. Unfortunately I didn't have the camera with me so I have 'borrowed' this image from the Australian Bird Image Database (www.aviceda.org/abid/).

They have nested here for the past several years so it's lovely to see the first one back yet again!

http://www.daintreevalleyhaven.com.au/

Sunday, August 17, 2008

A good night at the Daintree Store


We're feeling a little tired today after a great night at the Daintree Store restaurant, "Eleanor's Place" in Daintree Village last night. The new managers, Mary and Des, put on the first of what will be a monthly 'special' night - this time it was a Roast night with delicious beef and fresh vegetables for only $11.50.


It was run in close collaboration with the Daintree School (only about 18 students) and our lively and enthusiastic Principal, Nathan, kept everyone entertained with raffles throughout the evening - prizes donated by local businesses - and not only just about lost his voice but managed to raise about $500 for the school.


There was a huge turnout of locals (officially the local population is 'nominal') and visitors to our tiny Village and Mary said this morning that they served ninety-nine meals - a fantastic result. Now we're all looking forward to the next one!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Very interesting visitors

Yesterday we enjoyed a surprise visit by one of Australia's leading ornithologists, Lloyd Nielsen and his partner Dorothy. Lloyd is the author of many field guides to birds and is also an expert photographer and artist, with many of his photographs of birds and other animals being published internationally.

We had a fascinating afternoon talking to them both and were thrilled when Lloyd gave us a signed copy of "Daintree Jewel of Tropical North Queensland", a wonderful book covering all the flora, fauna, local history etc. of our beautiful region.

If you visit his website at http://www.birdingaustralia.com.au/ you will find heaps of information about Lloyd, his work and his books.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Magnificent Daintree

This may give you a taste of our beautiful Daintree region - between the Daintree and Mossman Rivers!

It was professionally created by David Vivian for the Daintree Village Tourism Association (www.daintreevillage.asn.au).

Monday, August 11, 2008

Yes, we have some bananas!

Being our winter not many of our fruit trees are producing ripe fruit at the moment but we do have a few Bananas and also Carambolas (Five-Corner fruit). This is what's left of a small bunch today, so at least tomorrow morning our guests will have some home-grown produce on their breakfast trays.

These are a variety called Ducasse and we think they really are the most delicious we have ever tasted. They are also sometimes called Sugar Bananas.


"A native of Thailand, Ducasse was introduced to northern Australia in the 1800's by the Chinese who also use this banana in religious offerings. Ducasse has long been the most popular banana for planting in North Queensland backyards due to its strong resistance to tropical fungal leaf diseases." (From Australian Tropical Fruits Portal)

A little Macleays Honeyeater pecks at the flowers of a newly-forming bunch.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Strangler Figs

Strangler Figs do exactly what their name
suggests - they gradually grow around another
tree and literally strangle it so that in the end the
host tree is totally surrounded and finally dies.

The photo at the top is of a Strangler Fig taking over one of our Jakfruit trees - very little of the Jakfruit is now visible and some of the dangling strands are taking root in the ground and will eventually form what look like vertical tree-trunks.

On the right is the base of a very old Strangler Fig on our walking track. The tree must be about 100ft high, and spreads out about the same distance. You can see several large 'trunks' which many years ago would have started from roots dangling from the branches.


Thursday, August 7, 2008

Shopping Day


Very, very busy here in the middle of our busiest time of year and Daintree Valley Haven still has the "No Vacancy" sign up ... and, with the pantry almost bare, today was the day for my weekly shopping trip to Mossman - half-an-hour away. (Peter stayed home to look after our guests.)

It was such a beautiful day that a take-away sandwich and cold drink sitting on the beach at Wonga, half-way home, seemed the perfect lunching spot.
I had the whole beach all to myself and with the small waves gently lapping, a lovely view out to Snapper Island and with Cape Tribulation in the distance, I couldn't help reminding myself how incredibly lucky we are to live here!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Some of the neighbours!

This is a common sight as you drive through the valleys, gentle Brahman cattle roaming lush farmland bordered by densely-rainforested hillsides.

The following article was written by Ian Osborne and Laurie Taylor, both born-and-bred Daintree cattle farmers and appears on the Daintree Village Tourism Association website at http://www.daintreevillage.asn.au/.

Sustainable Tropical Beef Grazing plays an important role in the economy of Daintree. It is the industry that has withstood time, whilst other have, for many reasons failed.

Lush Daintree River flats produce young heavy weight steers off improved pasture and are well sought after by both export and local abbatoirs. Over the years many show ribbons and carcass competitions have been won.

Cattle grazing on river flats, which need little or no fertilizer because of the sediments deposited during yearly flooding from the upstream large World Heritage Area, are sustainably grazed on the hillsides of the valley in the wet season to maintain the viability of each cattle property. Graziers stress it is important to manage and maintain these hillsides with grasses that provide good ground cover to prevent erosion as well as good quality feed. Hillsides are burnt before the storm season in 2-3 yearly cycles to maintain the quality of the improved pasture.

Most cattle properties in the Daintree Catchment also retain large areas of tropical rainforest that has been sustainably logged over the last 100 years.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Ducks and Wallabies

As the Dry season progresses our wetlands-dam is starting to dry up, although it will fill up again very quickly once the rainy season arrives - sometimes as early as December but usually February and March tend to be our wettest months.

Now the uncovered banks have new grass and late yesterday afternoon this little Swamp Wallaby came down to nibble at the fresh new shoots, while a pair of Pacific Black Ducks dived for food in the shallow water.