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.

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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


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!