Saturday, December 26, 2009

The orchids were right!

A lovely peaceful Christmas Day yesterday - and a call from our friend Di in nearby Daintree Village to say that their Dove Orchids were in full bloom, and when we looked out the front window we saw ours were too.

The only time these beautiful fragrant tiny orchids seem to flower is just before rain and, sure enough after a very dry couple of weeks, last night we had a good fall of rain.

A fine day again today and now (it's 5.30 pm) it's just started again and, looking at the weather radar on the internet there's plenty around so hopefully we'll get some more tonight - thanks Orchids!



Thursday, December 24, 2009

Season's greetings to everyone

Christmas is almost upon us and Peter and I are looking forward to a relaxing day tomorrow - lots of emails and phone calls to and from friends and family and tomorrow night our traditional roast turkey - it's far too hot now to have it at mid-day, although lots of folks do, and many more will be tucking into cold seafood instead which is probably much more sensible in the far north of Australia!  But I was brought up having cold Christmases and hot Christmas dinners in the UK so I guess old habits must die hard!

Was hoping to be able to post a lovely colourful shot of a Buff-breasted Paradise Kingfisher but they continue to elude me!  On my walk just now a magnificent one landed in a tree just in front of me but by the time I'd realised it was there it had gone again.  But then this little Chestnut-breasted Mannikin landed on a grass stem and happily posed for me - pretty little things, only about 11 cm (or 4 in) and usually seen in small flocks swooping for insects amongst reeds and grasses.

So to everyone who celebrates Christmas we hope you have a lovely happy day tomorrow.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Elusive Kingfishers

The Daintree Valley is echoing with birds - especially the fabulous Buff-breasted Paradise Kingfishers of which we have several nesting around our 30 acres.  But they are sooooo hard to photograph and mostly you just catch a glimpse of their distinctive white tails as they flit through the rainforest.  This is pretty blurry I'm afraid but at least you can see the beautiful colours - will keep trying for a better shot.  Of course the other day I walked down the drive - without the camera - and one landed on a branch right in front of me!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A new little friend


Mowing under the lychee tree this morning and this little Praying Mantis decided to hitch a ride on my back.  He stayed with me for ages, running up and down my arm and finally having a rest on my finger where he proceeded to daintily clean his little feelers.
He's now happily at home amongst our green bean plants!

It's very quiet now with very few guests - everyone getting ready for Christmas I guess.  A lovely young Danish couple in a little camper-van arrived just on dusk last night so they were very happy to plug into the power behind one of our empty cabins.

And this morning a local couple drove in - very interesting folks as they were retired entomologists looking for a certain variety of Dung Beetle on one of the local cattle properties which they were trying to locate.

Life's always interesting - and sometimes surprising! - at Daintree Valley Haven!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Native fig

An interesting tree this - it's a variety of Native Fig and we have quite a few around Daintree Valley Haven. The tree grows to quite a height and the figs grow in clusters all up the trunk and along the branches. They are edible when ripe but tend to be quite dry and not very tasty - but the Double-eyed Fig Parrots love them!

After another dry spell we're having a few more welcome showers and we're just noticed that our one and only Mangosteen tree (which we thought wasn't going to fruit this year) is suddenly laden with small fruit buds.

Mangosteens are totally different to Mangoes - of which we now have a huge crop which is just starting to ripen - yummy! Two of our favourite fruits!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Cooktown

We've just got back from a great little break - things are very quiet just before Christmas so we headed up to Cooktown with our lovely friends, Di and Barry. They have lived in Daintree quite a long time but this was their first visit to Cooktown.

We've been quite a few times but it has been several years since we drove up and were astonished to find how much the coast road, up the notorious 4WD Bloomfield Track, has improved. The worst parts were some very steep hills and luckily all our rain has fallen further south so not much on the Track meant it was not at all slippery and the creeks crossing the road were all quite shallow - later in the wet season the road is often closed to all but local traffic.

Barry and Di had never seen a cassowary in the wild so they were blown away when suddenly there was a male and it's chick calmly feeding right on the edge of the road. You can see how well camouflaged the chick is!

The male cassowary rears the young until he mates again and when that happens the chick is immediately abandoned. A few years ago some guests of ours were lucky enough to see that actually happen and gave us copies of the photos. Later on I'll find them and add them to the blog.

The 170km drive from Daintree to Cooktown takes just under four hours along the rugged coastal track - our return trip on the all-sealed 300 km inland highway took almost the same time!

Stops along the way at beautiful Woobadda Creek, a call in to the incredible Bloomfield Falls - and this is what they look like at the end of the DRY season! - and a delicious lunch at the famous old, old Aussie pub, the Lion's Den.

A must-do in Cooktown is a drive up Grassy Hill to the lookout over the Endeavour River and out over the Coral Sea. Cooktown is where Captain James Cook, who was the first European to set foot in Australia, hit a reef (well, his ship "Endeavour" did!) in 1770 and he landed at Cooktown to make repairs.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Water. water everywhere!

Wonderful, wonderful rain - Saturday night we had 135 mm or almost 5 and a half inches. Very unusual to have this much so early in the season but boy, has it brought the rainforest to life again! It's now 8.30 am and the now-half-full dam is alive with frog calls, the valley is echoing with birdlife and everywhere is alive with beautiful butterflies.

On Saturday morning the neighbour's horses were grazing on the young grass on the bottom of the wetlands-dam - and this was the view from 'Sunbird Sanctuary' the next morning!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Sunbirds

I'm still trying to photograph the elusive Buff Breasted Paradise Kingfishers - birdwatching guests have just spent three days trying to do the same thing, they saw five glimpses and that was it!

We've had some wonderful rain in the past few days with a few 'wet season' type downpours and it has really brought the rainforest to life again. Amazing numbers of butterflies around and a million birds especially at dawn, and the grass is growing madly again so the mower is busy.

And of course lots of our favourite little Sunbirds - this little fellow was on the Tahitian Apple outside the office next to some of it's newly-forming fruit.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Thump!

Another 'thump' on the window this morning and there was a very dazed Little Shrike-Thrush lying on the verandah, yet another bird having flown into the glass.

I gently picked it up and it sat on my hand for about ten minutes - another photo-opportunity, this time for Peter who had never used my camera before (we have a very good working arrangement - the remote controls for the tv and sound system are 'his' domain while he's happy to leave computers and cameras to me!) so he did very well!

Finally, after depositing a 'message' on the rail!, it finally flew off.

While I was holding it I caught sight of a flash of white as a Buff-breasted Paradise Kingfisher darted past. We are hearing their calls constantly now - in fact I can hear one now as I type.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Rain and Raptors

Beautiful rain last night - 24 mm = almost an inch - with some lovely heavy falls and a few more showers predicted. At last the front paddock is green again!

Two huge raptors in a tree outside the office the other day - this is one of the Pacific Baza's and it's mate was on a nearby branch. Beautiful birds but of course they are predators and prey on small animals and frogs - but then that is nature!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

RETURN OF THE KINGFISHERS!

At last the magnificent Buff-breasted Paradise Kingfishers have returned after their winter migration - we have yet to see one but at dawn this morning we heard the first of their distinctive calls. I'll go for a walk round later and hope to spot one - usually all you see is a flash of their long white tails as they zoom across the track in front of you.

Last year we saw the first one on 8th November so they are about a week earlier this time. This is a distant shot of one which I took last year. Now we'll keep an eye on all the termite mounds where they have nested previously. Interestingly they will only return to the mounds which have since been 'repaired' by the termites - must be to ensure a constant food supply!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Wallaby family

Watching motor racing on the box yesterday afternoon when we looked outside and saw Mum and Joey under the Star Apple tree having a munch on some fallen fruit.

Dad was a little way away having a good old scratch! That's him at the bottom too.

He was quite tame and I could get pretty close to him so we hope that Junior will grow up not being afraid of people.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Fresh 'n green again


Such a lovely light outside now in the late afternoon and I just had to grab the camera. After yesterday's showers everything in the garden is fresh and happy again! This is the front corner of our home with the entrance driveway in the background to the right.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Beautiful rain - and growing chicks

A lovely rainy day today - almost half an inch which has really revitalised everything. Could do with a lot more but we're grateful for small showers!

Lots of furious feeding going on now at the Double-eyed Fig Parrot's nest so the chick(s?) must be growing fast - the tiny nesting-hole is so high up that we have no way of knowing if there are one or two in there. We've been watching proceedings since early September since we first heard them.

It's very hard to get good photos because of the position and also the angles of light but here's Dad, bum-up at feeding time and then giving me the beady eye!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

A sprinkle of rain and butterflies

The other day at long last we had a few light showers, but only enough to freshen things up and not nearly enough to affect water-levels in the creeks and our dam. But it does mean that there are now a few butterflies around - they tend to emerge a couple of days after rain. This is a male Cairns Birdwing on the Calliandra bush - the female Birdwing is Australia's largest and some are as big as your hand.
video

Monday, October 5, 2009

Crazy Weather

It seems a long time since I updated the Blog! It's been quite a busy season for us and we finally managed a few days' break away to 'recharge the batteries'. We only went as far as Cairns and enjoyed lots of sleeping, reading, eating and a little 'retail therapy' too.

Oh dear, it is sooooo dry! While so much of the world seems to be under water here in the "Wet Tropics" we are in the middle of the driest 'dry' season since records began in the early 1900's. Great for visitors with sunny days, mild nights and no mosquitoes but the country isn't as lush and green as it should be. Oh well, here's hoping for a good wet season in a couple of months' time.

One plus is that it seems to suit our mangoes. We usually lose most of the blossoms to pests and diseases but this year looks like being our biggest crop ever so by about Christmas we should be feasting on them - so, unfortunately, will the Spectacled Flying Foxes! The mango trees seem confused - a couple of weeks ago they dropped almost all their leaves and now have produced a full set of glossy new ones.

The Jakfruit also are having a bumper crop this year - pity we don't like them very much!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Fig Parrots

As I mentioned a few days ago once again we have beautiful little Double-eyed Fig Parrots nesting in the Tahitian Apple tree outside the office. (See archives from last year). This time they have chosen another old hollow branch, not quite as good an angle for photography as last year. This male has been busy feeding his mate who now stays inside the nesting hole - you can just see her - and boy does she have something to say if he doesn't bring her enough to eat!

The other good news is that Peter has now managed to clear a track up to our water supply - thanks to the new tractor which helped him move all the fallen trees he had to chainsaw apart. As he had suspected a tree had fallen on the pipe but he's managed to fix it enough to get the water running down again so we are able to keep the sprinklers going pretty well constantly - it runs on gravity so will save on electricity needed to run the bore pump. The good news is that we can use as much as we need without depriving anyone else - after all, what we don't use simply runs out to sea!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Another Daintree Valley Haven resident

Spotted this little fellow on my walk round the property yesterday afternoon and also heard another three Swamp Wallabies take off into the bush. I walked up to him very slowly, talking to him, and he just sat and watched me before finally taking off.

They often come up round the house and the cabins, especially if there's any ripe fruit on the ground, and some of them become quite tame as they get used to being near people.

But we do have to warn guests not to be startled on their walks if they hear something heavy suddenly crashing through the undergrowth!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Unknown Dragonfly

I have just spotted this beautiful Dragonfly near our walking track - it's wingspan was about 7cm (3 inches).

Soooo many birds around now so I'll try to post some more photos soon.

Update on the Double-eyed Fig Parrots - this afternoon we heard one 'chirring' in the Tahitian Apple tree near the house, saw a Parrot fly off and finally spotted a new nesting-hole in another hollow branch, quite near where birds were nesting last year. So, watch this space!!!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Mangoes

A fun night last night in Daintree Village when the P&C Association of tiny Daintree (junior) School, which has just 18 students, put on a free barbeque to christen the newly-installed bbq, welcome their new Principal and say 'thank you' to our small community for supporting the school. It was a beautiful clear night, pleasantly mild and lovely to sit under the stars with good friends and a few cold drinks in hand!

Spring is now officially two days away and our mango trees are in glorious bloom. Unfortunately mangoes don't do too well here and tend to suffer from various pests and diseases and usually most of the blossoms drop off before the fruit sets. We don't use any chemicals on them so just hope that a small crop will mature and that we salvage some for ourselves once the Spectacled Flying Foxes have had their fill!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Springtime - almost

Spring has almost sprung - officially it starts on 1st September but already our valley is even more alive with birds and the dawn chorus is getting louder and louder.

This Brown Cuckoo-Dove was busily feeding on rainforest fruits a couple of days ago and yesterday we saw and heard a couple of Double-eyed Fig Parrots in the Tahitian Apple tree outside the office - the one in which we had nesting parrots last year (see Archive - Double-eyed Fig Parrots). So fingers crossed that they may nest there again this season.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Peter's new toy!

Finally, the new tractor has arrived today and Peter has a shiny new toy to play with! So now he can catch up with all the jobs which had to be put on hold when our old machine broke down months ago (major problem which was too expensive to fix).

Now to find out how everything works - first problem is that the manual is all in Chinese!!! Oh well, he'll soon work it all out as Peter's had plenty of experience with various types of tractors over the years. This one even has power-steering and a seat-belt!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

A beautiful Sunday!

What a lovely day it has been! Our guests were all out and about so we headed for a nearby beach for a long walk along the water's edge then to a local bistro for a light lunch and home to catch up reading our weekly newspaper (no deliveries here so we order the Weekend Australian from the Daintree Store for our weekend reading).

It reminded us again how lucky we are to live in Daintree with such a diverse range of destinations on our doorstep - rainforest, 'outback' Australia, farmland and fantastic beaches all within an hour's drive. And we shared our beautiful beach with (and I counted them) exactly twelve other people!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Yellow Oriole

Although it looks green this is actually a Yellow Oriole and the valley is now echoing with their lovely warbling songs - they have a variety of calls and sometimes, especially at dawn, when we hear them calling to each other one will change it's song and the next one will try to imitate the change.

We've had a little rain over the past few days but much of the surrounding country is now starting to look dry and the grass is browning-off. Lovely and green at Daintree Valley Haven though as we are watering several hours a day.

Soon the local cattle-farmers will burn-off their grasslands to get rid of weeds ready for the new season's growth. It's an amazing sight as the cattle paddocks grow right up to the rainforest a little way up the valley hillsides but as soon as the fire reaches the treeline it immediately dies as the forest is so dense that there is no dry ground-cover under the canopy to feed the fire. So farmers and rainforest live happily together.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Honeyeaters

The Flame of the Forest is now abuzz with Honeyeaters enjoying the nectar. This is a Macleays Honeyeater but we also have Graceful, Yellow-spotted, Lewins and Dusky Honeyeaters.

Monday, August 10, 2009

This frog's no mug ... !


For anyone who has been following the sightings of our resident White-lipped Tree Frog (click on it in the Archive on the right) this is his latest resting-spot! At least he's on a tree now - even if it is a mug-tree!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

The forest is aflame

This is the time of year when the beautiful Flame of the Forest vine bursts into flower. The forest canopy behind our house is slowly coming alive with these incredible waxy bracts. The vigorous vine grows in great loops between the trees but unfortunately the flowers only last a few days before they start to decline.

The vine only seems to produce seeds very occasionally and they are very slow to germinate. The photo shows another vine on the other side of the house which I started from one of the seeds about 10 years ago and it took about 5-6 years before flowering. Now look at it!

These are actually a number of bracts which just happen to have opened alongside each other - to the bottm right you can see another bract just starting to open - the vine it's attached to is the thick stem just to the right of the big bunch.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Egrets

Slowly but surely the dam is starting to dry up as our dry season progresses and even a couple of inches of welcome rain over the past week or so has hardly made any difference. So the Egrets are back fishing in the shallows at the edge.

A few minutes ago there were two Great Egrets (with the long neck) and this smaller Intermediate Egret, plus a White-Faced Heron which disappeared before I could take a photo.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

More colour in the rainforest

This is the time of year when the Climbing Pandanus starts to change colour. It's a species of freycinetia and I think it may be an excelsa which I believe is endemic to Daintree.

We have lots of them in the rainforest on our property - they actually adhere to other trees and can reach great heights - this one is probably about 10 meters high. Most of the year they are totally green but now their crowns are turning orange and will then change to red and produce their fruits. I'll try to take a few more shots as the colours change.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Lemonade-fruit blossom

The first of the Lemonade-fruit blossom is starting to appear now so spring can't be too far away - it officially starts here on 1st September. It's been sooooo dry but the last few days have been much cooler with a few sprinkles of much-needed rain - the other night we had 18mm (25mm = 1 inch).

So it's been nice not to have to run the sprinklers, especially as we have a small problem with our main water-supply which has suddenly stopped running. We have a small pipe which runs up to a rainforest creek on the Daintree valley hillside so I'd say a tree may have fallen and dislodged it.

Unfortunately our tractor is terminally ill! So we are awaiting the arrival of a new one - it's been so long since we have had to go up the old track that it will now be completely overgrown so will need slashing and probably many fallen trees to push out of the way. Meantime fortunately we have our shallow bore which supplies us with pure clear water from an underground creek - just means we have to run the bore each day to fill the tank rather than rely on gravity to refill it from the creek.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Kookaburras

We have quite a few Kookaburras in the Daintree Valley and when a group of them have a "laughing"-session it's quite a noise - makes you feel like joining in!

Such lovely birds but sadly quite cruel as they prey on smaller birds and small animals. But, that's nature.

This big fellow was sitting on the power line high above our shed keeping a beady eye out for any passing prey.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Tree Frog update

We're never quite sure where he's going to turn up next but this is the latest resting-spot for our resident Giant White-lipped Tree Frog - just hoping he doesn't get too thirsty ... !

We're always happy to see frogs thriving in Daintree as, like much of northern Australia, we are inundated with Cane Toads. These poisonous creatures kill most wildlife which eat them although I believe Pythons are becoming imune to them and birds are learning to flip them onto their backs to avoid the poisonous glands on their backs.

They were introduced to Queensland to attack Cane Beetles which destroy sugar cane but nobody had noticed that the beetles live high in the cane but the Cane Toads live on the ground .... ! Now this fast-breeding menace is spreading throughout the country and having a great impact on Australia's native frog population.

Monday, July 13, 2009

A good crop of Jakfruit

Checking out the fruit trees in our front paddock it seems we're set for another bumper crop of Jakfruit. They are, we think, an acquired taste and one which we have never acquired! These are very immature but may grow into very large fruit, several kilos in weight and up to 50cm in length.

The only other trees fruiting now are the Carambolas (also known as Star Fruit or Five-Corner fruit), a few Soursops, some yellow Passionfruit (at least the ones the Sulphur-Crested Cockatoos have missed!) and a lot of new Banana bunches are coming on. The Mango blossoms should be starting soon - ours are a late-producing variety and are normally ready around Christmas-time.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Another magic mid-winter's day

Another chilly night last night - down to 12 deg C - but now it's up into the high 20's. The colours at this time of year seem to be more vibrant than ever and this is the view from our kitchen, overlooking the old shed (home of the barbeque and jacuzzi) and towards the rainforested valley hills.

Our beautiful water comes from a small rainforest creek high on the hillside and is gravity-fed via a small agricultural line and filter to a tank next to the shed and then by electric pump to the house and the cabins.

On the right at the front are some of our pink ornamental gingers and red Pagoda-flowers, loved by the butterflies. To the right of the shed are banana plants with what's left of the fruit after the Brush Turkeys have finished with them!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Figbirds and Figs

All the Strangler Figs are loaded with fruit now - and with dozens of noisy, colourful squabbling Figbirds!

And our weather is pure magic although we really could do with a little rain now - not that our visitors mind our clear blue, blue skies, beautiful warm days and some nights cool enough to be reaching for an extra blanket.

We're quite envious of some of our guests today who are out on a day cruise to the outer Great Barrier Reef - they could not have asked for a more perfect day with light winds, calm seas and great visibility!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Bees and Honeyeaters

Walking past the Calliandra a few minutes ago I just managed to snap one of the dozens of DuskyHoneyeaters flitting and squabbling and chattering through the bush and feeding on it's nectar. Lots of bees too and the ever-present beautiful blue Ulysses butterflies.

A magic blue-skied winters' day here although we are still awaiting the return of winter temps! A couple of cool nights a while ago but yesterday it was back to summer - up to the low 30's during the day and a balmy 17 overnight.


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Another ornament

Just when we had been saying we hadn't seen any tree frogs for a while - this morning we noticed the Giant White-lipped Tree Frog keeping company with our favourite Sunbird painting - seems the male Sunbird might have something to say about it too ... !

We bought the Jim Tyrie painting many years ago when we fell in love with it in a Brisbane art gallery and at that time we had never seen a Yellow-bellied Sunbird. It has always had pride of place wherever we have lived and when we made Daintree our home twelve years ago we were stunned to find our property alive with these wonderful tiny birds. We had no idea, from the painting, just how small they are - about 10 cm or just over 3 inches.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Camera experiments

Butterflies are so hard to capture, especially the huge spectacular blue Ulysses which never stay still for more than a second or two. There are dozens of them around the gardens at the moment ... being pursued by several frustrated camera-wielding guests!

I took this shot a few minutes ago, having yet again consulted the camera manual for some tips. This time I tried a setting for capturing fast-moving sports!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Daintree Striped Possums

The blog's been a little quiet lately as we are, amazingly, quite busy for this early in the season, I've been a bit lazy with the camera, and sadly we have also had a sudden death in the family when Peter lost his brother to that terrible scourge, cancer.

On Monday evening there were the most incredible noises coming from the top of the very tall Traveller's Palm near the shed - shone the spotlight up and could just make out two of the quite rarely-seen Daintree Striped Possums a species purely endemic to Daintree. In fact during our 12 years here we have only ever seen one other. I grabbed the camera and, juggling the spotlight, tried vainly to capture both sight and sound and managed the latter but you can only see a wavery light. But it was such an amazing sound you might like to have a listen. The photo is a low resolution one which I found ages ago.
video