Cassowary season 2021

3 cassowaries

 

Autumn in Wondecla means cassowary season: fruit in the rainforest is getting sparser, whereas there is plenty of tucker in the wet sclerophyll forest.

One month ago Dad re-appeared with one small stripey chick in tow. This confirmed our suspicion, that he lost his first clutch of eggs (or newly hatched chicks) after mating late July. He had a second attempt at breeding in November, but only one chick survived.

male cassowary & chick

For the last few weeks our forest has been producing a lot of berries: some Lilly-pillies, some Cissus “grapes” , lots of native ginger berries, a good number of Red Cluster Heath berries (as small as hundreds and thousands, but not too small for cassowaries!) and huge amounts of Mackinlaya macrosciadea fruits. This year, the cassowaries really love them, whereas in previous years they were not very popular. Maybe they are tastier (more nutritious) this autumn.

Before:

Red Cluster Heath (Acrotriche aggregata)
Mackinlaya macrosciadea
Mackinlaya macrosciadea

 

and after:

cassowary dropping

It is always interesting to check cassowary droppings in order to see on what they are feeding.

Wattle, the dominant female, has her eye on Dad already, following him around occasionally. We hope his fathering instinct is still stronger than his desire to mate, as his chick is only about 4 months old and much too young to be left alone.

 

 

female cassowary (Wattle)
Wattle

Goldfinger’s chicks, 7-8 months old, are almost ready to venture into the big world by themselves now.

cassowary chicks, 7-8 months old

 

male cassowary (Goldfinger)
Goldfinger

 

Miss March also comes through every now and then. She has grown into an impressive young lady, about as tall as Wattle, however not quite as bulky, yet.

female cassowary (Miss March)
Miss March

 

Cassowaries are keen on protein, too, so when Dad came across a dead honeyeater, he tried to show his youngster how to deal with it, but try as it might, the chick couldn’t swallow the bird and in the end Dad gobbled it up himself.

 

 

 

 

This and That

Superb Fruit-dove, male

 

This wet season left us about 500mm short of our average rainfall, but a low near the coast right now might be just making up for it.

Many birds have been molting, like this Satin Bowerbird, wondering what happened to his tail:

Satin Bowerbird

Some Victoria’s Riflebirds started displaying again a few weeks ago, but it should only be a short practice period before the proper season begins in winter.

We’ve had another pademelon baby

Red-legged Pademelons

just out of the pouch:

baby Red-legged Pademelon
and our inkling, that we have 2 tree-kangaroo females, was finally confirmed, when the other one showed up with a much younger joey. (sorry, no photo, they were near our veranda when it was almost dark).

 

In summer, the Grey-headed Robins stray further from the creek and are often seen and heard in and around our small clearing between house and cabin.

Grey-headed Robin

Many other smaller birds are also easier to see:

Black-faced Monarch
Black-faced Monarch
Pied Monarch
Pied Monarch

 

This season’s immature Grey Goshawk is on the lookout for King Parrots and even had a go at the cassowary chicks (Dad was not amused and hissed at the swooping raptor).

immature Grey Goshawk

Whereas the leeches are on the lookout for our blood!

leech on the lookout

One of the King Parrot males seems to be a teenage dad, he still hasn’t acquired his full adult plumage:

young King Parrot male feeding chick

Late summer is also a good time for insects:

moth

Agrotera pictalis

Anisozyga insperata, female
Eucyclodes insperata, female

 

Black Jezebel

Black Jezebel, and its chrysalis:

Black Jezebel chrysalis

“Goldfinger”s chicks have grown well and  lost their stripes:

male cassowary and 2 chicks

The Rose Gums have begun to flower, attracting many honeyeaters and lorikeets. One tree next to the cabin had about 20 Little Lorikeets feeding in it for days.

Some of the vines and shrubs are getting ripe berries now and the fruit-eaters should be arriving soon from the nearby rainforest (we’ve seen the first Spotted Catbird last week and the cassowaries are coming by more often).

Fishing Finches

Red-browed Finch fishing

Red-browed Finches (Neochmia temporalis), like all native Australian finches, belong to the family of Grass-finches (Estrilidiae) and feed mainly on seeds.

They do like animal protein, though, and  sometimes gorge themselves on swarming termites.

When we get enough summer rain to saturate the forest grounds, Orange-thighed Treefrogs and Dainty Green Treefrogs lay their eggs in temporary shallow pools and rivulets, a fact that does not escape the finches.

They can be observed hunting like miniature herons for tadpoles and small invertebrates:

 

Busy Frogs and Lazy Reptiles

The wet season started in late December, and the frogs are making the best of it.

Tiny (less than 30mm) Southern Ornate Nursery Frogs (Cophixalus australis) are calling from low vantage points, usually within half a metre off the ground, everywhere in the forest.

This is a typical position:

That male is one of the rarer colour morphs, with an orange stripe on the back. Usually they are a mottled grey:

Northern Barred Frogs (Mixophyes schevilli) are calling from a few areas along the creek. They are large, handsome frogs with a deep ‘wark, wark’ call.

Orange-thighed Tree-frogs (Litoria xanthomera) have descended from their hide-outs high up in the trees and are gathering along small temporary pools and creeks.

This male got lucky very early in the evening:

It is fun watching them “inhaling’ and ‘exhaling’:

While the frogs are very busy, this Pink-tongued Skink

Pink-tongued Skink

and the Carpet Python

Carpet Python

spent all day lazing in the sun.

Cassowaries and Tree-kangaroos

Cassowary chicks often hatch in September (rainforest fruits usually are most bountiful in spring and summer). As there is not much food for them in the wet sclerophyll forest at that time, we normally get to see the family in June/July, when the chicks are much bigger, have lost their stripes and are almost ready for life on their own.

Yesterday, though, 5 year old “Goldfinger” came by very late in the day with two small striped chicks. They are probably about 2 months old and his first offspring. He mated with “Wattle”, the alpha female in the area, in June 2019 (once even just outside our kitchen window!), but didn’t have any chicks that year.

Notice his wet feet: they had a drink from the creek not far down the track.

5 year old cassowary and 2 month old chick

Tree-kangaroo joeys normally leave the pouch around September, and this season our female Lumholtz’s tree-kangaroo has 2 joeys on foot: last year’s daughter and the new baby.

 

Tree-kangaroo mum and big daughter