Monday, 17 September 2018

They've Started!

At exactly 6.38 pm, AEST on 14 September the first Green Grocers of the season, Cyclochila virens, were heard on Butler Drive,  Kuranda. There was not the loud chorus that one might expect. Perhaps, the dry conditions or the fact that not many had emerged is the reason for the supposed diminished numbers.

Over the next few months the cicadas will sing around this time, but each day the chorus begins a few seconds later than the previous day. Towards the end of their season, the chorus will commence well after 7.00 pm. Some interesting biology is to be learned here. Surely the individuals at the end of the season are not the same as those that have just started. So population has some rather peculiar triggers relative to the activity of the adults cicadas, perhaps photoperiod but how is this transmitted to nymphal cicadas in the ground? Many local birds and reptiles depend on the large cicadas for food so their activity is an important part of the food chain here.

Friday, 14 September 2018


Densey Clyne has produced an new book-her 32nd! This one is her best. It deals with her encounters with a variety of invertebrates-katydids, caterpillars, spiders, bugs etc. Once you start reading, you will not be able to put it down and I guarantee you will uncover some observation that is new to you be it the Cast-net Spider using a faecal lure for the flies it hopes to catch or the Magnificent Spider luring male moths by simulating the female's scent.
Densey's writing is elegant and fluid. It appeals to both the scientist and the interested naturalist. She talks about pollination noting that without it there would be little or no food for us among others. Anything that comes from flowering plants is the result of pollination by insects.

There are 35 chapters dealing with observations over the years. There are short jaunts to New Guinea and Borneo in her book as well. The photography is superb and well reproduced with a number of photos taken by her colleague Jim Frazier:

In the introduction to the book she state" Writing these stories has given me almost as much pleasure as the encounters themselves. Since childhood my two  greatest interests have been the world of nature and the world of words Happily for me the two worlds merged." And happily for us we have this book.

The book is a welcome addition to the library and would also make a very nice Christmas present for a lucky individual.

My Encounters with Minibeats From Purple Moonbeams to Itchy Cows. New Holland Publishers ISBN 9781925546170.

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

The Cairns Aquarium-A Pleasant Way to Spend a Wet Sunday

The best new attraction in Cairns is the Cairns Aquarium. This wonderful tourist attraction is located near the Cairns Esplanade and features three floors of well-designed and maintained exhibits that are bound to entertain and amaze all visitors. Local reef fish and freshwater fish are featured in fantastic settings.

In addition to the fish there are a number reptiles, amphibians and insects on display. There are a few 'touch and feel" areas where people can become familiar with a number of different kinds of reef and tropical biota.

A wonderful restaurant adds to the enjoyment of the place with tasty, well-presented food.

Surely with the Cairns Botanic Gardens, the Cairns Aquarium are the two top tourist attractions on the mainland.

A few hightlights.

Here's lookin' at you-Mudcrab
Orange-spine Unicornfish 

 Discussing the diversity of starfish
 Just Resting
 Big-nose Unicornfish
 Black-back Butterflyfish
 Blue-spot Ray

 Emperor Angelfish
 Blue Sea Star
 Blue Yabbie (Freshwater)

 Bluetongue Skink 

That's it Folks

Sunday, 24 June 2018

They Did It Right On Our Doorstep

This needs little explanation. But this is what we saw first thing this morning.

Now where did he go?

New Kids On The Block

The other day I was sure that we had a new pair of cassowaries on the site. Today it was confirmed.
When we got out of the car, these two greeted us.
It's a small male, probably quite young as indicated by the short wattles and the bub is young too. It's still in the "squeaking" stage and depends on Dad for food. It is much smaller than the three young of the year from the usual pair that occupy this territory. And, by the way, this morning Mom and Dad were doing it right on our front doorstep as you will see in a future blog. (But you never have a camera when you need it.)
This pair were intent on picking up the palm seeds for a couple of species growing on our property. The seeds themselves did not seem to have much flesh on them but the birds ate all they could.

We felt that this male knew our place and perhaps was one of the young birds fathered by our resident male. What will happen when these new birds meet up with the residents can only be imagined. The resident male seems much larger than this one and the bub is completely dependent on him. The residents will attempt to drive this young male from the territory.

Recent logging on Black Mtn Road may have driven these birds from their regular haunts and they have ended up within the territory of the resident male and female.
Good luck little guy. And you will have to have eyes on the back of your head to survive in this world.

Friday, 18 May 2018

New Book!

Another new book authored by a local has just appeared.

Local naturalist and tour guide leader Jun Matsui has written a comprehensive guide to the birds of the Cairns and Tablelands region of Queensland Australia. The text is in Japanese and caters to the needs of Japanese visitors who come to the Australian tropics for bird watching.

The book contains hundreds of photos taken by the author, They are all in poses that assure identification. Non-Japanese speaking locals will be able to use the book because each caption is in English. In addition, there are sections in the book in English. Chapters in the beginning include external morphology and a bird list. The bird sequence is arranged taxonomically with a colour thumb guide provided on the margins. There are maps, places of interest and things to do. A comprehensive index in both Japanese and English.
Thew book can be obtained from the author at $A60.00: 松井淳

But wait, there's more!! Phil Gregory tells me that an English translation is in the offing and should be available by the end of the year.

Monday, 30 April 2018

Nice Cricket, Awful Name

Pseudotrigonidium australis (Chopard), adult male in typical pose

This little cricket was described by Lucien Chopard, a legendary French entomologist in 1955 as Tremellia australis. Fair enough. The name is simple and easy to remember. But in 1999 a Russian entomologist taxonomically massaged the tribe resulting in a lot of splitting. Tremellia was redefined and T. australis did not fit the new concept of Tremellia. So it was transferred to the larger genus Pseudotrigonidium. Further he established subgenera within Pseudotrigonidium, but apparently left the sole Australian example, T. australis, and a couple of other species from Borneo, in neither of the two allotted subgenera. So it becomes Pseudotrigonidium australis (Chopard)- the Kuranda Tree Runner.

In dealing with this taxon for the Guide to Australian Crickets to be published by CSIRO, we had to try and discover what the species really looked like. The type was an old specimen, tattered and discoloured and without precise locality date. Otte and Alexander in their monograph collected some specimens from near Kuranda.

As luck would have it, the species was discovered literally in my own backyard. The living crickets look nothing like the type nor the preserved specimen collected by Otte and Alexander in 1960.
 When viewed closely, the crickets are very colourful with brown and yellow markings seemingly aiding in camouflage.
Even the head is distinctive with stripes and light-coloured patches. In life the eyes have a greenish tinge.
 Pseudotrigonidium australis (Chopard), adult male in typical pose
The crickets have a very distinctive posture. They always are directed downwards, legs askew.They have extremely long antennae and excellent eyesight. The antennae are in constant motion. When disturbed they dart downwards but in a spiral fashion to attempt to confuse the predator. Since they cannot fly, the utilise both their colour pattern as the first line of defence followed by their extremely fast movements.

Males sing from tree trunks after dark. This continues through most of the night into the pre-dawn hours if the weather is warm and not too wet. Adults and nymphs can be found on the same tree trunk. It is interesting that not all trees are inhabited by the crickets. If there is a pattern, the desired trees have furrowed bark and have some growth of lichens. Also the diameter of the tree does not fit a pattern. Trees of 8-9 cm can have crickets as well as those 10 times that diameter. Females supposedly lay their eggs in the cracks in the bark. These crickets occur from the Daintree south to the Kuranda Ranges. We have not found them in the Atherton Tablelands.

Sunday, 22 April 2018

End of the Line

It's that time of year when some of the big Golden Orb Weavers are in their last days. They neglect their webs and do not eat very much. Males are not found and females descend to the ground to lay their eggs. In addition, Black Butcherbirds seek them out and pull them from their webs. During previous weeks, the spiders seem to avoid being picked off by the birds. Perhaps, the untidy webs are a giveaway for the spiders late in the lives of the orb weavers.

They are beautiful spiders when you see them up close. And they can see you. They are quick to dart to the we's edge when you approach.

Friday, 13 April 2018

Cassowary Update

The three youngsters are still growing and they still continue their characteristic peeping. This becomes more enthusiastic when the food source is is to their liking.

But the end is neigh. The chicks are just about the right size for their lives to make the next change. That occurs when Pops decides enough is enough and he drives them away. This seems sad because the chicks do not seem to understand what is going on with their father. He was protective and attendant yesterday but today he is antagonistic. Actually this behaviour may be initiated by the female when she comes into season.

 Nice garden bird, eh?

Some colours beginning to appear and the wattles are developing

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

New Book

A new book has appeared on the scene and most people reading this post would probably not be aware of it because it is published privately.
Lynette Esnor has produced a very handsome volume, number 3 in her series. This one features birds of Northwest Queensland. The other volumes include #1 The Wet Tropics, Queensland, #2 The Gulf of Carpentaria, Queensland. Another volume is in the offing and the topic will be the brids of the Cape York Peninsula, Queensland.

The book is comprehensive in the sense that it, and the other volumes contain an introductory section  featuring the History of Bird Evolution, Anatomy and Physiology, Adaptations (in considerable detail)Torpor, Feeding Habits, Preening, Feather and Plumage, Senses, Seasons, Mating and Nesting, Family Life, Migration and Distribution. Most of these topics are generally not covered in other volumes and they are of interest to the casual birder. A glossary and comprehensive index are also included.

The volume is attractively presented and features Lyn's photos in the 205 pages. Detailed notes accompany each species.

My Bird Obsession is published privately and can be ordered from Lyn at her email address: Lynette Ensor

Sunday, 1 April 2018

Around the Lights

A fair number of interesting insects have been showing up at the light sheets recently. Here is a sample.
 a brentid weevil,
Callirhipis sp., Callirhipidae
Ellipsidon australe Saussure; Ectobiidae; Pseudophyllodomiinae
Nephila sp, one of the large orb weavers
Pseudotrigonidium (Tripsegonium) australis (Chopard); Phalangopsidae; Phaloriinae
Calofulcinia sp. , female; Iridopterygidae; Nanomantinae; Fulcinini
 Sphingidae; Daphnis protrudens
Platyja cyanopasta; Geometridae; 
 Phyllophorella queenslandica; Tettgioniidae; Phyllophorinae, male
Anthela sp.; Anthelidae
Platyja cyanopasta; Noctuidae; Catocalinae

Austrocarausius mercurius (Stal); Phasmatidae; Lonchodinae, male
 Balta quadricaudata; Ectobiidae; Pseudophylodromiinae, male
 Desmoptera truncata; Pyrgomorphidae; Pyrgomorphinae, female feeding at night
 Golden Robberfly; Asilidae
 Goodangarkia oedicephala; Tettigoniidae; Conocephalinae; Agraeciini, female abroad at night
 Gryllacrididae, undetermined genus. Female with fresh spermatophore attached.
 Methana convexa; Blattidae; Polyzosteriinae
 Mjobergella warra; Gryllidae; Landrevinae, adult male
 Phricta spinosa; Tettigoniidae; Pseudophyllinae, Adult female abroad at night.
Loxoblemmus pallens; Gryllidae; Gryllinae, adult male abroad at night on ground.
Hemiphonus (Mundeicus) sp; Gryllidae; Podoscirtinae feeding at night
 Ellipsidion humerale: Ectobiidae; Pseudophyllodromiinae, male inactive at night
 undetermined weevil
 Caedicia webberi; Tettigoniidae; Phaneropterinae
 Segestidea queenslandica; Tettigoniidae; Mecopodinae. Female abroad at night.
 Unka boreena; Gryllidae; Podoscirtinae
Bullant; Myrmecia sp. male on nuptial flight. Females can deliver a painful sting!
That's all folks! 
Paracaedicia serrata; Tettigoniidae; Phaneropterinae