Thursday, 21 January 2016

Nature Photo Challenge #5: Wall of Fern

I'm not going to say much about today's image, other than it's a tree fern (Cyathea) frond in the morning sun.

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Nature Photo Challenge #4: Fungi

When the monsoon trough made a brief appearance at Christmas, the fungi soon followed. Fallen timber sprouted slabs and plates, shelves and brackets, and parasols of little mushrooms. All of them were photogenic. And all of them were less than 20 cm from the forest floor or, as I like to think of it, that damp, decaying carpet of leaves all set about with leeches, scrub itch and ticks.

Frilly gills all in a row

Now were I dedicated, I would have put down a tarp and lain on it to take photos. Or I would have fitted a right-angled viewfinder. But I'm not, so I didn't do either of those things. Instead, I held the camera down low, aimed it in roughly the right direction and hoped for the best. Sometimes that works.

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Nature Photo Challenge #3: Tropical Rockmaster

Every now and then, I stop railing against the uselessness of most common names and revel in the better ones.

This a tropical rockmaster (Diphlebia euphoeoides). It lives in the tropics and it perches on rocks. Also branches, cars and hats. But mostly rocks. 

On a twig-shaped rock

Tropical rockmasters are the most abundant damselflies on this property. On sunny days, it seems as if every vantage point is occupied by one of these blue males or golden females waiting for insects to come within range.

There are five species of Diphlebia in eastern Australia and they are distinguished by the relative proportions of blue and black on the abdomen on the male.

CSIRO publishes an excellent guide to Australian odonates.

Monday, 18 January 2016

Nature Photo Challenge #2: Victoria's Riflebird

Occasionally, birds fly at high speed into the window panes and do themselves a mischief. (Sometimes they do it at low speed, apparently for entertainment. I'm looking at you, white-bellied cuckoo-shrikes.)

On Sunday afternoon, this female Victoria's riflebird smacked into the kitchen window. I picked her up and put her in a quiet spot and then, like the appalling opportunist I am, took a photo of her.

Victoria's riflebird is one of four species of birds of paradise found in Australia. (The others are two more species of riflebird and the trumpet manucode.) Adult males are black and shimmering blue and their wing feathers make the sound of rustling taffeta as they pass. Females (and young males) have more sober plumage. But what they lack in drama, they make up with subtlety: their breast feathers are mottled black and their wing and belly feathers are shades of russet and rust.

This bird flew off a short while later. As a measure of her gratitude, she pooped all over my car bonnet before heading into the forest.

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Nature Photo Challenge #1: Grey-headed Robin

A friend tagged me on Facebook in a nature photo a day challenge, so I thought I'd share those photos here.

Today's pic is of a grey-headed robin sunbathing in the garden. Endemic to north-east Queensland, grey-headed robins are common and conspicuous residents of upland rainforests.

Despite the common name, they are not related to European robins, but they do have grey heads, so well done whoever settled on that epithet*.

They might hop around the garden looking all cuddly and winsome, but grey-headed robins are keen enforcers of the bird bath pecking order and ferocious predators of small insects. Given the chance, they will also clean up dropped crumbs, because who knows where the next meal is coming from? It's a jungle out there.

Although they are usually quiet birds, even when shouldering others out of the bird bath, they have a distinctive call. Their peep-peep-peep-peep-peeps are as much a part of the dawn and dusk choruses as the yowls of spotted catbirds and the seamless duets of eastern whipbirds. You can hear the call in this lovely video from Crater Lakes Cottages (near Lake Eacham). 

Another Nature Photo Challenge pic tomorrow.

* Don't get me started on common names.

Friday, 1 January 2016

Jottings from the Tropics: 1 January 2016

Happy New Year!

Well, 2015 was…interesting.

I moved home three times last year, but I’m starting 2016 in a house in the rainforest. A house in the rainforest not very far from my first place on the Tablelands. There are pademelons,



one day old and capable of flying


green-eyed tree frog

and snakes.

well-fed carpet python

Quite a lot of snakes, as it turns out.

brown tree snake

I’ve added one species to the life list — northern dwarf crowned snake (Cacophis churchilli) — and one to the life scared out of me list — a red-bellied black snake that wandered into the house one afternoon and took up residence under a book case. It stayed under there for several hours, unwilling to leave. Finally, I called a snake catcher, who relocated it to a more suitable habitat closer to the river. Everyone involved — me, snake and snake catcher — was happy with that solution.

Also happy with that solution were the yellow-blotched rainforest skinks (Eulamprus tigrinus), which would have made a nice meal for the RBBS. A small colony of these skinks lives on the ground floor. They get under my feet and leave their droppings everywhere, but they are useful as insect hunters and scavengers of crumbs. I have turfed them out of the house several times, but they find their way back in. Yet again, I am outsmarted by the wildlife.

avoiding my feet

So 2016 looks as though it might be a good year. That’s based on the first sixteen hours, so I might be calling it too soon. But I have things to do and places to go, stories to read and stories to write, and a diary with a few more gaps to fill.

Here’s to a great 2016, everyone!

Friday, 6 November 2015

A film in one act


In a small Far North Queensland town, somewhere to the west of Mount Bartle Frere, a bemused elderly MAN in a check shirt approaches a late middle-aged WOMAN as she unlocks her car. The woman is carrying several small parcels (books) and is sweating heavily because she has just nipped into town to get the post after assembling a set of bookshelves 74 pieces who thought that was a good idea bastards and because it is unseasonably hot and humid what is this I might as well be living in Cairns perspiring lightly.

Excuse me. Are you a local?

Yes. Can I help you?

Do you know where [name]'s funeral is?

 Sorry. No. Have you asked at the post office?

Where is it?

(points at post office)
Oh, yes. They have their finger on the pulse.


I have to go to Atherton now