Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Jottings from the Tropics: 8 February 2012

In town today, everyone — including me — was complaining about the heat. When I mentioned that I used to live in Townsville where it is hot and humid for half of the year and hot and dusty for the rest of it, the response was a chorus of sympathetic groans. No one, they decided, could actually live in Townsville. I assured them that not only do people live there, but they sometimes manage it without air conditioning. At that point, they decided I was simply making things up. There are limits to the suspension of disbelief.

When I checked the temperature, it was 27C (80F), which is not hot. Nor was it particularly humid. Still, I think we will all be squatting in the transmitter station at the top of Mt Bellenden Ker next summer and plunging our feet into buckets of ice. Who’s joining me?

- o O o -

Rain at the beginning of the week brought out the fireflies in large numbers. The bright green sparks are all through the forest. They are curious insects and will approach if you are wearing a head torch, even though the LED is a different colour from their light and is not flickering on an off. They are scintillating company.

- o O o -

Just on dusk last night, when I went for a stroll to see what was around, I heard a pheasant coucal do its ‘pouring the wine’ call. Pheasant coucals are large, non-parasitic cuckoos with dapper plumage and a death wish. When someone working on a population of coucals lamented that he couldn’t catch any of the birds to fit with bands, about half a dozen people (including me) suggested that he strung his nets across the road. Tarmac is the natural habitat of the pheasant coucal. You will often see collections of feathers along the highway.

I am hugely fond of these remarkable birds. They are not usually rainforest species, but I think they, like the kookaburras and currawongs, visit periodically from the paddocks across the river. The last one I saw was a male in his houndstooth check breeding plumage swaggering down the main street in Yungaburra. He looked as though he owned the place. In his opinion, he probably did.

[Update: See a photo of an absolutely adorable nestling at Mainly Mongoose.]


Bernie H said...

Yes some of us do live in Townsville and it's been absolutely horrid here lately. Daytime highs in the mid 30s with humidity levels sometimes reaching 90%. Scorching hot and downright muggy.

We had the most fabulous thunderstorm and lightning display here last night ... a real tropical thunderstorm. Unfortunately today the heat and humidity has been unbearable.

We've been seeing fireflies out here in the hills lately too. When the lights are turned out at night, the bedroom lights up with their brilliant pulsing glow. Quite a few Pheasant Coucals around here too. I love the sound of their almost mournful song.

Snail said...

I was on the phone to a friend in Townsville on Monday night and she was absolutely wilting!

It's hilarious here --- mention any place on the coast and it always provokes a response about the heat. We're about 5C cooler than Cairns and I am sooooo grateful for that.

This must be the time for fireflies. I remember seeing them in great numbers after Yasi.

Bernie H said...

Wilting, melting and sizzling away down here. Oh what we'd give for a 27C day right now! I also remember the fireflies after Yasi. We had no power for ten days and they helped light our way at night! Very handy.

mainly mongoose (Lynda) said...

Dear, dear, 27C? That's jumper weather here!
Have you seen a coucal nestling? They are SERIOUSLY weird. (There's a photo here:
Shamefully, I didn't realise that Australia ran to fireflies. Do you know what they actually are? When I shine a torch on the ones here, they look like the teeniest of little beetles. (My ignorance of invertebrates knows NO bounds.)

Snail said...

Bernie and Lynda --- I know! 27C is quite pleasant really, but we're up in the hill station now!

Lynda, that nestling is adorable. I'm updating the post to link to it.

Fireflies here are beetles in the family Lampyridae. The males are typical winged; the females are winged or wingless depending on the species. I'm not sure what species we get up here, but I suspect there are two because the lights are yellow-green and a much brighter white and they appear at different times of the year.

The adults have varied diets, but larvae are predators. Many specialise in feeding on snails. Boo! Hiss!

laurak@forestwalkart said...

i find it really hard to get to the heat. i'm such a sweater. not the fluffy kind.

i remember catching fireflies when i was a's been years since i've seen swarms of them...i was even wondering recently if they were becoming extinct. i'm happy to hear that they're not...they just moved to australia!

Denis Wilson said...

Hi Snail
The linked Coucal photo is a treasure.
Thanks to Lynda for telling you to check it out.
I am also in the clouds - more likely 17 Degrees most times. 27* would have us all sweltering, and complaining.
Mind you we do that often enough anyway.
I love living on the top of the escarpment, because you can always get a change of climate by going for a 30 minute drive.

Snail said...

I've got a ceiling fan in the bedroom, Laura. Haven't had to use it at night so far this summer, although it is quite nice for nana naps.

Snail said...

Denis, same here. It is not far to the western edge of the Tablelands, where it is drier and warmer, if that's what takes yer fancy. Similarly, the roads down to the coastal plain drop quite steeply, so you don't have to go too far for a bit of heat and humidity.