Kaz the rainbow lorikeet visited last week. It may be something to do with a new scale-breasted lorikeet that has moved in a week ago. Initially Kaz and friend came to check out the new bird and then returned almost every day. Each time, Kaz’s conversations are getting longer.
Some of you know Kaz, who was abandoned and we raised him. He has returned to the wild and found the partner (pictured) and has lived away for two years, but often comes for a family visit. It was nice to see Kaz and listen to his long conversations in between his treat of honey and bread. How I wish I could understand his stories because often he gets excited while talking and dances around in a circle and flaps his wings.
I personally love the cassowary bird because of its unique beauty.
In Papua New Guinea(PNG), the cassowary is highly regarded in traditional myths as a source of life and spiritual energy. While cassowary is food in PNG cultures, it is also kept as a pet. Cassowary feathers are used for headdress and bones used for tools. I remember my grandfather (mother’s father) kept a cassowary wing bone he used to stitch sago leaves together for our roof. Some tribes, foe example the Abelam people in Sepik have used the femur of the cassowary birds to make weapons such as daggers (pictured below).
The cassowary lives in north of Australia and PNG. I constantly read articles about the near-extinction of this giant bird and I wanted to share the awareness that if we in Australia (and PNG) are not careful, we will lose this species.
Why did the cassowary cross the road?
This question is no longer a joke.
According to Megan Neal at Houston Zoo website:
“Unfortunately, there’s no punch line and the situation is no laughing matter. Habitat loss and fragmentation have left the Australian population of cassowaries on the brink of extinction. These huge birds need large amounts of land to roam in search of food and to breed”.
Like other species, cassowaries’ habitat have been repeatedly destroyed by the boom in residential and commercial construction. Everyone wants to live near the rainforests of Australia, but there’s simply not enough room for everyone.
The Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) answer to the question gives another example of the problem. The cassowary crossed the road because its habitat has been chopped in half by a freeway. So far this year, more cassowaries have died from speeding cars, dog attacks and habitat loss than in all of 2014.
ACF report said the modern-day hazards are now increasing the extinction risk.
“While local groups are doing great work to protect these gorgeous creatures, governments need to catch up! We need to transform our national nature protection framework so local, state and national laws work in together to protect life in Australia”.
The cassowary is far-north Queensland’s flagship species for both the tourism industry and the World Heritage rainforests.
It is an iconic and unique species that deserves better than the devastating carnage it faces on regional roads throughout the Wet Tropics.
Sadly, 2015 is off to a particularly bad start for the endangered – and rather large – flightless bird with reports of at least six cassowaries killed between Mission and Bramston Beach this year.
Another cassowary was killed recently by domestic dogs on the Atherton Tableland.
Until recently, the remaining wild population was thought to be at around 2000. However, new research by the CSIRO estimates that the cassowary population may be more than double that at around 4400.
But this number is spread over 730,000 hectares of potential habitat with strong populations known in some areas and few or no records from other areas.
The rain eased at noon in Bellbowrie, Queensland today, but only for a few minutes. It has been storming for two days. The rain’s destruction was evident in washed garden beds and the main road overflows. I found some of my cuttings and seedlings floating in odd places, near the main road.
Yesterday, at the Coles Supermarket we were unable to purchase staple food like bread and rice. A Cole’s staff member said residents had a panic buy, stocking up in case it flooded like the 2011 Queensland floods. The supermarket was empty.
Several places outside our house were flooded. I had kept indoors and started a new artwork and read blogs. Only two days of wet weather and storms – yet there was too much water. On the news Brisbane was supposed to have 500mm of rain over the weekend. More rain will come.
In the distant, I heard a familiar cry that tugged at my heartstrings. I left the watercolour and went outside to the balcony.
“Listen!” I told my son Nathan.
We both waited and the cry was muffled by the sound of rain on our iron rooftop. It came again and I knew the cry was coming from the open field and then it moved around the back, near the duck’s nesting ground. She did come back. Her cries were strange, long and despondent. I knew.
“It’s her, something has happened”, I said.
I put my raincoat on and walked through the drizzle in the soft mushy flooded ground to her. The male duck, her partner was by her side, quiet. They made a striking couple. Her brown and white spotty breast and belly topped with deep brown-black wings, and he with a touch of spotty chest, blue-grey and black flumes. They stood on the fuzzy open plain of short stubby blue couch, Queensland’s native grass. The rain water was caught in the grass blades giving it a wet, fuzzy sheen.
I looked around the two ducks. The seven ducklings were nowhere to be seen. My heart sank. The inevitable had happened. The mother’s face was turned towards the pool, where she had hatched them. Her neck stretched forward and long in a breaking curve. Her mouth was wide opened, showing her pink insides as she wailed. Her cries were louder as I got closer. My eyes warmed into tears.
She looked at me and stopped crying. I stopped a few meters away. I wished I had some duck-words to comfort her. I could only offer her some food and walked away.
One of the blessings of our home is we live amongst the Queensland wildlife. Three months ago I counted three Squatter pigeons in the low branches of the Brazilian Cherry, a hardy evergreen fruit tree outside our house in Bellbowrie. We have several rows of the trees to give shade and provide privacy. The pigeons were a new addition to the varied birdlife on our property. Two of these birds were small parcels of light brown, white and grey feathers. The third bird had black, white and grey feathers. They had dainty little, pale, pink feet which seemed odd for their size. I thought these three may have been a family. I was not sure. The birds were extremely shy, and they took their walks in my garden when they thought no-one was home. I watched them from the large windows of our old semi-modern Queenslander. Most of their time was spent in the thick growth of the Brazilian Cherry trees, in the back part of our property. Occasionally, when returning home from work or the shop, the pigeons were at the front of the property. They would try to run as fast as their little feet carried them, across the driveway, before they lifted into the Wattle trees on the driveway. I preferred to stop metres away to let them cross the driveway gently on foot, but sometimes if I did not see them first, and disturbed them, they would run for a few metres and fly into the low branches. Their feet never seemed to be much use.
Three weeks ago, on a Tuesday evening about 6:45pm, I saw a blue station wagon stopped in the middle of the road with its high beam on. The car was on our street, near my gate, and a middle-aged caucasian woman waved at me. I thought she had car-trouble and I slowed. As I approached, I also noticed ‘him’ crossing the road casually. Using its beautifully patterned full body length in a sleepy manner, the young male python slowly took up a third of the width of the road as its slithering trunk headed towards the nearby catchment.
“Hi!” the woman in the blue car called out and waved.
“Hi”, I said.
“I am letting him pass; he is one of the good guys”, the woman said, smiling. I nodded.
I knew the snake was crossing into the catchment to get to the main river. This pocket of land was full of wild life and un-farmed land. We let a two-metre Eastern Brown off into these woods and it had disappeared in seconds. The place was part of the Brisbane City Council’s declared gateway for wildlife. Sometimes it felt like having a small wild-life sanctuary in our front yard.
The woman in the blue car and I both waited in our cars, engines running, while we let the snake cross. When the snake had passed, I drove to my night class, turning up 15 minutes late. I made a joke about stopping at the ‘Python Crossing”.
After my class, I returned home and warned my family, we had another specie addition to the wild life. I wanted everyone to be extra careful with our chickens. We all had been through and scarred from The Duck War. Every night since the python crossed, the chickens were counted and locked in their pen safely.
This morning I noticed, two chicken eggs had gone missing from the nest I discovered the last week. Click Here. The slithering one that crossed the road three weeks ago, became my Number One suspect. But I did not want to alarm anyone in my family. I made a mental note to do some investigative work later.
After my day in the office, five hours ago, I returned home and parked the car. I walked around my gardens as I usually do after work. Everything looked good. Rain from the storm that wrecked Brisbane City homes a few days ago, had put some life back into my dying garden beds. The flowers and vegetables thrived. The poinciana tree was majestic with her red crown of flowers. All my frangipani trees were blooming in various shades of colour and the lawn started to green again. I crossed our front yard into a small section of the property, under the Brazilian Cherry trees where the pigeons lived. I had a few orchids and ferns in the tree branches and I was slowly creating a sitting place inside the treed spot by planting. I watered the rock orchid. My eyes caught two small, short, beautiful, black and white feathers lying in awkward positions. The feathers stood out amongst the dead ground cover. I took the next step and stopped. More feathers. Alarmed, I looked down and checked every inch of leaves and dead branches around my feet. My eyes went back to the pile of feathers, all shapes and sizes, scattered, yet familiar. In seconds, I recognised them. My heart sank. Most of the delicate light grey down feathers were caught in the small tree branches where moss, and the pale green lichen called Usnea grew. Some grey feathers hung off my golden-yellow orchid stems at the low branches. I felt sick and very teary at the same time. The bird must have put up a good fight to throw its feathers this far.
Tomorrow I hope, I will see two pigeons. The young python won’t be crossing to the river tonight. It knows, there is more food.