Double-eyed Fig Parrot
Several of these guys were eating the little figs from the tree - from the Rainforest Tower in Daintree Discovery Centre
Since we were faced with a couple of days with potentially sketchy weather, we decided to head up north into the Daintree National Park. Daintree is a lush 110-million year old rainforest which escaped effects of the last Ice Age. An occasional shower actually positively adds to the rainforest ambiance. After about a half an hour of driving, we reached a cable ferry that crossed the Daintree River to get to the rain forest. After entering the park, we were presented with some odd signs. The signs were standard yellow diamond shapes, like you see in the states for deer crossings, but a strange looking bird was depicted on these signs. We thought it might be warnings for Emu crossing. Instead it was for the Cassowary, an odd looking flightless bird that reaches up to 6 feet in height. It has a blue head with a yellow crown and a large red waddle. It really looks like a mutant Emu. Due to habitat destruction and the introduction of wild pigs and dogs over the past century, they have been wiped down to a population of 1,500.
Our initial destination in the rainforest was the Daintree Discovery Centre. This was a
network of multi-tiered walkways through the rain forest. The main attraction of the Centre was the Rainforest Tower that allowed for viewing of all levels of the rainforest from its floor to the canopy. The dizzying heights from the top of the tower gave a better perspective of the scale of the rainforest as even from the top of the 60-foot tower there are still trees that climb much higher. The tower immediately paid dividends as we were very close to a small flock of male Double-eyed Fig Parrots feasting on tiny orange figs. Figs comprise their entire diet. We watched them gorge for a few minutes before deciding to move on. The foliage in the tropical rainforest is quite diverse and the larger trees serve as hosts for several varieties of ferns and vines. In sunny spots you could see an assortment of insects and spiders parading through, including fire ants with green hind sections that appeared to dominate the insect world.
After the Discovery Centre we ventured down the road a bit more to the Jindalba Boardwalk for another short hike through the rainforest. Here were spotted a couple of birds including a colorful Noisy Pitta that
boasted a brown and black head, green wings and a yellow breast. It was totally quiet. Go figure.
We headed back to the car ferry pretty much totally obsessed with trying to spot a Cassowary. No luck. On the south side of the river there are a handful of river tour operators who run crocodile tours. Needless to say, our group was game. We luckily arrived just in time to take the Solar Whisper boat, an electric craft with an onboard high definition video camera hooked into a television for extra-close viewing. Almost immediately after pulling from the dock our captain spotted a Common Tree Snake on a branch about twenty feet up. My vision is 20:15. This dude was a freak. I could barely see the coiled snake. After rounding some mangroves, we were presented with a 3-year old saltwater croc. It was about 4 feet long and was relatively new to the area. The saltwater crocodiles are extremely territorial and this relative newbie to this stretch of the river was granted permission by Scarface, the dominate male in the hood. After a bit larger female croc, we were presented with Scarface - all 14 feet of him.
Theo with a mutant Cassowary Plum
These plums are toxic to every animal except the Cassowary. The Cassowary eats them whole and deposits the seeds for regrowth. Theo thought this pair that had grown together was particularly funny. If you rotate the plums, I'm sure you can imagine what he thought it looked like! We saw these on tops of trees at the top of the Rainforest Tower. Now those would hurt falling from 80 feet!
As his name would suggest, his face was battle-scarred and he was nearly toothless (only 5 out of 64 teeth remain) from his battles with prey and would-be takers of his throne. The crocodiles beach themselves along the river's shoreline fairly predictably. Each has their own preferred sun spot. This makes it much easier on the river tour guides. The brackish area we covered was ruled by Scarface and his 15 or so mates. A couple of younger males hadn't been chased off or eaten by the dominant male and may someday challenge him for rule of couple of kilometers of the Daintree. Oddly, the crocs let the regular tour boats approach them. If it is an unknown boat, they might take to the water or in Scarface's case a less favorable result for the skiff. On the cruise we saw two varieties of Kingfisher (the Azure and Sacred), another tree snake, some heron and a few other birds. The captain also shared with us some video clips of Scarface dragging a pig and cow across the river (not at the same time!). The saltwater crocs are terribly dangerous, particularly during mating season. They head as far as 80 kilometers
The Cassowary Plums are almost all seed! Some nuts are too hard for others to eat, but the Cassowary eats them and it softens the seed for it to grow. Several rainforest giant trees will not survive if the Casswary goes extinct.
up the river and really don't care if they live in salt water, brackish rivers or freshwater as long as the temperature suits them. The river cruise did not disappoint us and we headed back to the resort to rest up for another adventure.
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