I Blame The Moon! But I have Seen Basically All The Things Now…

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July 27th 2018
Published: July 27th 2018
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I had intended to wake up for early morning birding because I am right in birding habitat right away, but having ended fairly late last night and my cold, as colds generally are, being worse in the morning I couldn't get up first thing. The birding doesn't actually seem much better in the morning though since this time of year is the coldest it gets and it seems that some birds become more active in the day. The main reason for getting up early was just to have more time birding since getting out late loses a lot of time but with the birding right there, there was no time lost getting to the right spots.

I've also seen basically all the things at this point. And I don't just mean all my targets, I've seen almost every species that occurs in this area. All of them. Of course there are odd bits and pieces that I haven't found yet because to see every regularly occuring species takes a lot of time because you'll just end up with bad luck on one species, I'm on about 90% of all the regularly occuring birds in the rainforest. There's no way you'd ever get anywhere near that total in an Asian rainforest. I don't know what percentage of the bird species in the Danum Valley I saw, 20% max at a push? Australian birding is comparatively really easy compared to Asian birding. The only place on Malaysia where I've seen a comparable percentage of the birds is Mount Kinabalu. Bukit Fraser was probably a majority too, but nob of the lowland sites were even close. There are still lots of mammals I could find at night although I have seen all the common ones and many of the less common but still reasonably possible ones.

I walked to and around Lake Eacham in the morning which was really birdy with catbirds and whipbirds and treecrepers and things and a great view of a stunning male Victoria's Riflebird too. It's a really stunning bit of rainforest around a crater lake, much quieter than Lake Barrine and with a much larger area of rainforest. This accommodation would be a great place to relax for a couple of weeks and really focus on spotlighting the nights because there are lots of possibilities. I also found some flowering trees to check at night for the pygmy possum because I don't think going to a patch of rainforest where one was seen two weeks ago will give me any better luck than just spotlighting around Lake Eacham. As I've said, the pygmy possums are in all the rainforest patches here and aren't so uncommon just not particularly densely populated or easy to find.

We went into Yungaburra for lunch and after lunch I walked down Platypus Creek while the others faffed in the shops. Although I had seen two platypuses already on this trip and one on my previous trip, it's a nice walk and who can get tired of seeing a platypus? I was very happy I did go down though because I got an absolutely amazing view of a platypus going down and coming back up several times right in front of me and my first decent daylight pictures of a platypus. I actually saw at least two platypuses on this walk which is cool. (I'm going with platypuses as the plural although the pretentious side of me wants to go with platypodes. I do actually often use octopodes as the plural for octopus, semi-ironically, but platypodes somehow sounds even more pretentious. Platypi and octopi are wrong though because it's latinising a Greek ending etc.)

In the afternoon I walked around Lake Eacham some more filling in a few holes in the species seen but not adequately photographed category like the Wompoo Fruit Dove, Musky Rat Kangroo, and Yellow-footed Antechinus. Normally antechinuses are difficult to observe never mind photograph, but this one was especially showey or, in birding lingo, cooperative. The Yellow-footed Antechinus seens really common around here, I've seen several. It should be coming to the end of mating season for them now in this region which must be an unpleasant time for the males because after mating season all male antechinuses die.

After dinner I went down to the nocturnal viewing platform to get there earlier prior to the honey being spread. When I got there, the glider was moving around quickly between the trees and doing some quite impressive glides. There was just one sugar glider again, as yesterday, as well as a Long-nosed Bandicoot.

After watching the glider for about 40 minutes, by which point it had left, o decided to try and spotlight along the road through the rainforest to Lake Eacham. This is almost 2km each way and all through rainforest so with such a lot of forest you'd expect a lot of possums... Well I saw one. One single possum. A Green Ringtail. What about the picnic area and lawns by the lake, surely lots of wildlife will be out grazing on the grass and looking for food scraps... There was a single Pademelon. One. I did see some really awesome tube-noses bats but the forest was eerily quiet. Even with insects. Oh, and I saw quite a large gecko too but it hid before I could get a close look.

I suppose the reason for the complete lack of wildlife was that it's a full moon and completely clear sky making it quite bright long after the sun has completely gone but surely the possums still have to come out and eat some time? There's actually a lunar eclipse tonight/tomorrow morning which is supposed to be a particularly so I may wake up to see that. I suppose it was just an extremely bright moon keeping the possums hidden. I struggle to recall ever having seen a night this bright actually although prior to this trip I wasn't spending very long periods of time out in the wilderness at night. I could actually read signs around the picnic area purely from the light of the moon, that bright.

I spent two hours largely pointlessly spotlighting along the road to Lake Eacham and back but hey, it was my last night in the Tablelands and you've got to try. And I must say that bat is really cool too and a species I was looking out for, although I just saw it in flight not at roost. Needless to say there were no pygmy possums, not at the flowering trees I had spotted in the day or anywhere else. I got back just before 10 and went to the nocturnal platform to see what was about. There were four sugar gliders there, all licking away like fluffy little licking robots. These vanished one by one over the next twenty minutes until there was one left (although some did come back later) and then in came Mr Striped Possum which sat out in the open for a while going for the last of the sugary stuff and I got an amazing view and some pictures that look pretty good on the back of the camera at least. I even got some cool pictures of the striped and glider next to each other. The Striped Possum really is strikingly marked. The black and white stripes are absolutely stunning in person like someone's bleached a possum pure white leaving the pink nose and feet and then taken a black marker and drawn lines down it. Probably the most striking markings I've ever seen in a mammal. Just amazing to sit there watching one for twenty minutes on a tree a couple of metres away while sugar gliders come in and out.

At about 10:40 a second striped possum showed up. This was a rufousy fawny colour where much of the white should have been, so a juvenile maybe? The field guide doesn't illustrate that though. It showed up, had a stand-off with the striped already there then they had a brief scuffle, made noises at each other and then ran off, scaring the last sugar glider with them. The juvenile striped came back briefly but that was it for the night.

So quiet elsewhere, apart from the bat which was cool, but a pretty spectacular show at the end of the night at the viewing platform.

New birds:

Crimson Rosella

Fan-tailed Cuckoo

(Greater) Pied Cormorant


Eastern Tube-nosed Bat

Additional photos below
Photos: 17, Displayed: 17


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