Cassowary House

July 2, 2010

Breakfast at Cassowary House is always an exceptional affair. Where else can you watch, Cassowary , Victoria's Riflebird and Musky Rat Kangaroos whilst you have breakfast!! Other highlights of our stay included Red-necked Crake (these are present most evenings) and Sooty Owl .

There are a number of rooms at Cassowary House but we stopped at the cottage, which the Moorheads affectionally call 'the Tardis' on account of it having telephone box doors. One morning, we had to close the door as 'Missy', the resident female Cassowary , decided to come and have a look inside. She's very inquisitive and has been at Cassowary House since she was a chick, so she's very comfortable around people. This is not always the case with her mate. He was on eggs while we were there (male Cassowaries do all the parenting) but when he returns with chicks, he becomes very protective.

It's an amazing opportunity to look very closely at these remarkable prehistoric-looking birds. Their inner claws have virtually no toe - just a 3 inch long ice-pick-like claw. No wonder most people have learnt to give these birds a wide berth. They've managed to survive in the forest with people for thousands of years. But despite their reputation for aggression, their sluggish behaviour and slow, deliberate movements, has made them prone to collision with the cars that career up the local dirt roads. They are now faced with extinction.

Cassowary eyes look straight forward and there's the hint of myopia - maybe it helps to be short-sighted to find fruits on the forest floor? It was quite never-wracking to be sat on a seat under the verandah when Missy took a few steps forward for a closer look at what I was doing.

In truth, you're not likely to ever get attacked by a Cassowary unless you do something silly. As Sue Gregory explains, when the male's around with the chicks, she may impose a curfew on the guests. After all, he's lived here a lot longer and with 70-100 forest tree species depending on him for seed germination and dispersal, it's important that he sticks around.

Cassowary House is an amazing place to stay and no visit to the Cairns Region would be complete without staying there. The wildlife is amazing and there's lots to do - because it's only 30 minutes drive from Cairns, it's even a much better alternative to staying in the city. Wildlife aside, Sue's breakfasts are also something to be experienced. There'll be more food than you can eat and, the chances are, at least one fruit on the platter you haven't heard of before.


 Freshwater crocodile at the Barren River

Looking across the river, there is a large fallen tree and to the left of that, an area of bare open ground with short vegetation. It was on here that the Freshwater Crocodile was hauled out of the river. There were also turtles on the adjacent logs.

After about 10 minutes at the location, a Black Bittern flushed from the reeds practically beneath our feet.   Read more.
 Breakfast at Cassowary House
We had breakfast three mornings in a row and each morning, was visited by the same resident Victoria's Riflebirds (a bird of paradise), Musky Rat-kangaroos and Spotted Catbirds.  On the last morning, a Black Butcherbird and Missy, the female Cassowary appeared and sang from within feet of us. It's such a pleasure relaxing on the verandah and drinking tea while watching the rainforest animals and birds going about their business. The male riflebird even gave a brief display at one point. He apparently does this a bit more later in the season. Read more.


Mammals 1 species
Musky Rat-kangaroo (Hypsiprymnodon moschatus) 5
Land Birds 30 species
Australian Brushturkey (Alectura lathami) 6
Barred Cuckooshrike (Coracina lineata) 3
Orange-footed Scrubfowl (Megapodius reinwardt) 2
Common Emerald Dove (Chalcophaps indica) 2
Helmeted Friarbird (Philemon buceroides) 2 The Cape York 'yorki' race (by some accounts a separate species)
Olive-backed Sunbird (Cinnyris jugularis) 2 Look out for them admiring themselves in the car mirrors!
Graceful Honeyeater (Meliphaga gracilis) 1
Bar-shouldered Dove (Geopelia humeralis) 1
Macleay's Honeyeater (Xanthotis macleayanus) 1 Common on the feeders at breakfast
Varied Triller (Lalage leucomela) 1
Bower's Shrikethrush (Colluricincla boweri) 1
Southern Boobook (Ninox boobook) 1
Tooth-billed Bowerbird (Scenopoeetes dentirostris) 1 One seen in a feeding flock on fruit trees above the house.
Black Butcherbird (Cracticus quoyi) 1
Grey Fantail (Rhipidura albiscapa) 1
Victoria's Riflebird (Ptiloris victoriae) 1 Common around the breakfast table. The male occasionally displays!
Yellow-breasted Boatbill (Machaerirhynchus flaviventer) 1
Spotted Catbird (Ailuroedus melanotis) 1 Common at breakfast but appeared a bit later than the other birds.
Southern Cassowary (Casuarius casuarius) 1
Zebra Dove (Geopelia striata) 1
Pale-yellow Robin (Tregellasia capito) 1
Welcome Swallow (Hirundo neoxena) 1
Red-necked Crake (Rallina tricolor) 1 These are around most mornings and evenings and can be seen from the verandah.
Large-billed Gerygone (Gerygone magnirostris) 1
Wompoo Fruit Dove (Ptilinopus magnificus) 1
Sooty Owl (Tyto tenebricosa) 1 Heard calling in the grounds on the first night.
Yellow-spotted Honeyeater (Meliphaga notata) 1
Australasian Figbird (Sphecotheres vieilloti) 1
Black Bittern (Dupetor flavicollis) 1
Striated Heron (Butorides striata) 1
Terrestrial Reptiles 1 species
Freshwater Crocodile (Crocodylus johnstoni) 1



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