Be Grateful For Slugs. Or Even Raccoons..



Brush Turkey

..Because you could have one of these. It’s about the size of a chicken. Looks harmless enough?



Well, no. Believe it or not, this is its nest. Difficult to get perspective from the photo I know, but that mound is about 1.5m high. Same height as me. I couldn’t see over the top of it. And they can be up to 4m wide..

The male brush turkey builds and tends the nest, scratching up soil and leaf litter from an enormous area around it. Imagine having that heap suddenly appear plumb in the centre of what used to be your White Border? At Cairns Botanic Garden that’s exactly what happens. Although they might dispute, with some justification, that their border was ever entirely white.



Here he is, with larger yellow wattles than the female (top pic), bedding down the nest.. possibly less than enthused by the intrusion if his expression is anything to go by. But if he does choose to build a nest right beside the garden cafe then what can he expect?

The female brush turkey turns up sufficiently long enough to bury her eggs deep in the mound and then promptly skidaddles, relying on heat from the composting process to incubate the eggs. Once they hatch it’s down to the youngsters to dig themselves out of the heap and start out in life on their own.

And don’t think you’ve escaped if you see no brush turkeys. Because you might still have one of these..



Scrub fowl

And they do exactly the same. Just omit the vertically aligned tail (all the better for scraping with) and add a pointy head. My usual disclaimer for rainforest photography, light levels are extremely low.


A few more images from the rainforest before we move on:




One of the main predators of brush turkey and scrub fowl eggs as it happens.



The rainforest is such a magical place. And the coolest place to be when the heat reaches record levels, as it did in Far North Queensland to coincide with our stay. You know me, I’d much rather be too hot than too cold. But when it gets to over 40C perhaps even I have found my limit.



One afternoon we had what was classed as a ‘severe thunderstorm’. In England it would have been called a hurricane, promptly given a name, and would have shut down the entire country. When the ornaments on the deck table took flight we hastily retreated inside, only to see the chairs that we’d been seated in moments earlier similarly take to the air and end up in the shrubbery. Swiftly followed by a sofa..



The Wait-A-While Vine

Because if you’ve been snagged by one that’s precisely what you’ll do. See the barbs on the stems?



Figs. Growing high up in the canopy of a host tree.



One of the cassowary’s favourite fruity snacks. They may look soft and yielding but falling from such a height they have the power to ricochet off the boardwalks and cannon into any unsuspecting passer-by. Ask me how I know.



Flying foxes on their daytime roost. You’ll hear these long before you see them.



A hanging basket with a difference. The ferns have two types of fronds: the long green fronds that carry the spores for reproduction and photosynthesis and short brown fronds which protect the roots and collect debris, providing nutrition for the plant. Not to mention all the other life that collects in there.. insects, frogs, snakes and other plants which germinate in the nutrient rich environment.



And finally. To get to the rainforest we had to cross the Daintree River on a ferry. If you’re a bird, and it’s very very hot, why go to all the trouble of flying across when you can hitch a ride for free?


2018-12-06T14:31:20+00:00December 6th, 2018|Tags: |


  1. Heyjude December 6, 2018 at 12:30 pm - Reply

    Gardening in the tropics is a whole different ball game. And those fruit bats are pretty scary creatures.

    • Jessica December 8, 2018 at 8:12 pm - Reply

      When we first arrived, still suffering from jet lag, I was wandering around in the middle of the night. I looked out of the window and there were flying foxes circling the house!

  2. Julieanne December 6, 2018 at 12:40 pm - Reply

    It looks amazing, but I’ll stick to seeing your pics because I just couldn’t cope with that heat and humidity. That Brush Turkey nest is wow. Though part of me thinks, hmmmm, nice leafmould.

    • Jessica December 8, 2018 at 8:16 pm - Reply

      Yes, they are expert composters. If you could persuade one to build the heap nicely concealed at the bottom of the garden it would have its uses!

  3. Peter Herpst December 6, 2018 at 3:07 pm - Reply

    A nice warm walk for this armchair tourist is just the thing aon this dark but clear and very cold (-6 C) morning. The Brush Turkey nest does make me grateful for slugs! I guess one gets used to the flying foxes but they seem a bit intimidating to the uninitiated.

    • Jessica December 8, 2018 at 8:20 pm - Reply

      Brrrr, that is cold. It looks warmer in the UK but with a lot of rain. The bulbs I planted all in a rush before we left should be getting a nice watering in!

  4. Denise December 6, 2018 at 6:31 pm - Reply

    I got all excited there…I thought the fig tree was covered in Maltesers…

    • Jessica December 8, 2018 at 8:30 pm - Reply

      Ha! It does look just like that. Except the chocolate would melt in a nanosecond.

  5. Kris P December 6, 2018 at 7:18 pm - Reply

    Having had another face off with a raccoon just last night (in the rain yet) I was prepared to disagree with you but, no, I wouldn’t be pleased to find piles of leaves that large in my garden (assuming said fowl could find enough leaves to create them in a community that restricts trees if they interfere with views). I appreciate your perseverance in collecting photos and stories despite the toasty temperatures. Go forth and explore on behalf of all of us!

    • Jessica December 8, 2018 at 8:38 pm - Reply

      Having now moved from the north of Australia to the south (post to follow shortly) I am missing the heat hugely! The brush turkeys would have no shortage of leaves chez duck. Come to think of it, it might make Mike’s autumn clear up a little easier. At least the leaves would have been collected in one place.

  6. karen December 6, 2018 at 8:47 pm - Reply

    Blooming heck! Every photo was accompanied by a sound here, agghhh! Or eeek! How wonderful to see all this vibrant wildlife. I’m really enjoying your travels. I’ll never be able to go there myself, as I couldn’t cope with the heat. But I can view your photos and sort of travel along with you. Enjoy your holiday Jessica. All the best. Karen

    • Jessica December 8, 2018 at 8:42 pm - Reply

      Temperature records are being broken all over the place this year. I saw on the weather forecast that it’s expected to get to 46C in parts of north west Australia this week, plus humidity. That was one of the places I had really wanted to go, perhaps just as well we saved it to a different time of year.

  7. derrickjknight December 7, 2018 at 3:22 pm - Reply

    Beautiful, educational, and amusing – that’ll do nicely

    • Jessica December 8, 2018 at 8:42 pm - Reply

      Thanks Derrick. Travel in a nutshell!

  8. Chloris December 7, 2018 at 5:56 pm - Reply

    I think a Brush Turkey would be handy, he’d make a great compost heap. You are having an exciting trip. I read this post last night before I went to sleep and had a nightmare about being attacked by giant fruit bats.

    • Jessica December 8, 2018 at 8:45 pm - Reply

      Sorry. I have had several snake related nightmares, if it’s any consolation. Goodness knows what Sigmund Freud would make of it.

  9. germac4 December 8, 2018 at 5:13 am - Reply

    So much fun reading your post… you and your other half are intrepid, there is no way you would catch me in Far North Queensland at this time of the year! Hope it cools down a little for you. When we went on our Port Douglas bird-watching tour they told us about Brush Turkeys…I’m thinking I would rather have cockatoos any day! I love the story about the ”thunderstorm”, they are so casual about such things. Hope you see some interesting parrots and birds in the rainforest areas.

    • Jessica December 8, 2018 at 8:52 pm - Reply

      The weather in just so extreme in parts of the country and it’s very much taken for granted. I suppose being used to such a relatively benign climate the British see any deviation as a major event. The rain was awesome too. Short but very sharp tropical showers, a complete contrast to the lighter but going-on-for-days soggy greyness that I’m more accustomed to.

  10. Mary December 8, 2018 at 10:43 am - Reply

    I’m pretty sure that when you do return to Cornwall, the cold will seem much colder after baking in 40C. We get temps here like that periodically during the summer and it is miserable. The wildlife is certainly that–wild! Hope you weren’t bruised by the ‘cannon’ fire from the figs, that the flying foxes stayed in their perches and that you aren’t exposed to too many more storms. A stroll through the rain forest in not quite as benign as a walk through an English country garden, but it certainly has its rewards. Enjoy!

    • Jessica December 8, 2018 at 9:03 pm - Reply

      You’re right, I’m not looking forward to returning to winter at its worst. I do keep thinking about the garden and what it must be looking like though.
      Like the US, Australia is so immense travelling through it exposes one to such a wide variety of climatic conditions. I’m currently being buffeted by wind straight off the southern ocean. There have been times when it has been difficult even to stand up! Another event which would make headline news in the UK.

  11. Diana Studer December 8, 2018 at 10:37 pm - Reply

    Flying furniture sounds alarming!

    • Jessica December 9, 2018 at 7:40 pm - Reply

      I couldn’t believe my eyes. Rattan furniture so not extremely heavy, but an actual sofa? It was quite a sight. And it still took two of us to retrieve the sofa from the hedge where it had landed.

  12. hb December 10, 2018 at 4:17 am - Reply

    Enjoying your Australian adventure from afar. Birds that build their own compost pile? 40C? Oy.

    • Jessica December 10, 2018 at 8:36 am - Reply

      Composting must go pretty well at that temperature. My heap just grinds to a halt because it gets too cold.

  13. Cathy December 10, 2018 at 8:51 am - Reply

    Fascinating – who would have believed it?!

    • Jessica December 11, 2018 at 9:20 am - Reply

      Not me, if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes.

  14. Carrie Gault December 12, 2018 at 9:22 pm - Reply

    Well goodness me – what a beautiful and interesting post! I don’t have a desire to visit Australia myself for some reason (maybe it’s that everything seems deadly) but I do love other people’s stories and wonderful photographs (truly yours are amazing). Plus, what about that nest 1.5m high!? I’m only 1.58m – see, scary!

    • Jessica December 14, 2018 at 4:14 am - Reply

      You get complacent very quickly about all the deadly things, mostly because you rarely see them. I’ve seen only one snake and it was running (slithering) away as fast as it could go! They don’t want to meet us anymore than we want to meet them.

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