Do you know what you’re looking at here? It’s the splatter-bomb poo of a Southern Cassowary and it’s everywhere on the forest floor at Fan Palm Reserve in the Daintree area of far north Queensland.
The Southern Cassowary is listed as endangered and we owe a lot to its impressive digestive tract, which plays a critical role in seed dispersal and germination in the tropical ecosystem. We were thrilled to see such fresh sign that these birds are using the reserve for safe passage and as an abundant food source.
Piles of poo were not the only highlight of this recent trip to Bush Heritage’s only reserve within Queensland's Wet Tropics World Heritage Area. It's a place of incredible, structural beauty, where your eye is drawn from the web-like embrace of strangler fig to the tight curl of a new frond emerging from the heart of a tree fern. The unmistakeable call of the Wompoo Fruit Dove reverberates through the canopy above, and from below comes the trickling laughter of a shallow creek as it ducks under ferns and around a bend and out of view.
On this trip to we placed four trail cameras in likely locations with the hope of capturing images of the forest inhabitants. We also re-marked the property boundary and surveyed for pond apple – a weed that's spread in the Daintree (luckily we found no sign of it on the reserve).
Picking a path through the tangled, humid forest was a slow and steamy affair. One of the reasons that Fan Palm's many charms are well hidden is the almost impenetrable screen of hooked and barbed plants such as Calamus australis commonly known as Lawyer Cane, Wait-a-While, or Hairy Mary, which is common throughout the the wet forests of Queensland.
Wait-a-while is a climbing palm and, as the name suggests, it's long, hooked tendrils stop you in your tracks as you try to make your way through the rainforest. But it's well worth the effort to stand under the canopy of the iconic Fan Palms. There's no canopy quite like it, especially when the sun is overhead and the dappled light flickers through to the forest floor, illuminating pockets of unusual ferns and brightly-coloured fruit.
Driving slowly back to our accommodation we came upon two adult cassowaries with two young ones at foot, less than 2km from the reserve. We got a great look at them before they melted back into the shadows. It was the perfect end to a productive trip.