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    Tropic's guide to the best of nature in TNQ this October and November

    Climate: Dry charm

    The last couple of months of the “dry” season bring their own charm to TNQ. Yes, the lawns are turning brown at an alarming rate and the ambient temperatures are reminding us that summer is approaching, but the skies are blue and the sea breezes help to make that late afternoon gin & tonic so relaxing. Could there possibly be a better place to live? Our resident Willy Wagtail (Rhipidura leucophrys) doesn’t think so.

    Birdlife: Wagtails love wet tropics

    While Willy Wagtails are found all over Australia, they do seem to enjoy life in the wet tropics, even more so when we humans step into the garden, and, believe me, their motivation is far from altruistic. Start digging, weeding or turning over the compost and a Willy will appear, perched within a metre or two, chattering for all it’s worth. Any unsuspecting insect accidently exposed is consumed quickly and efficiently and the chattering is immediately resumed in anticipation of the next victim. Similarly, humans never have to mow alone. They can always rely on a Willy Wagtail to keep them company, swooping and diving in their wake to catch an easy dinner. If these antics don’t provide us with enough delight, then their beautiful nocturnal serenade certainly will.

    Foliage: Black Bean of course

    As always, there are some spectacular trees currently in flower. One of the more ‘introverted’ of these is the Queensland Black Bean (Castanospermum australe) as their flowers are easily concealed by the tree’s typical dense foliage. Given the right light, the red and yellow pea-shaped blossoms covering the internal branches can bring the tree to life and make it glow. The Black Bean grows into a large and handsome tree and is found within our rainforests and along creeks and riverbanks. It has been frequently used in park and roadside plantings, thereby providing many a child with instant toy boats after the brown seed-pods split open.

    Produce: All go for potato

    Yet another plus for this time of year is the abundance of Tableland’s grown potatoes at Rusty’s Markets. Freshly dug and scarcely travelled potatoes are certainly a treat that can take an ordinary meal into the realms of deliciousness. In particular, the kipfler potatoes are simply superb. Cooking methods can be as simple as a scrub followed by a steam and served with butter, salt and pepper. However, these little finger-like spuds are delicious mashed or roasted whole with olive oil and rosemary. They are also perfect for potato salad. The freshness and quality of this vegetable lets the flavour and texture sing through the simplest of preparations.

    Science: Dates to remember

    Don’t forget the great Australian Backyard Bird Count is on between October 23 and 29. Simply log on to aussiebirdcount.org.au to register. A small donation of your time will help build a clearer picture of our unique birdlife. Don’t delay, register now.

    And another date-claimer: The 2017 coral spawning event should take place around the 8th to 10th of November and December, approximately 4 to 6 days after the full moon.