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Monthly Chronicle - - Front Page - Nick Hodges

It had been a long, bone­jar­ring drive over the cor­ru­ga­tions and through the dust of the gravel high­way lead­ing up the Cape York Penin­sula. I was pleased to stop for the night at a road­house.

Half­way through the evening meal a fel­low trav­eller re­ported a large night ht bird perched on a ter­mite mound ou­und across the car park. I grabbed da a spot­light and hur­ried out of the e room to the call of "Hey, your dessert!" But I didn't stop: dessert could wait.

In the torch beam I could see quite clearly a Pa­puan frog­mouth, a larger rel­a­tive of the tawny frog­mouth found com­monly in Syd­ney's back­yards. They re­sem­ble owls but have a very wide bill for catch­ing ching in­sects whereas owls have sharp beaks for tear­ing small mam­mals. Frog­mouths have weak feet too, un­like an owl's talons.

Pairs sit in their reg­u­lar trees all day wait­ing for night­fall, when they come to life. They have been known to perch in the same tree for many ye years and house­hold­ers come to see them as part of the fam­ily. Ap­proach frog­mouths and a they take lit­tle no­tice - although if they do be­come alarmed they stretch their necks, and then look un­can­nily like the branch on which they are roost­ing. Once, one landed on my bed­room b win­dow sill. It stayed sta all day - un­mov­ing as if dead. ddea I was tempted to poke the bird birrd to see if it would move. But com­mon com sense pre­vailed. I left it alone. al I'd not seen a Pa­puan frog­mouth be­fore. It gazed back at me show­ing no fear. I took plenty of time study­ing the bird; its huge cherry-red eyes (com­pared with w the yel­low of the tawny frog­mouth), fro its mot­tled plumage plum and wide gape. When I'd had my fill of frog­mouth view­ing my thoughts turned to my stom­ach: I was now ready for dessert. But as I ap­proached the road­house a voice called, "Go back to your bird­watch­ing. Dessert tonight was ice-cream and yours just melted!"

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