It’s a pitch black night here at Thala. A strange repetitive sound ‘zoop zoop zoop zoop’ softly resonates through the rainforest. It is hard to tell which direction it is coming from: But it seems to be generally high up in the canopy. The sea breeze has died away and the still humid air hangs like a blanket over the forest. ‘zoop zoop zoop’ it drones on.
Nocturnal birds, as mysterious as their call, Papuan Frogmouths are nesting overhead in a fork of a giant Paperbark tree at the edge of the thick forest.
Their flimsy nest, balanced 20 metres above the ground with a few sparse twigs, is home to this magnificent chick. Piercing red eyes distinguish these birds from other species of frogmouths. While guests at the lodge are sleeping, his parents work hard throughout the night capturing moths, small reptiles and frogs to keep up with the chick’s voracious appetite. They usually sit motionless in a tree alert to every movement on the ground below; swooping down on stealthily quiet wings to grab small prey with their large wide beaks.
During the day parents and chick spend their time motionless often with their eyes closed to protect their sensitive retina from the harsh sunlight. Cryptic colours and feather patterns means that extremely keen eyes are needed to see them at all. Thala’s naturalists Brett and David first spotted this chick and for many weeks guests have enjoyed watching him with the aid of a powerful telescope.
Now at night the forest feels alive and mysterious. Thick brooding air carries the zoop zoop zoop of the Papuan Frogmouths right along the beach. Waves cast phosphorescence onto the eerily glowing sand. This is the wet season in all its natural glory, a remarkable celebration of life.