Last Wednesday my dear friend Margaret Hunt died in Townsville General Hospital following a massive stroke.
Margaret and her late husband Reg, for many years, operated Northland Motors in Innisfail. Reg could fix any diesel engine and if Margaret couldn't find the spare part Reg would make it. The farming industry of the Johnstone River valley owe a lot to Reg and Margaret.
Margaret and I discovered in many ways we had lived parallel lives. At 18 years I took a job as a governess on a sheep station in western Queensland, when I left to go to Darwin Margaret was the next governess, at the time she had just turned 18, a few months younger than me.
We miss you Margaret and salute you and Reg for your devotion over many years to the people and farmers of Innisfail and district. Margaret will be buried in Townsville on Thursday 3rd January, supported by her three daughters Janine, Christine and Cathy.
On the evening of the 22 December I received a phone call from a neighbour. He asked for my urgent help as a baby cassowary was dead on the Coquette Point road and the distressed dad would not leave the dead body: he was standing in the middle of the road over the dead chick.
I identified the male cassowary as 'Dad 1' the senior Coquette Point male. I could not understand what brought him out of the forest and onto the road with his chick late on a dark night. We tried to chase him off the road but to no avail. He was very distressed and would not leave the dead chick. We decided to collect the chick and take it off the road and place it on a grassed area beside Maynard Road. However, we could not get Dad 1 to follow down the hill.
We collected the dead chick again and took it to the cleared area where the Moresby Range National Park sign was. Cars were passing all the time and with big torches we flagged them to slow down and explained what had happened. It was all very urgent and immediate and no time to phone police or National Parks.
This time we managed to persuade the cassowary to leave the road and once he got the scent of the chick he stayed beside it. We waited for some time and the cassowary made no attempt to go back on the road. We left to go home. I returned again at 11.30 pm to check, there was no sign of Dad1 and only a police car passed me coming out from and then going back to town. They did not stop to ask what I was doing standing beside the road in the middle of the night? At 6.30 am I returned to check and the baby was still lying as we had placed it on the leaf litter and this time no sign of Dad1.
came bounding over to me. The owner was walking two unleashed dogs where the road runs through the Moresby Range national park. I told her about the dead cassowary chick and asked her, politely, to put her dogs on a leash. She did so immediately with the larger of the two dogs..
on the Coquette Point road and a few irresponsible dog owners make it difficult to do this safely. I have been told on a number of occasions of unleashed and wandering dogs chasing bicycles and walkers. Also of concern is the impact of free ranging dogs on the wildlife of the Moresby Range National Park.
The butterfly tree, Melicope elleryana's spectacular blooms are sending the rainbow lorikeets into a spin. The high protein nectar of the flowers is a favourite of many birds.
A the moment the Pied Imperial pigeons do not need to fly far from their nesting trees in the swamp, they are spending most of their days lazily plucking the bright purple fruits of the damson plum before jumping onto the nearby Leichhardt tree for a change of diet.
Nauclea orientalis are ripe and when the pigeons want a change of diet they join the metallic starlings
for dinner on the tree.
This week I counted over 20 endangered little terns near the Coquette Point rookery. Unfortunately officers of the Cassowary Coast Council's Environment Department still have not repaired the 'no dog' sign at the beginning of the beach walking track. No signage has been placed on the rookery even though we were told that it would be erected at the beginning of the tern breeding season.
Although it is an offence to cause disturbance to shorebirds and their habitat and hefty on-the-spot penalties apply there are no signs to warn or advise beach goers of this fact and no officials are monitoring what is happening.
lesser crested terns, crested terns and gull-billed terns all feeding on the sand spit and showing mating behaviour by offering bait fish to a partner while exhibiting full breeding plumage.
the wind and stretched his wings wide in order to dry out after a fishing expedition. In full breeding plumage his shaggy black crest was blown erect like a mow hawk hair-do.
I counted ten gull billed terns resting with the crested terns on the sand bar. Above a gull billed tern in the foreground and
a crested tern behind.
Five red knots were pushing their bills into the soft mud to find a crustacean meal.
rocks little egret stood with his feet braced in the mud and waited for a meal of bait fish. When
the tide changes the shorebirds feast.
On Thursday my friends James and Loha exchanged wedding vows in the beach house on my front lawn. Some years ago James and Loha came to Innisfail from the Tokelau Islands in the Eastern Pacific. After the wedding we enjoyed traditional dancing and feasting.
dancing and laughter of the young people of James and Loha's families: it was a wonderful day.
While Christmas brought us two days of good rain, cyclone Freda over the Solomon Islands today and together with a large high in the Bight is expected to send a firm ridge up the eastern coast and heavy rain and strong winds are expected over the New Year period. The cyclone will move south and not impact the Queensland coast. Our dusty brown lawns will soon grow green again.
Martin took the dory out to the reef fishing today and reported the sea surface temperature was very hot at 31degrees. He saw a very large hump-back whale on the outer reef. He also saw exceptional numbers of large sharks of various species: more sharks than he had ever seen before, he said.
Christmas and New Year is a time for feasting and Major skink found some Christmas cake I had left out and I think he over indulged.
Enjoy the New Year festivities in moderation and see you next year,
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