Saturday, 27 April 2013

Hello from Coquette Point,

The dawn chorus across the mangroves has been dominated this week by the ascending chuckle and chatter of the spangled drongos. Every morning the drongos find high vantage points to stake out their  territorial claims in song. Drongos are often aggressive to other birds while defending their territory..

In this photo the early morning light shines on the blue iridescent spots on drongo's breast as he lifts his head to burst into a cheery ode to the sun that brightens the heart of anyone luckily enough to hear.

Note the white edge on the undercoverlets of the long forked tail and wings. The strong hairs around drongos beak are believed to help guide food into his mouth.
There is good news for the young cassowary 'Rosie', as you can see in the photo she has nothing wrong with her bowels and the scat shows she is eating a good variety of rain forest fruits.

However, she has not recovered her normal gait and the injury still appears to be affecting her ability to pace, although thankfully she is not limping.

The injury to Rosie's foot can be clearly seen in this photo on the right. It may have been caused by dog attack or an encounter with a vehicle, perhaps, we will never know.                                                            When housing developments are built on old cassowary habitat it becomes increasingly problematic for these birds. Fences with gates left open, dogs, motor traffic and loss of  habitat as well as loss of connecting habitat, all have a dramatic effect on the viability of the cassowary population. Covenants on dogs, fence design and traffic-speed all need to be considered when new developments are built near or in cassowary hot-spots, that is if we wish to see these birds survive and not go the way of the Thylacine.  Making these conditions retrospective in cassowary habitat hot-spots would not be popular with everyone but with good-will from enough caring people, it could happen.
                                                                Matriarch cassowary Jessie is having a tough time with mosquitoes. In the photo on the right you can see the mosquitoes buzzing around her chest.   Jessie is continually pecking at the mosquitoes and wherever she walks a great cloud of mosquitoes hums around her.                                                                                                                             I was watching Jessie on Thursday as she followed Snout into the mangroves. He stood deep in the shadows of the mangroves and as I watched she followed and sat down directly in front of him, with her backside within 30 centimetres of his face, I thought how provocative and I watched from a distance in anticipation of their mating. No luck, Snout was not ready and after about 20 minutes he walked off and sat down away from her but facing her.   The mosquitoes were thick completely covering my arms and even thicker around the cassowaries.
Well concealed I waited for an hour but nothing happened, they both sat quietly, Jessie pecking at the mosquitoes and Snout seemingly asleep.  They remained there for two more hours and then moved away. It is now the second week of their 2013 courtship.                                     The two Etty Bay male cassowaries have hatched chicks. One male bird with one chick and the other with two. I was told that already the chicks are approaching people for food this is unfortunate as it puts the birds and the people at risk.    This is very early for chicks to have hatched.                                                      . 
                       Following the clouds of mosquitoes squadrons of little dragonflies are feasting. It is fascinating to watch the dragonflies fly into a cloud of insects  scooping them up hungrily, I have no sympathy for the mosquitoes.                                                                                        It is of great concern that the number of diagnosed cases of dengue fever have continued to increase with four cases being reported in Townsville this week.  In Cairns two cases of chikungunya have been confirmed, this is a new mosquito-borne threat to north Queensland. 
Ruth L rang me delighted that her old friend the golden orb-weaver spider has again built its beautiful golden web on her veranda. I popped in to say hello to Ruth and take some photos of her friend.

A wanderer butterfly's short life of just over a month was cut even shorter when it flew into this golden orb-weavers nest in the nursery.    The wanderer butterflies were introduced into Australia in the 1800 and migrate in small numbers within Australia nothing like the massive migrations seen in America. With the first touch of winter in southern and central Australia wanderers migrate to coastal north Queensland. They are extraordinarily strong fliers and can cover long distances.                 Wanderer caterpillars feed on the leaves of the poisonous milkweed and birds eating the caterpillars can be poisoned.
Golden orb-weaver quickly wrapped the wanderers body in silk while attaching only a corner of the wings to the web.

Once bundled golden orb weaver sunk her mouth parts into the soft body of the wanderer and started to consume its sweet poisonous juices.                 With her mouthpieces occupied with the meal the male spiders moved in to share the meal. Female golden orb-weavers can reach a size of over 6 cm whereas the males are about 2cm across.  The web of the golden 0rb-weaver can be several metres across and the silk is extremely strong.

  This afternoon golden orb-weaver had almost completed consuming the body of the wanderer. One of the males had moved in within millimetres of her mouth and was sucking on the other side of the butterflies abdomen.  At some stage during the day a bird or large insect has severely damaged the web however this has not stopped the female from completing the meal. It will be interesting to see if she rebuilds in the same place tonight.                                    
The paperbark swamps of Coquette Point are in flower. The warm air is filled with the sweet fermenting nectar of the blossoms. During the day a flock of over 300 rainbow lorikeets noisily fly from tree to tree gorging themselves on the high protein nectar.                                            When they finish with their squabbling and feeding the forest floor under the trees is strewn with twigs and flowers.
When the lorikeets leave the butterflies and moths move in to feast on the melaleuca leucadendron nectar.                                       The large female on the left has a severally damaged wing, perhaps an encounter with a bird. With less than a quarter of her wing remaining I was amazed to see her flying to the very top of the melaleucas, the injury does not appear to hamper her ability to fly. Nor does it discourage the males as I saw two males flying over her trying to win her favour.
While the female birdwing fed on the nectar of the melaleuca flowers the male birdwing stood guard, either flying around the tree or resting on a branch close by. As soon as another butterfly of a different species entered the territory the male aggressively defended the female's territory.

When this north Queensland day moth started to feed on the nectar of the melaleuca flowers the male birdwing quickly attacked it and continued chasing it away until his female finished feeding and moved on to another plant nearby.
This strange fungi is growing in a sheltered area under cover in the nursery. A small dolichopodid fly is on the left hand side of the fungi and an unknown (to me) insect is on the front of the fungi. This is one for my mate Bill F to identify.
Fungi spores appear to germinate readily in autumn and Diana O found 20 maiden-veil fungi in her backyard at Coquette Point. Diana said they were a bright orange colour. These fungi are also known as stink horn fungi and you will often find flies attracted to the slimy, smelly spore bearing cap of the fungi.                                                                This fungi is eaten in China and is often found as an ingredient in stir-fries. It also has a long history of use in Chinese medicine. If you have eaten out in china you most probably have eaten this fungi. To my knowledge it is not grown commercially in Australia.   
                        Congratulations to Tammy and Adrian Hogg on the birth of their strapping new baby boy. A brother for the lovely Lotus-Rain. That is me holding the new baby while Adrian took the photo.
The weather this wet season has been mild with only half the average rainfall and when we thought, at the end of April, the monsoon had retreated for the year and it was all over a low is suddenly building in the Solomon Sea. The low is expected to move towards the north Queensland coast early next week. One of the models shows it crossing the coast at the top of Cape York the other model shows it crossing the Cassowary Coastline. Whichever way we will have strong winds and lots of rain next week. The ocean temperature is still 28degrees so there is the potential for something big to build.
Cheer for now,

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