Saturday, 28 September 2013

Hello from Coquette Point,

The weather on the Cassowary Coast is perfect - for the moment, with days of 29 and nights of 19. On the other hand, the IPCC climate report released on Friday paints a worrying picture for the future climate on Planet Earth. Australian meteorologists have stated that 2013 is already Australia's warmest year on record and summer hasn't started!

This year the north Australian Monsoon failed and this has resulted in searing drought across Northern Australia. Rainfall deficiencies have been recorded over most of Australia and combined with above average temperatures, bush fires are raging from the south to the north of the country; a desperate time for farmers and wildlife on the land.

Every morning this week cool land-breezes have pushed rolling fog down the Johnstone River and out into Glady's Inlet creating 'a grey mist on the sea's face' while an orange dawn was breaking. Greater egret, standing on the edge of the mangroves struggled to find a fish-meal through the mist.

So far this year I have only seen three Pied Imperial Pigeons 'sleeping over' in the melaleuca trees at Coquette Point.  Over the past ten years I have counted between 10 and 12 birds nesting in these trees; hopefully, more will turn up soon. However,  large flocks of these beautiful pigeons can be seen flying over the valley of Innisfail and the numbers appear to be about the same as last year.

The Brown Laurel, Cryptocarya triplinervis is in full fruit and the Pied Imperial Pigeons, moving through the tree with particular agility are taking full advantage of the feast on offer. The stain from the fruits colour the feathers of the feeding birds.

At long last the sunbird babies have fledged safely and flown to a nearby tree. This sunbird built her nest in a bougainvillea, the thorny rambler offering built-in protection.  When the babies fledged they flew to a nearby tree and mother sunbird devotedly attended to the fledglings searching for insects. I watched her examine the new leaves on the Johnstone River Almond, she appeared to understand that insects would be more likely to be found in the sweet clusters of new spring leaves.

Her search was finished when she spied a spider and quickly clutched it in her beak and fed it to her demanding infant.

The Osprey chicks have also fledged. The larger chick took to the air without any encouragement from the parents. The other chick was not so adventurous and would only venture onto a branch close to the tree. Eventually with much calling and 'how to fly byes' by the male the young osprey sprung into the air effortlessly.

Mother Osprey whistles encouragingly to her chick to take its first flight, while father Osprey flew around the nest showing the chick how easy it was to fly.

The chick took its first flight to a nearby branch while Mum whistled encouragement and Dad turned his back impatient, himself, to go fishing.
Now with confidence the chick launched into the sky quickly followed by the two adults and they flew into the setting sun towards the winding Johnstone River.

Today all four Osprey were flying over Coquette Point searching the river for fish.

The female Indian Koel is avoiding the company of the male. Often in the morning she calls with a shrieking, loud, impatience coo-eee from the trunk of a dead tree. He answers her from the seclusion of the fig tree and then they go their separate ways to feed in the rainforest.

Ciriono and his pelican mates appear to be enjoying each others company. They wander down to the river early in the morning then spend an hour frolicking in the water and preening their feathers.

Pelican bath-time.

Large numbers of Pacific Golden Plovers have arrived at Coquette Point, many of them are still showing breeding plumage.

Greater sand-plovers have also arrived.

Tiny lesser sand-plovers scurry across the sand.

Pied oyster-catchers search the sand with whimbrel -

and they are  joined by more grey-tailed tattlers also showing breeding plumage.

Bar-tailed godwits fish alongside the plovers.

Red-necked stints are busy finding  breakfast.

What a privilege to walk along a beach and observe these migratory shorebirds feeding in peace.

Jumping spiders are renown as superb huntsmen. However, it goes to show that no matter how good you are if you drop your guard some-one or thing will take advantage.

Mud dauber wasp unlike her cousin potter wasp is an aggressive hunter and seeks out spiders to feed her larva.  When she captures a spider she impales it with her sting and injects paralysing saliva into the prey.

Clutched in the wasps mandibles the paralysed jumping spider  is flown off to the mud duber's burrow.

Some genera of these wasps 'even use the tool of a stone held in their mandibles to help construct the burrow'. (A Field Guide to Insects in Australia by Paul Zborowski and Ross Storey.)

Drama happens all around us if we take the time to look.

While we enjoy this long spell of dry weather the green-ants are uncommonly busy building large nests high in the trees and stocking them with food. Generally this is a sign of a big wet to come! I think we have seen, often enough, that drought is always followed by flood.

Cheers for this week and be prepared.



  1. Such an interesting blog! You really know your area and its wildlife like the back of your hand. I loved all of it, but highlights for me are those beautiful Pigeons, the shot of that female Koel, and the way you can read the ants and what that means for the upcoming wet season.

  2. Glad you like the blog Christian. It is a diary of some of the comings and goings of wild things at Coquette Point. I am fortunate to live at a crossroad of habitats; Wet Tropics Johnstone River estuary, referable wetland swamps,
    Moresby Range National Park and isolated sandy beaches and when the tide goes out over three square kilometres of sand and mudflat are exposed which are shorebird habitats.