Saturday, 9 November 2013

Hello from Coquette Point,

While the rainforest holds its breath waiting for the wet season to start another hot, dry week has passed.  Ironically dry spring weather in the far north Queensland has resulted in one of the biggest sugarcane harvests on record and a glut of bananas which has reduced the prices of that fruit. However, the Northern Territories' mango crop has not been so successful and the lack of winter weather has been cited as the cause. The Northern Territories' winter didn't arrive this year and it appears mangoes need a slight cooling to trigger good flowering and to hold fruit set. A combination of poor flowering and fruit-drop has reduced the N.T.'s mango crop by up to 80%. Mango prices have skyrocketed and even 'second' fruit is selling for $4 each, more than double the normal price. On the other hand because of the dry conditions Queensland is expected to have a bumper crop and these mangoes will start to hit the market  in early December.

Mega Typhoon Hiyan yesterday devastated the central Philippines Islands with sustained winds of 175mph which brought a storm surge of 17 metres and swept over Tacloban city on Leyte Island. The Island of Cebu on the southern quadrant of the typhoon has sustained sever damage. Gloria, who most of you know from the nursery, is from Cebu and when she rang her family on Friday morning they knew nothing of the pending typhoon. The island is still without electricity from the massive earthquake that struck only weeks ago.  Gloria told her family to seek shelter and when we tried to ring an hour later there was no contact and none since. Our thoughts are with Gloria and we hope her family is safe.

  Haiyan is believed to be the fiercest tropical storm to ever make landfall in recorded history, and one of 25 storms that have wrought devastation to the Philippines this season.

It seems almost every week we see climate records being broken. In 2013 the Northern Territory experienced the hottest winter  on record. Australia had the hottest spring on record. The last 12 months were the hottest on record for all of Australia and the last summer alone was the hottest on record, breaking 120 extreme weather events; as well we have experienced the earliest fires on record and dozens of fires are still burning; recently the biggest floods on record; the biggest drought on record; now the biggest cyclone on record; not least of course the highest mango prices on record.  Is this Climate Change? If you are concerned about the extreme weather conditions we have been facing over the last few years you may like to participate in the National day of Climate Action being organised by GetUp

Meanwhile the warm dry weather has got the big fellas on the move and out of the forest. My friend Ian L from Tupeki on the Palmerston sent me some photos of recent action around his place.

Ian took this photo of a red-bellied black snake he had to relocate from his verandah.

Then there was this beautiful 3m Amethystine python.

Ian doesn't subscribe to the 'grab the tail' method of handling snakes of any type. Ian told me "If you safely pin the neck behind the head, gently, then hold the head with the forefinger and thumb and support the body mass, rather than dangle all that weight by the tip of the tail………." Then as all Ian has to do is work out how to load the camera with the other hand!!!!! I do not recommend you try this at home.

The Amethystines have been moving about at Coquette Point also. I found this perfect skin, with the biggest snake scat I have ever seen, near my house today. The scat was as large as a good cow pad. With a new skin and an empty belly python must be feeling good. The skin was 6 metres long.

Other reptiles are also on the move and I found this little baby lace monitor inside the house. I couldn't catch him but I left the door open and he eventually went outside. I was a bit worried, as I wondered if Dad might decide to move in also.

I photographed a big lace monitor on the beach at Mission Beach last week. Its long tongue sensing
danger as it scurried along the track.


Black Bitten is a wary creature and at the moment he has staked out a territory on the rocks near the mangroves within the Johnstone River Estuary. At the crack of dawn every morning he can be found fishing on the rocks. Sometimes he is joined by darter, pelican, and cormorant.

When cormorant decided to move to another fishing ground pelican was quick to follow as the two birds have formed a fishing cooperative.

 When you watch these two birds you are left with no doubt that there is a bond between them.

While Pelican and friends fish within the Johnstone River estuary out on the sand banks at low tide the terns begin to stir against an orange sky and the silhouette of a bulk carrier.

The crested terms head out to sea and the gull billed terns move into the wetlands of the hinterland.

I noted a massive increase in gull-billed tern numbers this week, 320 birds. Ruth asked me how I counted numbers? I take photos in sections across the beach, blow up the photos and count the birds on the computer.

It is interesting to see the coming and goings of the various birds at dawn and twilight. The whimbrels are generally the first to move out of a morning but last to arrive on the beach at sunset. There are around forty whimbrels nesting at the estuary.

The Burdekin Ducks move the other way and feed in the estuary during the day and nest in the wetlands at night. The river is a busy highway for shore-birds.

In the rainforest the butterflies are enjoying the nectar of the spring blossoms. Above an orange aeroplane butterfly turns in circles as she taps the nectar of the flowers of the Australian cashew nut, Semecarpus australiensis.

Orchard swallow-tailed butterflies court in the shadows and afterwards I found the male resting on a leaf.

Eastern brown crows and blue and pale green triangle butterflies are very active at the moment

The white flower spider is adeptly named and I see her daily waiting inside a flower ready to ambush an insect arriving to feast on flower pollen. A little native bee inevitably falls victim to her clever tactic.

I saw green jumping spider hunting a katydid but katydid was too smart he sensed something was wrong and tasting his antenna he picked up the danger vibrations and quickly escaped to leave old jumping spider without dinner.

Thirty years ago today a group of six women peace activists from north Queensland, calling themselves the 'man-goes' joined 1000 other women at Pine Gap women's peace camp. The Women for Survival peace coalition was an umbrella organisation which brought together the various feminist peace groups from around Australia. At the time I was a member of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom.

 On the 13th November all the women marched to the gates of the Base. Although the action on the day was known to the authorities of the Joint Defence Space Research Facility at Pine Gap, the gate was not defended. The gates opened under the press of women and 111 women entered the Base and held a Boston Tea Party on the lawns of the Joint Defence Space Research Facility; overhead helicopters flew above just metres above our heads.

All 111 of us were arrested for trespass and we each gave our names as 'Karen Silkwood', who was an American anti-nuclear campaigner.

Whilst we were held in the watch house, 40 women each in two-person cells, we heard stories from Aboriginal people of the conditions they were held under in the watch-house. Another women and myself went on a hunger strike asking for the  Salvation Army to have access to watch-house prisoners. It took seven days for us to get that agreement. When we left the jail Aboriginal women from all over Alice Springs came up to us and shook our hands.

Today spy bases like Pine Gap are again in the headlines with countries around the world appalled at the level of surveillance carried out on ordinary citizens and heads of Governments of allied nations. As  Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany said, " With allies like these, who needs enemies?"

It seems to me that what threatenes stability in a country is corruption, especially on a political and corporate level. While our Government legislates draconian laws, said to be aimed at bikies, these laws will have profound impact on free speech and are, I believe, fundamentally aimed at suppressing dissenting voices within the community. Meanwhile corporate corruption runs unchecked.

Thats all for this week,


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