Saturday, 22 March 2014

Hello from Coquette Point,

The monsoon is in its death throes and has swept ex cyclone Hadi back onto Cape York as a low pressure trough. Combined with a high in the Bight the Wet Tropics is again in a convergence zone and as a result we are experiencing heavy flood-rains. A flood warning was declared for the Tully and Daintree Rivers and all over the Wet Tropical Coast rainfalls in excess of 300 mm has fallen in the last 48 hours.

The Johnstone Catchment hinterland saw less rainfall and the Johnstone River only had a good run of water coming down and thankfully, no flood and without a big silt load.

This afternoon the rain showers continued and the heavy clouds sat low over the mountains as the river created whirlpools in its effort to carry its watery load to the sea.


One lonely gull-billed tern remains at Coquette Point. These birds are nomadic within their range and they normally breed in lagoons inland. This bird appears to have formed a relationship with a pelican. When it goes off to hunt for food it returns to the pelican's side.

Around 50 lesser sand plovers remain at Coquette Point and a few are in breeding plumage. No doubt they will soon depart as lesser sand plovers do not breed in Australia.  Their migratory route will take them to China, the Korean Peninsula and eastern Siberia. They will return, with their offspring, in September.

On the outer most sandbank I saw whimbrels fishing with a few crested terns. The whimbrels will also be departing soon as they breed in the subarctic of North America and Europe.

No sightings of little terns, godwits, tattlers or Pacific plovers it appears they have already left on their migratory journey.

However the pied-oyster catcher do breed on the sand-dunes of their territorial beach. Dogs are the biggest problem for resident breeding birds like the pied oyster catcher and the beach-stone curlew, both nest on or behind the sand dunes.

Dogs often disturb and chase these birds and when the nesting bird is away from her eggs for some time the eggs become overheated in the sun and the small chicks within the egg, cook.

That is why it is important, for the survival of shore-birds, to make some beaches no dog zones.

Pied Imperial Pigeons have been congregating at Coquette Point in a flock of about 70 birds.
Soon they will depart for Papua and Indonesia.  The whole flock were in a flowering quandong Elaeocarpus eumundi tree this afternoon and as I walked underneath to get a photo they lifted off through the top of the canopy, magically manoeuvring their strong wings through the leaves and branches.

                   The metallic starlings have been particularly noisy this week and juvenile birds have been demanding food on the wing. I have not noticed this before, normally when the metallic starling chicks fledge they are shown how and where to feed by the parents. Perhaps the heavy rain has changed the normal feeding pattern?

Cassowary chick Ky is having no problems with finding food. Snout is constantly on the move visiting the fruiting trees two or three times a day.

The bandicoot berry, Leea indices' fruits are ripe and snout picks at them until many fall to the ground where Ky can feed.

The fruits of the Leichhardt tree, Nauclea orientalis are falling and the cassowaries search for fallen fruits around the these trees every morning and afternoon.

Jessie does not have to be so careful and she eats the Leichhardt fruits in
such a hurry they mount up in her throat.

I watched Jessie one afternoon as she strode down the road in a hurry. She turned quickly, crossed the gutter and with a mighty jump plucked a ripe guava from a tree.

 Later I watched her scramble down a steep bank, jump the gutter and dive into the rainforest. She purposely journeyed to each tree, harvested the ripe fruit and then went on her way. Food was on her mind and there was no stopping her.

I saw a young cassowary this week, about four or five years old. He was near Manayard Road and I could not identify him. He disappeared into the rainforest before I could get good photos. He is most likely one of the seven chicks from 2010.

About 100  red-tailed black cockatoos are flying to the Johnstone River estuary every morning. This week they have been mainly feeding on the paperbark trees, Melaleuca leucadendra. They appear to be feeding on the seeds and they do so with a great deal of noise and squabbling.

I photographed another jumping
spider species at Coquette Point this week and I sent the photo down to Robert Whyte at the Queensland Museum to identify. Robert advised that this jumping spider " is a well-known but un-named Euryattus sp. It is documented thoroughly by Robert Jackson from NZ who studies behaviour. He documented the signalling during courtship. They wave the first two legs in rather geometric poses like someone signalling semaphore." You can see the spider doing this in the right hand photo above. However, I did not see a female but I was very impressed with his peculiar behaviour. I picked him up and put him on my hand to get a better look and noticed he had a mite on his jaw.  I have seen mites on dragonflies and stick insects but never before on a jumping spider.

I also sent Robert a photo of another spider I could not identify.

Robert advised it is a golden orb weaver, 'but a rather unusually coloured one'.

Since the rain started the bird-wing butterflies have gone into a frenzy of egg laying. The wet weather must stimulate them into action.

The caterpillars from the last egg laying session are fully engorged and should form into their pupa stage shortly.

Ulysses butterflies are also very active at the moment. It is always a marvel to glimpse their iridescent blue flying across the bright green rainforest canopy: butterflies are one of nature's special gifts.

 If you can make it on Thursday 27 around 4pm at the nursery to celebrate the launch of the 3rd edition of Tropical Food Gardening and a feast of tropical food with 'Taste Paradise' you are most welcome. It is BYO drinks.

I hope you are getting some rain at your place.


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