Saturday, 13 September 2014

Hello from Coquette Point,

Well,  what can you say about the weather! It just keeps getting better. We are still experiencing cool nights below 18 but the days are now warming to 28. This week the winds dropped off and if you wanted you could have paddled a kayak out to the Great Barrier Reef. Something I have always wanted to do.

On land the migratory birds are sounding their presence and early every morning the male Common Koels have a cooee competition.  A second male bird arrived on Monday and he is trying to claim property rights to the fig tree, however, the first arrival is entrenched and will not leave. They start the morning off with cooee, cooee, cooeee, then fly at each other with a dance through the canopy. Wonderful to watch. The winner is first to the figs and eats them triumphantly while the loser leaves for a nearby tree. There's still no sign of any female common koels.

The magic morning hour between six and seven is the time when the light is just right to photograph and best of all the birds are waking and looking for the sun and a feed.

I just love the way yellow-eyed cuckoo shrike fluffs up as he preens his feathers before starting breakfast.

The figs have ripened red and are so large that yellow eyed cuckoo shrike is just able to swallow them.

Rainbow bee-eater fluffs her feathers and starts whispering her songs as she warms up with the first rays of sun before she dives into the sky to scoop up insects.

As the cool night air drifts down the Johnstone River Valley from the Tablelands it creates a rolling fog on the River. I watched striated heron fishing on the rocks this morning just before the fog covered him. The fog lasts only half an hour and when it lifts the sun is already in the sky and the shore birds have moved onto their feeding sites.

Early morning low tide is a wonderful opportunity to 
 see the shorebirds around the Johnstone River estuary before they move out to their feeding grounds. You can just make out the white spots of  the gull-billed terns fishing at the mouth of the river.  As you can see in the photo above, over the last few months there has been a good build up of fresh sand driven by the persistent south-easterly winds experienced at this time of the year.

 These photos were taken from Coquette Point looking across the river at Flying fish Point.

There has been no sign of the grey-tailed tattler with the flagged leg marker and I think he has moved on, perhaps back to Manly.  However, other grey-tailed tattlers are now starting to arrive and I found three this week feeding in different places on the mudflats..

It was a great thrill this week to discover a solitary common greenshank feeding on the mangrove mudflats. This was the first time I have seen this migratory wader at Coquette Point. It was identified for me by Keith Fisher of Kingfisher Park Birdwatchers Lodge in Julatten.  Thank you Keith.

I watched as common greenshank pulled a crustacean from the mud and ate it in one toss of his bill.

To get an idea of his size you can see striated heron 47 cm,  in the background and common greenshank 33 cm in the foreground. I tried to get closer but he took off with a sharp alarm call flying along Crocodile Creek. While the heron ran into the mangroves.

The mangroves are such fascinating places for wildlife, particularly birds. What you do not expect to see in the mangroves is beautiful flowers. However, if you go down to the mangroves very late in the afternoon this month you may be fortunate to see the beautiful, ephemeral, nocturnal flower of the mangrove apple tree, Sonneratia alba. The numerous stamens of the flower fall during the night and early in the morning you will find the pure white stamens floating on the water or covering the mudflats like white confetti.

The nectar of the Sonneratia flower is eaten by many honeyeaters. I found a helmeted friarbird hanging upside down enjoying the sweet nectar. This tree is attractive to native and European honey-bees.

Mangroves provide an important ecosystem role by protecting the shoreline from damage in weather events and storm surges. Mangroves provide habitat and food for crabs and lobsters as well they are a nursery for many fish species.

Mangroves stabilise river banks, as their roots prevent mud and sand from being washed away by wind and tide.

Mangrove forests and mudflats are an essential habitat for migratory and resident bird species.

The northern pair of Coquette Point's resident beach stone curlews ran out of the mangroves and down to the beach. They ran over to Pelican but Pelican went sailing by not interested and the beach stone curlews stood and watched him go, it looked so funny.

Further down on the bank the young beach stone curlew walked towards me as I stood still. He came so close I had to pull back to the minimum length on my lens and I got him in full frame as he walked past, no cropping on the photo below.

Further down on the river's edge a silver gull was waiting for the tide to turn bringing in the bait fish.

Two flocks of about 15 whimbrels have now arrived for the summer stay. Each night they roost on the sand dunes behind the front beach. In the morning they disperse feeding along the banks of the Johnstone River.

Eastern reef-egret has exceptional eyesight and concentration as he fishes in the shallows.

A flash and a splash and breakfast is taken.

While great white egret uses a different tactic. He uses his wings to create shadows on the water to flush out the fish.

The river is a highway for shorebirds.

There are a few darters in the river at the moment but I haven't been able to get close enough to photograph them except for this fellow who flies up the river every night, during the day he is feeding somewhere within the Coquette Point wetlands.

Cassowary Jessie was seen by Ruth this morning, she hung about for a while before going down into the rainforest on the eastern ocean side of the Range. I saw her only once this week as she dashed across the road ahead of me.

Likewise Snout and Ky are keeping to the rainforest and I caught a glimpse of them once early this week.  Ky is very big now and it is surprising that he still remains with his Dad.

One of the really big sound changes over the last couple of weeks is the calls of the Pied Imperial Pigeons as they come into roosts or when they wake in the morning, their call is so soothing and it is the sound of summer.

The PIPs landed on the fig tree occupied by the common koels, but they left within seconds. With these enemies the PIPs would not share a meal not even when tempted by delicious red figs to eat.

All week the happy
 calls of the metallic starlings have sung out across the rainforest letting everyone know they have returned from their Bali holiday.

The metallic starlings are everywhere eating seeds, fruits and nectar.

Again this week I saw lots of jumping spiders. This banded metallic-green male, cosmophasis micans was the largest specimen of this spider I have ever seen. I believe it was over the 8 mm that these males are reported to grow.

With my Sigma macro lens I managed to take an upward shot showing the bushy eyebrows of this old fellow with his big black facial eyes. So cute!

The Northern Bandicoots are busy everywhere at the moment, leaving behind their tell-tale diggings in the lawn and the garden.
With a face like this how could you be cross?  Could that nose which is so soft and cute do any damage?

Cheers for this week,


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