Saturday, 18 October 2014

Hello from Coquette Point,

On Tuesday we heard the rumble of thunder as the first storm for the season developed over the Atherton Tablelands, it swept down across the coast at Port Douglas. Unfortunately we only received enough rain to settle the dust, 2 mm, however, Tinaroo Dam received 23 mm. No rain has fallen since and the brown spreads and the smell of smoke is constantly in the air.

The cassowaries are moving to new territory and lots of reports have come in this week. Cassowary Brown Cone was seen twice on the long bend around Ninds Creek on the Coquette Point Road with two newly hatched stripey chicks, no photos as yet. At the Etty Bay end of the Moresby Range National Park a cassowary was seen crossing the road at the top of the Range with two strippy chicks thought to be only a week or so old. It is so good to have reports of newly hatched chicks.

If you see a cassowary look out for chicks, they normally walk a few metres behind their Dad. I contacted the Cassowary Hot Line about the reports and temporary warning signs will be placed at the location of the sightings.

On Monday I saw a new cassowary, it was a young male and could be one of the chicks from 2011. He wasn't at all nervous and I managed to get good identifying photos of his casque, neck patterns and wattles.
One particularly unusual feature was his very long inner toe.
The markings on this bird do not match Dot or Don's markings or any other cassowary of his age on my records.

This cassowary arrived from the direction of the Coquette Point Wetlands and moved on up the hill and I haven't seen him since. Perhaps someone can suggest a name  and one that relates to his big toe?

Another cassowary not previously photographed came to Bill Farnsworth's back door this week. Bill lives at the top of the Moresby Range.  Luckily Bill had his camera, thank you Bill for the photo. I think it could be one of Hero's chicks from 2010. Hero spent a lot of time sitting in the rainforest close to Bill's property with his very young chicks. Perhaps we could call this cassowary William, he is very handsome and has a distinct casque. Bill took the photos through the screen door and they are not very clear but good enough for an ID.

While two new cassowaries have turned up two cassowaries have left. "On Monday 29th September a sub-adult cassowary was reported to be resting exhausted under the shade of a tree on the beach at Flying Fish Point and appeared reluctant to move despite the presence of numerous people. It was reported to have swum ashore out of the sea and walked up the beach near where some children were playing. EHP staff decided to capture and relocate the bird and determine whether vet treatment was required. Upon capture the bird appeared to be healthy and strong so it was released into nearby suitable habitat."

On two previous occasions I have seen cassowaries swim the Johnstone River from Coquette Point to Flying Fish Point. At this time of the year when young cassowaries are leaving their dads and looking for new territory they have been known to cross the river.

Cassowary Queenie has walked across the Ninds Creek Bridge and has moved into East Innisfail. Last week Nellie Epong saw Queenie crossing into the proposed Sea Haven development and managed to take the photos below. It is unmistakably Queenie. The area where she has gone is full of hazards with lots of dogs roaming freely and many vehicles, so I hope Queenie manages to find her way back into the Moresby Range National Park. Great work in getting these photos of Queenie Nellie and thank you for sharing them with us.

Cassowary Jessie is again rolling her eyes at Snout but he is still showing no interest in her.  I watched as Jessie followed him into the rainforest. She stood bowing her head and making no audible sound. While Snout drummed loudly and Ky tweeted in alarm.

Jessie moved closer to Snout and then Snout turned and pushed into the rainforest with Ky running out to the side away from Jessie. They moved away from the track and I could not keep up with them. Later that afternoon I saw Ky swimming in a pool behind the nursery. At first I thought he was alone and then I saw Snout's reflection in the pool he was close by watching Ky.

There has been very little spider activity of late and so I was delighted to find a jumping spider on Friday and one I had not photographed before. I sent photos down to my  'Spiderman' mate Robert Whyte and he advised, " The species is an interesting one. It should be a Cytaea but currently it is misplaced in a different genus, Hasarius species name mulciber. If it was moved it would be Cytaea mulciber, but there are some problems with the characters in fitting it neatly into Cytaes. It is widespread through FNQ and has characters of several different genera, being Euryattus, Cytaea and Canama."

I commented to Robert on the apparent difference in the spider's palps and I asked Robert if perhaps one had regrown? Robert replied. "Yes spiders regrow all bits like legs and palps, obviously not abdomen or cephalothorax but any appendage when lost will reappear next moult and may never catch up to the others in terms of maturity of development, but are roughly functional nevertheless.

I wouldn't be surprised if she had also lost both front legs. Notice they are a lot newer looking and more slender and less hairy. She's a survivor, handy in a scrap."

Thank you Robert for your generosity in finding time to reply to my enquiries.

There has been a massive hatching of the small, 30 mm, green banded blue butterflies. This incredibly beautiful butterfly is found in New Guinea and along the eastern coast of Australia.

The host plant for this butterfly is the pink ash, or sarsaparilla tree, Alphitonia petriei. The larvae feed on the underside of the leaf and are pale green and hairy.

The Adult male, below and left, with wings open are blue with a large white patch on the hindwing. The underside of the wings is metallic greenish-blue and white with black edge markings.

The little bit of rain on Tuesday started the frogs croaking and while Gloria was weeding in the igloo she found a freckled litoria jungguy frog. I won't repeat what she said but it sent me running for the camera. Gloria does not like frogs.

I photographed one of these frogs earlier, right, and it did not show the freckled markings but no doubt there is a great variation in markings on individual frogs of the same species. The male of this species is much smaller and yellow, although I looked none could be found.

'Freckles' Litoria jungguy

There is a new green sea turtle in the Mandubarra Turtle Rehibilation Centre. She was rescued from Etty Bay and Nellie has named her Etty B. When I first saw this turtle I did not think there was any hope of it surviving but it is  miraculous, Etty B is now eating 19 squid a day, swimming level and has bowel movements.

Nellie and Henry have spent a lot of time with this little turtle and it is their devotion and skill in nursing that has brought Etty B back to good health.  Well done all the Mandubarra team.

From 20-26 October, is National Bird Week 2014. BirdLife Australia is again organising an Aussie Backyard Bird Count. This is something we can all participate in across the country it will only take 20 minutes. If you do not have a backyard you can head out to a favourite open space like a local park to take part. Take binoculars if you have them and record the birds you know and look up those you don't on the specially designed Aussie Bird Count app, or on the website. You'll instantly see live information on how many people are taking part near you and the number of birds and species counted both within your local area and across Australia.

For more information or to download the App head to  Happy birding.

Very low tides early this week offered a great opportunity to see what shorebirds were feeding around the Johnstone River estuary and of course the only time to see what's happening is before dawn. With a bit of cloud around the sunrises were spectacular.

I found gull-billed terns resting on the sandbars but as it grew lighter they started to move off and they flew across the range and up the Johnstone River.
Crested terns were also starting to move and they flew along the sandbars and out to sea, no doubt in search of a feed.

As the sun rose I noticed hundreds of white dots on the mudflats. Everywhere I looked were tiny, 15 mm, red-necked stints feeding hungrily.
Many more had arrived since my last visit and as I watched these tiny birds I could but wonder at their amazing migratory journey from north-eastern Siberia and northern and western Alaska, where they breed and then travel to spend the summer months in Australia.

Left, a red-necked stint foreground with a greater sand-plover behind.

Right red-necked stints feeding on mud-flat.

Below red-necked stints feeding near the water's edge.

There were lots of shorebirds feeding on the sand and mud flats of Coquette Point.

Left: Pacific golden plover with a greater sand plover.

Right: Sharp-tailed sandpiper.

Below Bar-tailed godwit left and whimbrel right.

The bar-tailed godwit breeds in north-eastern Siberia and undertakes one of the avian world's most extraordinary migratory journeys to spend the summer in Australia and New Zealand. With a nonstop flight of over 11,000 km it is the longest continuous journey that has ever been recorded for a land bird.

Left: Common sandpiper.

Right: female red-capped plover.

Below male red-capped plover.

Acorn worm signature left behind after it had extracted the detritus from the sand.

Below: Lesser sand-plover stopped feeding at the sound of the camera.

Below: Grey tailed tattler looked for movement in the shallow water.

As I walked along the beach I heard then saw a pied oyster catcher he was uttering a high-pitched alarm call, peep-peep-peep, as I drew closer his call became more agitated and I saw the mate  running from above the high water mark and down onto the beach, I quickly backed away as I believed they were nesting. Both sexes share parenting duties and in this case both of the birds were aggressively defending their territory.

I heard a flutter of wings out on the sandbar and saw two whimbrels 'shirt-fronting' each other.

They fought for about one minute then finished the squabble with a chase down the beach. One of the whimbrels flew to the mangroves where I found it feeding later, the other strode triumphantly along the beach.

The whimbrel is gregarious outside the breeding season so it was surprising to see this stouch.

'Tony' whimbrel went demurely to the mangroves while 'Vladimir' strode like a peacock on the beach.

It was at that moment I heard raucous calls coming from above the mouth of the river. I looked up and to my amazement I saw two channel-billed cuckoos flying from the direction of Flying Fish Point and turning up the river. I managed to focus on one of the birds to get this shot from a good distance and clearly identifiable as a Channel-billed cuckoo. Today I heard and saw them again they were flying over the Coquette Point Wetlands but by the time I ran for the camera they were gone.
It would be interesting to know if anyone else has heard or seen the pair.

If that hadn't ticked off enough bird species for the day I suddenly heard the unmistakeable call of little terns. I saw about 15 little terns feeding in the shallows on the outer sand-bar. I could not get close as the tide was racing back in but I managed to get  a few photos as the terns swooped to feed.

As I walked back along the water's edge a pelican which I had seen feeding way out on the outer sandbar swam beside me, I watched as he fished in the shallows.

It was another beautiful morning on the Johnstone River.

The next open day for Ninney Rise will be held on Saturday 25th October.

Please ring Angi on 40687099 for more information.



  1. Hi Yvonne
    After reading about the mystery long toed Cassowary in your excellent journal "News from Coquette Point", I'd like to propose a name for the bird, for your consideration. "Digger".
    Cheers and please keep up the great work. Much appreciated.
    Steve Porter

  2. Hi Peter,
    'Digger' is an excellent name, I love it. If everyone at Coquette Point is happy with 'Digger' this young cassowary will now be named.
    I hope you have time to participate in the National Bird count this week and if you do please let us know what you see.
    best wishes,