Saturday, 15 November 2014

Hello from Coquette Point,

I had a great thrill this week when I was able to cross off another bird, I had not previously seen, from Billie Gill's 1970 list of birds of the Wet Tropics. This list included a bird count for Coquette Point.

This little bird that I saw for the first time, but Billie had sighted in 1966 was a Terek sandpiper. Many shorebirds can be difficult to identify but the Terek sandpiper is the only small shorebird with an upturned beak, in addition its legs are orange and the colour stands out contrasting with the other shorebirds.

Left: Terek sandpiper with a grey-tailed tattler in the background near the mangroves. This week I counted four Terek sandpipers spread over a large area of the estuary.

Left Terek sandpiper. Above Terek sandpiper, grey-tailed tattler and common sandpiper.

Below a Bar-tailed godwit fishing on the beach-front with a Terek sandpiper foreground.

The grey-tailed tattlers were quarrelling again this week and this time in the mangroves within the Johnstone River. I was able to get close to take photographs, safely concealed by mangroves and not noticed by the birds as they were completely engrossed with the fight.

The referee was Common sandpiper and the judge Whimbrel.

Judge Whimbrel read the Marquess of Queensberry rules to the boxers and referee.

The boxers are assigned to their corners and the referee, common sandpiper goes to one side.
 The fight begins with the one tattler aggressively abusing the other.

Left: The tattlers decided to take the fight to another venue and both took to the air.

Common sandpiper made a quick exit from the ring and flew behind Whimbrel where they watched the aerial battle from the ground.

Unfortunately I was not quick enough to  capture the aerial fight from my mangrove hideaway but it did not last long when one tattler left to feed on the front beach while the other had the mangroves to himself.

Life is full of excitement along the mangrove covered banks of the Johnstone River.

I have not seen the blue soldier crabs emerge in mass, as yet, and that is unusual, normally at this time of the year there are thousands of them running on the sand flats at low tide.

However, the stalk-eyed crabs are mating and males are engaged in territorial battles across the beaches at low tide.


The first of the eastern curlews have arrived from their Siberian migration with only two birds seen at Coquette Point, to date. Normally at this time of year there are many more of these majestic birds feeding at Coquette Point. The eastern curlew is listed as Near Threatened in Queensland.

The beach stone curlews appear to have moved to the dune area where pied oyster catcher patrols. They seem happy enough as they pass each other and I have not witnessed any squabbles. Early in the morning beach stone curlew is only interested in having a good preen and watching the greater sand plovers as they race each other along the beach.

The red-necked stints are having a feast, as the fresh sou-easterlies this week brought in a lot of seaweed and it washed up onto the beach. The seaweed is full of sand fleas and by the looks of the stints this week I think the fleas must be their favourite food.

Every morning across Gladys Inlet the excited call of the gull billed, crested and little terns can be heard as they dive for bait fish in the now clear waters of the estuary.

As I returned from my early morning walk I saw the pelicans still on the beach planning their day's fishing trip.

Then to my amazement I saw a great-billed heron fly up the river and it landed in front of me on top of the old cement derrick on the beach.

It is rare to see a great-billed heron and I haven't seen one in the Johnstone since before Cyclone Larry.

This great-billed heron is a resident bird, however only small number are scattered throughout its range. The great-billed heron is wary and secretive and is difficult to approach. It is mostly solitary and nowhere common.

On Wednesday morning I heard a great deal of rushing and thumping in the rainforest followed by cassowary drumming. I grabbed the camera and rushed outside. If anyone wants to know what shirt-fronting looks like well Jessie was undoubtedly 'shirt fronting' Ky. She stood as high as she could and puffed out her chest.
Dad, Snout, had run off at the first sight of Jessie and Ky had run out onto the lawn near the house.
Whatever was in Ky's mind he suddenly decided not to run anymore but instead face up to his mother, Jessie.

Ky fronted up to Jessie and started hissing at her like a cat and somewhere from within his chest came a noise between a dog's growl and a cassowary drumming sound.

Totally astonished by Ky's actions Jessie backed off slowly.

Ky started to pull at his feathers as Jessie walked away.

Then Jessie started to dance around looking at Ky. It was all to much for Ky suddenly this young male, half the size of his mother, let out another hiss and chased Jessie into the rainforest.

I entered the rainforest on my walking track, but could not find any of the cassowaries. As I reached the top of the hill I heard a noise behind me and there was Ky looking all alone and very sheepish. He walked away to the West and I wondered if this was the act that would separate him from his Dad.
It wasn't, late in the afternoon I saw them walking across the orchard and into the rainforest, they had found each other.

Left: Cassowary Ky looking for Dad.

Right: Together again.

Cassowary Pippi's wound has continue to heal, but best of all he is finding food in the rainforest close by. Alison took a photo of one of his scats and it contained one Davidson plum, Davidsonia pruriens, three Cassowary plum, Cerbera floribunda, one Poison walnut, Cryptocarya pleurosperma, and a variety of other rainforest seeds. Pippi is not only healing well he is finding his own food in the beautiful patch of rainforest in the foothills of Mt Annie National Park. Thank you Alison for letting us know about Pippi's progress.

Late one afternoon I saw what looked like a dead female Mopsus mormon jumping spider hanging from a silk thread.

I rushed for the macro lens, of course, and a piece of white cardboard to place behind the hanging spider. I quickly realised she was in moult. Spiders skins do not stretch so they must moult to grow. She was in a torpor and not trying to shake the skin off but just let it fall on its own. I went back just before dark and she was still holding onto the last bit of old skin.

There were lots of jumping spiders active this week.  The little fella on the left and above is Jacksonoides, a genus named after scientist Robert Jackson who was famous for studying the behaviour of spiders, especially the amazing behaviour of Portia fimbriata.

My spider expert, Robert Whyte told me to Google Portia fimbriata to see the amazing behaviour of the little jumper. Thank you Robert I did and was fascinated.

The very black Zenodorus orbiculatus, below, is out and about in the sun in very large numbers.
Shining in the sun with its rainbow body and golden legs Cosmophasis micarioides is out and about hunting in what also looks like a new set of clothes.

It was a big week in the Mandubarra Turtle Rehabilitation Centre this week. On Sunday afternoon, Ashleigh Sala was walking along the beach at Ella Bay when he saw a turtle caught up in fishing lines and hooks. Ashleigh cut the line away from the turtle but saw it had a squid hook through its eye. He carried the turtle the full distance along the Ella Bay beach to the car-park and brought  the turtle to the Mandubarra Turtle Rehabilitation Centre. Fortunately Henry and Nellie Epong were still at the Centre.

They rang Jennie Gilbert in Cairns for advice and then tried to cut the fishhooks from the little green sea turtles eye. Unfortunately the tools were too big. Ashleigh volunteered to drive to town and buy smaller pliers. Within minutes of his return the fishhooks were removed and the turtle, now called Ashleigh, was swimming around in the pond. Well done Ashleigh Sala if only we had more caring people like you.

Today Ashleigh along with another rehabilitated turtle called Magic were released back into the sea at Cowley Beach. Over 200 people as well as camera crews from Melbourne and Cairns attended the release.

On their way home Jennie Gilbert and a team from James Cook and the Fitzroy Turtle Rehabilitation Centre visited the Mandaburra Turtle Rehabilitation Centre. They checked on Etty B which Jenny said still had not put on enough weight to be released.

Jennie Gilbert far left, explained to the students why it was best not to release Etty B until she had gained more weight.

Cheers for this week,


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