Saturday, 8 November 2014

Hello from Coquette Point,

The southern cassowary Casuarius Casuarius johnsonii is found only in the wet tropical rain forests of north-east Queensland. This bird is listed as endangered under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. Before European settlement the cassowary populations of north Queensland spread along the coastal strip from the tip of Cape York to the Paluma Range and west to the foothills of the Walter Hill Range. Today populations of this cassowary have completely disappeared from many areas in this region. It is not until you speak to the old people of the North that you get some idea of what the population and distribution of these birds was once.

Another block of recently cleared vital cassowary habitat.
Today the cassowary is sandwiched between National Parks, isolated privately owned  rainforest remnants and agricultural and urban developments. Vehicles driven on the road infrastructure connecting these areas have become the greatest threat to cassowaries. Uncontrolled dogs on urban and agricultural properties are another serious threat to these unique birds. The ongoing clearing of critically endangered 'Littoral Rainforest and Coastal Vine Thickets' in vital cassowary habitat not only removes habitat and food trees but isolates remnant pockets of rainforest making cassowaries vulnerable as they travel across these newly open areas, this is particularly so for newly independent subadult cassowaries. Why are these forests still being cleared when they are listed as protected under the Australian Government's EPBC Act.

In late September this year, Pippi a subadult cassowary gained his independence and ventured out to make a territory for himself in the coastal rain forests of Flying Fish Point.
                      Photo right: Pippi with dad Kevin 22 August 2013.

Only fleeting sightings of Pippi have been seen over the last few months. However, on Monday afternoon Pippi was seen by Simon and Alison Whatling on their property, it was found that he had sustained a severe injury to his neck.

Alison made contact with an EHP Wildlife Ranger and under his supervision she is monitoring Pippi. At first the injury looked like a dog attack but as the wound dried it appears that it is more likely to be a graze from a vehicle. The wound appears to be healing nicely without any direct intervention and we all hope Pippi will recover quickly.

Left Photo of Pippi's dad Kevin showing wattles and casque, July 2014.

Right Photo of Pippi July 2014. Pippi has particularly large eyes and a tender expression.

First photo of Pippi with wound  03/11/2014

The Photo of Pippi, right, taken Friday afternoon shows the wound is healing nicely. Alision has advised that Pippi is eating, drinking and moving normally.

How lucky Pippi was to have found such a caring family.
Thank you Alison for sharing these photos and for being there to help Pippi.

At Coquette Point Cassowary dad Don and his two tiny  chicks were sighted yesterday and again crossing the road near the Moresby Range National Park sign.
Unfortunately the other cassowary dad, believed to be Brown Cone, with the older chicks now only has one.

I heard that two adult cassowaries had been sighted walking together, so Friday morning I went for an early morning walk hoping to find them and I did. I found Cassowary Peggy courting a young, small male which I believe is Captain Starlight. They were feeding on the fallen small fruits of a fig tree.

I had not seen Peggy for over 12 months and it was good to see this old cassowary once more, she looked in top form.

Peggy's cheek pouches were swollen and she continually watched every move Captain Starlight was making, following him quickly when he moved back into the rainforest.

I am not sure how long they have been courting but if everything goes to plan we should see new chicks in January.

Cassowary matriarch Jessie has not been able to persuade Snout to walk out with her. I saw Jessie sitting down, for no apparent reason, at the opening to my rainforest walking track. I scouted around and went into the rainforest and I found Snout and Ky standing quietly looking at her.

Ky's wattles are starting to grow and his neck skin is now almost completely coloured blue. Black feathers are starting to push through as he approaches his first birthday on  December 1.

Snout and Ky are finding relief from the heat in a pond of nursery runoff water and most days come in to take a bath.  Ky copies Snout's movements in what looked like a dance of necks.

The Cassowary Hokey Pokey with some help from Nellie Epong.

Are you ready? get set,
Turn your neck to the left,
Turn your neck to the right,
Dip your head down low,
Turn it to the side,
And shake your feathers all about,
That's how you do the Cassowary Hokey Pokey.

When Snout dipped his head under the water he closed his eyes.
 Cassowary Snout had a good shake to dry off.

Four mm of rain fell over a 24 hour period this week. The rain momenteraly settled the dust but did not soak in nor turn the grass green. The wallabies and bandicoots are roaming wide in search of a feed in a sea of brown grass.

Late one afternoon this week I followed bandicoot Long John in his first food foray for the day. I was surprised to see how far he travelled. He came out of the top walking track, rummaged over the back lawn, went up the back road for 600 metres then down around the orchard for another 600metres or so and then through the nursery and into the melaleuca  swamp where I lost him. I estimate he covered one kilometre in 50 minutes.

At the moment there appears to be very little activity from spiders in the rainforest, perhaps due to the long dry. However, I did come across this beautiful wanderer salticidae, Cytaea severa.

Poor old butcher bird has had bad press
when they catch small birds for their dinner.
However, in my observation, the butcher bird's main diet consists of grasshoppers, moths and other large insects. This week I watched butcher bird as he caught a Hawk Moth,  Sphingid Gnathothlibus erotuseras, (thanks to Jack Hasenpusch of The Insect Farm for the ID. Although the caterpillars of the hawk moth eat plants, the moths are not considered a pests The Hawk Moth is an important pollinators of many rainforest plant species as well as the horticulture crop papaya.

Butcher Bird had great difficulty in killing this moth and attached it to the cut top of a palm trunk, then he pulled with all his might. After the stretch he grabbed the moth in his beak and slammed it against the tree trunk until it was soft enough to eat. Now that is how you tenderise a Hawk Moth.

The noisy Friarbirds have been particularly active and noisy and fighting amongst themselves. When they stop to drink nectar from flowers they look incongruous with their cumbersome beak performing such a delicate task.

There is a nest overhanging the Coquette Point Road. Could anyone say what birds has built it? The opening is very large from the bottom. It is newly constructed, I think, but I haven't seen any activity around the nest.

The rainbow bee-eaters are very active in the warm spring air. In a recent walk around to Thompson Point, late one afternoon, I saw three rainbow bee-eaters, making a great display of bobbing and singing on the sand.

I don't know what was going on but eventually they flew off, the two on the left sitting together on a tree branch and the other bird settling down and singing noisily on a nearby tree.
One of the birds looked smaller and could have been a chick. As rainbow bee-eaters do not breed on the Wet Tropical Coast I am not sure.

On Friday I went for a walk to see what birds had arrived. I looked up to see three pied oyster catchers land a short way off on the sand in front of me. I wondered if one was a chick but they were all very large birds. However, the largest of the pied oyster catchers had slightly brown feathers, yellow/pink legs and very large black eye pupils. I had never seen this bird on the Coquette Point beach before. In fact over the last three years I have only seen the two pied oyster-catches with no chicks successfully raised in that time.

On the outermost sandbar I could just see a wide variety of birds. Unfortunately I could not get any closer without a boat.

Inshore rednecked stints, grey-tailed tattlers, bar-tailed godwits and sand plovers were feeding on the sand flats.

High on the  dunes I noticed a forest of tiny casuarina equisetifolia saplings growing from the sand. In one good wet season they will grow to hold the dune and prevent erosion.

In the mangroves behind the dunes Forest Kingfisher was calling loudly. He was sitting on a branch close to a termite mound with three freshly dug holes. Although I hid and waited for some time he would not go near the nest while I was there.

In the rainforest the mango pine, left, Barringtonia actangula flowers are hanging secluded beneath the trees bright green new leaves.

The flowers on the white apple tree, syzgium forte are proudly displayed above the thick canopy of the tree.

Soon these trees will be full of fruits much loved by the cassowary.

While the feast of blue quandongs, Elaeocarpus eumundi is coming to an end, many of the leaves on the trees are turning bright red and gold. Left a female fig bird eyes off the last quandong fruit on this tree.

Green sea turtle Etty B is putting on weight, she is eating up to 30 pieces of squid or prawns in one sitting and her shell is healing strongly. Right, Nellie Epong feeds Etty B after Henry pumped clean water into her tank.

We were delighted to play host to a party of visitors from St Johns. They walked around the nursery then had refreshments and shared many stories of the old days with us.

If you go for a walk in rainforest this week look out for nutmeg fruits, Myristica insipida which are ripe and falling.

Cheers for this week,


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