Saturday, 27 December 2014

It is the end of another year at Coquette Point,

When I watched the sun rise on Christmas morning and saw the birds fishing on the sand flats and in the waters of Gladys Inlet I knew it was time to give thanks for being here in this place and being able to appreciate the natural wonders all around me.

The sun rose in a cloud filled sky and as it did the sky and the sea turned darker and a blessing of heavy rain fell early on this Christmas morning damping the dry soils of the Johnstone River Valley.
The rain shower passed and the clouds lifted over Mt Bartle-frere this allowed the mountain to etch its shape in bartle-blue against the sky.


Several hundred gull-billed terns lifted from their sandy bed and circled the Johnstone River estuary before journeying up the River for a day's hunting.

I sat and watched the changing lights on the outermost sand bar where I saw two birds jumping. It was difficult to photograph, not only was it a long way in the distance but it was looking into the light. As I watched them dance it remainded me of brolgas dancing on the black soil plains of western Queensland. The birds were eastern curlews and they were engaged in a display, something I had never seen them do at Coquette Point. It appeared to be two male eastern curlews possibly competing for the attention of the female which I had seen earlier in the eastuary.

Eastern curlews are known for elaborate displays during courtship prior to the breeding season. This of course is neither the time nor the place for their breeding season. Looking at the bill length of these birds it is likely to be two young males feeling their oats. It was a wonderful display and I only wish I had been a little closer.

 As I headed back along the beach I heard the loud excited calls of greater crested terns ahead on the inner sandbar. Two greater crested terns were performing a courtship dance. The birds were dancing in circles, raising their heads then bowing repeatedly as they danced around each other. It was fascinating to watch.

Greater crested terns are monogamous and the pair-bond is maintained throughout the year and sometimes into consecutive breeding seasons, it has been observed.

Eventually the raucous calls became too much for the other terns which were nearby watching the performance, suddenly they flew in to break up the pair.

The lovers stretched their strong wings and flew out to sea.

Coquette Point's mangroves and wetlands are part of the World Heritage Wet Tropics and the beach, sand and mudflats of Coquette Point are recognised as a feeding and nesting habitat for shorebirds. It is for this reason that the area is zoned as a dog free area. The Coquette Point beach can only be accessed at low tide and knowledge of the tides should be gained before walking in the area. It is disappointing that some people do not understand the harm they do when they bring dogs into shorebird habitats. Shorebirds like the little tern and the beach stone curlew are listed as endangered and it only takes a couple of years of failed breeding to totally lose a local population of birds.
With a permit from the Cassowary Coast Council we asked the very skilled Ian Laidlaw to construct a sign in accordance with the permit to place on the Coquette Point rookery. On Wednesday Ian delivered the sign and with the help of Diana O'Brien and her sons Pat and Joe
 the sign was
 transported to the site on
 Ian's trolley and erected under Diana's watchful eye.                        

Below, Pat, Ian, Diana and Joe a job completed
                                                                                    Meanwhile on the beach the little terns were busy fishing and chasing each other along the beach.
Close to the sign we saw scrapes in the sand where the little terns were nesting.
We also observed that the recent spring tide of 3.13m did not overtop the rookery in this area.

Bridgett Darveniza visited the nursery this week and had with her a red-legged pademelon joey. It had been rescued by two caring farm workers. The lads saw a dead pademelon on the road and noticed a movement close by, they stopped the car and found the joey unharmed and took it to Bridgett. What great young men, they deserve a big pat on the back.

   Bridgett took the joey to the vet and he will go to a wildlife carer in the New Year, meanwhile Bridgett is taking care of him with the vet's guidance.

Red-legged pademelons live in the Wet Tropics rainforest and their diet consists mainly of fallen rainforest leaves. However, they also eat ferns and fruits. When Bridgett put the joey on the ground under the melaleuca tree he hungrily started eating the leaves.

The drama continues with Cassowary Jessie, Snout and Ky. This week I saw Ky running for his life, Jessie was on the hill drumming at him and Snout was higher up watching. Snout turned to walk into the rainforest and Jessie followed, as if they were courting, Ky came running in behind Snout and they all disappeared into the rainforest. I took a video on a small camera I had in my pocket, but it was too big to upload to the blog so I took some snap shots from the video above, sorry for the quality.

I grabbed my big camera and ran up the hill to see what was going to happen.

Young Ky was whistling pathetically and he was, what I can only describe as, throwing himself around his Dad's neck.

Snout was looking at Jessie and I had the feeling he wanted to join her but Ky continued to plead with his Dad to stay.

In the distance, in a tangle of wait-a-while, Jessie watched Snout and Ky.

Eventually she lost patience and walked away into the rainforest further up the hill.

Subadult cassowary Pippi 

Alison Whatling from Flying Fish Point reports that Pippi turned up this week and he was looking strong. The children were having a party with lots of noise and Pippi " walked up to the steps as bold as brass and kept peering at them".  Alison cut up an apple for him and examined his wound which appears to have completely healed.  When he finished the apple he disappeared into the rainforest.  Alison I think Pippi had just come in for one last medical check-up and to say thank you for the care.

Subadult cassowaries, The Twins. 

Alison has seen the "Twins", cassowary Kevin's subadult offspring, a couple of times eating palm fruits in her yard. They have been crossing the Flying Fish Point Road and Alison is worried they will be hit by a car.

Kevin and his three chicks have been seen crossing the road in the same area. The crossing area is on the bend before you enter The Coconuts, so if you are driving along this road please slow down and look out for cassowaries.

A couple of first sightings for me this week, an Oriental cuckoo in the Casuarina cunninghamiana trees behind Sandy Beach at Coquette Point. The oriental cuckoo visits north Queensland from the Northern Hemisphere between September to April and is usually a solitary, rather shy bird. It does not breed in Australia.

I also saw what I think was a female satin flycatcher however it could be a juvenile Leaden. The satin flycatcher migrates to New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania between October and March. All the time I was watching it the crest was raised. It was chasing insects in the casuarinas.

The other first time photograph for me was that of an olive-backed oriole. It was also chasing insects in the casuarinas and these three birds were hunting in the same group of trees.

Two Pied Imperial Pigeons were resting in the same casuarinas.
Not that the PIPs had any peace as forest kingfisher, while guarding a nest nearby,  kept up his loud persistent territorial call.

When I went close to kingfisher's nest he flew past me with a very cranky look.

Enjoy your New Year's party and look out for cranky kingfishers.

All the best for 2015,

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