Saturday, 10 January 2015

Hello from Coquette Point,

A low level circulation centre in the Coral Sea is unlikely to form into a cyclone, however it should cross the coast near Cairns as a tropical low, then move south over western Queensland bringing rain to parched drought declared areas.

The very active monsoon trough appears to have broken the drought and already wide spread rain is falling across northern, central and eastern Australia. A low pressure system over the Kimberley has moved down across central Australia bringing heavy rain to the Channel Country, soon the salt bed of Lake Eyre will be covered in water and birds like the pelican will be drawn by some primeval force to fly thousands of kilometres to Australia's ephemeral wet heart. As they fly they will see the barren deserts bloom with millions of wildflowers of every colour. The desert will become a garden of Eden. Water is miraculous.

Along the north Queensland coast the rain, over the last two weeks, has turned the countryside green and the agile wallabies have lost their scrawny look. One wallaby in my backyard, which I have called Charlie, looked particularly thin but now he is back to his old self nibbling the grass and chasing the girls, not at all like his namesake. I was photographing him when I saw pheasant coucal walk past and into the brown grass and up onto a tree from where it called loudly. This is such a magnificent bird and its call at this time of the year, during its breeding season, echoes across the country side for miles many times throughout the day.

The northern long-nosed bandicoot, Long John, tempted by the fresh green pickings has been eating out in the late afternoon around the orchard.

This week the inevitable happened and young cassowary Ky has gone his own way as a subadult cassowary. Sometime between Tuesday and Friday Ky separated from his Dad Snout. On Friday morning I saw Snout by himself, photo left. Although I searched, high and low there was no sign of Ky. Henry and Nellie saw a subadult cassowary the other side of the Moresby Range National Park and they immediately thought it looked like Ky. If it was Ky, so far away, it will be interesting to see if he returns to this end of Coquette Point and what will Snout do if he does?

I last saw Snout and Ky together early on Tuesday morning and I was struck by the amount of colour on his neck and the size of the emerging casque. The wattles were also forming a distinct shape and pattern.

Ky looked in very good condition for a young cassowary starting out by himself on life's journey. May you stay safe from dogs and vehicles big Ky.

The shining flycatcher is one bird which does not shy away from announcing its presence. I watched the female shining flycatcher, above, hunting on the floor of the mangrove forest. I can tell you the mosquitoes were horrendous but I hardly felt them biting, she was so fascinating to watch her colours sometimes blending into her environment and at other times standing out etched against the leaves while she proudly displayed her beauty.

Shining flycatcher has three distinct calls, above she was triumphantly uttering her harsh frog like call, when suddenly with a flick of her tail and with her semi-crest still raised sang a rapid, short, sweet, too-whits. At other times she sang a strong melodious song. She is a charmer with a split personality.

Another strikingly beautiful bird which has been out and about feeding this week was Macleay's honeyeater. Most honeyeaters eat insects as well as fruit and nectar, however, this little bird appeared to be hunting for green-ant larvae.

The Macleay's honeyeater attacked the green-ant's nest with some vigour.

The Macleay's honeyeater poked and stabbed at the green-ant's nest with its beak then pulled out a round piece of silk.

Suddenly she attacked the nest in a flurry of wings then flew off. I checked the nest repeatedly throughout the afternoon but I did not see her return to the green-ant's nest.

Once I saw metallic starlings flying into a green-ant's nest in order to de-lice themselves but I have never seen a bird attack a green-ant's nest for food.

There did not appear to be any green-ants active on the outside of the nest so perhaps she had eaten them before she tried to open the nest. The Macleay's honeyeater pecked at the nest for about 10minutes. I was happy when she left as my arms were numb from holding the camera.

The feasting in the damson plum, Termminalia sericocarpa continues and I counted four species of birds, over 100 birds in all, feeding in two trees that are growing close together at my front gate.
 A flock of 20 pied imperial pigeons have been moving from the fig to the damson and back, feasting until they can eat no more. These birds have been doing little else all week.

While the juvenile metallic starlings feast on the damson plums the adults have also been busy catching insects to feed the next generation of chicks.

The figbirds are also feasting on the damson and the males have been singing loudly their thanks for the abundant fruits. What I think is a juvenile figbird, above, has been with the males in the tree but I have not seen any female figbirds.

 Yellow-eyed cuckoo shrikes are also feeding on the damson and I caught one bird collecting lichen on a tree nearby, perhaps to build a nest.

There has been an explosion in the numbers of butterflies and moths of every species. The hot, humid and wet weather seems to favour their hatching and they are darting from one flower to the next feasting on nectar.
The blossoms of the many flowering summer trees have been an easy source of nectar for the Cairns Birdwing butterflies.

When this female birdwing butterfly, below, (male above), flew from the Poinciana blossoms she was weighed down with so much nectar she could not fly, so she rested several times on large leaves in the garden. The underside of her body was packed with nectar.

Above, male black-spotted flash butterfly feeding on nectar from the blossom of the matchbox bean, Entada phaseoloides, and hiding the bright blue colour of his upper wing.
Right,  The bandicoot berry Leea indica is in flower and the butterflies are hovering over the blossoms drinking deeply of their nectar. Above right blue triangle butterfly and below left green triangle and right a bordered rustic, Cupha prosope. I photographed all three of these butterflies as they were feeding on the Leea at the same time along with hundreds of native bees and other insects.

                                                     I found a rather tatty brown butterfly I had never observed before  laying eggs on a citrus tree. Jack Hasenpusch of the Insect Farm soon put me straight it was a capaneus butterfly, Papilio fuscus. As it gets older it can lose its black scales and appear brown. This poor old girl looked as if she has weathered a storm or two but the instincts were strong and she was laying eggs on my mandarin tree. Thank you for helping with butterfly ID Jack.

I have since seen some capaneus specimens in better condition feeding on flowers around the garden. What distinguishes the capaneus from its cousin the orchard swallowtail is the tail on the lower wing.

                                  In Ian and Lois Laidlaw's garden on the Palmerston the butterflies are getting up to hanky-panky and Ian took this perfect shot, below, of two orchard swallowtail, Papilio aegeus, butterflies mating. Ian first saw them at 3.45pm and they separated at 5pm with the female flying off first and the male staying put for about another 10 minutes. The male then went and had a good feed of nectar from some nearby Ixoras. While the mating was occurring Ian noticed that several sub-males flew in and settled close by.

Ian has been out and about at night with his camera this week and photographed a north Queensland day flying moth at night. The colour of this moth under the flash light is extraordinary.

During the day time the north Queensland day flying moth is blue on the underside wings and shows iridescent colours on the top wings but not nearly so spectacular as Ian has shown with his night time photograph. In the daytime this moth is easy to observe as it feeds slowly on nectar around the garden.

Another great photograph from Ian's garden is of two day flying moths separating after copulation the male's genitals clearly on display. Thank you for sharing these unique photographs Ian.

To finish off the butterfly bonanza for this week a beautiful swamp tiger feeding on a new salvia flower spike.

Green sea turtle Etty B continues to put on weight and she has almost reached her release goal thanks to the devoted care given by Henry and Nellie Epong.

 Mission Beach Wild Care rescued a small hawksbill turtle this week and Henry and Jason Epong drove down to Mission Beach to collect it and bring it to the Mandubarra Turtle Rehabilitation Centre.

The little turtle was very dehydrated and I watched in wonderment as Nellie fed it a solution of water and nutrient from a cup. The turtle gobbled it down. In the photo on the left you can see the fluid being held in the turtles neck pocket before it swallowed.

The little hawksbill has been called Ruth, after our favourite person a Coquette Point.  She has been sent to the Cairns Turtle Rehabilitation Centre to be x-rayed and put on a drip for a few days. We expect she will return soon for care at the Mandubarra Turtle Rehabilitation Centre at Coquette Point.

Thats all for this week and enjoy the rain,



  1. Glad you have the rains you need up north without a destructive cyclone. Gorgeous photos as always - can't pick a favourite as I enjoyed them all! You've got me rearing to head out into the wild myself now, thank you! :)

    1. Hello again Christian,
      There is nothing like the freedom of walking in wild places and observing the creatures busily going about with their lives. It is the best recipe for a healthy body and mind.
      All the best and enjoy lots of wild walking in 2015.

  2. Beautiful photography. No that's nothing like a juvenile Figbird, though I can't tell you exactly what it is.. Some of the cuckoo's have red eyes like that....

  3. I'd say Juvenile Metallic Starling. Beautiful photo whatever it is...