Saturday, 31 January 2015

Hello from Coquette Point on State Election day,

By the time I finish this blog the voting will be over and the outcome for the environment and social justice will be decided by the people of Queensland:  happy 'Democracy Day'.

Meanwhile, out in the eastern Coral Sea tropical cyclone Ola has formed and there are favourable conditions for it to develop but it is not expected to impact the FNQ coastline. On land the temperature for the last month has been 4 to 5 degrees above average and combined with extreme humidity we all know it is just a matter of time before the 'cooking pot' boils over. However, with Ola it is too early to tell and the models disagree on the direction it will take.  The Joint Typhoon Warning Centre at Pearl Harbour reports that over the past six hours Ola has tracked southward at 03 knots.

The monsoon trough is very active at the moment and is expected to pump up even more next week. If you have missed out on rain so far, don't worry as it is on the way.

At long last Cassowary Jessie has got her man. It has taken twelve months of wooing by Jessie for Snout to succumb to her charms but now they are courting.

I saw Jessie and Snout, separately,  a few times last week. On Monday Jessie turned up to eat the first of the ripe guava fruits from a tree near the old packing shed, when Snout arrived and approached her cautiously, he circled around Jessie. Possibly the cassowaries arrived at this place because they smelt the guavas or just remembered at this time of the year to check the tree out.

What followed was a display of body language that we can only guess at interpreting. Cassowary Jessie bowed her head in submission to Snout as he walked backwards and forwards in front of her.

Jessie turned her back to Snout, but did not sit down as female cassowaries typically do when inviting a male to court.

Snout continued to pace backwards and forwards around Jessie while she remained turned towards the wall lowering her head in submission.

 Cassowary Jessie turned towards Snout and shook and turned her head and neck in circles.

           Snout walked backwards and forwards in front of Jessie.

Snout bent his head in submission to Jessie and walked towards the rainforest only to return. Jessie continued to stand with her back to him but occasionally snuck a look at what Snout was doing. Then suddenly Jessie rushed into the rainforest and left Snout to follow.

The display between the two cassowaries lasted for 15 minutes before Snout followed Jessie into the rainforest.

They walked up and across the hill and down the other side towards the West and then out of the rainforest. At some time Snout overtook Jessie as when they came out of the rainforest he was in the lead and Jessie submissively followed him back into the rainforest.

On Friday morning at 6am my next door neighbour Dee Wilson was having a cuppa on her patio when she saw cassowary Jessie and Snout behaving strangely in her bottom paddock. Snout was dancing around Jessie and as Dee watched she saw Jessie sit down and Snout immediately mounted her. The copulation lasted about two minutes. When he finished, Dee said, Snout ran around the paddock 'as if he was a hero'.  He then returned to Jessie and Dee said, "Hand in hand they walked West into the rainforest, at least they were so close together it appeared they were walking hand in hand".

There is a wide range of fruit available for the cassowaries at the moment such as the native: white apple, Syzygium forte, mango pine, Barringtonia calyptrata, damson plum, Terminalia sericocarpa, Leichhardt tree, Nuclei orientalis, fig tree, Ficus variegata,  as well as the exotics, pond apple  and guava fruits.  Snout should have little problem in demonstrating to Jessie that he is a good provider. What a privilege it has been to record, once again, the initiation of courtship between these two magnificent birds.

Damson plum seed
Pond apple and Alex palm seed
White apple and pond apple seed
                          Meanwhile subadult Ky is mostly eating white apple, pond apple and the damson plum fruits. The pond apple is coming from block 27V.  As soon as I see the seed in the scat I pour diesel over it to stop the seed germinating.  I have almost eliminated pond apple from my property but with the cassowaries spreading the seed it is a losing battle.   Ky has been increasing his range and Diana O told me this week that she often sees him in the rainforest behind her house up the hill.
Ky's black feathers are growing strongly.    

During the heat of the day Ky spends much of his time sitting in the pond. Sometimes he just sits, other times he plays splashing water everywhere ducking his head up and down under the water for the mere pleasure of it.

 At other times he sits panting in the shade of a tree pecking crossly at mosquitoes.

Ky is growing into a very handsome cassowary.

The stand out bird around Coquette Point this week is the yellow spotted honeyeater. Not renowned for its colourful gape I was impressed on how strongly the orange colour of the gape stood out in the surrounding green of the rainforest canopy. All week four yellow spotted honeyeaters have been calling loudly in the trees around the nursery as they busily chase insects and occasionally take a drink of nectar from a flower.

I have seen this flycatcher in the mangroves from the front beach to the river and along the gallery forest on the road. At first I thought it was a single female leaden which had remained behind after the summer migration to NSW. However, I now feel certain, as I have seen so many of these birds, that they are broad-billed flycatchers and we have a good population of these flycatchers at coquette Point.

I heard a bird calling in the mangroves and its call was loud and slightly resembled the shining flycatcher's scolding call. At least I thought I had heard a shining flycatcher until I saw it was what I now believe to be a broad-billed flycatcher.

Populations of broad-billed flycatchers have been observed on Hinchinbrook Island and in the gallery forest along Victoria Creek at Ingham.

The upper parts are bluer than the Leaden and the crown noticeably flattened.

The hot sunshine and high humidity have provided the perfect conditions for butterflies to hatch. I have never seen so many exceptionally large female birdwing butterflies as over the last week. They are popping out of cocoons all over the garden.

Another large butterfly with a wingspan of 75mm is the tailed Emperor. This is butterfly that has benefited from the plantings of the exotic yellow cassia, Cassia fistula, the cousin of its  native host Cassia brewsteri.


Another host for the tailed Emperor butterfly is the black wattle Acacia melanoxylon. A tree which is now starting to flower along the ridges of the rainforest hills.

I was surprised to find the Leichhardt trees at Coquette Point flowering again. They flowered, as normal in early December and set fruit which is now ripe and falling much to the delight of the cassowaries. I have never observed a second summer flowering on these trees. It is great news for the cassowaries as this tree produces one of their favourite fruits.

This week a great Australia died. Tom Uren was Deputy Leader of the Australian Labor Party under Gough Whitlam in 1972. It was Tom Uren's love of the natural world, the heritage of Australia and his advocacy for peace which influenced and formed Australian Government Policy for five decades. Tom Uren was a campaigner for peace and the environment, a great Australian whose legacy enriches our lives today.

Until next week,

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