Saturday, 24 January 2015

Hello from the steaming jungles of Coquette Point,

Another week of sultry conditions with the day time temperature around 35 degrees falling only to 27 at night. Almost every evening we have experienced very active electrical storms either directly overhead or skirting the area. Last Sunday a lightning bolt ran through the phone line and put my cordless phone and the eft machine out of business.  It has been a week of unplugging electrical items, especially computers, at the first sound of thunder and even then you can get caught.

King tides all this week have added to the problems in low lying areas: a taste of what global sea rise will mean. Cairns and Townsville along with many cities on the coast have experienced salt water inundation in their central business districts.

Here on the estuary of the Johnstone River the water rose, in glassy conditions, to within a metre of the land. Fortunately there was no wind to push the tide higher.

The hot conditions have the reptiles on the move and I found a small Amethystine python in the office, it was most probably one of the M&Ms which are the offspring of Monty and Monica python who live above the ceiling. Their job is to keep the rats out of the roof cavity of the house and they have performed that job 100% over the last 40 years. However, their many offspring occasionally find their way into the house. A few days ago I noticed a smell in the office I could not trace. When I picked up the small python I immediately recognised the smell, it appears it had been trying to get out of the office for a week and in its stress released very 'pongy' anal fluid.  I put the small python on the footpath outside and he took off happily into the rainforest.

This morning when I walked down to the nursery I found a fully grown, 1.5 m. slaty-grey snake on the footpath. Slaty-greys are nocturnal snakes and this fella was most probably on his way home when I messed up his morning. Slaty-grey snakes lack venom and prey on small reptiles like geckos and skinks as well as rats and mice. Both Amethystine and Stlay-grey snakes are handy to have around and will clean up mice and rat plagues quickly.

When my son Martin came to visit on Thursday afternoon, he walked up the front steps and saw a Lace Monitor Goanna looking in through the door. He thought I was playing a joke on him and he sang out to me that Goannas didn't frighten him, however, when it took off, his shout of surprise brought me running with the camera. I was just in time to see it disappear across the lawn and into the rainforest.

I followed the Lace Monitor into the rainforest, and as I hadn't time to put on shoes I was looking down at my feet when Martin yelled out, 'look out'. As I pulled myself up the rise into the rainforest I was looking down for what was safe to stand on in bare feet.  At his shout I looked up and had a face full of black feathers. Cassowary Jessie had been resting in the rainforest and when she heard the shouting and saw the goanna she jumped to her feet and collided with me. Martin was on the lawn looking into the rainforest and laughing hysterically: if only he had the camera. Anyway Jessie took it all in her stride, she took one look at me and turned and walked back into the rainforest. I found the goanna watching us both while trying to conceal himself in the leaf litter.

When you live with mangroves at your front door and rainforest at your backdoor you never know what will turn up.

I saw Jessie again early today as she walked quickly through the orchard looking every bit the dominant matriarch which she is.

I caught the briefest glimpse of Snout at midday, he was bathing in the swamp and as soon as I approached he ran off dripping water from his feathers.


Cassowary subadult Ky this week has spent most days  sitting in the pond or wandering about underneath the Damson plum. He is no longer whistling in grief for the loss of his Dad but he is not the same exuberant, playful and confident young cassowary he was when he had his Dad's support and care. I have not seen him encounter Jessie or Snout but Ky is very wary and I think they are harassing him.

There is no sign of Jessie and Snout courting.

Over the last week I have received several reports of the new chicks at Coquette Point: Hero with his one chick, at the top of the Moresby Range,  and the other male hanging around Nind's Creek with two chicks, the chicks are growing and they have lost their stripes.

A stone's throw across the Johnstone River from Coquette Point, Alison reports that she saw subadult cassowary Peppi this week and it appears his wound has healed and he seems to have established a home range which crosses the other twin subadults and the range of his dad's Kevin and his three new chicks. The subadult twin cassowaries are still together and have been feasting on the fallen fruits of some old mango trees. Alison noted when one of the twins wandered away and across the Flying Fish Point Road, the other one, when he noticed he was alone ran off in a panic, whistling a distressed cry as he went down the hill. Eventually they found each other as Alison saw them together later in the day. Alison saw Cassowary dad Kevin on Thursday with his three chicks as they crossed her property into the rainforest.  Thank you Alison for the report and photos.

I have received bad news from South Johnstone, a young female cassowary was found dead with lacerations to the throat that appear to be the result of a dog attack.

A pig hunter with dogs has been active in the area and trespassing on private land. One person saw a cassowary running from these dogs and thought it might be the cassowary which was killed.

EHP officers were called to investigate however, there was no evidence of which dogs caused the cassowaries's death and no action could be taken. In order for any prosecution to be activated, EHP needs hard evidence that will stand up in Court: no evidence, no proof, no prosecution.

It appears the dogs in question had GPS trackers in their collars as the pig hunter came looking for them with knowledge of where they were. The neighbouring farmers were spoken to and they are aware of this pig hunter and have warned him, in the past, to stay off their properties. The concern is the dogs running wild and 'blooded' might attack a child.

On September 7 2014, Threatened Species Day, the Federal Minister for the Environment, Greg Hunt and the State Minister for the Environment, Steve Dickson conjointly announced funding of $7 million dollars for pig control to help reduce the threat to marine turtle nests. This money is on top of the sustained feral pig control programs already in place.

It appears the Cassowary Coast Regional Council did not bother to apply for these funds, although CCRC Councillors like Mark Nolan have been vocal, nationally, in calling for shooters in public lands to control pigs.  (Public lands include National Parks.)  It is worth noting the Hinchinbrook Shire Council did apply for these funds, and were successful.

 Once in a while you are privileged to witness unusual behaviour from animals. Just such an occasion occurred this week when I saw three Pacific bazzas 'dancing' high in the canopy of the melaleuca trees. The breeding season for these birds extends from October to February so it is late in the season to see such a display.


The male Pacific bazza watched intently as the female bird displayed her wings and twisted her head, leaning back as far as she could balance to show her crest feathers.

Then the other female further out on another branch performed the same display only this time she leant back so far I thought she would fall.

Then she started to dance, turning from one side of the branch to the other.

The two females then performed aerial acrobatics flying through the canopy of the melaleuca trees.

 The female Pacific Bazza hung suspended in the air, flapping her wings between the tree branches, her talons touching a branch as if to steady her,  while all the time screeching, 'ee-chu, ee-chu'.

The females watched each other's performance while the male below, watched them both.  Then it was all over and they disappeared flying towards the Moresby Range National Park. My arms and neck were numb from holding the camera vertically for some 20 minutes, but I could not miss a moment of this wonderful display.

On Thursday my son Martin and I decided to do a cyclone clean-up around the nursery, amazing how much rubbish mounts up over the year. I saw Martin suddenly drop a bundle of old shade mesh and then, "Oh my God, Oh my God, that is Big.....". "What", I said enthusiastically, while running for the camera.
I saw a very large spider, which the spider man Robert W has identified as Coremiocnemis tropix, a Whistling Tarantula. These spiders are ground dwelling and are very long-lived, they can also inflict a nasty bite, but not fatal.

A few years ago I found a nest of these Tarantulas under some old iron but this area was wet and not, I would think, the preferred dry habitat of this spider. It just goes to show when you are shifting old rubbish some creature will have made it their home, so be alert.

Also dropping in this week, and I mean literally dropping on the seat beside me as I had a cup of tea, was the huntsman below, Neosparassus. He was hunting in the melaleuca tree above and a gust of wind or a bird brought him down from the canopy along with a few sticks.

Lots of beautiful jumping spiders around with the damp weather and very high humidity it is Arachnid heaven in FNQ at the moment.

The very beautiful Cosmophasis species of jumping spider are working hard in the nursery controlling caterpillars and grasshoppers.


Sometime after last Sunday afternoon the pelicans left the Johnstone River. Perhaps they knew that the Bureau of Meteorology had posted flood warnings for the great rivers of western Queensland, Thomson, Barcoo,  Diamantina, Georgina Rivers and Eyre and Cooper Creeks. These are just some of the Queensland streams now under flood warnings.

Only a few shore birds remain at Coquette Point, the gull-billed terns have left but a few crested and little terns remain.

I saw one common sandpiper, the one with the loose rump feather on the beach along with one terek sandpiper.

The beach stone curlews were very noisy and ran from the dunes onto the beach when they saw me. No signs of the pied oyster catches, eastern curlews, godwits, tattlers, Pacific plovers or sand plovers.

The whimbrels are still feeding upstream on the banks of the Johnstone River by day and I see them flying back to Coquette Point every evening to roost.

I saw a number of jelly-fish washed up on the beach a reminder that there have been several reports of irukandji in shallow waters off the coast, a timely warning to take precautions when wading into sea-water at this time of the year.

Cheers for this week,



  1. Fascinating update, Yvonne. Thank you! Love the story about your rat control team in the roof as well as the pix of the Bazzas. Cheers to you,


  2. Another great read! Bazas are such exotic looking birds as it is, so it's fantastic to see them display.

    I think the problem with pig-hunters and shooters is that they enjoy their sport, therefore they want such opportunities to continue. This can sometimes lead to unscrupulous shooters releasing pigs into new areas.