Saturday, 14 February 2015

Hello from a very wet and windy Coquette Point,

The Johnstone River runs red into the Coral Sea

It has rained, all day, every day this week and there is lots more to come. The monsoon has surged and a low has developed close to the FNQ coast.  Another two circulations to watch are just evident out in the Coral Sea. The low off the Peninsula is expected to move west into the Gulf and develop into a cyclone before continuing to move west or possibly south as a rain depression.  Meanwhile, squalls with gale force winds are lashing the coastline, even the great frigate-birds have come ashore.  Next week the February summer tides will peak on Thursday with a 3.47 tide at 9.38am in the Johnstone River. The outcome for floods in our region then will depend on the movement of the Peninsula low and where the convergence zone, between the strong south easterlies and the north-west flow, will form. The Bureau of Meteorology has issued a Marine Wind Warning and a Flood Watch for the North Tropical Coast catchments between Cape Tribulation and Cardwell. It is not a time to go camping.

                                                                                                                                                    *                                                                                                           Last weekend the convergence zone settled over Cairns and Mareeba. The district received 24 hour downpours in excess of 500 mm. Severe flooding occurred in Malanda and many Tableland roads were cut due to landslides and flooding. The Tablelands Regional Council Mayor, Rosa Lee-Long has asked for a natural disaster zone declaration to be declared so they can receive funding to repair infrastructure washed away in the floods. Fortunately the Cassowary Coast missed the heavier rainfall but still the Johnstone River ran red all the way into the Coral Sea.  However, with a surge in the monsoon, the low off the coast, the highest King tide of the year on Thursday, combined with a very strong ridge along the East coast, we can expect torrential rain and flooding for this week. If you live in a flood area be mindful of the BOM Flood Watch for all the coastal rivers of the Wet Tropics.

Cassowary Snout continues to chase his separated chick, now subadult, Ky at every opportunity and I often hear loud guttural calls when he threatens Ky. Sometimes Ky runs at the mere sight of his dad.  Jessie watches from a distance, stretching her neck to see.

                 Jessie looks and watches and when Snout returns there is always a ritual performed, a little dance followed by close contact.

We can only imagine what these two cassowaries are communicating with each other following the incidences with Ky.  It is now the third week of  Jessie and Snout's courtship and Jessie is not letting Snout out of her sight.

Cassowary Ky continues to sleep close to the roll of irrigation pipe and he often sleeps splayed out as I saw him do when he was a chick.

On wet days Ky is slow to rise from his slumbers and on this very wet day I found him asleep in the orchard and he seemed stiff when he stood then he stretched like an old bird. Poor Ky, in his loneliness he has lost his cheeky ways.

Ky has added golden cane palm seeds to his diet with plenty of these exotic fruits falling with the high winds. Guava, pond apple, damson plum and white apple are the main fruits which Ky is eating this week.


The cassowary dad with the two chicks has been sighted a few times this week and Bill Farnsworth managed to get a quick photo of them as they raced across the road near the bend before Nind's Creek. Thank you Bill for the photos. The chicks are growing quickly but you can just make out the stripes, in the second photo, which are still present on the chick's back.

It seems for every creature, no matter how large or fierce, there is a nemesis and this week I found the tarantula spider's nemesis, it is the spider wasp. Entomologist Bill Farnsworth has identified this wasp as a Pepsis sp. (Pompilidae). Bill also sent this YouTube link to a spider wasp capturing a spider.
tarantula hawk vs tarantula Thank you for the ID Bill and the link, it is fascinating to watch.

 The spider wasp I photographed, Pepsis sp. has a brilliant blue body and wonderfully shining orange glass like wings. It constantly moved across the leaf of the cocoa tree, apparently searching for food.

Pepsis settled on what appeared to be moth eggs he unfolded his wings as he ate the eggs, unfortunately, this happened in the shade and the photograph is not clear.

There is another jumping spider species this week to add to the collection of Jumpers recorded at Coquette Point.

'Spider-man' Robert Whyte has identified this Salticidae as Plexippus paykulli. Robert confirmed my observation that it was a very active and lively spider and difficult to photograph.

I was very happy that I managed to get a number of photos of P. paykulli on a leaf and in a cup.  The two top photos show he is missing one leg, which as Robert explained he could quickly regrow, although not always.

                                                                                                                  It appears the mantids love the wet weather as there are lots of them out and about hunting for grasshoppers and insects in the rain. This beautiful leaf mantid had his eye on a green jumping spider but it escaped before it became his meal.                                                                                                        

The grasshoppers, which are in plague proportions at the moment are fair game for magpie-lark who can catch and eat a dozen in a minute. He captures, tenderises with a squeeze then swallows, lawn-care in action.

No need to cut or fertilise the lawn with Agile wallaby Charlie about, he has gone from starved to obese in a month.

I did notice this week that there was a large tick under Charlie's ear. Grass tick numbers are high at the moment so check pets and small children regularly. It is the grass tick which can carry the bacterium that causes lyme disease. (Although, this bacterium has not been found in Australian ticks!)

However, at the moment it is dengue fever that is of great concern. This week an outbreak of dengue fever has occurred in Tully and El Arish, a further 10 cases were reported on Friday. The dengue mosquito breeds in stagnant water in and around houses and is generally not found in the rainforest or mangroves. However, Ross River Fever is carried by the salt water mangrove mosquito.  So cover up, dress in light coloured clothes and apply repellent when outside at this time of the year.

The outstanding bird of the week would have to be the spangled drongo. Watching drongo's acrobatics and song, even in high wind and rain, have been the highlight of this week.

I found the drongos  had a reason for being so active one of their chicks has fledged and has been calling constantly for food. The juvenile bird has not developed the eye colour of the adult nor the spangled breast markings.

                                         The parent bird brought the young drongo a worm and watched as he ate it but he wasn't satisfied as he quickly started calling for more food.   You can just see the parent bird above on the left.                                                                                                                                                            


The pied imperial pigeons are not feeding in the fruit trees around my place although, I have seen a group of three, flying to and from Flying Fish Point each day. I can only think they are avoiding this area because the Pacific Bazas have been here constantly for the last few weeks. No doubt a Pacific Baza would take a PIP chick from a nest but their preferred foods are frogs, grasshoppers and mantids.

Feeding upside down this Pacific Baza consumed a large mantid in seconds while a juvenile Baza looked on calling constantly for a share of the tasty green treat.

During one heavy downpour this week I found a northern stony creek frog, Litoria jungguy, sheltering from the rain in the shed on a bag of perlite.  By the looks of 'jungguy's' tummy she has found lots of insects to eat around the nursery. Look out for Baza, Jungguy!

However, when rain is so heavy that even the frogs take shelter that is a worry. So please stay safe this week, particularly on the roads.


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