Saturday, 18 April 2015

Hello from Coquette Point,

Once again the grass is green on the Wet Tropical Coast. Each night this week we have received a little rain, between five and seven millimetres and last night and today a good 39 mm fell, still far short of our average but we are happy and so are the wallabies.

Old Charlie is walking out with a new girlfriend, while his pretty daughter keeps a look out from the rainforest. There are a lot of politics going on within this wallaby family at the moment and old Charlie may not be the dominant male for much longer.

The Burdekin ducks, now called Radjah Shelduck, have returned for winter holidays to the Coquette Point mangroves and they have to be my bird of the week.

I have seen them down on the edge of the mangroves very late in the afternoon all this week. On the afternoon I took these photos it appeared they had finished feeding early and had time to play in the small waves which were washing up on the mangrove shoreline.

 I hid behind a tree watching their antics.

Suddenly the ducks stopped playing,

they marched to the water's edge then they  flew off into the mangrove forest further upstream.

Young cassowary Ky has been walking through the nursery to access the mangroves on a daily basis.
I saw him walk by on Tuesday when ten minutes later I was surprised to see Snout followed by Jessie walking through the nursery. Oh dear I thought, I do hope Ky has gone deep into the mangroves out of sight. It wasn't the case and before long I heard a loud series of grunts followed by Ky running in a panic. I managed to snap one shot of Ky before he disappeared into the mangroves.

Snout did not chase Ky he stood very tall and imposing, while matriarch Jessie ignored them both and just kept walking.  Snout knew his mere presence was enough to frighten the daylights out of Ky.

When one looks back at the devotion Snout showed towards Ky as he cared for him for over 18 months, how completely different the message is now, which is that Ky must leave the paternal territory.

Snout stopped to eat fruit from the Devil's fig. This is a favourite fruit of cassowaries and pigeons, while Jessie kept walking

When Snout finished the figs he walked quickly to catch up, then walked ahead of Jessie. They walked down the lawn and I knew they were headed for the sour plum tree.

They split up around the handkerchief tree, when Jessie took a short cut and arrived first to get the best fruit. She swallowed them slowly one after another.

Snout ate so many fruits in one go he had problems swallowing them.

The sour plums slowly went down Snout's  throat.

Both cassowaries left quickly and soon disappeared into the rainforest.

Early on Monday morning Anthony Cini was surprised to find four cassowaries out the front of his house. They were possibly there to eat the fruits from the Panama Berry tree of his next door neighbour.

Cassowary Hero and his chick were close to the tree and trying to keep a low profile, when matriarch Jessie turned up by herself to get some of the fruits.

 Across the road Anthony saw another cassowary, a female at least five years old. It was the first time Anthony had seen this cassowary and she is not on my cassowary data base. It was Anthony's daughter Isabella's 17th birthday that morning so Anthony has named this cassowary Izzie, Isabella's pet name. I hope you had a lovely birthday Isabella.

Anthony said there was a little bit of low grunting as Jessie and Izzie faced off. Then it all stopped and all the cassowaries disappeared in different directions. Thank you Anthony for these photos and this record of cassowary behaviour.

It is interesting that Jessie was alone and not with Snout, so is Snout sitting on eggs?  Ruth has also seen Jessie at the top of the Range by herself and she was harassing Hero and his chick. It is not uncommon to see Jessie at the Ninds Creek bridge at 8am and again at the end of the Coquette Point Road by 10am, a distance of four kilometres.  Jessie regularly patrols her territory keeping an eye on all the other females, many of which are her own offspring.

Alison Whatling has sent in an update on cassowary Kevin and his chicks. Unfortunately, Kevin has lost one of his chicks but the other two are looking very strong and healthy. Alison had not seen them for several weeks but now the Alexandra Palm, Archontophoenix alexandrae is dropping ripe fruits the cassowaries are having a feast.

Kevin is such a good Dad, every two years he produces two or three chicks and raises them to the subadult stage. Note in the photo above how he is standing back while the chicks eat all the berries.

Thank you for the update Alison they are great photos. We do hope Kevin and his chick stay safe as they cross the busy Flying Fish Point Road.

Things are very quiet on the beach at Coquette Point and the beach stone curlews and other permanent residents have the beach mostly to themselves. On Friday afternoon's low tide I saw only a few sand plovers remaining of all the migratory shore birds that visit the beach through summer. The sand plovers were busy pulling crabs from beneath the sand. No sign of the blue solider crabs and I only witnessed one mass emergence of these crabs this year.

The Pied oyster catcher family were way out on the sand-flats fishing. There is still only one of the juveniles. It appears the other juvenile pied oyster catcher has died.

On the outermost sandbar I saw two grey eastern reef egrets, I noticed there was rather a lot of water between them and me and while I was trying to get focus, with the 30 knot wind blowing the camera about in my hand, the grey reef egrets disappeared. I lowered the camera and was amazed to see them land within 30 meters of me. I stood absolutely still and thought they would fly off as soon as they saw me, but they seemed not to be worried by my presence and went about fishing. In fact when I did move away they followed me, just as I have seen cattle egrets do, what an amazing experience I had watching these birds fishing.

As I was walking back Cerino the pelican flew in but there was no sing of Russ and Cerino swam out to the outer sandbar fishing as he went.

There were no terns on the beach but every now and again I could hear their calls coming in on the strong south easterly. There was lots of evidence left on the dunes where they had recently camped.

There were a number of mudskippers resting up on the banks of Crocodile Creek, the most I have seen for some time. The water coming out of Crocodile was crystal clear, this is unusual, as it is generally stained with tannin.

The King tide on Friday morning was 3.2 metres and once again spilt over the dunes and in so doing undermined many trees on the foreshore.

At the back of the sandpit, once again, severe erosion has taken another metre off the spit. The force of the water leaving the Coquette Point lagoons has widened Crocodile Creek by some 50 metres over the last year. I can only assume that there is so much more water getting into the lagoons now since the dunes on the Ocean front are overtopped at King Tides. The clear water now leaving the lagoons when the water was always tannin stained is another indication of excessive flushing of this system.

It appears that the monsoon season is over, the last surge in the monsoon did not produce any storms along the northern coast line and that should be the finish of this year's monsoon.  A sign that the  season has changed is the return of the white Ibis and the cattle egrets.

While ibis and egrets provide an enormous service to farmers in removing pests from the soil and from cattle many farmers are worried the birds could spread Panama tropical race 4. Let us hope sanity will prevail and that farmers will see that these birds should be valued for the free pest eradication services they provide.

There were very grey skies all day today with strong squalls sweeping along the coast. This morning the Rescue helicopter circled the Johnstone River estuary for over 30 minutes before heading out to sea. I do hope they were on a training flight and that there is not someone in strife in these very poor conditions. No doubt, we will hear soon enough.

Until next week,


  1. Hi Yvonne, thanks for sharing nature's news - it is so refreshing to learn about ducks playing in the waves and see the cassowaries swallowing fruits, as well as those amazing shots of the herons fishing. Glad to hear you got some rain - we are still bone dry here in eastern California.

    Cheers to you,


  2. Hi Karen, glad you liked the pic. Sometimes I get lucky. The rain didn't last long and today is hot, 34 degrees and it's the middle of Autumn! Your situation is critical and there does not seem to be any end to this weather pattern, in fact it is even more entrenched.