Saturday, 4 April 2015

Hello from the dry Wet Tropics,

While south-east Queensland is being drenched, in FNQ we are enjoying sunny, moderate days with a gentle 10 to 15 knot cooling south-easterly. FNQ has never been so good for Easter, the Coral Sea is Bartle-blue. Tonight, with so little cloud we will see the Easter full moon, something very rare to see in the Wet Tropics and to top it off starting at 8.16pm there will be a lunar eclipse, but totality will only last for 5 minutes at 9.58pm.
Thompson Point on the southern side of the Johnstone River estuary. 

The pelicans have returned to the Johnstone River estuary and six birds were preening on an outer sandbar on Friday as a large bulk carrier passed further out to sea.

There is an endless line of ships travelling inside the Great Barrier Reef, it is not unusual to see three or four passing by at any one time. Only a few years ago it was reason to comment when a ship was seen passing, not so now.


This week I saw just one grey-tailed tattler feeding at Coquette Point, it seems the others have left on their migratory passage but perhaps this bird has decided to winter over.

Likewise, only one bar-tailed godwit remains fishing around the Johnstone River estuary and perhaps he too is wintering in FNQ.

Joining the winter party were two common sandpipers and about a dozen sand-plovers.

One common sandpiper was feeding on large soldier crabs. He had great difficulty in trying to eat them.

 The resident beach stone curlews were out for an afternoon's walk and a preen in the setting sun.

There were lots of red-capped plovers squabbling with each other and with the sand plovers. These are rather cantankerous little birds.

There was evidence of cassowaries in the form of footprints all over the beach: on the sand dunes, in the mangroves and out on the sand flats.

This week I have seen cassowary Snout and Jessie occasionally together and at other times separately. Ruth saw Jessie at the top of the Moresby Range chasing Hero and his chick. Martin saw Jessie down in the valley near the Moresby Range National Park sign.

On two occasions this week Snout brought Jesssie to the small nursery pool, I have never seen Jessie there before but she did enjoy cooling off in the water.

Snout loves this pool and he regularly visited it when he was rearing Ky, now Ky swims there almost every day.

As soon as Snout saw me he turned and walked away quickly and up the hill towards the rainforest, Jessie followed.

On the way Jessie saw a digger wasp mound and stopped and ate the soft dirt of the mound. When Jessie finished eating the soil the digger wasp, unidentified of the Sphex Genus, popped out of the mound, you can just see the wasp in the photo below. The digger wasps are very active at the moment.

Snout did not wait for Jessie and she had to walk quickly to catch up to him.

Jessie walked up the vertical bank with long, strong strides and she caught up with Snout who was walking along the top of the ridge. Far too steep for me to follow.

Yesterday I saw Snout by himself in the orchard and as soon as he saw me he fluffed his feathers and took off taking the same path up the bank and into the dense scrub, there was no sign of Jessie yesterday nor again today and I did not see Snout today either. It is a mystery as to whether he is sitting on eggs or not. Time will tell.

I was looking at some photos taken early April last year and I saw this one of Ky. His habit of leaning to the right has stayed with him and the shape of his wattles is unchanged.

I took the photo on the right this week through the window when Ky was arguing with his reflection in the glass of the office window.

On early morning walks I often meet Ky. The photo on the left was taken at about 7am I was down the bottom of the hill and Ky at the top. He didn't recognise me and fluffed his feathers in fright. Another morning I found Ky sleeping on the track in the rainforest. By the look of the spider web across the track he had been there for some time.

We caught another pig in the cage and Ky attracted by the noise of the pig came to take a look. He was standing with his head to one side and I am sure he was asking pig what he was doing in the cage. Unfortunately the pig heard me and when it jumped Ky took off and I was not quick enough for the camera moment, but it was so funny watching Ky's interest in the pig.


Cassowary Hero and his chick have been visiting the Panama berry tree at the top of the Range almost every day. His harvesting technique is rather extreme. He jumps high into the canopy of the tree crashing through the branches which causes many of the berries to be dislodged. The chick is fast to collect them and before Hero will eat himself he firstly offers the berries to the chick. Cassowary Dads are such good parents.

There have been a number of reports of subadult cassowaries looking for new territory. Unfortunately this is a very dangerous time for these young birds. They cross roads, enter properties where there are dogs and come into conflict with other cassowaries.

If you see a subadult cassowary give it space to find a new home, please drive slowly on roads through forested areas and put the dogs behind a fence.

The young female cassowary in the photo on the right has been lucky and is making its new home in the rainforest at the Australian Insect Farm with Sue and Jack Hasenpusch. Jack has named this young bird Chimbu.
Thank you Sue and Jack for the photo.

My outstanding bird of the week is the spangled drongo. Many unkind words have been written about this bird's song but whether he sings his own song or mimics another birds, spangled drongo can produce a wonderful cacophony of harmonious melody.

It has been just cool enough of a morning to appreciate the first rays of the warming sun. Crested Hawk loves a sunbake and I found him on an old tree stump preening his feathers and stretching his wings to catch every bit of warmth.

                                                     I got the 'Julie' look.

Crested hawk's feathers floated skywards in the early morning updraft.

With a great deal of noise the black cockatoos have been visiting the paper bark trees, melaleuca leucadendra, this week where they are feeding on the seeds.

I had a visit from one dollar bird early this week it looks like a juvenile and I haven't seen it again.

Peaceful dove is still building her nest. Of a morning she sits on the power line gazing down at the ground searching for the right piece of twig. When she sees it she swoops down collects it and is off to the canopy of the damson plum, before I can follow. I am yet to find the nest.

Without doubt autumn is the season for butterflies in the Wet Tropics.
Everywhere the greens and yellows of birdwing butterflies colour the rainforest canopy as they go about their business of pollination while winning a feast of nectar.

The brilliant blues of the Ulysses butterfly is a breathtaking sight as it flits from flower to flower. These butterflies are wonders of the Wet Tropics.

Every morning kookaburra continues to celebrate the fine weather with song. However, the outlook is for rain along the FNQ coastline towards the end of next week.

Drought deepens in western Queensland and in many other parts of the world such as California and Brazil. Tonight the weakened super typhoon Maysak is crossing the coast of the main Philippine Island of Kafusunan. This year will most likely break all records for the formation of category 5  tropical storms. As a young man in India said to me yesterday. "We did this to ourselves".

Cheers for this week.  I'm off to look at the moon.


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