Saturday 23 May 2015

Hello from Coquette Point,

Coquette Point has seen a kaleidoscope of butterflies this week and when cassowary chick Ruthie saw the Ulysses butterflies feeding on a pentas shrub in Bill Farnsworth's backyard she had to check them out. Ruthie is cassowary Hero's chick and they often walk along the ridge at the top of the Moresby Range on their way from the Coquette Point Wetlands to the Moresby Range National Park. Thank you Bill for this delightful photo of Ruthie playing with butterflies, it could only happen in the Wet Tropics of the Cassowary Coast.

There appears to have been a mass hatching of butterflies lately and particularly the Ulysses.
The iridescent blue of the Ulysses is wonderfully contrasted against the green canopy of the Wet Tropics Rainforests. When the Ulysses butterfly closes its wings the underside is less spectacular as it is coloured in shades of brown.

Above this female Ulysses butterfly is feeding on the perfumed nectar of Phaleria clerodendron while the host plant for the Ulysses is Melicope elleryana.

   Also colouring our skies is the spectacular Union Jack butterfly. Although a medium sized butterfly its bright contrasting colours are on the underside of its wings and it stands out when in a resting position. The top side of the wings are mostly white. The host plant for the catterpiller of the Union Jack butterfly is the mistletoe, Dendrophthoe curvata.                                                                                

Another small beauty flittering about in good numbers this week is the Caper Gull butterfly. The host plant for the Caper Gull caterpillar is the Scrambling Caper bush, Capparis sarmentosa.

Some of the Birdwing butterfly caterpillars have not been so lucky. The caterpillar below, after eating all the leaves on its vine, Aristolochia tagala, then tackled the stem before it formed a girdle on a nearby leaf. Unfortunately a white mite attacked it, just visible on the third segment, and it never developed into a pupa.

I saw cassowary Jessie twice this week once when she was checking out the guava tree and another time when she came in for a drink of water. No one has reported seeing cassowary Snout this week so the countdown is on again to see if he eventually turns up with chicks.

I heard a noise of low booming earlier in the week and I think cassowary Ky may have had an encounter with his mother Jessie. Jessie is making it clear that it is time for Ky to leave this area and map out his own territory.  However her threats have not as yet deterred Ky from coming in to drink from the waterlily bath almost every day.  Sometimes he will hang about meticulously cleaning his quills until they are neat and shining.

Cassowary Ky's casque is growing and he was patient with me when I took a series of photos this week to show his casque growth and some of the mysterious bumps, crevices and patterns that are developing. Ky's wattles are also growing and their unique pattern  together with his casque shape will help to identify him at sometime in the future when he leaves this area and finds his own territory as he grows to adulthood somewhere in the Moresby Range National Park.

Cassowary Ky appears to be completely recovered from the incident when two dogs and two men attacked him in April.

Cassowary Brown Cone still has his two chicks and Maree C saw them today and took these photos as the cassowaries were walking alongside the road near the Ninds Creek Bridge. Maree said they walked through the grass into the Moresby Range National Park. Thank you Maree for sending in these photos it is so good to see Brown Cone and his chicks thriving.

This week a female Darter has been fishing off the rocks at Coquette Point and it is strange to watch her long neck suddenly pop up out of the water only to disappear as she searches for fish in the Johnstone River estuary.

Darters are mostly solitary birds, only forming pairs when breeding. Darters can be found at any time of the year along the banks of the Johnstone River.

Darter's feathers are not water-proof and the birds must dry the feathers frequently between feeds to increase their buoyancy so they can dive quickly to spear their prey with their sharp razor like beak.
                    Darter shakes the water from her feathers using the beak to hasten drying.


About fifty lesser crested terns have returned to Coquette Point and there are a number of juveniles with them. While I could hear and see most of the terns fishing over the estuary some were resting on a distant sandbank. No sign of Caspian or Gull-billed terns returning at this stage.

Also far out on a sandbar I could see the beach-stone curlews and the pied oyster-catchers.

Meanwhile white faced heron and the red capped plovers were feeding in the inshore pools.

Late in the afternoon I saw six whimbrels fly down the Johnstone River to bed down for the night on the front sand dune, it appears these whimbrels have decided to winter over at Coquette Point.

The wonderful paperbark trees melaleuca leucadendra are in flower again and a small flock of olive-backed orioles arrived this week for winter holidays and quickly invaded the trees to drink the sweet nectar from the flowers in order to regain their strength.

The olive-backed orioles flew from tree to tree calling in bubbly notes and jostling over the flowers. They stayed for two days and have now left. Their bright happy calls have made them my bird of the week.

Also visiting this week were two bar-shouldered doves they stayed a couple of days walking around the nursery grounds before they left and I have not seen them again.

 The dusky and Macleay's honey-eaters have been very busy flying after insects in the canopy of the trees. When old drongo comes along with a scolding call the honeyeaters all depart and leave  drongo in command of the tree. Drongos are real 'bossy-boots'.

Several large flocks of sulphur-crested cockatoos  have settled down into the mangrove forest at the mouth of the Johnstone River. The most I have ever seen in the Johnstone and it can only be a sign of the continuing drought inland forcing these birds onto the coast.

The light rain last week and the very warm days experienced had the jumping spiders on the move at last. Jumping spider activity has been greatly reduced over the last few months due most probably to the very dry weather. With cooler weather ahead they will be heading for their retreats and I do not expect to see many about until spring.
Cosmophasis baehrae

Cytaea alburna

Most jumping spiders are no more than 7mm in length they play a beneficial role in the garden and are harmless to humans. It was a different story when Pam found a tarantula under her house, he was quickly relocated to the rainforest. Robert Whyte of the Queensland Museum identified Pam's tarantula spider as Mygalomorphae, Theraphosidae.

Thank you for the photo Pam.


          Young Dextar of East Innisfail proudly caught a banded grunter at the Ninds Creek bridge this week.    Mum Elisher decided it would be best to catch and return grunter to grow into a bigger fish. Dexter carefully removed the hook and with a quick throw grunter was returned to Ninds Creek.

Well done Mum this is a great lesson for a little boy. All too often I see unwanted catch left on the beach or at a boat ramp to rot. Not only is this a horribly way for a fish to slowly die but it is an invitation for crocodiles to hang about fishing areas.

When Dexter released grunter we all gave a big cheer as we watched him swim away and Dexter told him to watch out as he would catch him again when he was bigger.    

Left: Leopard whipray left to die on the beach at Coquette Point in baking sun.

Dr Lesley Clarke, past state member for Cairns and environmental campaigner, along with Meg Switzer met Etty B and Henry Epong at the Mandubarra Turtle Rehabilitation Centre.

Meg and Lesley dropped in to say hello and yarn about old times and the campaign for the World Heritage Listing of the Wet Tropics.  Meg was the Australian Conservation Foundation's Daintree campaign officer in 1985 and Meg also became involved with the campaign to stop logging in the Downey Creek Rainforest west of Innisfail. Over several cups of tea we recalled the battle to save the rainforests of north Queensland.

As Meg puts it. " Those campaigns with people working together for many years and from all walks of life with different skills and experience brought the 'useless scrub' to the attention of those who understood its importance and had the power to recognise the ecological role Australia's Wet Tropical Forests has on our planet. We managed to stop the short sightedness of logging and clearing of rainforests that indigenous people had been guardians of for thousands of years and throughout various climate changes. The Wet Tropic Rainforests are something for all of us to be proud of and to keep for the next generation and beyond. Thanks to all of those who involved themselves in a small or large way in the many battles some of which continue today."

Meg told me her trip to the Wet Tropics had been very rewarding as she and her husband went on many fantastic walking trails and were delighted to see plenty of signage and quality interpretation of the rainforest. Meg and her husband Peter live in Sydney now but they intend to visit the rainforest again soon.

While at the Mandubarra Turtle Rehabilitation Centre Henry Epong told Lesley about the forthcoming release of Etty B and how they were trying to raise money to buy a tracking devise for Etty B. Mandubarra need a total of $4000 for the tracking devise and had raised $200. Dr Lesley Clark made a donation of $50 dollars and Mandubarra now need $3750 to buy and set up the tracking device in conjunction with Jennie Gilbert of the Fitzoy Turtle Recovery Unit. If you wish to donate to towards a turtle tracking devise for Etty B please contact Henry Epong at 

Cheers for this week,


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