Saturday, 2 May 2015

Hello from Coquette Point,

Much to my relief on Tuesday morning juvenile cassowary Ky returned to feed in the rainforest on my property. I watched him from a distance as he fed on guava fruit but when I approached to get a better photograph he ran in a panic deep into the rainforest. The trauma he suffered after the dog attack last Thursday afternoon as well as the beating with sticks by the dog's owner has taught him not to trust humans and that is not altogether a bad thing.

However, later in the week Ky once again wandered through the nursery, this time when he saw me he did not run, obviously he was in familiar surroundings and felt safe. He walked up to the old bath underneath 'plastic cas' and drank deeply. Although the nights have been coolish, the days are still in the low thirties and the cassowaries are hot and thirsty and looking for water in this very dry wet season.

                      The strangler fig, Ficus drupacea, is in full fruit and cassowary Ky, as well as the other cassowaries and every fruit eating bird in the region, are all visiting the tree every day to harvest the fruits. Ky has to be very careful not to come into conflict with his estranged parents, Jessie and Snout.

It is fascinating to watch the cassowaries follow the flocks of birds which come to eat the fig fruits. The cassowaries watch the birds as they shift about in the tree's canopy and they wait for the fresh fruits to fall.

Late on Wednesday afternoon I was watching Jessie and Snout feeding on the fig fruits when suddenly they turned to leave and instead of heading back into the rainforest, as they normally do, they headed for the mangroves, Jessie was leading and they seemed to be on a mission so I followed.

Cassowary Jessie led Snout through the mangrove forest on my property, then walking very quickly they crossed the Coquette Point Road and walked into property 28V, they walked across the clearing and into the paper-bark swamp on the boundary of 28V.

Jessie was still leading and I ran around the boundary of the property and saw the two cassowaries coming out of the paper-bark swamp and now cassowary Snout was leading.  The cassowaries entered the tall mangrove forest of Bruguiera gymnorrhiza and Bruguiera parviflora which is part of the Coquette Point Wetlands and adjacent to the paper-bark swamp.
 Jessie stopped to eat ripe mangrove mistletoe berries, Amyema queenslandicum.

Jessie knocked some of the fruits to the mangrove floor but she carefully searched through the mangrove knee-roots to find them all.

By this time cassowary Snout had walked some distance ahead and I could just get a glimpse of his neck-blue through the mangroves. Jessie could also see him and she moved quickly to catch up. The cassowaries entered a very dense area of mangrove forest and I could not continue to follow them.

I do not know where the two cassowaries were headed as the Wetland lagoons were ahead and unless they intended to swim across the lagoons they could not reach the dune area behind the beach, where the sea lettuce Scaevola taccada is in fruit. I do not know of any other source of food they could have been heading for.

The tide was on the turn and the sun was setting so I headed home.

The tall mangrove forest of the Coquette Point Wetlands showing the buttress roots of Xylocarpus granatum, the cannonball mangrove in the Bruguiera zone. The mangrove forest is a mysterious and beautiful ever-changing landscape.

On Friday I found Jessie and Snout swimming in the pool behind the nursery.

I watched the two cassowaries bathe together and felt all the time that I should not be watching, this was a cassowary private moment.

It appears that Snout cannot be sitting on eggs as he is out and about too often, something may have taken the eggs. However, it seems now Jessie has won her lover she is not letting him go and perhaps she will stay with him until she is again ready to lay eggs.

Cassowary Hero has been seen daily with his chick, which I believe is a female,  and they are eating the fruits from the Panama berry tree at the top of the Moresby Range.

We have decided that cassowary Hero's chick should be name Ruthie, after a very well know Ruth of Coquette point. I am sure little Ruthie will get up to a lot of mischief at Coquette Point and I hope we have the opportunity to watch her grow and become one of the leading matriarch cassowaries of Coquette Point.

A small flock of eight barred cuckoo-shrikes are congregating at the strangler fig, ficus drupacea, and feasting on the abundant fruits.

The spectacular barred cuckoo-shrike is my bird of the week.

As the fig fruits ripen many birds are visiting the tree to feast and there is a constant cacophony of happy bird song filling the canopy of this very large rainforest strangler fig.

The loudest song of all is sung by the male fig bird and his throat feathers swell in his joyful song of thanks for the fig tree's bounty.

Mrs fig-bird had nothing to say as she stuffs her mouth with the choicest black fruits.

The male fig-bird was happy to choose smaller fruits.

The wintering-over juvenile metallic starlings tend to be attracted to the red fig fruits, after-all they do match their eye colour.

While old spangled drongo watched to see what insects the other birds  disturbed thus sending the insects into the open for him to capture.

Out on the limb of a nearby tree the juvenile spangled drongo watched the activity in the fig, his eye colour just starting to show the first sign of crimson.

Joining the mob at the feast are three yellow orioles. Of all the bird songs the yellow oriole's bubbly call is most associated with the rainforests of the Wet Tropics. Yellow orioles are nomadic within the Wet Tropics and it is during the winter months that they tend to congregate in the lowland rainforest.

Varied triller numbers have also increased with the cooler weather and although not always seen they are easy to recognise by their distinctive buzzing thrill song as they search for insects and fruits in the rainforest canopy.

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The Pied oyster-catcher family are on the beach most days. I watched them tossing leaves about in the detritus washed up on the shore line. Mum pulled out a large worm and the chick made a play begging for the worm but she soon told him to find his own food. After a while they flew off and I noted something that Russell Constable had pointed out in his observations of these birds, the juvenile birds always seems to fly in the middle of the flock.

 Down on the beach I saw masked lapwing plover looking for a fish in the shallows. Eastern reef egret walked over and I am sure I heard him say, 'Watch me plover and I'll show you how to catch a fish.'

 After watching Eastern reef egret for about fifteen minutes masked lapwing walked away to try his own fishing methods as he could see Eastern reef egret didn't know what he was talking about.

With that Eastern reef egret walked out to the edge of the sand-flats and tried his luck in the low surf that was rolling in.

Within a minute Eastern reef egret had pulled a large fish from the water

He had great difficulty in eating it. Plover was no help as he had walked off into the mangroves.

Eventually the fish went down in a gulp after much gagging.

It's amazing what you see when you sit quietly on the beach.

 Look who I found sitting quietly on the beach at Coquette Point with fishing rods in their hands, Dawn and Ritchie Harris.  As the saying goes, 'No matter how far you go, always come back to the place you know.'

Welcome home Dawn and Ritchie you made a huge contribution to Innisfail's business community for many long years and knowing you both, you won't sit still in retirement.

Bill Farnsworth found a beautiful diamond python caught  in a sticky rat trap this week. He brought it down to me to see what I could do to help as the sticky paper had stuck to the python's skin.  Russell Constable, who knows a little bit about snakes, had come across this problem before and he suggested I warm a little olive oil and gently rub that over the sticky glue. The snake was passive as I gently performed the task. It worked beautifully and I put the snake down for a second to take a photo of it before I released it into the rainforest. Immediately it sprung out of the box so there is no 'after' photo, however, here it is before with the sticky trap glue and foam stuck to its skin. Diamond pythons are non-venomous snakes and will grow to about 1.8 m.  Pythons play a beneficial role around houses by removing rats and mice which carry disease.

Over the last two weeks an amazing natural occurrence has been taking place in north Queensland. The migration of the blue-tiger butterfly from north Queensland to the south-east corner of Queensland and northern New South Wales is occurring.

The 2015 migration has the largest numbers of blue-tiger butterflies that I have ever seen. Early this week the nursery igloo was filled with their fluttering wings and we had to pull up some mesh to release them. Nature in all its excess and mystery is represented when these large migrations occur.

A belated update from the Mandubarra Turtle Rehabilitation Centre at Coquette Point.  The green sea turtle, Etty B, has reached the point in her recovery where she is close to release. This week she has been transferred into the large tank to get her used to a bigger pond. She has reached her target weight and will be released shortly. The turtle's recovery is entirely due to the dedication of Henry and Nellie Epong and sons, Alan, Jason and Steven, just some of the wonderful Mandubarra mob.

Cheers for this week,



  1. Great photos of Jessie and Snout.

    1. Thanks Jean it's not hard to take a great photo of a cassowary, they are such amazing birds and we are privilege to live among them.