Saturday, 6 June 2015

Hello from Coquette Point,

Yesterday was World Environment Day 2015 and  the way some people are still behaving you might think it was WED 1815. I don't like to begin the blog with unpleasant news but I need to get this off my chest. Last week when I went with my son Martin to the airport in Cairns; on the way, just north of Innisfail, I saw a crop duster cross the road in front of the traffic, the plane quickly banked and turned. I had a camera on my knee and took a photo. I was surprised the crop duster was flying as there was a strong-wind-warning for 30 to 35k south easterly winds.

The plane flew low over the Bruce Highway and I turned to watch as the pilot opened the sprayers above a banana plantation on the North Johnstone River, adjacent to the Highway.  I saw a stream of spray blown back with the strong winds over the Highway and over us and all the traffic behind our car. Martin sang out. "Look the windscreen has droplet spray on it, close the window quickly." ( I had opened the window to photograph the plane.) "There should be a law against this happening."  Martin said very annoyed as he tried to clean the windscreen.  Well, there is a law and the next day I put a complaint into CASA but you may not be at all surprised that I am still waiting to receive a reply.

 I was lucky to have the camera on my knee and was able to record the registration of the aircraft, but even without that information it is sufficient to record the time, date and place in order to make a complaint about such adverse incidents. An agricultural chemical user has a legal obligation to ensure that the chemicals they apply stay within the target area. It is unlawful to aerial spray chemicals during a strong wind warning. It is unlawful to allow chemical spray to drift onto non target areas. Oily spray suddenly covering the windscreens of a car moving at 100k on the Bruce Highway is a major traffic hazard and it is lucky that, in this incident, there wasn't a 'pile-up'.

Although this week has been cool, wet and windy, cassowary Jessie did come in to the pond for a drink on Tuesday.

It is wonderful to watch cassowaries scoop  up water into their large beaks. With the water overflowing I watched Jessie throw her head back and I saw the water trickle down her throat.  Again and again Jessie drank with her long wattles dangling in the water.

Jessie finished drinking and was on her way, it looked as if she knew where she was going, camera in hand I followed.

Jessie headed for the giant quava tree up on the hill on the edge of the rainforest. I could see two large, ripe guava fruits high up on the tree and I thought, there is no way she is going to reach either of them. I watched as Jessie raised her head and looked longingly up at the fruits.

Cassowary Jessie reached up, and up, and up, and up onto her toes, until at last with one extraordinary reach she plucked a guava fruit from the tree.

Slam-dunk, Jessie with her feet still on the ground reached up and plucked the guava fruit and swallowed it whole. Cassowaries are amazing birds.

Cassowary Ky visited the nursery for a drink from the bath and afterwards spent 20 minutes preening his, now well developed, tail feathers. Ky is growing into a handsome young bird.


Cassowary Hero and his chick Ruthie are visiting the Panama Berry tree at the top of the range on a regular basis. Ruthie has beautiful, unusually large blue eyes and always seems to have a slight smile. Ruthie's casque is just starting to emerge and appears to be knobbly.

                                                                          The white-breasted sea-eagle is  the iconic bird of prey in coastal areas around Australia. It is stunning to watch this giant of a bird fly above the mangroves which line the Johnstone River against a backdrop of Mt Annie National Park.   The white-breasted sea eagles  are very active at the moment and I noticed two white-breasted sea-eagles flying together this week and calling loudly as they went in a possible mating ritual. White-breasted sea eagles breed from May to October.                                                                                                                

A solitary black kite has been hanging around the estuary this week and when it tried to take over the sunbaking spot of the helmeted friar birds it was told where to go very quickly.

Helmeted friar bird retook the spot and jeered at the circling black kite while a chorus of friar- bird support came from a nearby tree. Black kite has kept clear of the dead branch on the bull-oak ever since.

Ospreys have also been very active fishing in the estuary and disappearing, with their catch, towards the Mt Annie National Park.


All this week I watched the osprey fishing around the Johnstone River estuary and going backwards and forwards to the Mt Annie National Park with their catch. Osprey breeds from April to September and I like to bet there are hungry chicks in a nest somewhere over the river.

A solitary Caspian tern, in full breeding plumage, has returned to the Johnstone River estuary along with 100 or so gull-billed terns. I haven't managed to photograph the gull-bills but I have seen them every day this week.

I have called the new pelican, Georgy Girl, she arrived in the Johnstone River last week. She has mated up with Cerino and they come to visit me early, around the time the first rays of sunlight reach the river. Although I do not feed them they often run up the beach towards me as if expecting to be fed.

After a brief hello they leave and swim out towards the mouth of the river for a day's fishing. It is so good to see Cerino with a mate, I am sure Cerino's fisherman mate Ross will be happy to see a new Georgy Girl.

The Rainbow Lorikeets are feasting on the blossoms of the paper-bark trees, Melaleuca leucadendra.

The rainbow lorikeets feast and play in the paper-bark trees screeching loudly until exhausted they fall asleep, but there is always one bird posted high in the canopy as a lookout whether the other birds are feeding, playing or sleeping.

Yellow Oriole has been particularly raucous in his calling this week uttering none of his melodious tunes. Perhaps he has been cranky at the windy, rainy weather making it difficult for him to feed.

The olive-backed orioles are still around and enjoying the nectar in the melaleuca blossoms. I have never seen them feeding with yellow orioles, however it is not uncommon to see them feeding with fig birds and varied trillers, they have been taking turns with the rainbow lorikeets while feeding on the paperbark blossoms.

Varied trillers, both male and female are very active in the canopies of the trees of the rainforest and the mangroves. Their repeated rolling trills make them easy to identify long before they emerge from the canopy. They leave no leaf nor piece of bark unturned as they relentlessly hunt for insects and caterpillars.

Darter has had a problem drying out in the overcast and showery weather this week so during these times she has adapted a clever technique by using her strong, long beak to scrape the water from her feathers. It seems to be effective as after a few minutes of scraping she is ready to fly, then swim and fish again.

The barred cuckoo-shrikes have been calling a lot this week, perhaps because the fruits on the strangler fig are coming to an end and soon they will need to move on to a new restaurant. A number of juveniles are still in the 20 strong flock and they are easy to identify by their blue eyes and lightly barred chest.

 Whatever the weather, the animals have no choice but to grin and cope. Early one morning in the windy weather this week I watched a 4 o'clock moth hanging on to a palm frond as she was blown from side to side. Her legs were splayed out all the better to grasp the edges of the leaf blade.                                            

 The ravenous Cairns bird-wing butterflies' caterpillars have again eaten themselves out of house and home and are ringbarking their food plant vine Aristolochia acuminata, fortunately they are big enough to pupate, so they should soon be forming cocoons.

A new visitor this week, the little yellow spotted Jezebel butterfly. Her wing had been damaged, possibly by a bird attack or from the strong winds, however, it did not hindered her flying.

At long last the roof for the sediment measuring shed has arrived and Ben and the boys worked through the rain and mosquitoes to erect it on the banks of the Johnstone River. They will be back in 10 days to install the equipment which you can see all piled up outside the shed.

Cheers for this week,


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