Saturday, 24 October 2015

Hello from Coquette Point,

Tonight spare a thought for the people of central Mexico. One can only imagine what they are experiencing from extreme category 5 cyclone Patricia. Although it crossed the coast this morning our time it is still a cat 4 as it moves ove the Peninsular bringing heavy flood rains.

While it is reported that this is the strongest cyclone to cross land in known memory, Pat Sheers rang me today to remind me of cyclone Mahina which crossed the coast at Bathurst Bay on Cape York on 4 March 1899. A recording of 880 HP was made at the time. 306 people lost their lives on boats and eight Aboriginal men who came down from the hills to help the sailors also lost their lives. A storm surge of 14.6m was the cause of the greatest loss of life.

When cyclone Winifred, a slow moving, severe category 3 cyclone, passed just south of Innisfail on the 2 February 1986 many of the houses at Coquette Point were destroyed. The rainforest was stripped of its leaves and many trees fell across the road. It took the local residents three days of chainsawing to clear the road to regain access to town; in those days you had to help yourself.

The morning after cyclone Winifred, local residents Mr and Mrs Hewson found a two and half month old cassowary chick whistling pathetically in their backyard. They gave the chick water and some fruit. The cassowary remained in the Hewson's yard being fed and gaining strength for many weeks following cyclone Winifred.  The chick grew and eventually learnt to find food for itself. When it was discovered the chick was a female she was named Jessie.

That was thirty years ago and Jessie has become the dominant cassowary matriarch of Coquette Point. Cassowary Jessie was born 30 years ago just two and a half months before cyclone Winifred.

Jessie's home range is from the Ninds Creek bridge to the end of the Point. I have seen her at the Ninds Creek bridge at 8am and on my return from town at 10am found her back at the end of the Point.

Cassowary Jessie looks at the building material for a new home which was erected in 2011
Cassowary Jessie has witnessed many changes to Coquette Point during her 30 years. Every year new homes have been built across old wildlife corridors. This has prevented Jessie and the other cassowaries from walking from the wetlands to the rainforest to the mangroves.   Unfortunately this often forces the cassowaries to walk along the roads or through unfenced house yards.

Above cassowary Jessie in courtship with Hagar in 2012, subsequently two chicks were raised by Snout.

Cassowary Jessie in courtship with Snout in 2013, one chick resulted, the juvenile Ky

Cassowary Jessie in courtship with Snout in February this year, again one chick hatched and that was Kin.

Jessie appears to have some parental recognition of her chicks and when she encounters her mate and chick she is generally submissive and does not show aggression towards the chick. However, I did once see her trying to separate her 12 moth old chick Ky from his dad Snout, photo right.

Jessie and the other cassowaries at Coquette Point are often seen in the mangroves and on the beach.

It's an incredible privilege to have watched this amazing cassowary grow to adulthood over a period of thirty years.  She has taken the role as the matriarch of Coquette Point; Happy Birthday Jessie.

Today Jessie was still following Snout and Kin, Snout walked away quickly and gave her the message, in no uncertain terms with a grunt and a hiss, that he does not want her following him.

Jessie chased Gregory on Monday in a rather frightening and determined manner. Gregory has not been back.  I have watched Jessie striding around looking for him. It seems she sees it as her role to keep this area as a territory for the sole use of Snout and his chick.

Snout is a very attentive dad and constantly watches and guides little Kin. Kin enjoys a bath in the muddy run-off water but it is not deep enough for Snout so he watches while Kin has a swim.

Every year a flock of little black cormorants arrive to feed in the Johnstone River estuary. Years ago I remember there was barely standing room on Crocodile Rock as dozens of cormorants dried off between fishing events. This year only four little black cormorants have arrived. The cormorants fishing expeditions are accompanied by Pelicans Cerino and Georgie-girl and a white and a grey reef egret and some days great egret joins in the fishing adventure.

Some days great egret joins the fishing party.

When the cormorants have caught their fill they stand on the beach preening and stretching their feathers until they are dry.

                      On Tuesday the flying ants emerged and the rainforest, mangroves and even the river were covered in one of the biggest swarms of flying ants I have seen.  I watched the ants fly around old pelican as he grabbed his fishy breakfast from the river.  It is generally the case that once the ants take flight the wet season starts a month later.

I was out at Frank and Dianne Sciacca's 'Ecoganic' farm this week and Frank showed me his giant cereus cactus full of buds. Frank told me when this cactus flowers the rains always starts three weeks later.

Another indicator for the start of the wet season is the commencement of dragon fly mating. This week they were at it.

There is no sign of the monsoon over PapuaNew Guinea so whatever is going on with the ants, dragon flies and cactus only time will reveal.

                             A   common sandpiper with a brand new coat of feathers, after a recent moult, spent an hour preening as the sun rose. He didn't seem at all interested in catching his breakfast.

   I was watching greater sand-plover at the water's edge when he started mooning at me. At least that what I think he thought of my camera.

This bar-tailed godwit didn't want to wake up. His beak was tucked under his wing and he swayed backwards and forwards.

His mate was close by fishing in the incoming surf and pulled up a tasty little shrimp.


I don't know what started the argument but I was watching two greater sand plovers on a distant sandbar  when a fight broke out and they weren't mucking about.

Both birds eventually walked away seemingly unharmed.

While elsewhere greater sand-plovers were fishing contentedly with grey-tailed tattler.

Gull-billed, crested and little terns were all on the sand bar at first light. As the sun rose most flew up the river to feed on insects and fish in the wetlands of the Johnstone River catchment. This migration of the terns and whimbrels from the estuary to the catchment and back again at sunset happens every day.

                                                                 The pied imperial pigeons are cooing and cuddling and showing every indication that there is some pairing and courtship underway.

Yellow honeyeater has been particularly noisy this week, squawking in a most annoying manner for hours on end. I have not heard a sound of his normally melodious chatter, something appears to have him out of sorts.

Robber flies are out and about taking advantage of any unwary insect. It is unfortunate that they consume as many horticulturally beneficial insects as they do pests insects.

A big welcome to a new Coquette Point family, Mick and Kayla Croucher and children Brody and Hayley. It is great to see a young family moving to Coquette Point and Kayla is a keen gardener so we should be seeing some improvement to the landscape around the top of the hill. There's a challenge Kayla.

As part of the 15 million dollars joint Federal-Queensland funding program to tackle pest animals and weeds throughout Queensland the hunt was on this week at Coquette Point for the weed Miconia calvescens.

A team from the Queensland Department of Agricultural and Fisheries searched Coquette Point for the pest plant. If you see a plant that looks like Miconia ring Biosecurity on 132523.

Miconia calvescens 

This week a long time resident of Coquette Point, Brian Kebby died at the Innisfail Hospital after a long illness. Brian will be buried in Innisfail at 2pm on Wednesday after a service at Black's Chapel.

For many years Brian was a respected Agricultural Extension Officer at the South Johnstone Research Station. Before that Brian worked as a 'Didiman', Agricultural Research Officer, in Papua New Guinea, specialising in Cocoa.

When Brian retired he and his wife Karen started a flower nursery called, Coquette Point Plants. Brian and Karen grew and supplied tropical flowers to the southern market for many years.

Brian we will miss your wry humour and our thoughts and wishes go to Karen and the boys Robert and Christen.

 Date claimer for November 1. Murray Falls a spot you must visit.

Cheers for this week,



No comments:

Post a Comment