Saturday 7 November 2015

Hello from Coquette Point,

Summer is building and if we are lucky, an afternoon storm in the hinterland sends a cool breeze onto the coast. Today thankfully, there was a cool south-easterly but for most of the week not a breath of air stirred a ripple on the water.
"As ideal as a painted ship: Upon a painted ocean". The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

"Day after day, day after day,: We stuck, nor breath nor motion; "

The young crested tern Pingu arrived every morning this week for a feed. At first he walked from the sandbar in the estuary to his release spot, however, since Tuesday he has flown in and every day since, often accompanied by several other terns.

         I left prawns for Pingu and after he ate them he watched the other birds fishing in the river close by. His instincts to fish returned and by Thursday Pingu was fishing with the other terns.

I was so happy to see Pingu learning how to fish. The other birds had accepted him into their colony.

One morning brahminy kite was sitting on Pingu's spot. I thought Pingu wouldn't come in. Not so, as soon as the kite left Pingu arrived along with other friends for support.

Every morning a different story unfolds on the beach. One morning Pingu arrived with the pelicans, Cerino and Georgie Girl. Pingu was not impressed with the pelicans and walked away quickly towards the rocks.

I did not want to put food down for Pingu while the pelicans were there, I know if you start feeding them how demanding they can be.

Suddenly out of nowhere there was an explosion in the deep pool between the old wharf and the rocks. I could see bait fish jumping out of the water but I could not see what was chasing them.

All the birds rushed in to feast on the school of jumping mullet. Pingu stunned by the noise of the activity stood on the beach and watched.

Suddenly, the pelicans panicked and moved inside the rocks to shelter as the large fish which was causing the fish boil moved closer to them.

Then it was all over, the hunter followed the mullet out into the middle of the river and the pelicans moved away from the action. Meanwhile, Pingu was still standing on the beach, seemingly stunned by all the noise of the terns calling and the fish thrashing. I put some bait down on the edge of the lawn and he ran up the beach and ate hungrily.

On Friday morning I saw a mature tern feeding Pingu.  I had also seen Pingu fishing himself so I have now stopped feeding him as I believe he is now able to fend for himself. However, Pingu was on the rocks waiting for a feed this morning, when none was forthcoming he started fishing. My neighbours John and Diana O'Brien sat watching Pingu fishing.

This is another wildlife success story for Steve and Sharon of Mission Beach Wildcare and I was privileged to play a small part in Pingu's return to the wild.

It is always fascinating to watch the personalities of wild creatures.  There are generally eight or so bar-tailed godwits feeding on the sand-flats at Coquette Point. I have noticed one of the godwits is always slow to wake and start fishing, he is generally ignored by the other godwits but not this week. 'Sleepy' had his beak buried deep in his feathers snoozing, even though the sun had already risen. Then one of the godwits walked up to 'Sleepy' and gave him a 'lip full'. I can only imagine what he was saying, but it worked because 'Sleepy' immediately started to feed.

When I walked further around to the front beach I was surprised to see a wallaby moving in from the outer sandbar. It is not unusual to see a wallaby on the beach but it is unusual to see one out so far.

As the sun rose the terns left the sandbar, the crested and little terns going out to sea while the gull-bills headed up the river.

Two beach-stone curlews left the dune and loudly sounded their alarm call, warning me to keep away.

A family of pied oyster catchers, pipping loudly, flew from Flying Fish Point up the river. I wondered if they were evicting their chicks, as I had seen the Coquette Point birds do. There was no sign of our resident birds, or the chick I photographed several weeks ago.

In the mangroves common sandpiper and grey-tailed tattler had formed a fishing alliance and were following each other around.

I watched a male little tern approach a female with a very small fish. She was not impressed, she took it but the fish was far to small and she turned and walked away from him. The male tern followed but she sat down with her back to him. Every time he drew close, she walked off again. Eventually he flew back out to sea, while she stayed on the beach waiting for a better offer.

There were no signs of little tern chicks on the rookery, but I stayed well away so as not to disturb them. They have a good window of another  three weeks before the next King Tide on the 24th.  As it is that will only bother them if the tide is accompanied by strong winds. So fingers crossed and hope that people with dogs leave them alone for the next three weeks.

I have seen

only one Pacific golden plover arrive so far this year.
While red necked stint numbers were down this week with only ten counted. Only one sharp-tailed sandpiper sighted  in the estuary this season, when normally there are around twenty.

Most of the whimbrels are still feeding in the hinterland during the day, however, one or two always remain on the sand-flats.

Poor cassowary Snout, it's not enough that the senior matriarch Jessie is rolling her eyes at him, but beautiful young cassowary Miss July is up to the same game. She was watching Snout when he went to cross the road. Submissively she lowered her head but he ignored her.

He turned and crossed the road to get away from her but she followed him. So Snout and Kin crossed back and were lucky to just make it when a speeding car came down the hill. July moved safely away from the road into Lot 27V.
Pam B was out at Coquette Point this week and saw Cassowary Hero and his chick Rutie at the top of the Moresby Range. Pam noticed Rutie had a limp.  The cassowaries were outside Grace's place and she told me that early in the week Rutie had injured his leg but the limp was less than it had been.  In any case I sent a report into the Cassowary Hotline and an EHP Ranger came out and investigated. He asked that we keep an eye on Rutie and report if the limp increases. That was on Thursday and since then Rutie seems to be fine.
No wound visible on Rutie's leg.
Hero and Rutie eat Panama berries.

When the fruits are ripe on Grace's Panama berry tree the cassowaries turn up three times a day to feast.

 Diana and John O'Brien took these photos of cassowary Hagar and his three chicks several weeks ago. Unfortunately when they turned up yesterday to take a drink of water Hagar had only two chicks with him. Diana and John said one of the chicks was always on the outer and the other chicks seemed to give it a hard time. They also said one chick had been separated a couple of times but always found his dad. Thank you Diana for the report.
It is a shame as the chicks were three months old and they seemed to be over their most vulnerable stage. It's a tough life in the rainforest.

Cassowary Jessie has been taking it easy, perhaps the heat is taking its toll. I have found her asleep in the rainforest a few times this week.

Once when I walked around to see if she was all right, she whipped her head around and gave me 'the look'.  'Can't a girl have a snooze?' she seemed to say.

The weather omens keep coming in. Pam B told me green ants were building nests inside her house. Gloria told me the tortoise in the Etty Bay Swamp were nesting up around the houses. Normally they nest lower down near the bottom land boundaries.

In the nursery a sunbird started building a nest several weeks ago with the opening facing north. There was a lengthy discussion this week with the male, then a design change.  Eventually she worked out how to reconfigured the rear of the nest and covered the hole from the inside. The nest opening is now facing south. The male inspects the construction several times a day.

In the short term the weather is spectacular. Anyway, what would sunbirds know?

Cheers for this week,

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