Saturday, 21 November 2015

Hello from Coquette Point,

While most of Australia has experienced extreme heat conditions, here in far north Queensland, a strong south easterly with a maritime flow has kept the temperatures down and brought showers onto the coast. Good rain through the week, 20 mm early Monday morning with subsequent showers, has cleared the smoke haze and when the clouds lift we are able to see Bartle Frere etched against a clear blue sky.

I made two walks around to the mouth of the Johnstone River this week. Early Monday morning I saw white breasted sea eagle sitting on the dead almond tree. In the distance I could hear loud alarm calls of a Pacific baza. Amazingly white breasted sea eagle allowed me to walk close to his perch and as I approached, suddenly Pacific baza flew from the mangroves and attacked white-breasted sea eagle.

The skirmish only lasted seconds then baza retreated behind the mangroves while still calling loudly.

I drew closer and white breasted sea-eagle allowed me to come so close to his tree that I could just fit him into the frame of my camera. He was aware of me but his concerns were with the Pacific baza which continued to call with increasing alarm.

it was time, the call of the baza or my presence
sea-eagle lifted his wings, within the confines of the tree branches and flew out over the ocean. As soon as white-breasted sea eagle left Pacific baza stopped calling, but I could not see where she was or if she had a nest.

Out to sea I could hear the little terns fishing. It is amazing to watch them flatten their wings as they fly then suddenly drop out of the sky and dive vertically into the sea to catch a fish.

Little terns were continually coming and going over the rookery. I kept well away so as not to disturb them.                                                                                                                                                              

On the beach other little terns were calling constantly and competing to see who could call the loudest.

The crested terns which were also sitting on the beach ignored the little terns.

I could not see Pingu on the beach and he has not been sitting on the old derrick this week. There was however, one beautifully marked juvenile crested tern with the mature birds.

 I found the pied oyster catchers half-way down the beach and one bird was sitting in the wrack on the high water mark. I did not investigate to see if it was sitting on eggs. The other pied oyster catcher ran out to me making loud alarm pips and I quickly retreated.

In the early morning light I could see a flock of great knots preening themselves
on the outer sandbar.
Lots of greater and lesser sand-plovers were running hither and thither chasing crabs.
The normally staid grey-tailed tattler was also running about chasing his breakfast.  Even common sandpiper which usually spends his day bopping his tail as he strides leisurely along was running about chasing crabs.                                                    

Beach stone curlew ran out from the dunes, his mate was nowhere to be seen but he kept a close eye on me and I moved away from the dunes so as not to upset him.

A smelly deposit of mud had appeared in the far corner of the beach. However, the muck didn't stop the bar-tailed godwits from searching for a meal beneath its layer.
 Mangrove heron walked on the branches of a dead tree to avoid the mud. While red-capped plovers and red-necked stints searched on its surface for a feed.

White-bellied cuckoo shrike and a family of rainbow bee-eaters sang from the mangroves in praise of the beautiful day.

On the beach beside the rookery, at the mouth of the Johnstone River, a Melbourne yachtie had decided he could careen his boat on the morning high tide. By low tide, when I saw it, the yawl was leaning against the sandbank opposite the rookery. The booms were strung out to balance the yacht and a halyard had been taken from the masthead to a log on the dune. Anchors were placed fore and aft on the sand. With all these arrangements in place it looked as if he was intending to work on the yawl for a few days.

On Friday morning the wind had backed to a southerly and the mouth of the river was momentarily calm. With a trough-line and imbedded low fast approaching the coast, in my opinion he was in a dangerous position, a position that would not be covered by his insurance company. As it happened, a few hours later that evening, a strong easterly squall hit the coast.

The yacht's owner was working on a wide wooden plank below the water line on the hull. Apparently he was having a problem that needed Sikaflex.  I spoke to him, politely, and told him it was against the law to careen a boat on the beach and that this area was part of two World Heritage Sites and adjacent to a rookery where Little Terns were nesting. The man told me he had not careened the boat because careening meant he was working on the hull. Hello mate, let me tell you that is not the definition of careening and anyway what do you think you are doing in the photo above?  I did not try to argue with him but told him there was a slipway, which I knew he was aware of, across the River and if he had an emergency he should have taken his boat there.

I told him I had phoned Council and reported that he was unlawfully careening his boat on the Coquette Point Spit; I had previously phoned and reported the matter to Council.  An hour later with the tide racing in, the man moved the yawl into the Johnstone River.

As an old yachtie myself, I often welcome visiting yachts to Innisfail and over the years have provided hospitality to many. However, the Coquette Point Spit is not a repair yard for yachts. You are welcome yachties but don't muck up our special places.

 Cassowary Kin is growing fast and is very confident, often in the lead when walking with his dad Snout. The wax jambu fruits are falling and Kin is having no trouble swallowing them.

Jessie has also been checking out the fruits and July has turned up again, perhaps attracted to the ripe wax jambu fruits.

This week the cassowary scats still contain a lot of Prunus turneriana, almond bark seeds, Chionanthus ramiflorus, native olive and a new fruit ripe this week, Irvingbaileya australis, the cloud fruit, note the green seed pods in the photos left and below right. Thank you Adrian Hogg for the information on the cloud fruit. Adrian told me this fruit is eaten by the musky rat-kangaroos, bush rats, giant with tailed rats and spectacled fruit bats as well as cassowaries. Adrian said he had also seen these fruits in the cassowary scats around Jubilee Heights and all you see is the green seed left in the scat as the white attached fruit has usually been digested by the cassowary.

On my way home from town this week I saw Hagar with his two chicks crossing the road at the bottom of the first steep hill on the range. I stopped the car and watched them walk up the hill, they had started to cross the road at the top of the hill when a car approached, fortunately being driven slowly. Hagar called to the chicks and they ran to him and he walked further up before crossing the road.

The cassowaries walked into  the first house yard and the chicks watched their dad Hagar attacking his reflection in a car's bumper bar. The chicks would have none of it and they knew where they wanted to go and started to do so.

The chicks took off in a great hurry, Hagar ran to catch up. the chicks knew where to go, they were headed for the Panama berry tree.

 Cassowary dads teach their chicks where and at what time of the year to find food and this lesson is needed for their future survival.

Ruthie's leg injury has healed and she is no longer limping. She is a beautiful, proud young cassowary.

Hagar's chick Ruthie, it does appear to be a female. (The long tail feathers which I had photographed before are falling out and so we can assume this cassowary is a she.) Anyway, she has now separated from Hagar and is often seen eating the Panama berries. She is calling consistently, in long high pitched whistles, as she moves about. Separation from the parent dad is a traumatic time for a young cassowary.

Bill Farnsworth found Ruthie in his backyard trying to share a pawaw with his dad Hagar. Thank you for the video Bill. It is interesting, but heartbreaking to watch the new dynamics between these two.

Click on the link below to see Bill's video.

 Cassowaries - Innisfail Queensland Australia

Bill Farnsworth took the photo on the right of cassowary Ross crossing from the Moresby Range National Park into Maynard Street. Later Kristian Kebby sent me the photo, left, of Ross and his chick where he saw them in his backyard. Thank you Bill and Kristian for the photos.

Jack Hasenpusch from the Daradgee Insect Farm  sent me the photo below of the juvenile cassowary Chimbu which grew up around his property. Jack and Sue had not seen her for some time and Jack was amazed to see how she had grown.  Another subadult cassowary turned up in Sue's vegetable garden raiding her tomatoes, they have called this new arrival Muruk. Thank you Jack and Sue for the updates on the cassowaries around the Daradgee Insect Farm.

It is good to see so many juvenile, subadult and baby cassowaries growing up in the rainforests around Innisfail.

The constant 'occasional showers' over the last month has kept the grass green and  growing.  With all the tucker available the wallabies are in top condition and the males have started fighting to establish dominance.  I heard what sounded like a dog killing a young cassowary.  Well, at the very  least or so I thought. I picked up a stick and went to investigate. Three young male wallabies ran out of the rainforest, one old male remained, he was drooling from the mouth and thumped his tail loudly on the ground while looking aggressively at me. I stood still and he looked directly at me for what seemed minutes, still thumping his tail loudly. Suddenly he jumped out into the open paddock, he stopped momentarily to take another look at me before jumping away. This was not a case of play-fighting, this old fella was fighting to establish his role as top male.

Good rain is expected to fall tomorrow as a trough system moves towards the coast. The frogs and crickets are singing in the rainforest tonight, especially Litoria jungguy, the Stony Creek Frog. Note the parasite on the right hand side of his neck.

 I hope lots of showers fall around your place.


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