Saturday, 30 January 2016

Hello from the steamy Wet Tropics of Coquette Point,

I do not have any good news about cassowary Peggy. No one has seen her all week and I fear the worst, from what appeared to have been a fishing line hanging from her beak with a hook embedded in her throat. When a cassowary sits down in the rainforest you can walk within a metre of the bird and not see it. There is little chance of a search finding her and we can only hope that she somehow pulls through.

What happened to Peggy, unfortunately, is also happening to thousands of sea birds and turtles around the world when they ingest plastic mistaking it for food. The plastic waste is mostly coming from personal household rubbish. We must take responsibility for our waste and dispose of it in such a way that it does not cause an injury to other creatures, nor should it pollute the environment. Scientists estimate that in 50 years, if we continue to dump plastic waste into our oceans, the oceans will contain more plastic than fish.

An unemployed man called Adam, on his own initiative, has been collecting plastic and other rubbish from the Coquette Point beach. If there is any hope of stopping plastic from entering the oceans, we need an Adam on every beach around the world and collection points to dump the rubbish.

Meanwhile, cassowary Kin is finding relief from the heat in the nursery pool. The monsoon trough sits tantalisingly close in the Timor Sea and we all wait for some relief from the extreme heat and humidity.

                                                      Jessie is still following Snout about, much to Snout's annoyance. Whenever he sees her he emits a low growl and then starts pulling at his quills. Jessie tries to look coy by dropping her head, but it doesn't impress Snout and he walks away from her with Kin following. The photo above was taken at 7am when they all suddenly appeared on my back lawn.

Cassowary Brown Cone has connected with one of his chicks again. Pam Birchley caught them on the bend at Ninds Creek. The chick ran into the swamp before Pam took the photo. Thank you Pam for the photo of Brown Cone, his other chick has not been sighted for over a month and I fear it has not survived.

The male cassowary at the Etty Bay end of the Moresby Range National Park, Bimbo, still has his four chicks. It is absolutely astonishing that they have survived, particularly as they negotiate the steep and windy road to Etty Bay every day.  Bimbo is a first time dad, he is about five years old and his dad Buster turned up with him at the Etty Bay Cafe  soon after cyclone Larry. Thank you Loren Beggs for sending me the photos and for caring about the cassowaries.

Etty Bay is a dog free zone where campers are asked to leave the dogs at home and not to feed the cassowaries. Etty Bay is a jewel in the Cassowary Coast's crown and is a 'must stop and visit spot' for all travellers. The Etty Bay Van Park and Beach Cafe offers a unique opportunity to stay a day and enjoy this special part of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area of the Cassowary Coast.
Cassowary Dad Bimbo and his four chicks cross the road to Etty Bay.

The fruits of the Alexandra palms, Archontophoenix Alexandrae are ripe and feasting has begun. Much of the fruit is knocked to the ground by the birds as they feed but it is not wasted. When the cassowaries hear the birds feeding they go straight to the tree and sit underneath eating the Alenandra palm fruits as they fall.
I was watching the metallic starlings and the pied imperial pigeons feeding happily together when two rainbow lorikeets flew in. The metallic starlings were not bothered by the rainbow lorikeets and they happily fed together. Then I saw a PIP suddenly creep up from behind, the starlings moved away.  I did not hear the PIP make a sound but suddenly the rainbow lorikeets let out loud squawks and flew away.

The PIP gloated when they flew away.

The PIPs continued feeding on the palm fruits along with the metallic starlings,  the rainbow lorikeets did not return.

The orange footed scrub fowl with the injured leg is still limping but she is now able to scratch for food herself, the mate is always with her. Early one morning I heard a great racket from the scrub fowls and I saw two were fighting on the front lawn.

 Just when I thought they were going to kill each other the fight stopped and one bird with a broken feather walked over to a scrub fowl waiting and watching nearby. I was able to identify the spectator bird as Limpy. I do hope the fight was won by the mate who has cared for her over the last three months while her leg was healing. The other bird walked away in the opposite direction.

No sightings of the little terns again this week so it appears they have left for their Asian holiday. The gull-billed have also gone and still only half a dozen crested terns remain feeding in the Johnstone River.

Six or seven grey-tailed tattlers remain along with around 50 greater sand-plovers.

          Two groups of bar-tailed godwits are still feeding at Coquette Point a total of seven birds.                                                            

                                                                                                                                                 Common sandpipers can still be found all along the river-banks and at least five are on the sand flats every day.

I counted but did not photograph 12 whimbrels.

There has been no sign of the pelicans for two weeks. Patchy storm rains in Western Queensland may have filled lagoons and somehow they know and have left.

The amazing bright yellow caterpillars of the four o'clock moth, above, are busy eating the leaves of their host plant. Mainly a coastal rainforest dweller, the four O'clock moth lays her eggs on her host tree Carallia brachiata, the corkwood tree. This tree is also host to the peacock jewel butterflies' caterpillar.

The orchard swallowtail butterfly lays her eggs on citrus trees, much to the alarm of many gardeners.

 When the orchard swallowtail's caterpillars first hatch they look like bird droppings, as they grow they change into a green camouflage coat, see below.

The largest butterflies in Australia have been busy mating in the bushes and laying eggs on every available leaf. The butterfly below missed the host vine which was growing above the branch of a citrus tree.

Now hundreds of caterpillars are covering every host vine of Aristolochia tagala in the nursery and munching away at its green leaves

Below eight Cairns bird-wing caterpillars play Ring Around the Rosy on a Aristolochia tagala vine.

While at times the heat and high humidity of summer in the Wet Tropics is hard to take, observing the creatures that call this hot-house home makes it all worthwhile.

Cheers for this week,

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