Saturday 26 March 2016

Hello from the land of sun-showers and rainbows,

Early on Wednesday morning a rainbow stretched across the Johnstone River from the mangrove forest on the northern side of  Coquette Point to the Moresby Range National Park on the southern side of the river.

Between the showers the days have been hot with the temperatures in the mid thirties with sultry, humid nights; feeling more like mid summer rather than late autumn.

When the showers stop the birds come out to preen, play and sing praise to the sun. Below, a metallic starling dried and shook his feathers while a female fig-bird used a branch to scratch away the insects from the back of her head.

Each time the rain stopped there was a sudden appearance of birds. Flocks of metallic starlings, fig-birds, yellow-eyed cuckoo shrikes and pied imperial pigeons came out from the shelter of the rainforest. The birds competed for any exposed dead branch to sit and dry their feathers.

As soon as the birds were dry they lifted to the sky in large noisy flocks and descended on the ripe fruits in the rainforest canopy. Left a male fig-bird plucks a ripe fig from the giant strangler fig tree, Ficus drupacea. Right below, a female fig-bird eats a white cedar berry, Melia azedarach.

There are few insects flying after heavy rain and the ever hungry white-breasted wood swallows used this opportunity to search dead tree branches for tasty grubs.

All the noise in the treetops frequently attracts the cassowaries to feed on the fruits which they instinctively know have been dropped by other birds.

Hidden from sight under the  beach almond tree, Terminalia catappa, Cassowary Jessie, was eating the fallen fruits,  when cassowary Snout with his chick Kin walked down the road towards the big fig tree. Jessie came out to say a bashful 'hello' and Snout raised up to his full height in an aggressive manner. Kin, caught in the middle didn't know which way to turn.

Snout thought retreat was the best option and walked away from Jessie, while Kin ran under the trees.

There was no audible sound of communication between Jessie and Snout, but suddenly Snout turned around, his aggression gone, his compulsion was to follow Jessie.

Finding himself alone Kin ran out from under the trees in a panic, whistling in a high, urgent call. Snout stopped and turned around and waited until Kin had caught up with him, while Jessie walked off.

Snout and Kin stopped for a moment to eat some devil fig fruits then walked out towards the fig tree. Jessie was already there when it started to rain. She looked up at them then continued to eat the figs from underneath the tree.

The three cassowaries circled the tree eating all the fallen figs. When they had eaten their fill Jessie, then Snout with chick Kin, walked away in different directions.

I heard a great commotion from the drongo family and rushed over to find out what was upsetting them.

High in a livingstonia palm a female common koel was eating ripe palm fruits. The drongos were in a panic and calling abuse at her. Common koel is a cuckoo and the other birds are instinctively aware of her wicked ways.
Eventually, they chased her and she has not been back.

The Green Army came back this week and they weeded the tree planting at the entrance to the beach walking track, they also planted more trees. Great work from Jordan Mooka, Kane Hastie, Kieren Hinds, Nathan Dodds and Rylan. Thank you lads.

The existing trees were planted at a working bee with Mandubarra and CCA and later maintained by Russell Constable, they are now over two metres tall. The new trees will thicken the planting and with the rain they will be well underway to create a shady canopy to exclude future weed growth. Thank you to everyone involved.

The Green Army boys are a happy noisy team and it wasn't long before Frank showed up to check out what the noise was about.

While Frank was looking at us, the Green Army boys were joined on the beach by a group of fisherman and they all had fun spotting Frank as he popped under the water only to reappear further down river. It was a salutary lesson to all to take care when near the Johnstone.

Grey reef heron was in the water near the mangroves looking for a feed and soon pulled out her lunch.

Beach stone curlew ran around in circles as he chased fiddler crabs, with little success.

Several whimbrels were probing the mud on the edge of Crocodile Creek, while the pied oyster catchers were having a jog along the water's edge. Below, a solitary common sandpiper used a rock to gain a vantage point to watch for a passing meal.

On an outer sandbar a small flock of crested terns rested between fishing sorties. No sign of little terns this week, it appears they have all departed for their Northern Hemisphere migration.

Some of the greater sand plovers are already showing their mating plumage. This week is recognised as 'Farewell Shorebird' week. It is the time when most of the migratory shorebirds leave for the long journey to the Northern Polar Regions. Below greater sand plover in mating plumage with a common sandpiper feeding amongst the mangrove roots on the right.


Four 'old girls' got together for a chin-wag over a pot of tea and Easter Buns at the nursery today. Left to right, my dear friends, Santina Lizzio, Ruth Lipscombe and Jacque Grima, me behind the camera.
Ruth happened to mention that when she was in town around 8.30am she saw a bush-stone curlew outside the pathology rooms in Rankin Street. We discussed if a dog had chased it and thought it would soon fly back to the bush.

Around three pm this afternoon Scott Neal and Jade Amira turned up with a bush-stone curlew, they said they had just rescued it from town and asked if they could release it on the nursery property. Jade told me she had received a call from Jodie Mc Donald asking her to rescue the bird. Bush-stone curlew, apparently, had stood looking at his reflection in the pathology window all through the heat of the day and had made no attempt to leave and Jodie was concerned. The bird was extremely agitated and was very noisy. Jade and Scott found bush-curlew without any trouble, Scott had a large black cloth and with Jade on one side, to prevent escape, they approached the bird, picked him up gently, covered his face, while Jade cooed and spoke softly to him until he was calm. Scott examined curlew but there was no sign of any injury. They came straight out to the nursery and 'Towny', bush-stone curlew, as soon as Scott loosened his grip, flew off to  join the other wild curlews in the forest at Coquette Point.  Thank you Jade and Scott I know you love wild animals and this is another successful rescue for you. You are wonderful people.

It rained a fair bit over March and the Johnstone River carried sediment in the runoff waters for many days. My son Martin flew over the reef on Monday and took the photos below of the accumulated sediment plume from the Johnstone River just about to engulf the Great Barrier Reef.

This week I forwarded these photos to the Queensland Minister for the Great Barrier Reef, the Hon Dr Steven Miles. If you are concerned about sediment runoff to the Great Barrier Reef please write to the Minister with your concerns and if you have photos of runoff, please forward them to Dr Miles.

Cheers for this week,



  1. Sure enjoyed the butterflies last week and all the showy birds this week, Yvonne. Glad you have been getting some rain. Spring migration is beginning here in eastern California and it is good to have all the singers filling the air again. Thank you so much for all you do,


  2. Hi. I would like to use the information about coconuts in Australia on the ettybayforever blog. It seems to be no longer updated so could you give me an email address for the blogger?
    Suzanne Lennox
    Cairns Coconut Museum