Mild days with a bit of good soaking rain, it doesn't get any better than the weather this week on the Cassowary Coast.
Spring tides, as high as 3.29 metres draining out to .52 metres, gave a good flush to the Johnstone River. The low tide of .52 metres exposes the sand flats of the Johnstone River estuary and you can walk out for two kilometres almost to the bed of the Coral Sea.
On Thursday afternoon I went looking for the migratory shorebirds, but they have mostly left for their annual flight to the Arctic tundra, they will return in spring. Meanwhile, the sand flats of the Johnstone are home to the few remaining resident birds and the few migratory shorebirds which have stayed to winter over.
Resident pied oyster catchers, beach stone curlews and red-capped plovers now share their home with the remaining whimbrels and about a dozen greater sand plovers.
Every day osprey and white-bellied sea eagle patrol the sky over the beach looking for a feed.
Sudden brief flashes of bright blue shine in the sun on the beach as collared kingfisher leaves his look out post on a dead mangrove branch, dashes to the beach, snaps up a crustacean, then returns to his post.
White patches stand out against the multilayered greens on the hills of the Moresby Range National Park. The candle nut trees, Aleurites rockinghamensis, are in flower.
These trees undergo a strange transformation, when the candlenut tree flowers, the new leaves lose their chlorophyll and turn white. When the fruit sets the leaves turn green again. The fruits of the candlenut are a food source for Aboriginal peoples throughout the Pacific and Asian regions; candle nuts are toxic when eaten raw. Hot roasting, leaching and a second hot roasting is needed to neutralise the toxins phorbol and saponin, contained in the nut, before eating.
The loud calls of the red-tailed black cockatoo rang out across the estuary every day this week. The birds flew from one side of the river to the other feeding alternatively on the nectar of the melaleuca flowers, Melaleuca leucadendra, and then the fruits of the beach almond Terminalia catappa.
Along the shore and in the wetlands of the cassowary coast, thousands of melaleucas are in flower. A sweet burnt honey smell fills the air and attracts millions of insects and butterflies to feed. The rainbow lorikeets also participate in the feast and their happy screeching follows their swift movements from tree to tree; occasionally some of the birds find time to engage in a bit of canoodling.
At last light the spectacled flying foxes arrive and squabbling and scalding all night they noisily feed on the sweet nectar of the melaleuca blossoms. In the early hours before dawn the spectacled flying foxes leave the trees for their home roost, occasionally one or two are left behind to spend the day in a nearby tree but join the others the next night.
Morning finds the ground beneath the trees covered in broken blossom and branches.
Often the metallic starlings occupy the melaleuca tree's high branches to sun bathe and digest their last meal.
All the metallic starling chicks have fledged and their loud demands to be fed sometimes are rewarded when the adult bird coughs up a fruit. They will have to learn to feed themselves very soon as the time for their migratory journey is imminent.
I was delighted to discover an immature spectacled monarch today. Although populations of these birds are found all year on the Atherton Tablelands, the coastal populations are breeding migrants to NSW. They return to FNQ in autumn to feed and frolic over winter. I have not seen nor heard the mature spectacled monarch return.
Leaden flycatcher is also a breeding migrant to NSW. Lots of male leadens have returned but I have not seen any females as yet, although Ian Laidlaw, from the Palmerston, posted a lovely photo of a female leaden which he took last night.
The cassowaries are coming to feed on the fallen fruits of the fig tree, ficus drupacea, at least three times a day. The fig tree has been fruiting for a month now and there are still lots of green fruits left to ripen.
When the cassowaries finish eating the fig fruits they often walk down onto the beach. If there are fisherman on the beach there is always a scramble out onto the rocks to escape the cassowaries. Being confronted by three cassowaries is a little scary for most people. It's happening so often I think the cassowaries are playing games and scaring the fisherman on purpose.
At the first sight of Jessie the fishermen fled for the rocks leaving their buckets on the beach.
Jessie walked out of the mangroves and down to the beach to investigate the fisherman's buckets.
Just when the fishermen thought it was safe to return to the beach Snout and Ky turned up. They didn't stay long and walked off into the mangroves.
The jumping spiders have been very active this week and it is not unusual to see four or five different species in one day; all jumpers I have photographed and posted on this blog many times before. So it was a great thrill to find a not so common adult Bavia sexmaculatus this week. Last year I photographed a juvenile but I have never been able to find an adult, until now. These spiders are big jumpers and are difficult to photograph. Thank you Robert Whyte from Queensland Museum for confirming the ID.
A little bit cooler and a little bit wet, so look out for Gertrude the green tree snake she will be hunting for a warm dry home. This inoffensive snake, reaching about two metres in length, lacks venom, she is a very useful snake to have around in the back shed as she will keep the place clear of mice.
Cheers for this week,
from Gertrude and me,