Saturday 23 April 2016

Hello from Coquette Point,
A strong south-easterly surge up the Queensland coast with an enhanced maritime flow has brought heavy rain to the Wet Tropics for most of the week. Another high is moving into the Bight  and we can expect further heavy rain next week.

Once again the topsoil flowed off the farms and into the waterways and was carried as suspended sediments, in an inevitable path, to the Great Barrier Reef. The high sea surface temperatures recorded in the Coral Sea throughout summer, coupled with a failure of the monsoon and its associated cloudy weather, has caused extensive coral bleaching along the Great Barrier Reef. Water quality is at the heart of the health of the Great Barrier Reef, if the coral gardens, are to grow again then good water quality is a basic requirement. To achieve this goal every person, whether they be farmer, small landholder, or town dweller must help to stop pollution from reaching the water systems which lead to the Great Barrier Reef; we all have a part to play.
Runoff from the Johnstone River 21 April 2016
Herbicides, particularly residual herbicides, have a catastrophic effect on coral reefs and mangrove communities. The photos below show the dieback in the mangrove forest which once protected the seaward coastline of the Johnstone River Estuary.

 Recent studies on agricultural herbicides have demonstrated that several reef foundation species are highly sensitive to acute exposure to herbicides. The potential build-up of herbicides and pesticides on the reef can weaken the health and resilience of corals and other organisms, making them more susceptible to disease and climate impacts like coral bleaching.

This common sandpiper has remained at Coquette Point and not joined his mates for their breeding migration.  The photo above shows the hardships he faces in trying to make a living along the foreshore of the Johnstone River. Mud has been deposited on his feeding ground and a careless fisherman has left fishing line on the beach. This little tourist is not happy.

There is some good news, the resident beach stone curlews have ventured out with their new chick.

Young beach stone-curlews are similar to the adults, except the yellow at the base of the bill is dull and the eye-brow stripe is broken by black above the eye and the grey brown feathers on the back are edged with white.

The parents walked the chick through the mangroves.

They showed the chick where there was good feeding grounds.
Then they took the chick down to the beach.

The beach stone-curlew is listed as Vulnerable in Queensland (Nature Conservation Act 19192) and it is ranked as a high priority under the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection.

The numbers of crested terns at Coquette Point have increased with some of the birds returning from their island breeding grounds with chicks.

The gull-billed terns have not returned as yet.


I watched little egret dash through the water when chasing a fish, he caught it and I thought it was much too large for him, but he swallowed it whole. He stood for several minutes with his neck extended waiting for it to slide down.

The pair of pied oyster catchers had to contend with the mud and debris washed onto their feeding grounds during the rain event this week.

I was amazed to see two pied imperial pigeons feeding in the fig tree with the metallic starlings on Thursday, they were back again today. It is the first sighting of PIP's for over two weeks. This pair may be stragglers or perhaps are wintering over in FNQ.


Several large flocks of metallic starlings are visiting the fig tree throughout the day and the cassowaries are delighted when a shower of figs is knocked to the ground for them to harvest.

The amazing strangler Ficus drupacea has flowered and fruited again and this time it is covered in thousands of fruits.

The cassowaries are also feeding on the fruits of the bandicoot berry, Lea indica. See left.

And the fruits of the Leichhardt tree Nauclea orientalis
The brown fruits of the Leichhardt tree are very much enjoyed by the cassowaries; after feeding on them they often sit around and sleep for several hours.

Below, Cassowary dad Snout with chick Kin resting behind.

The heavy rain this week sent the frogs into a cacophony of calls only matched by the constant beat of the cicadas and katydids.

The little Eastern Dwarf Treefrogs were at their most vocal when along came Gertrude, the green tree snake, looking for a feed.

When Gertrude saw me with the camera she took off for the roof of the shade house and crawled into one of the hollow steel roof frames. From there she kept an eye on the pond and all the frog activity.

I left Gertrude to her hunting and went about my work in the nursery. Not long afterwards Joy arrived to buy some plants. " Oh she said that's a lovely plastic snake, do you have them for sale?"

Fortunately for Joy, she did not try to pick Gertrude up, but she bravely posed next to her for me to take the photos. Gertrude made a beeline for a nearby fig tree.

I'm sure Joy will look twice before she ever picks up a plastic snake. Thanks Joy for allowing me to take the photos of you and Gertrude.

The wonderful paperbark trees, melaluca leucadendra, flowered again this week and the rainbow lorikeets came in their hundreds to drink the nectar from the flowers, they also fed on the seeds from the earlier flowering.

There is lots of green grass for the wallabies to eat and Charlie arrived this week with his new girlfriend. He brought her into the nursery but she was very nervous and soon hopped away. Charlie's chest is very red, I think possibly as part of a mating ritual, however it could be a skin infection, what do you think?

The Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage Protection's management program for estuarine crocodiles means that traps are set in the Johnstone River on a permanent basis. This week crocodile Frank was caught in one of these traps. I do not know his fate, however he is not the only crocodile in the Johnstone River and removing him just means another crocodile will enter the river to take his place. The EHP policy gives people a false sense of security and encourages people to behave irresponsibly in crocodile habitat areas like the Johnstone River.
RIP Frank.
Every day I see people throwing sticks into the river for their dogs to chase, how irresponsible. Don't these people realise that their actions only encourage crocodiles to hang about the river where dogs are swimming. Who is to blame if the dog is eaten, the crocodile or the dog owner? The photo below was taken the week before, and a few hundred yards from, the area where Frank was caught.

Cheers for this week,

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