Saturday 29 September 2012

Hello from the busy mouth of the Johnstone River,

The Innisfail Game Fishing Tournament is in full swing and this year over twenty boats participated. I watched them go out on Friday morning and again this morning and I watched them come in, in the afternoon. The majority of boats complied with the speed limit within the River but in every company there are hoons. In this case some of them have the biggest boats and apparently have no regard for boating rules - or the safety of other people in smaller boats enjoying a day out on the water with their families: keeping in mind it is the school holidays.  One women told me she shook for three hours after one boat, and she knew the skipper/owner, passed close by, at full speed, on the wrong side of their little boat and on the wrong side of the fairway buoy creating a turbulent wake causing their boat to rock uncontrollably for some minutes.

As I watched the boats return to Innisfail I saw the same type of incidence repeated again and again. One wonders what these people are going to do with the fifteen minutes they save in getting to town.
Game fishing boat overtaking in the channel  Boat wake washes ashore churning up the sediment
There were very low tides this week and with all the talk about dredging the bar at the entrance to the Johnstone River a cursory examination of the river clearly shows the dynamic nature of the river system.
 At low tide .62 on Wednesday the bar can be clearly seen.
 A build up of sand at the northern entrance of the Johnstone River. This sand shifts to the mouth in flood events.
A build up of sand on the Southern side of the entrance of the Johnstone River. This sand shifts to the mouth in strong south-easterly wind events.
A build up of sand within the Johnstone River channel.
A build up of sand at the mouth of Ninds Creek. These two sand bars shift depending on which stream is in flood, the Johnstone or Ninds.
Our local history books are full of failed, costly attempts to dredge the Johnstone River. It is unfortunate that the people now advocating the dredging of the Johnstone River don't read.
This week I have been watching a Potter wasp build her nest. One can but be amazed that these creatures seem to possess an instinctive knowledge of high rise construction in the Wet Tropics.
Potter Wasp build nests containing many cells. The female lays an egg in each cell and then catches and stuns a caterpillar and inserts it into the cell. When the wasp larva hatch they feed on the caterpillar.
Before commencing construction of the cell the wasp prepares each site by seemingly hammer- drilling the surface, in this case the tree, with her proboscis and scraping the surface clean with her mandibles.
Potter Wasp carrying balls of clay forms and builds load bearing brackets attached to the tree. At the completion of this construction she leaves the brackets to dry generally coming back the next day to continue construction.
 Carrying about five balls of clay Potter Wasp constructs the next cell.
Potter Wasp carefully constructs an entrance to the cell measuring it for size with her abdomen.
The chamber completed she leaves it to dry in the sun.
Several hours later, or depending on the weather and sometimes not until the next day, she returns to lay her eggs.
She then brings a caterpillar to place in the cell to feed the wasp larva.
Its not always easy to get the caterpillar in the cell. Once, as I watched, the caterpillar was to large and she eventually pulled it out and went away to find another caterpillar. On average it took her one hour to return to the nest with a caterpillar.
She returns to the nest with a ball of clay to seal the entrance.
 Potters Wasp then reinforces the foundations of the nest and plasters over the whole nest creating a smooth finish between cell-chambers.
She then returns with a ball of iridescent clay, seemingly a waterproofing compound made from her excretions and mixed with the clay. She spreads this compound over the top of the plaster coat.
Construction of Potter Wasp's nest is still under way with seven chambers completed already this week.
However lurking in the background is Cuckoo Wasp. These wasps lay eggs inside the mud nests of other wasps. How amazingly beautiful this wasp is.
A tailed emperor butterfly enjoying the early morning sun and of all places on the mains power line.
A red-bodied Swallowtail butterfly flew into the potting shed. Before I could reach for a ladder to rescue her an Asian gecko grabbed the butterfly and ran off with her to his den.
Lots of information on cassowaries this week. Diana O rang me and said she had a cassowary with a reasonably large chick drinking from her fountain. Unfortunately no photos.
I also have a report of a cassowary with two very large brown chicks on the northern side of Ninds Creek, near the sewerage farm.
Two different people have seen 'Peggy' walking with a male cassowary. No one has managed a photo however the male could be 'Brown Cone'.
I have seen Jessie a few times this week. Here she is on Thursday searching for ripe fruit on my star apple tree.
Snout is out and about every day wandering along the road coming from the rainforest and heading down to the mangroves. He has been avoiding Jessie.
A new sub adult cassowary has wandered in. It looks about one year old and I have seen it in the forest and in the orchard a few times this week. Migration corridors are essential for juvenile cassowaries and this bird could have come from the Ninds Creek Wetlands or Etty Bay. It has very  large eyes and I am calling it 'Biggles'.
The Golden Oak, Grevillea baileyana stands out in the rainforest. The underside of the leaves of this tree are coated in golden hairs that shimmer in the long rays of the setting sun.
A subtle sweet perfume issues from the rainforest where the White Cedar Melia azedarach is in flower. These exquisite little flowers will set yellow poisonous fruit that when soaked in water make an effective insecticide.
Cheers again from the rainforest of Coquette Point.
Yvonne C.

Saturday 22 September 2012

Hello from misty Coquette Point,

As the sun rises over the Johnston River the warm air activities the night's fog and sends it tumbling down the River. Of a morning I like to stand on the river-bank and wait for the fog to reach me and as it does the sounds of the birds in the mangroves, particularly that of the butcher bird, is removed and distorted by the damp fog. As I watch the fog rolls over and out of the River mouth and suddenly evaporates and all is clear again.
Fog rolls down the Johnston River      
Soon I am joined by two juvenile agile wallabies, they recently left their mother's pouch and now have mated up; one is a little older. The wallabies seek out the fresh grass growing on the edge of the River. No one has told them that wallaby is crocodile's favourite breakfast.
Juvenile agile wallabies on the river-bank.
 Indian Koels arrived this week, or at least it is the first time that I have sighted them.
I saw the male fly into the fig tree and he appeared to plop down exhausted on a low branch. I rushed down with my camera and he was so close I had to ramp back on my zoom in order to get his tail in the photo. For about ten minutes he sat there not moving and then silently he moved higher into the tree to eat the few figs remaining on the tree.
Male Indian Koel       
With his tummy full and his strength returned the Koel lifted his head and with a strong clear note triumphantly coo-eeed the announcement of his presence; his dark feathers shining in the early morning sunlight.
On Thursday I heard strange chuckling and coo-ees from some nearby trees. The female Indian Koel had arrived and the male was courting her. She was secluded within the tree branches and seemed annoyed by the male's behaviour.
female Indian koel               
This morning I heard the koels again and this time in the fig tree where I was able to observe them.
Male and female Indian Koel                            
For half an hour he uttered low, hiss like sounds. She totally ignored him. I stood with my arms in the air holding the camera steadily aimed at them waiting for the mating event. They never moved.  Eventually she stirred and flew off into another tree her beautifully patterned feathers glistening in the early morning sunlight. Obviously, this time, he was too slow off the mark for her.
The pheasant cocual, although not showing mating plumage, has been vocal of late.
I took this photo about 5.30 pm with the last rays of the sun illuminating cocual's beautiful rufous red wing feathers, how magnificent he looks! In breeding plumage the chest feathers are black.                                                   
With the dry weather the level in the sediment pond has fallen and buff-banded rail is easily finding  her dinner.
Buff-banded rail admires her reflection in the pond,
when suddenly she dived for a worm and I wondered how confusing her reflection must be.
 When Rail moved to the end of the pond I was astonished how well her plumage served her, camouflaged both in brown and grey backgrounds.
The male lace monitor is wearing his new coat and spends some time every day sunning himself on a coconut tree trunk partly concealed by the thick lichen that is growing on the trunk.
The black banding across lace monitor's snout can be clearly seen in this photo.
Powerful legs enable the monitor to climb to the top of trees.
Young cassowary 'Dot' visits the old bath in the nursery every day. With the hot, dry weather he is very thirsty and will sit down to drink undisturbed by our activity around him.
Matriarch cassowary 'Jessie' has been interacting with 'Dot' and 'Snout'. 'Snout' showed some interest in 'Jessie' and performed a little dance for her, however, she wasent impressed this time and they are not courting.
The old matriarch 'Peggy' (named after Margaret Peggy Morehouse) is also showing interest in 'Snout' but he is ignoring her.
 'Peggy' has been hanging about 'Snout' and I am waiting for her to have a confrontation with 'Jessie' as it seems inevitable.
I have not seen 'Little Dad' and the chicks this week but the larger of the chicks, we are now calling 'Cheeky',  continues to become separated from his father. They walk along the back of the houses on the range and last night 'Checky', who tends to wander away from 'Little Dad', was left behind. Fortunately they reunited some hours later.
The Queensland rain forest creeper Tecomanthe 'Roaring Meg' is again in full flower in the nursery 'dunny'. When I invite people to view my dunny they think I am weird until they see it!
Flowering nursery toilet.
A meeting of the conservation group  Cassowary Coast Alliance was held on Wednesday morning at Coquette Point. We were delighted to have the two Margarets, Margaret Thorsborn and Margaret Morehouse in full swing. Reports will soon be available for the Nutmeg Pigeon count and we are working to protect turtle nesting sites and shorebird rookeries. 
Margaret M and I went for a walk to the mouth of the Johnston River and I showed Margaret the mangrove dieback on the southern side of the river mouth. The mangrove forest has retreated some 300 metres and is now threatening to erode the dune system. If this happens lot 27V, where the proposed RV park is to go, will be inundated every high tide.

Erosion from Crocodile Creek on the Western side of the rookery-dune will soon break through the neck of the rookery. Crocodile Creek should then shift its mouth to its pre-cyclone 'Larry' position. The southern mouth of the Johnston River is a dynamic system.

The sunsets this week have been particularly lovely.
I hope the sunsets at you place are also lovely.
cheers for now.
Yvonne C.

Saturday 15 September 2012

Hello from Coquette Point,

Sam Dansey, a man of the forest and a poet this week completed his journey on planet Earth. Sam was in his mid eighties.
Before his retirement Sam was a senior ranger with Queensland Department of Forestry, he was a tree-marker. It was Sam's job to explore and map new areas of forest. He would access the value of the timber within the area and later decide, then mark, which trees were to be logged.
When politicians, media or conservations, and frequently all three together, would seek permission to see the logging sites, Sam was the man sent to liaise with the group.
This was a difficult job for Sam as he was a quite, private man who kept his own counsel. I never saw him annoyed not even when on one occasion the then Sydney director of the Wildness Society, who was part of a large party in Downey Creek that day, got himself lost. It was late in the afternoon and we had been delayed by the film crew. When we emerged from the rainforest we realised one of the party was missing. Sam calmly and firmly instructed us to stay put and he entered the forest as darkness closed around him. Within half an hour Sam returned with the shamefaced Wilderness Society director. Sam's face was inscrutable and there never was a word of criticism said.
How Sam must have hated to be given the job of nurse-maid to all of us.
Once I asked him had he ever seen an area of rainforest, so special, that he could not mark the trees. He looked directly at me and said  "Yes there is a place and no one will ever find it". I know Sam is in that special place now.

In the rainforest at Coquette Point the butterflies are busy laying eggs in the warm spring sunshine.
Green-spotted triangle laying eggs on a sour-sop tree.
                                                                       Tailed emperor near host tree cassia fistula
Native honey bees are swarming and finding new hive sites, while at the same time they are feasting on the abundance of pollen available from the spring flowers. As the bees load up with pollen they seem to defy gravity as they struggle to return to their hives with their harvest.
Native bees swarm around a blossom               
Loaded with nectar this bee struggles to fly.
Three native bees compete to harvest  nectar    
A sure sign that warm weather is approaching is given by the maturing matchbox beans. These beans form from the delicate white flower of Entada rheedii, the matchbox bean vine. This vine grows with great vigour and is one of the largest vines in the lowland rainforest.
The matchbox bean can reach one metre in length and the seed pods were used by early settlers to keep matches dry.
On several occasions this week Cassowary 'Little Dad' has become separated from the chicks. My neighbours were altered when they heard the chicks long, high pitched calls. On  the last sighting on Thursday they were all back together.
Very early Monday morning I saw a what I thought was cassowary 'Little Dad' by himself.  He was behaving in a distressed state frilling his feathers and pacing restlessly in seemingly aimless directions. I approached him with the camera and noticed his beak was badly damaged and there were puncture marks behind his eye and fresh scratches on his casque.
I called the cassowary hot line and two rangers investigated. I was concerned that the cassowaries chicks had been caught in a pig cage. However as I soon realised it was cassowary 'Snout'.
 Whatever happened to 'Snout's' or his chicks I suppose we will never know. However, from his wounds he was in some altercations and now he is without his chicks.  I have seen him again twice since Monday and the fresh scare on his beak is drying up and the puncture marks behind his eye are drying.  His behaviour has settled down although, he still appears very nervous.
Meanwhile the fig tree, in its last days of fruiting for this season, is still attracting a procession of cassowaries. Dot and Don visit the tree at least twice a day. Jessie has returned and feasts early in the morning. The other old matriarch has also been visiting the tree every afternoon. She is very timid and will disappear at the first sight of a person. I was in the vegetable garden yesterday afternoon and hadn't at that stage picked the days papaws. I heard a loud noisy and saw her jump over two meters into the air to eat a paw paw.
'Jessie' has returned.
'Don' is growing a casque
                                                       and is looking every bit a teen. 
Dot is never far away and seems to hang around the fig tree for most of the day.
This old matriarch has been hanging around lately and I think she has her eye on young 'Dot'. Would love some suggestions for a name for this cassowary.
 'Dot' is a male and was so called because of the white dot on his wattle. 'Dot' is almost four years old and has not mated as yet: 'Jessie' is his mother.
I was reading through copies of some of the 500 old objections to the proposed development of 27V Coquette Point in 1987. A number of the objections referred to the Little Tern nesting site and the cassowaries.  I have enclose two extracts (below) from the objections that show nothing has changed over the last 25 years.  The Little Tern nesting site and Cassowary habitat is still under threat.  Let us hope that if this development in 2012 ever goes to Council that this time we will get 500 objections plus and the natural values of Coquette Point will be seen to be valued.
We have received good rain through the week and the new trees planted at the end of the road are growing well. The trees that were burnt in the fire have new leaves and should recover.  Unfortunately the Wet Tropics sign that was stolen has not been replaced. The vandalised sign which now shows dogs allowed has not been repaired to read NO DOGS ALLOWED. However, a new rubbish bin has been supplied.
Soon the Little Terns will be arriving and we need to have signage in place this year to prevent dogs disturbing the rookery. Hopefully Council will act soon.
Cheers for this week,