Saturday 27 October 2012

Ron Berry, a north Queensland gardener, died this week. Ron was born in Gordonvale in 1931 and was buried at his birthplace this week. He always boasted he never lived more than 50 miles from where he was born.

During Ron's time as Deputy Chairman for the Douglas Shire he was the driving force to convert the 'Bloomfield Trail' to an all weather road. Later, Ron told me he came to think the road was a costly mistake.

To the very last weeks of his life Ron was a popular presence at community markets with his grafted eggplants, tomatoes and his wise advise to anyone who wanted help to grow food in the Wet Tropics.

Rhonda and family we share your sorrow and we honour Ron for his contribution to horticulture, echo tourism and the arts in Far North Queensland.

There is a link in the right hand tab to two articles I wrote about Ron in my 'Growing' blog. If you wish to read about Ron click on January 2011; 'Why they built a road through the Daintree rainforest' and in the same issue 'Ron Berry'.

An unusual weather pattern over the last few weeks has brought strong, cool winds to coastal Queensland. While October is normally quite hot, this year we are experiencing night time temperatures around 18degrees and daytime just under 30degrees. Combined with very low humidity we are enjoying the mildest of October weather.

The strong winds have kept the fishers in the river and all week fishing mates in small boats have been darting around the mangroves looking to catch a feed of fish.
This looks like a good spot!
In the rain forest the black bean, castanospermum australe, are in full bloom. The bright yellow flowers and orange bracts attract rainbow lorikeets, flying foxes, spangled drongos and other nectar eating birds. While drinking the nectar the birds and bats pollinate the flowers and within a few months the large seed pods develop.
Can you find the rainbow lorikeets in the tree?
Breakfast in the rain forest.
On Thursday when the lorikeets finished feeding in the black bean tree they flew to a nearby candle nut, aleurites rockinghamensis, where a nutmeg pigeon was warming herself in the early morning sun. This is her preferred sunning spot and almost every morning I see her in this candle nut. Nutmeg sat fixed on her perch as the lorikeets harassed and screeched loudly at her.  Eventually, tied of the game they flew off.
Nutmeg held her cool and in the end owned the tree.
Contrasting against the deep green of the rain forest's canopy, and also flowering this week, is the white-apple tree, syzygium forte.  Large clusters of white-apple flowers attract moths and butterflies to feast on their nectar. Soon clusters of white fruits will develop, a favourite food of nutmeg pigeons, cassowaries, flying foxes and the pig-nosed turtle.

 The canopy of the wet tropics rain forest is an ever changing mosaic of coloured leaves,flowers and fruits.
White apple tree in flower at the Coconuts, Innisfail.
On the northern side of the Johnstone River, in the area called The Coconuts, several white-apple trees have been planted in a small park. In one of these trees near the boat-ramp metallic starlings have built their nests.
Metallic starling nests are woven around the flower heads.
Metallic starling nests hang over the Johnstone River.      
Flocks of metallic starlings cross the Johnstone River, from their tree at The Coconuts, to feed in the rain forest and collect nest building material from Coquette Point.
A large male metallic starling rests on a mangrove at Coquette Point while
the rays of the setting sun create a rainbow on its shiny breast feathers.                                                       

In the warm spring sunshine butterflies are busy laying eggs for the next generation. Above a female Cairns Bird-wing rest from the wind.
Orange migrants cluster in large numbers.
Pale green triangle rest on a windy day.
Red-bodied Swallowtail, just hatched, dries
her wings in the early morning sunshine.                                                                                  
Fluttering hither and thither across the canopy of the rain forest and only occasionally stopping for a rest the tailed-green-banded-blue butterfly lays her eggs on the match-box bean vine. The distinctive caterpillars are bright green with a pale brown head.
Spring of course is the month when moths especially are active laying their eggs, much to every gardeners distress, often on cabbages and tomato plants.
A spray containing 5mls of eucalyptus oil and 5 mls of detergent in one litre of water and sprayed on vegetables and fruit once a week will deter the mother moth from laying her eggs on plants and fruits.
The scaly patterns of moths is every bit as remarkable as those of butterflies and many day flying species of moths can be observed around the rain forest canopy and in the protected understory. However, to appreciate their diversity you need to observe the huge variety of nocturnal moths active in the night time. Below are a few moths I have seen, active during the day, this week.
Here is a close up of the wing!!!!!!!!!!
Insects of the Wet Tropic's rain forest are
weird and diverse and none more so than the spiny leaf insect. What does a bitten leaf matter when you have a spectacular creature like this in your garden? 
The Indian koels have been very vocal
all week with the male and female (above) calling excitedly from their roosting trees. The metallic starlings and the pheasant coucals should watch out as Mrs Indian koel is looking for a surrogate parent for her eggs.
With the dry weather the cassowaries are
looking for water and Dot is again coming into the nursery regularly for a drink.
I was busy weeding when Dot came up behind me and looked right in my weed bucket, it gave me quite a start.
I found Dad 1's second chick, unnamed, sleeping under a tree at the top of the Moresby Range. Any suggestions for his name? 
Subadult cassowary 'Q' turned up this week. Q
is one of the two surviving chicks from 'Little Dad's clutch born around October 2010, the other chick I calle 'Don'. 'Q' is almost fully coloured and is developing very long wattles even though his casque has not formed. He walked twice around my vegetable garden hungrily looking at the red tomatoes and chillies growing behind the fence.

The sub adult of unknown parents also turned up again this week. He was skittish and soon ran off.
Diana O'Brian sent me some photos of 'Little Dad' with only one chick now surviving.
We had all hoped that this was another new cassowary with just one chick but a careful comparisions of the two photos showing watles and casque appear to show it is 'Little Dad' with 'Cheeky'.
Diana O reported that on Wednesday afternoon she saw a large male cassowary with two very small chicks crossing the Coquette Point road near the old foresty track. It could be 'Brown Cone' or 'Dad 1' with the chicks, no doubt I will see them soon and be able to confirm the Dad; its wonderful news.
Coquette Point was well represented at a function in the Shire Hall to support the National Disability Insurance Scheme. Clive Strickland was Master of Ceremonies, John O'Brien entertained us.
 In the photo below John is in the 'zone' for a his wonderful rendition of' 'Mak the Knife'. Very well done John.
Bill Farmsworth did all the heavy lifting to take plants in to decorate the hall and the Nursery was happy to be a sponser and support the event; my Irish eyes are still smiling.
Cheers for now,
Yvonne C.

Friday 19 October 2012

Hello from Coquette Point,

One would think that people who walk along a beach would be aware of the wildlife on the beach, which they cannot fail to see. You would think they are walking the beach to enjoy the beauty and serenity of the total beach environment. Sadly, it is not always so.

Access to Coquette Point beach is through the Wet Tropics esplanade and the Wet Tropics has the same management criteria as National Parks: no dogs. Three months ago both the Council sign showing 'no dogs allowed' and the Wet Tropics sign, describing the Coquette Point, mangrove esplanade  were vandalised. The Council sign was repaired but sadly this week it has been vandalised again.
The evidence of dog prints are everywhere on the beach and sand dunes. It is evident the dogs are chasing and harrassing the shore-birds.  As I walked beside the Coquette Point rookery late Friday afternoon I saw five red-necked plovers nesting on the rookery, I saw whimbrels and other seabirds  nesting on the rookery and although I walked down by the low-water mark the birds were very nervous and flew at the sight of me.
                    On the mudflats I watched sanderlings feeding.
Whimberals bathing in the estuary.
Red capped dotterels feeding in the surf.
I was surprised to see how much sand had been washed into the estuary from the strong south-easterly winds we have been experiencing over the last 10 days.
The mangrove forest in front of the dunes which protected the massive, brackish mangrove lagoons of Coquette Point from cyclonic weather events, have all but washed away. This has happened over the last few months of constant strong south-easterly winds.
Matriarch cassowary Jessie is in full courtship with Snout
and every day I see them walking together somewhere at Coquette Point. This is their second courtship this season. Tragedy struck Snout's chicks just after they hatched about two months ago. So it is surprising to see him preparing to undertak the arduous task of nesting again.
Snout waits while Jessie drinks.
Every night Snout leads Jessie into the rain forest.
It is so beautiful to watch Snout's devotion to Jessie. In the photo above I watched them both eating, Snout finished his fruit and he stood and waited, for some ten minutes, while Jessie continued to eat. Snout then led Jessie into the mangrove forest.
Orchard Swallow-tail caterpillars are
munching on the leaves of citrus trees in my orchard.
I leave them alone they do no harm
and the citrus trees possible benefit from the light prune. How wonderful it is to see the beautiful, orchard swallow-tail butterfly laying her eggs on the leaves of the citrus trees.
There are lots of jumping spiders around in the spring warmth. I see them everywhere hunting for tasty insects around my plants.
I think Jumping spiders are fascinating.
Robber flies have also been hunting actively in the nursery, catching honey bees and wasps.
It took this robber-fly six minutes to suck the juices from the bee.
Sulphur-crested cockatoos can cause a lot of damage in an orchard. However, if you plant their natural food-trees you will find they are their preference. In my rain forest sulphur-crested cockatoos are competing with the metallic starlings to feast on the fruits of the macarangas.
Mosquitoes are starting to fly at night, as sure sign of an approaching wet-season, and to balance take advantage of this food source, dragon-flies have hatched in large numbers. When there is imbalance, left alone, nature will sort it out.
I am off now to 'bloodie Wertz's' wake in Mossman. Have a drink tonight for Jim!
cheers Yvonne.