Saturday 24 November 2012

Hello from the beach at Coquette Point,

Sunrise is the best time of the day. Not only is it cooler, a welcome relief at this time of the year, it is the time when shore-birds are most active.
As the sun's light slowly lifts the shadows from the beach the shore-birds appear. They arrive as if from nowhere, some flying low in over the water, others descending from the sky and yet others arrive in a run from the sand dunes behind the beach.

A grey-tailed tattler and a common sandpiper  appeared on the dead stump of a tree. The bird's shadows were reflected in a pool of water. The black stump shaped like a giant crocodile about to leap and eat the tattler. Also reflected in the water the dead trunks of the old mangrove forest, they appeared to ascend from the waters dark, depth like legs of long, lost souls.
 Only at the very beginning of the day can you find this magic.

A rainbow bee-eater sat on the branch of a leafless mangrove, her head lifted to the sky, the sun bathing her chest.

She sprung into the air and snap, snap. A swarm of  bees searching for nectar became rainbow bee-eaters breakfast. She had been waiting in ambush, not sunbathing.

 The female bee-eater's two central tail feathers are shorter than the males.

I walked back to the nursery and saw, in a clearing, cassowary Jessie stretching her body to full height in dominance. Snout was drumming in distress, Jessie has fallen out of love.

Poor Biggles, the territorial disputes are on and he is last in the pecking order: chased by Jessie, Snout and Dot. However, he seems to have made up his mind he wants to stay here and I see him every few days somewhere around the Point.
 When Dot turned up they were amazed.  Curly and Siri from Mele Village, Vanuatu I hope you enjoy your stay in North Queensland and have lots of stories to tell about our big birds.
I was lucky this week to see the new chicks.
I was able to identify the cassowary dad as 'Brown Cone'.  Unfortunately one of the chicks was hidden by the long grass and when I approached to get a closer shot, they disappeared into the rain forest.
I was really excited when coming home from town on Monday, walking across the road near the Ninds Creek Bridge was a cassowary I had never seen before, a female I think. Her wattles are quite long so she must be a good age. Perhaps she is    'Brown Cones' mate as he hangs out in this area.
She disappeared quickly into the mangroves
on the western side of the bridge. I will ask around if anyone knows this bird and if they have a name for her?
The hot weather has triggered the praying
mantis into egg-laying. I found this female almost finished her task at 6.30 in the morning.
As I watched she withdrew her ovipositor from
the egg-sack, (ootheca), and climbed a little way up the stalk she had used to attached the ootheca.
She remained in that position for the rest of the day, her forelimbs drawn up close to her chest. No doubt exhausted by the ordeal of egg-laying she needed time to regain her strength and she was also guarding the oothera until it had hardened. What a privilege it is to observe these amazing creatures. The next morning she was gone.
Every day the osprey catches a fish or two.
They bring the catch back to the nest tree and slowly consume their meal.
Underneath the osprey nest bush-stone curlew
has hatched two chicks. Unfortunately they were hidden in the grass and I did not get a photo.
The first of the metallic starling babies have hatched
and the parents are busy tending to them. Above the female removes soil from the nest while Dad looks on.
While some starlings engage in courtship.
over completed nests.
some younger birds dry themselves
following a bath.                                                                                                                    
before trying to work out how to build a nest.
Note the fruits of the white apple are maturing and soon the metallic starlings will be able to eat at home.
In the rain forest the nectar laden  
 flowers of Darlingia darlingiana paint a white, lacy canopy alive with thousands of bees.
TThe flowers and new spring leaves of the canopy
are an ever changing mosaic of colour.
The cream brushes of Grevellia baileyana are in flower
on the edge of the rainforest.                                        
Concealed under the canopy are the blossoms
of the satinash. The flower heads appear on the trunk and branches of this tree.
On the edge of the mangrove forest, the pale blue
flowers of the holly-leaved mangrove, Acanthus ilicifolius, give a glow to the dim shades of the forests floor.
While sun, heat and rain provide the
energy for the forest to grow new leaves. Insects, like the stick insect above, are busy stripping the foliage from the new growth.
Eileen was fascinated when this large stick
insect jumped out of a plant she was looking out and made itself at home on her arm.
Stick insects chew succulent, summer leaf growth forcing the plant to grow into a compact shape.
In the measure of things there is a roll for all creatures.
cheers from Coquette Point.
Yvonne c.


I heard the cooing of Pied Imperial Pigeons and saw them sunning themselves in the top of the trees. They were about to leave to gather the fruit from the canopy of the rainforest of the Moresby Range National Park.



Saturday 17 November 2012

Hello from sunny Coquette Point,

The suspense leading up to the solar eclipse on the 14/11/12 could have been written by Alfred Hitchcock. Dark clouds gathered on the days before the event and the weather gurus held very little hope that we, on the far northern coast, would have clear skies to see the sun. Thousands left the coast and travelled hundreds of miles inland to find clear skies.  However, that was no excuse for us to miss out on a neighbourhood get together and breakfast-party.

At 5.30am on Wednesday I walked out of my mangrove hideaway and went up the range to join a gathering crowd for the viewing.
We were soon met by visitors from Sydney and Melbourne, some who camped overnight on the hill. At the top of the Moresby Range an even larger crowd of Innisfail people had gathered to see this once in a lifetime event.
The skies opened and heavy rain fell, no hope of seeing the sun we thought dejectedly.
 Someone shouted, "Look a rainbow."  Amazingly a rainbow had formed over Coquette Point and the end fell close to where we were standing. The girls ran to dance in the rainbow's hues. Suddenly the sun came out from behind the clouds and there it was in a golden crescent shaped by the moon.
We noticed the increasing dimness surrounding us and we left the rainbow to look to the east in time to view the total eclipse.
The blackness enclosed us, as black as night and from the youngest to the oldest we gasped in amazement as the magic of the moment filled us with joy and wonder. We saw earth's small moon block out the mighty sun's light and we joined the millions through the ages who felt the mysterious  power of the universe.
We had a dozen welding helmets and they sat like strange masks on our faces as we gazed skywards.
All to quickly the moon moved across the face of the sun and the sun's bright light removed the blackness just as quickly as the moon had plunged us into darkness.
 I ran to the osprey nest just in time to notice Osprey's head had fallen onto his breast ready to sleep as darkness had swooped over him.  The light returned and with a jerk he was awake again. We had all experienced a moment of earthly magic.
The ospreys have been displaying courtship behaviour and engaging in lots of preening  since they completed their nest building.
The scrub fowls have been working on their mound bringing in new material and calling loudly. The large males stand and crow and crow from well before sunrise and when the females see them they run away in freight emitting long gurgles.
Male scrub fowl crows loudly early in the morning.
The activity in the
scrub fowl's mound is happening at night -  so no photo yet.
The metallic starlings are still building new nests. Their building activity happens in the cool of the morning and again in the late afternoon: they are not stupid.
I watched as a great flock of metallic starlings descended on a tree. One bird pulled and pulled and cut and sawed with his beak until he had harvested the desired piece. It was a long vine and several birds descended on it and tried to steal his bounty. It resulted in a massive midair tug of war between four birds as they flew across the river towards the nest-sight all pulling and tugging at the vine.
While the metallic starlings are roaming free at Coquette Point, in Innisfail's CBD they are being hounded. The metallic starling is an extremely beautiful Australian native, migratory bird. - but it is not welcome in Innisfail. Apparently it is too hard to shift a couple of seats from under the starling's nesting trees near the Post Office or to hose the cement under the trees once or twice a week. Instead  the Council wants to shift the birds. Visitors have told me they see the  birds as an attraction to observe and photograph, a reason to stop in the CBD. One person said to me. "You can't be serious, who wants to shift them? These birds add colour and charm its part of what makes Innisfail special!"
I was delighted when Jeff and Helen Larsen joined me to take a look at the dying mangrove forest at Coquette Point. We have had strong, southerly winds over the last couple of weeks and a lot of scouring has shifted sand from the flats and washed it up on the high water mark. The action of wave and wind has exposed the roots of the old mangrove forest and we were able to examine the remains of the old forest some 300 metres out from the present high water mark.
Jeff and Helen examine small fish in the shallow pools left by the out-going tide.
Helen made a list of 18 species of birds seen on the walk, 17 of which were shorebirds.
Little Egret, Eastern Reef Egret, Beach Stone-curlew, Masked Lapwing, Pacific Golden Plover, Lesser Sand Plover, Red-capped Plover, Australian Pied Oystercatcher, Common Sandpiper, Grey-tailed Tattler, Whimbrel, Black-tailed Godwit, Bar-tailed Godwit, Red-necked Stint, Little Tern, Gull-billed Tern, Crested Tern.
We met Ross and Pelican fishing on the beach.
A flock of 50 Gull-billed Terns were busy fishing over the estuary.
We saw several Little Terns and a number of adult and juvenile Crested Terns.
We watched as the juvenile Crested Terns fished for sand dollars in the wet sand, or at least we think they were.
The peace was broken as we saw two young
lads with four stroppy dogs walking on the Wet Tropics Esplanade. As they approached the Moresby Range National Park they let the dogs off the leads and they all disappeared into the Moresby Range National Park.
Soon we heard dogs barking and growling, they had bailed something up. We heard the barking coming from a distance in the National Park followed by whistling and shouting as the boys tried to get the dogs back. The whistling, calling, barking and growling continued for over an hour. We saw one of the boys come out of the forest with a lead in his had but no dog. We heard the dogs chasing and then growling, in kill-mode, high up in the Moresby Range National Park and both boys still calling.
We turned to go home as the tide was coming in when a local passed high up in the Wet Tropics Esplanade walking his dog without a lead. When he saw me he gave me the finger.
Many shorebirds fly thousands of miles to rest and breed on our shores. They face every danger in their journey but it seems now, because of the actions of a few,  the shorebirds can no longer find sanctuary on the shores of the Cassowary Coast.
Yvonne C.

Saturday 10 November 2012

Hello from Coquette Point,

On Thursday the Cassowary Coast Regional Council, CCRC, approved the reconfiguration of the Metricon marina development at 65 Coquette Point Road. This 89.26ha marina development abuts Ninds Creek, on the east and fronts the Johnstone River to the north. It is part of the old Ninds Creek Wetlands and as such the soils are acid sulphate. The site was cleared 100 years ago for agricultural and cattle farming purposes.

The reconfiguration of the 180 water lots, granted on Thursday (8.11.12), allows the water-front-landholders, within the marina, free access to the canal and lake without the restriction of an easement: just a bit of plan-tiding-up.

Preliminary approval for this development was made by the Administrator of the old Johnstone Shire Council in December 2007. The Administrator in 2007, agreed to Metricon's request, when the construction is completed Council will take over ownership of the park lands and marina and will maintain them. The water-lot-landholders will be charged a benefited rate fee of $2000 per year to cover these costs. As this development is complex with a lock system and a closed marina some have estimated the annual cost to CCRC ratepayer to be within the vicinity of one million per year; and that is without dredging. The amount CCRC will recover under the present arrangement is $360,000 per year, giving a ratepayer subsidy to the development, on these figures, of $640,000 per year.

A permissible change was negotiated with CCRC on the 2.12.2010 included in this was an extension to 13 March 2016 of the development approval.
This development was approved under the constraints of the FNQ2031 Coastal Plan!  "However, a development may not need to comply with the above policy outcomes outlined in the Part C of the Queensland Coastal plan, as there may be acceptable circumstances for not fully achieving the overall policy outcome......when the proposed development is a development commitment.' There has always been a backdoor: and so Sea Haven was approved.
One of the conditions placed on Metricon is that the development 'is in keeping with the predominant character of the locality'. I think that is amusing as the CCRC sewerage farm is across the road on the western side and mangroves, mosquitoes and mud line the entrance through Ninds Creek. 
Historically this land has always flooded, it is after all a wetland, and I understand Metricon plan to use the fill, from the canals and lakes, in part, to raise the height of the land some four metres. It is likely that this will act like a dam blocking flood waters, which naturally are released in an easterly flow into Ninds Creek, and it is thought this will extend the duration of floods in the surrounding urban area of Howe Street and ironically all road access to the Metricon Sea Haven development. However, the EIS shows this will only happen in a 1/100 year flood. The locals of the area think otherwise and only time will tell.
Marching ahead of time this week is the caterpillars of the 4 o'clock moth. Normally they hatch in mid summer, this year they are early.
O dear that tasty tip is all gone.
Let me see what can I eat next?
Left right, left right. That look good to eat!
4 o'clock moth.
The Ospreys have rebuilt their nest, torn down by a goanna last year. They have been taking turns to guard the nest. I watch them every day flying over the river estuary looking for a meal.
Osprey's nest site overlooks the Johnstone  River valley.
Osprey feasts on a yellow fish.
Running around under Osprey's nest are dozens of cattle egrets. The egrets have started to develop their breeding plumage.
This week I heard the distressed call of a frog. Running towards the sound I saw a butcher bird with a very large frog in its mouth.
With one big swallow the frog went down.
Cassowary Jessie is still walking-out with Snout. I don't know if they just like each others company or if Snout is reluctant to nest again, as this courtship has been going on for over seven weeks.
Lots of longicorn bugs have suddenly turned up in the nursery, they are such strange insects.
The flower longicorn an important pollinator.
The larva of most longicorns are wood-borers
Stick insects of many kinds are also suddenly numerous in the rainforest. The female stick insect has no wings and can be confused with mantis. However, the stick insect eats foliage and does not possess spined forelegs for capturing prey.
Female stick insect.
CCRC officers delivered the shorebird pamphlet, 'Protecting the Little Terns of the Cassowary Coast' this week and I have started handing it out to local residents.
I happened to see CCRC law officers taking a photo of the vandalised sign at the end of Coquette Point Road.
Hopefully the sign will be repainted soon and the Little Terns can nest with out the fear of dogs.
cheers for now,
Yvonne C.