Saturday 30 March 2013

Hello from Coquette Point,

This week a case of dengue fever has been diagnosed in a man from Coquette Point. It is the first case to be identified in the Innisfail area this year which is lucky as 100 case of dengue fever have occurred in the Cairns region over the monsoon season.

We can expect the Dengue Action Response Team (DART) to carry out an inspection of Coquette Point next week.

Tropical Public Health Services, director Dr Richard Gair warned Innisfail residents to begin taking extra precautions following the diagnosis.  He emphasised "It's important that people clean up their yards and don't leave any breeding sites for mosquitoes."

Incidental, Coquette Point has been without Telstra land-line for one month. The repairs were completed on Wednesday and we have land-line again. This outage caused extreme hardship to many elderly people at Coquette Point who have never owned a mobile phone. It seems incredulous in this day and age that it took one month for Telstra to fix the fault.

The young cassowary 'Rosie' has an injured foot. This week National Park's Rangers came out to Coquette Point three times to try to capture her, however, they were not successful.
Fortunately 'Rosie's' foot is getting better and her limp is still pronounced but not severe.  She is searching for food and other than the injured foot she appears to be in good condition.

Capturing cassowaries is always problematic as often the stress of the capture and transportation results in the death of the bird.

The most important thing to do now is to monitor 'Rosies' condition and appraise the progress of her recovery.

'Rosie' is 'Snouts' chick from November 2010. 'Snout' did not breed in 2011 as he stayed with 'Rosie'. In 2012 'Snout' lost his chicks in an attack, we do not know what happened but believe, from the marks he carried after the attack, it was dogs.

A close look at Rosie's foot shows torn and infected flesh on the outer left side foot. The injury is consistent with a dog attack. However, if it was a dog it would have no doubt received some injury itself. Cassowaries can put the talons on their feet to good use and are more than an equal for a one or two dogs, a pack of dogs of course, will bring a cassowary down.

Snout has given up stalking matriarch cassowary'Jessie' and when she is around he disappears into the undergrowth and lays low. Meanwhile, 'Jessie' is covering a large area of her range with sightings of her from Ninds Creek bridge to the mangroves on the ocean front and all in one day a distance of about five kilometres.

For over six months there has been no sign of the other Coquette Point matriarch cassowaries, 'Peggy' or 'China girl'.

'Brown Cone' was seen crossing the road near Ninds Creek this
week and he still has one chick with him. The chick is quite large now and has lost its stripes.

Only two chicks have survived at Coquette Point from the 2012 breeding season. One chick with 'Brown Cone' and the other with 'Little Dad'.

The rainforest tree Sumac, Rhus taitensis, is in flower throughout the Wet Tropics. This year's flowering is the most spectacular I have ever seen. The rainforest appears to be covered in snow as the sumac holds its flowers on its uppermost branches.

The flowers look as if they have been carved from ivory and when the rain falls droplets of waster are held in suspension on the petals and they glisten in the sunlight.

Sumac is a small tree with a spreading canopy, it will reach a height of five metres and appears to withstand strong winds. New growth is flushed red on feathery shoots.

A raindrop encases the petals of a sumac blossom.

The skies over Coquette Point have suddenly gone quiet. The Metallic starling have departed for  their return journey to Papua New Guinea. The large white-apple trees, containing hundreds of metallic starling nest, near the boat ramp at The Coconuts are quiet again.

Before their departure I observed that 'Spotty' and his siblings were fully grown but were still in juvenile plumage.

A new bird call is in the skies over Coquette Point as the Rainbow Bee Eaters returned to north Queensland last week.

The Rainbow bee-eaters scope the sky for insects. The flock is on the wing for hours on end and will consume millions of insects every day.

Now the metallic starlings have left for their migratory journey they immediately step in to fill the gap. One can only imagine the imbalance that would be created if these birds did not control the insect population. Certainly it would make it difficult for horticulture.

The owners of the Dunk Island Resort have purchased a barge to service the Island.
Many people at Mission Beach believe the prosperity of their village is linked to the Dunk Island Resort. The barge will be a game changer for the recovery of the resort and it demonstrates a big commitment on behalf of the owners  as the barge will be a very costly item to maintain and crew.
The photo shows the barge rounding Coquette Point after a short stay in the Johnstone River.

I was disappointed yesterday to see that still nothing has changed with the protection of the World Heritage listed Coquette Point bird rookery. People are still walking across the rookery  collecting driftwood and pumice. People are still walking dogs over the rookery and through the shore-bird feeding grounds.
World Heritage areas have the same legal status as National Parks, however, without signage people do not realise what they are doing. When I quietly explain about the migratory bird's breeding and feeding grounds I am generally abused.

 It really is unacceptable when people who are employed to do a job to protect the World Heritage values of areas like Coquette Point, do not. My only option now is to put in an official complaint to UNESCO and request them to investigate.

One good thing this time is both dog owners had their dogs on a leash. This did not stop the shorebirds from scurrying away from them and their feeding grounds each time they passed half an hour apart.

Lesser sand-plovers were displaying breeding plumage.

The lesser egrets were displaying their nuptial plumes.

Grey-tailed tattlers were busy probing the sand and mud for small crustacean.

Red-capped dotterals scurried along the sand flats picking up insects and probing the sand for a feed.

We saw around ten grey plovers feeding singly in puddles left from the outgoing tide. Soon these little migratory birds will leave for their long journey to the Northern Hemisphere where they breed. They will need all the strength they can gather during the stay over at Coquette Point to sustain their endurance for their long flight.

About 15 gull-billed terns were fishing in the ponds left by the out-going tide. They hovered seemingly motionless over the water as they searched for fish.

In the foreground a beach-stone curlew returns to its nest when the man walking the dog passed only to be disturbed again when he returned and then disturbed again when the second man approached and again when he returned with his dog.

Four silver-gulls were fishing on the outer sand-bar while I counted over 150 crested terns on inside sand-bars.

While on other sand-bars silver gulls fished with the crested terns.

 Over 50 of the crested terns were juveniles and it was beautiful to watch the parent birds tending to the fledglings.
An adult crested terns carries a fish to his chick while another chick waits to be fed.

We watched the crested terns teach the chicks how to fish.

The loss of mangroves from the Coquette Point estuary continues. The stumps of dead mangroves stand like grave-makers in the sand.

As we returned home we saw a flock of migratory Torres Imperial pigeons flying north and out to sea. Perhaps this flock was on its way to Papua New Guinea. I have not seen nor heard any Torres Imperial pigeons around Coquette Point for ten days.

The Pigeons soared high and turned north into the dark clouds of the gathering monsoon.

Travel safely beautiful birds and we will see you again in spring.

Cheers for this week and enjoy the Easter break.


Saturday 23 March 2013

Hello from Wet and Windy Coquette Point,

The monsoon is making one last attempt to deliver good rain to north Queensland. At the moment  it is sitting across the top of Cape York and is expected to drop further down over the Cape next week. Yesterday and today we have experience heavy rain and thunderstorms, 125mm of rain fell last night and today strong winds are bringing rain squalls onto the coast.

Meanwhile, something has triggered cassowary 'Snout's' hormones and much to 'Jessie's' annoyance he has started to stalk her. He follows her, 10 steps behind, until his behaviour annoys her and she turns and gives him the 'evil eye'.

Most times one look from Jessie will send Snout running. Other times she allows him to approach, then with deep rumbling from her chest Jessie turns and moves threateningly towards him. This is all too much for Snout and he throws himself into the air and makes a desperate retreat. Jessie then searches for him with much rumbling and head movements, manipulating her neck and head in bizarre twists and turns. The courtship of these anciant birds is complex and mysterious.
Peek-a-boo I'am looking for you.                                                                                         

stalking her again.                                                                
Sometimes we do not see what is in front of our eyes, animal habitats are everywhere.
I was surprised to find five creatures on an old Coquette Point wharf pylon. On the left hand side at the base of the pylon a white-lipped tree frog sat surrounded by water. as the tide came in and splached onto him he moved higher up the rock.
A few feet away from the frog were two mud skippers.
In between the rocks mangrove crabs chased each other.
While on the rocks snails slid slowly along feeding and defecating.
This little habitat of no more than one square metre was supporting four species that I could see. No wonder the area is a favourite fishing spot for shorebirds.
Grey Heron was extra hungry last week and he was not having much luck finding a meal on an outgoing tide.
He stretched his neck as high as he could looking for fish. He then danced along the beach-line with outstretched wings trying to flush a feed out from the shallows.
Without success he took to the air flying sorties up and down the beach.
Still no success he decided to stand by the water's edge and wait until the tide came in.
 Life is not easy for fisher-folk!
We were delighted with new visitor this week. Three juvenile dollar birds arrived on Sunday and have been nosily hunting for grasshoppers and insects ever since. These are birds of the open woodland and are not often seen in rainforest areas.
They announced their arrival with loud calls of
kak-kak-kak when I looked up I saw the distinct white round marks on the underside of
their wings as they flew overhead
Adult birds have a strong red beak and red legs
 whereas, the colour of juvenile bird's beaks and legs is brown. These birds are so cute and they sit for hours on crested hawks lookout-tree searching the sky for food, as their favourite food is grasshoppers they are good to have around at this time of the year when the vegetable garden is underway.
Diana O had a family of brown honey-eaters at her home on the range and sent me the photo below.
The brown honey eater sings a delightful song and its favourite habitat is mangrove and melaleuca swamps.Thank you Diana for sharing this photo.
Local teams from the Coconut Outrigger Club
practise every afternoon on the Johnstone River. On Saturday 20 April local teams will be competing  as part of an event for the Feast of the Sense's week long celebrations.
This year the market day will be on 21 April in  Edith and Rankin Streets Innisfail. The Bush Poet's Breakfast will be held at Spurwood Springs, 9am Sunday 7 April and the Gala dinner, 19 April at the Shire Hall. Lots of other events see the web site. 
cheers for now,


Saturday 16 March 2013

A touch of winter is in the air at Coquette Point,

The male Leaden flycatchers have arrived, this little bird always heralds the cooler drier change of weather in FNQ.   Leaden flycatcher travels north to escape the southern cold. While here they feed on abundant tropical insects before returning south in early spring to breed.
I haven't seen the female as yet but I have noticed in past years they often arrives several weeks after the males. The female is similar in shape and size to the male but has a buff coloured throat and breast. The female is less timid than the male and will often hunt insects close to people. She has learnt if a person is weeding in the garden, insects will be disturbed and this makes easy pickings for her.

 Normally the melaleuca swamp is dull and murky but at this time of the year long, low sun-rays push shafts of light which penetrate into the swamp painting golden colours on the trees and their reflections in the water.
.March is normally one of the wettest month of the year in FNQ but this year the monsoon has all but failed. The nights have been clear and to see a new moon in March in a cloudless sky is indeed an unusual sight.  
                                All this good weather has been too much for matriarch cassowary Jessie and she has started playing chases with Snout followed by long periods of sitting around in the mangroves, a pattern which I have observed in the past to precede courtship.  Jessie seems to be very fussy and will sit for hours tending to her feathers and feet- a cassowary with a foot fetish!       Jessie will not tolerate water on her feathers and if it is raining she constantly shakes herself dry. When Snout's feathers are wet he doesn't seem to notice and I have seen him feeding with his feathers dripping with water without so much as a shiver let alone a shake. I don't know if the difference in the personality of these two birds is due to their sex or a mark of their individualism. It would be interesting if anyone else has noticed traits of fussiness
in female cassowaries?


Since Jessie returned from her retreat the male cassowary Snout has been very nervous and always alert. His feathers are shining and he is looking in prime condition. Hopefully, Jessie has noticed this and a courtship will soon commence.
The sedentary population of Zodiac moths at Coquette Point are restless. Under the rain forest canopy small flutters of a dozen or so moths make clicking sounds as the male competes for females. It is astonishing to hear these loud noises coming from such a fragile looking creature.
Zodiac moth resting on a leaf.
It is always exciting to sight a bird for the
first time here at Coquette Point. This week I got a brief glance of a solitary Gould's Bronze Cuckoo. This beautiful bird is distinct with its red eye patch, heavily striped chest and buff colouring on the upper breast and the sides of the neck. Gould's Bronze Cuckoo is on the red list of endangered species but of low concern.
Silver Crowned Friar Birds are squabbling amongst
themselves in the candle nut tree. The squabbles go on for hours but none of the birds ever seems to get hurt. When I turned up with my camera one bird suddenly sat quietly and twisted its neck from side to side trying to figure out what I was doing with the camera..
A juvenile mangrove heron has taken up residence
in the mangroves close to the nursery. Normally these birds are very shy and seek seclusion. However, this little fella diden't seem to be bothered by me as I sat quietly and very still on a rock at the edge of the river, with only a passing glance at me he kept fishing.
I was around on the front beach Thursday
afternoon  and observed a dozen eastern curlews fishing on a sand-bank with almost as many crested terns. The exposed sand-bank was about a mile out to sea and the tide was coming in fast. Even further out to sea I saw a solitary, larger bird, the incoming tide had already covered its sandbank. I strained to identify it and to my amazement saw it was an osprey. It was standing in the water and the waves were washing up all around it.
It was an incredible site to see an osprey stand in the ocean with the tide coming in all around. I waited to watch it catch a fish but the tide was also coming in around my feet and I thought it best to retreat.
Pacific golden plovers were having a great time running after crabs on the beach.
However, mangrove kingfisher seemed to be having better success at crab catching.
While tiny lesser-sandplovers were holding races to see which one could catch a crab.
Lazy grey-tailed tatlers were mesmerised with their reflections in the water and of course hoping a fish would just swim within reach. 
As I walked back a noisy flock of
black cockatoos flew past. They had spent the day feeding at Ella Bay and Flying Fish Point and were heading up the river to find their roost for the night.
I noticed the Council has erected a new sign to
replace the vandalised sign at the end of the Coquette Point Road. The new sign makes no reference to the fact that the Coquette Point esplanade, in this area, is part of the World Heritage Wet Tropics. Nor does it state CCRC's obligations to protect the endangered Little Tern which nest on the Coquette Point rookery. Nor does it reference any protection to the many endangered shore birds which inhabit this area, all year, at different times. Have we stooped to such a low level we curtail to the selfish interests of people who think it is their right to destroy special places like the Coquette Point rookery by walking over the rookery with unteathered dogs. 
This photo shows the two signs that were vandalised.
If you are concerned for the birds and animals of Coquette Point please ask the Cassowary Coast Council and the Wet Tropics Management Authority to replace the vandalised signs covering the same regulations as they were previously.