Saturday 11 May 2013

Hello from Coquette Point,
This week strong wind and heavy rain has turned the Johnstone River into a fast flowing torrent, once again carrying the precious top soil of farmlands out into the Coral Sea Lagoon. When this happens the sediments in the runoff water settle on the coral and the nutrients contained in the sediments enhances the growth of algal species which smother the coral. In addition the 'dirty' runoff water reduces light in the water column which is necessary for the corals to photosynthesis.

A healthy riparian barrier between farmland and waterways, combined with good farm management including sediments ponds, drainage and green mulching will reduce sediment runoff dramatically. Farmers continue to lose their most important asset, their topsoil, the loss of top soil is killing farms while at the same time it is killing the reef. A healthy Great Barrier Reef will support a multimillion dollar tourism industry and a multi million dollar fishing industry.
So why is the Queensland Government getting  support to clear riparian vegetation? The King truly has no clothes and soon we will have no GREAT Barrier Reef.

 It is not all bad news for the health of the Johnstone River estuary. Some 20 years ago mud skippers had all but disappeared from the estuary, the reason for that is a long story, however, over the last few years I have noticed the mud skippers slowly returning. This week I saw hundreds of mudskippers around the mangroves and on the Coquette Point beach. They appeared to be playing in the surf and having a great time.

Mud skipper surfing
How cute am I?

The fruit of the bandicoot berry Leea indica is ripe and the cassowaries where quick to find it. The bandicoot berry is a fast growing sprawling rainforest shrub and it fruits on and off for most of the year. It is favoured by the cassowaries and was an important medicinal plant for Aboriginal people.

Jessie and snout ate all the berries on the ground.

Then Jessie stretched and stretched until she ate all the ripe berries high on the bush.
I was quite concerned when I saw Snout shaking himself frantically.I walked up closer and discovered he had a piece of dried leaf stuck in his eye. He shook and shook then scratched his eye.

Cairns birdwing butterflies are in a frenzy of egg laying. If an aristolochia vine is in the vicinity they lay eggs on it and on any plant close by. Here a female birdwing is laying eggs on a philodendron leaf .                                                                                                 The red lace-sing butterfly is one of the most striking butterflies of the rainforest. This butterfly took shelter in my orchid shed this week  where incredibly she started laying eggs on phalaenopsis orchids. The host plant for this butterfly is the red lace-wing vine, Adenia heterophylla, the vine is related to passionfruit and it develops bright red fruits a similar shade to the red colour in the wing of the butterfly and the fruits are full of small seeds, they germinate easily.  It will be interesting to see if the eggs hatch and if they do, what will the caterpillars eat?                                                                       

The white-banded plane butterfly is another rainforest butterfly species. When you watch this butterfly it seems to approach flowers very delicately and unlike most butterflies will hesitate to close its wings. It has particularly large and beautiful eyes and will slowly turn to look at you before it flies off. The scent organ on the antennae is large and of a contrasting pale colour and seems to give this beautiful creature additional ability and confidence in its surroundings.

                                                                             Pale green triangle butterflies have not faired well from the heavy rain and strong winds of the last two weeks, the few that are left around have damaged wings. Adverse weather creates major difficulties for butterflies and moths. The pollen and nectar they depend on is often washed from the flowers and strong winds make it difficult for them to balance on food plants. It is amazing that these delicate creatures are still active after two weeks of wet and windy weather.
The green and pale green triangle butterflies use a wide variety of host plants from custard apples to native tamrind.

Cheers for this week,
The spectacular 4 o'clock moth has been very active in the late afternoons. I have noticed it flying in the canopy and busily laying eggs on its host tree the corkwood Carallia brachiata. When the rain is at its heaviest it retreats to shelter under large rainforest leaves where it remains perfectly dry.

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