Saturday 4 May 2013

Hello from windy Coquette Point,

A ridge up the coast combined with the low pressure system which is all that remains of the puffed out cyclone Zane has resulted in a strong wind warning for northern coastal waters. The days are cool and very fresh, no time to be at sea.

Cassowary matriarch 'Jessie' and 'Snout' are inseparable in their courting. As they walk about hunting for food the lovers interact with each other with gestures and sounds. Yesterday I heard a very low noise, which was similar to the sound made when someone tries to start an outboard engine, I followed the sound into the rain forest and there was Jessie, her back turned toward me but all her neck feathers were raised and she had her head bowed, pulsating and reverberating waves of low drumming song. The song was emitted effortlessly. I moved in closer to take a photo and I think she heard me as she stopped singing and her feathers returned to their normal position. In the dim drizzly conditions I didn't get a photo.  I had not noticed any acknowledgement or movement from 'Snout', in fact he seemed uninterested in her song. It is difficult to observe without interfering and perhaps altering natural behaviour.

 Please scroll down.
'Snout' and 'Jessie' ate all the palm fruits which had fallen on the ground at the base of this
Alexandra palm. Before they moved on 'Snout' checked out how much was left on the tree for the next day's meal. I have often seen the cassowaries look up into the trees to see whereabouts other fruit eating birds were feeding and have wondered if they were attracted to the noise of the birds or checking out the amount of fruit left, however, on this occasion no other birds were in the palm tree. What it showed me was the cassowaries complete understanding of whereabouts the Archontophoenix alexandrae palm seed was coming from.  In looking up into the tree I believe 'Snout' was calculating if it would be worth returning to that spot in the days ahead and he did.
 Many people think Cassowaries are unintelligent however, their intelligence lies in their knowledge of food trees within their territory, the times they fruit and their memory of the geographical position of the tree this is clear to anyone who watches these birds even for a short while .   When  'Snout' was satisfied all the palm fruits on the ground had been eaten he strode off into the mangroves with 'Jessie' dutifully following.

I caught up with Clara Mow this week and Clara told me how she could recognise the difference in the drumming sound from a male cassowary to the much lower sound emitted by the female cassowary. Clara also had news of 'Brown Cone' and his chick. The chick is now quite large, it has lost its stripes and is very independent. As these birds are hanging about Ninds Creek on a blind bend of the road I hope the chick's learns the road skills of his Dad.

Cassowary 'Rosie' was seen today by 'cassowary fan' Jodie Farrell and Jodie was kind to email me this photo. She said 'Rosie' was walking normally without a limp, which is good news to know her injured foot has healed without any need for interference.  Jodie saw 'Rosie' attacking her reflection in the panel of a black Toyota.

 It is obvious Rosie is growing up and is staking out her territory. I think it might be a good idea to have a dirty car for awhile.

 Flying Fish Point lies to the north of the Johnstone River estuary and at low tide a long, natural rock groyne is uncovered. This groyne stretches halfway across the mouth of the river. It is an ideal fishing spot for man and birds. On the day I took this photo you can see pelicans and local fishermen testing their skill to catch a feed of fish.

While on the southern side of the river Coquette Point is all sandy beaches. The sandbar in the estuary at Coquette Point  is a breeding area for migratory birds like the endangered Little Tern and beach stone curlew.
A walk on the beach will find different inhabitants for every season of the year. Autumn is generally a quiet time for waders, most of them have left to follow the sun north. However, there are always the permanent residents and unexpected guests that you might encounter on any walk.

  At very low tide the sand flats at Coquette Point are exposed and you can safely walk for miles, keeping an eye of course on the incoming tide.

                                                                                Stalk-eyed ghost crabs run along the sand. Then burrow quickly down into deep shafts that takes them into the safe cool depths of the sand.

A hermit crab is tossed ashore by the waves and struggles to right itself in its adopted cowry shell home.

At low tide local fisherman hunt for yabbies much to the delight of children and their parents.

A yabbie is a strange creature to encounter for the first time. What a lot this young fisherman of Coquette Point has to learn and how lucky he is to grow up in a place with rich yabbie beds right at his door.

Red capped dotterels have no problem in finding a feed as they scurry in the ruts of the sand flats. I counted over twenty of these birds in one small area.

Out on the breakwater the resident crested terns were fishing and resting. The young birds I had photographed a month ago have gained their adult plumage.

White breasted sea-eagle was fishing overhead.

While human fishermen were trying their luck with a cast net.

The Johnstone River estuary is a highly productive fishing ground and in its natural state provides a low-key recreational area for the people of Innisfail to enjoy.

Trail or quad bikes, 4 wheel drive vehicles and dogs all pose a threat to this area which is protected under World Heritage Listing. However, the listing is not worth the paper it is written on if enforcement of the laws protecting special places like Coquette Point are not imposed.

Today I had great fun searching for toads. Lee Anne Rollins and her PhD candidate Serena Lam are studying 'The Genetics of Dispersal in an Iconic Australian Invasive Species'. They visited Coquette Point  looking for toads.
 That's Lee Ann and Serena on the right, but what they saw wasn't a toad much to my delight they found a mud skipper in my sediment pond.
After much searching we only found one small toad. I told Lee Ann that I had observed ulcers on large toads and over the last twenty years there had been a marked decline in toad numbers. Once you would see dozens of toads under street lights at night now you are lucky to find one.
If you have any information of toads that would be useful to Lee please contact me for her email address.

Cheers for this week from Jessie, Snout and me.

1 comment:

  1. Hello Yvonne,

    This is Serena. Just wanted to say a big thank you for your lovely hospitality that day Lee Ann and I visited you at the nursery to ask about the cane toads. We managed to find the numbers of toads we needed from both Innisfail and Rossville after a few long nights of searching for them in the rain, so we are very relieved!

    You have a great blog here and the photos are beautiful. We hope you're in good health and that the mud skipper population continues to grow!

    All the best,