Saturday 29 June 2013

Hello from Coquette Point,

The Johnstone River is sparkling in winter weather, mild nights of 14 and warm days of 24; at this time of the year who would live anywhere else?
Chino the pelican is finding plenty to eat with the river full of bait fish. Over the last week the super-moon has brought king tides and in the Johnstone highs of up to 3.32m and lows of .17, the river has flushed clean and clear.

Chino flies in every morning from his roosting site in the mangroves and spends the day fishing around the estuary.

Low tide of .17 last Sunday exposed the shallow sand flat at Coquette Point. These sand flats are important feeding grounds for migratory and sedentary shorebirds.

On the sand-flats pied oyster-catches and bar-tailed godwits were fishing with dotterels and plovers.

Close to the mangroves white-faced heron and spur-winged plovers were feeding in the mangrove-mud.

River estuaries are important breeding habitats for migratory birds but even more importantly they are the nursery for many of the fish that spend their adult life on the world heritage Great Barrier Reef.


I have photographed 14 different jumping spiders at Coquette Point and had thought maybe that
 is  all the species here, so you can imagine my excitement when I found another species this week. The fringed jumping spider Portia fimbriata is a special creature she can learn from previous experiences ( something a lot of people I know can't do) and she can solve mazes from observation, she is also cute.


Sulphur crested cockatoos are eating the seed of the Poiciana tree this week and still resisting the mandarins. With the cold weather the mandarins have turned bright orange and sweet and juicy.
Dragon fly numbers are very high but these insects which normally feed on mosquitoes are having to find other insects as the mosquitoes have disappeared with the cold weather.
Helmeted Friarbirds are at their most pugnacious behaviour. A flock of a dozen birds are dominating the canopy they are enjoying a hatching of leaf-curl caterpillars which they deftly extract from the rolled hibiscus leaves and for dessert they feast on the nectar of callistemon salignus. Their noisy calling and chatter can be heard throughout the day.

                                                                       As soon as I heard the unmistakable grating gzzhhh calling chatter from the rainforest I knew the Spectacled Monarch was there. A rush for the camera and two lucky shots and I captured one reasonable photo, then he was gone.

This amazing little bird's favourite habitat is Licuala ramasyii fan-palm rainforest. He chases his food on the broad, round pleated leaves of the fan palm and can be seen sometimes tumbling and skating over the palm fronds in search of prey. It is thought that this method of hunting disturbs insects like flies and moths that rest on and under the fronds.
                                                                         The varied egg-fly butterfly is back to his old tricks in defending his territory from other males and it is exhausting watching him constantly on the move chasing any other butterfly away from his territory. Recently in Samoa the wolbachia parasite killed only the male egg-fly butterflies however they have now developed resistance to the parasite. What lessons can we take from the Samoan experience?
Female Cruiser butterflies have been active but I have not seen any of the males for several weeks.

Sam Mitchell left Coquette Point this morning after a months R&R. Sam learnt to hull coconuts and paddle with crocodiles. He fed on black sapotes, canastel, mangosteen and bananas and I think he will be back one day

Safe journey Sam.

Liz G. and my tree planting at Mission Beach last week was brought up at the CCRC council meeting on Thursday. Apparently Liz and I are to be 'admonished'.
While one can but be amused by the silliness of some Councillors and Council staff they seem not to understand what the exercise was all about. Clearly it was about highlighting BEACH EROSION. At the CCRC meeting on June 13 Council was advise by the Mayor that the State Government will no longer fund  any further action on coastal erosion. In stating this the Newman State Government has adopted a policy of 'retreat'  in the event of shore erosion. What the Newman Government has done is copied other State Governments and Councils along the Coastline and adopted their policy of 'retreat'. Beach-side residents would be wise to check with their insurers as they most likely will find they are not covered for the loss or damage to their homes in the event of beach-side erosion.
Beach-side residents might also start planting trees now before its too late.
I live on the Johnstone River estuary and for the last forty years have worked on my river boundary to re-established the mangrove forest as well as a zone of trees behind the mangroves. There is now no erosion on my river boundary where once there was sever erosion.
Enjoy the clever 'silliness' from Russell C..
"I think it is important to keep in mind that this Mission Beach insanity is not an individual act of horticultural terror by Yvonne but I am seeing a pattern of these subversive tree plantings from her: I am sorry to say that it appears we have a serial planter in our group. I know some will say it's just a few coastal species here and there but that sort of crazy tolerance leads to much worse. At the moment it might just be the odd she-oak and an occasional calophyllum at a beach party or something but mark my words, before you know it Yvonne will be getting out of bed and won't function until she's planted a dozen Kauri pines. I've seen it all before and it's a slippery slope. Yvonne is sliding down. I think as her friends we should consider an intervention. We must stop this insanity before it's too late. I am happy to attend and can bring a chainsaw and glyphosate if she gets aggro or difficult."
Cheers for this week,
and don't forget plant a tree.

Friday 21 June 2013

Hello from the bird rookery at Coquette Point,

This afternoon I took some time out to sit and watch the sun setting behind the Coquette Point rookery. The rookery at the mouth of the Johnstone River is in the shadow of the highest mountain in Queensland Mt Bartle Frere. The summit is often shrouded in cloud but on a clear day it is starkly etched against a blue sky.
As I sat watching the tide racing in the shorebirds flew into the rookery.
Bar-tailed godwits and eastern curlews arrived.
                                                                              Lesser sand-plovers, Pacific golden plovers, more bar-tailed godwits and red-capped dotterels all  flew onto the rookery.
 I watched them as they walked in pairs up onto the highest part of the dune.

At this time of the year the rookery has few residents however, there are always some birds resting if not nesting in the shelter of the dune debris.
A little earlier the Patterson family of Flying Fish Point had walked past me returning from a day on the beach at Coquette Point. Mary made me feel quite embarrassed as she and her grandson were carrying rubbish they had found on the beach.  Old fishing lines,  nets and bits of plastic, rubber and rope. 'Yucky stuff", said young Pat with a broken rope in hand. A big clean up is needed on the beach before the migratory waders arrive in Spring to nest. Thank you Mary and family for helping to clean up the Coquette Point beach today.
Talking about visiting other beaches in the Cassowary Coast, I went down to Mission Beach very early Thursday morning and Liz G. and I revegetated the sand dunes in front of Mayor Shannon's house. Earlier this week the Innisfail Advocate ran a front page story on how all the trees had died in front of the Mayors house. So Liz and I decided to do a bit of 'Guerrilla Gardening' and we planted ten trees on the dunes in front of the house. When the Mayor returns from holidays the trees should be well established.
 If you happen to be walking along south Mission Beach please take a bottle of water and give the trees a drink.Erosion is a real problem on this beach and since cyclone Larry the vegetation along the foreshore has been removed. Many residents quite blatantly admit they want a view and don't want the trees. Surely the view is enhanced when seen through the trees.

This week there was much discussion on how to identify this little beauty. Litoria bicolor has a number of colour forms and this little fella with its bronze stripe running the full length of its body and its legs dotted with gold got me really confused. I wasn't the only one, however the Queensland Museum put us on the right track and confirmed it is L bicolor the dwarf northern tree frog..

Three Barred cuckoo-shrikes arrived today and although  these birds are known to be sedentary in some parts, however, the population here is nomadic. It was very late in the afternoon when I saw them so didn't get a good photograph.

White flower spiders are very active at the moment and I found this extremely large specimen on a waterlily flower. One can but be astonished at the diversity of nature.

There is still no sign of the matriarch cassowary Jessie since she went off with Snout at the end of their courtship. The countdown is on for him to reappear with chicks. The young cassowaries Don and Q regularly walk through the property but keep well clear of each other and they are very wary.

The Sulphur-crested cockatoos are back eating the new crop of Alexander palm seeds and still leaving the mandarins alone. It is obvious if their natural food is available they will eat it by choice.

I am off to Townsville tomorrow so the post is early. Enjoy your weekend.



Saturday 15 June 2013

Hello from Coquette Point,

The rain has lifted and we are experiencing a taste of fine, winter weather. Celebrating the dry weather the black butcher birds are at their melodious best and from the first glow of sunrise duets of song ring out across the mangroves.                

 The Black Butcher Bird is a master of mimicry and the songs of over 39 different bird species have been documented as copied by the black butcher bird.

However, this bird does not stop at just mimicking other birds he includes in his repertoire the sounds of lawnmowers, reversing trucks, telephone rings and the human voice. Scientist believe the black butcher bird hears sounds in the same manner as we do.

It is believed the bird song is used to mark out territory as the black butcher bird is sedentary.  Song is also used to establish pair bonding and it is with their courtship songs  the black butcher birds achieve their ultimate vocalisations. The song is often synchronous and the unison duets are performed with the head tilted back and the chest and breast feathers puffed out. The pair react to each others performance and their pleasure will often be demonstrated with a little 'dance' on a branch only to continue their song which resound across the forest in the increasing light of dawn. What a wonderful way to greet the day!

The black butcher bird nests between September and February and they build a bowl shaped nest consisting of sticks and twigs lined with rootlets. The nests are built in forked branches of tall paperbark trees between two and ten metres above the ground.

As soon as the sun warms the sky the insects start to fly and the rainbow bee-eaters are searching and waiting to swoop on any careless insect. Rainbow bee-eaters spend most of their day on the wing and need to eat large numbers of insects to support their active life, up to several hundred insects per day for each bird: now that is insect control.

The male rainbow bee-eater has two extended central tail feathers. The female  has shorter tail feathers.

I of course do not know if this is the same skink that started sleeping on the EFT machine last year. However, he did seem to know where he was going and what he wanted to do.                                                                                I checked on him later in the night and he was still sleeping on the machine.                                                                       
I was at Radiant Life College this week and was surprised to see a Cassowary walking around the school grounds. Radiant Life College backs onto the Ninds Creek Wetlands which is continuous with the Moresby Range National Park. I have not seen this particular cassowary at Coquette Point but no doubt some of its siblings have migrated to Coquette Point. The cassowary nosed around the school looking into the classrooms and around where the children eat. No doubt he was looking for some food scraps. To my relief I noticed the children respected the bird and moved away from it. Apparently this cassowary often takes a short-cut across the school grounds as it moves around its territory. 
                                                                               I caught Cassowary Don with a pawpaw on Tuesday. I was so cross with myself I had intended to pick it the night before and had forgotten.
 I crossly spoke to Don and scolded him for knocking the pawpaw down. He looked at me and deliberately shock his head vigorously. Then he stood up and looked at me all coy and innocent.

The red bell mischocarp, Mischocarpus exangulatus, is in fruit and the trees hang with their bright orange drupes which split open to revel a yellow fruit.

The native nutmeg Myristica insipida is fruiting at Coquette Point. This is unusual as this tree normally sets fruit in Spring.

Rainforest wonders.

Ian Laidlaw from his property on the Palmerstone sent me
some amazing fungi photos.  The rain has even frustrated
hardened local like Ian. Thanks for the photos Ian.

Lots of little green frogs are hopping around the nursery
and I noticed a red mite on some of the frogs. Can anyone
identify this creature and is it a problem or a food for the

Bill Farnsworth has identified the mite on the frog as a 'red velvet mite' an interesting little critter. Thanks Bill.