Saturday 27 July 2013

Hello from Coquette Point,

The weather is not worth talking about. Three sunny days this week then back into strong winds and rain. Where is the dry season?

I saw cassowary chick 'Cheeky' this week and it is wonderful to see how he has grown. Dad was in a great hurry and I just managed to capture cheeky before they both disappeared into the rainforest.

I thought you might like to see some family shots of 'Cheeky' and I found the following on file.

Mum 'Jessie' and 'Little Dad's' courtship photo  April 10 2012.

Cheeky with his late sibling on the right September 5 2012. We do not know what happened to the other chick, one day he was missing; its a risky life for Cassowary chicks!
A photo of 'Little Dad' fighting his reflection in the car mirror with the chicks wondering what was happening.
It is such a privilege to watch these amazing birds grow and reach independence and set up their own territorial range.

As I was coming back from town on Friday afternoon I saw a young cassowary which I could not identify. The bird was approximately four years old and by its tail feathers and the size of its casque and wattles it is properly a female. ( Female cassowaries are larger than the male and their tail feathers do not drop.)  The bird was walking across the road from the sewerage plant and into the littoral rainforest along Ninds Creek. This area has been approved for a Metricon marina development to be called 'Seahaven'.

I managed to take two good identifying photos of the cassowary before it disappeared into the littoral forest on the eastern side of the road. As she crossed the road she dropped a scat 100% quandong seed.

If anyone knows this bird and has given it a name please contact me otherwise how about some suggestions for a name on 'comments'.

Cassowary 'Snout' visits the Quandong grandis tree and the Onionwood Syzygium alliiligneum tree several times a day. It appears either his eggs were unsuccessful or the chicks died, certainly he is no longer sitting on eggs and the time has elapsed from when they were due to hatch.

The colours of rainforest fruits are strong and bright and stand out against the brown of the forest floor. Have you noticed how the red of the onionwood fruit and the blue of the quandong fruit match the colours of the cassowary?

The onionwood tree is restricted in its distribution and occurs only in the coastal Wet Tropics region between Cape Tribulation and Tully. Old rainforest trees will reach a height of 15 to 20 metres however, street planted onionwood trees seldom reach 10 metres.

Onionwood is suitable as a tree for a large backyard, the fruit makes excellent jam and they are good to eat fresh, they taste somewhat like a tart apple but a little spongy.

Onionwoods fruit over a long period from May to October and these fruits were a major rainforest Aboriginal food.

Osprey's babies have hatched however, between the rain and the wind also worried about my camera in the rain and not wanting to disturb the birds I took only a long distance photo, if you blow it up you can just see Mum feeding a chick while Dad kept lookout.

 As the chick hatched on that 'auspicious day' perhaps we could call it George! Hopefully I will be able to get close to the nest next week to take a photo without disturbing Mum. I will also get a better look and see if there is more than one chick.

Extremely low tides all this week .12m on Monday and floodin up to 3.33 meters gave the coastal rivers another good flush. Strong winds pushing the water back in have left strange patterns in the sand which are revealed when the tide recedes.

A tiny red-capped dotterel feeds alone in a mosaic of zig-zag tide pools.

On the outer sand-bar the patterns left by the action of the strong winds and fast flowing tidal change were different. Long striated tide pools created the perfect fish traps for shorebirds, much to the delight of lesser sand-plovers and white faced heron.

On the outer sand bank I counted 170 crested terns as they fed and rested. The juvenile birds are still being fed by the parents and when the adults return with the fishy meal the excitement spreads through the colony.

Mangrove dieback continues, devastating the forest at Coquette Point and many large trees have succumbed to the strong winds and big tides over the last month.                                                                        

The blind-your-eye mangrove Exoecaria agallocha, a low salinity mangrove tree, is now in the high saline zone and would not be expected to survive very long. At this time of the year these deciduous mangrove trees are flowering with male and female flowers on separate trees.
The common name of the tree is a cautionary warning about the caustic nature of the sap.

In spite of the health of the mangrove forest in the shallow waters many tiny mollusc can be found and it is for this reason that the sandbanks at Coquette Point are such an important shorebird habitat.

It was National School Tree Day on Friday and the Cassowary Coast Alliance Guerrilla Gardeners were at it again this time at Radiant Life College Innisfail. The CCAGG with the help of the students planted the first plot of a bush tucker garden. Radiant Life College headmaster Mark Todorovic intends to continue the plantings each year with the plan to involve the students in selecting Aboriginal food trees and learning about the nutritional properties of the fruits, the CCAGG will be there to help Mr T and his students.

Cheers for this week and remember tomorrow is National Tree Day so go out and plant a tree and tell everyone about it.


Saturday 20 July 2013

Hello from Coquette Point,

We woke this morning to fine weather and a peasouper of a fog. By 7.30 it had all lifted and we had the first fine day in three weeks.

As the light rushed in the fog appeared to be sucked up into the sun and suddenly the blue sky was exposed. A magic morning on the Johnstone River.

The sound of the rain this week was only overshadowed by the sound of buzzing mosquitoes. The Met Bureau did predict above average rain for winter but the rain this week was reminiscent of wet season monsoonal falls; 147mm overnight in six hours Thursday.

The rainbow bee-eaters are doing their best to eat the plagues of mosquitoes and they are ever vigilant diving at the first shadow of a fluttering insect.

Their aerial agility is awesome as they wheel and swoop to capture their winged meal. I can watch them for hours.
Another rainbow coloured bird the same lorikeet has been indulging on the ripe fruits of my black sapote tree. I was busy picking some fruit when I looked up and was greeted by a rainbow lorikeet with a beak full of black fruit.

I spoke crossly to him and told him firmly they're my fruit. With absolute arrogance the bird looked at me and I am sure I heard him say there was plenty of fruit for both of us. The birds made no attempt to leave but took great interest in me as they continued to eat.
Perhaps they were so stuffed with googy black pulp they could not fly.

One bird was particularly interested in what I had to say. Below are a number of photos I took of him as we had a conversation about the ownership rights of fruit trees.

'What are you doing pinching my fruit?'

Osprey is still sitting on eggs and the pair share nest-sitting duties showing their complete devotion to the soon to hatch eggs. I concealed myself behind a tree close to the nest to take the following photos of the female osprey as she arrived to take her shift.

The necklace of brown feathers from the lower throat to the upper chest marks the female of the pair.

When Osprey became aware of my presence she left the nest and looking at me very seriously started stamping her feet. Fearing an attack I retreated and she quickly returned to the nest.                                                                        

As she settled down on the eggs she sounded a shrill alarm  and quickly left the nest. She either saw or felt my presence.

Saturday 13 July 2013

Hello from wet and windy Coquette Point,

Gale force winds along the Queensland Coastline associated with heavy rain squalls has made outdoor life for man and beast unpleasant this week. When the sun shines for a few minutes the birds sunbathe.

Crested Hawk was minding his own business allowing the sun to warm and dry his wet feathers, he almost had a smile of contentment on his face as he turned to put his back to the sun's warming rays.

But you know what its like one just gets comfortable with a bit of sunbaking when along comes an annoying pest.

At first Crested Hawk ignored Butcher Bird's chattering.

Then Butcher Bird increased the volume of his song and said something I didn't understand but it got Crested Hawk's attention.

Crested Hawk decided he would just ignore old Butcher Bird as he was not going to give up his place in the sun.

This was too much for Butcher Bird and he moved in closer to Crested Hawk. Then without warning, with  loud exhalations and wings outstretched Butcher Bird flew at Crested Hawk

Crested Hawk was knocked off his perch.

          Butcher Bird went to a nearby tree to gloat.

Crested Hawk glared at Butcher Bird and I am sure I heard him say 'Your time will come Butcher Bird' 

The gale-force winds and rain did not stop the Cassowary Coast Alliance Guerrilla Gardeners and another planting was carried out this week.

The photo shows Liz Gallie helped by Nicolas Chaumont plant a beach calaphyllum, Calophyllum inophyllum, on the foreshore at The Coconuts. Quentin Andres is in the background, Nicolas and Quentin are visiting Innisfail from Strasbourg and are very interested in the environment of the Wet Tropics. In the foreground of the photo John Flynn from the Innisfail Advocate is recording the event.

The foreshore vegetation at the Coconuts and Flying Fish Point has been illegally removed, primarily so the residents can get a better sea- view!!

Flying Fish Point is on the northern side of the Johnstone River and erosion of the foreshore in this area has cost ratepayers and taxpayers millions of dollars to rectify. However, residents are still reluctant to come to terms with the reason for the erosion and are not participating in replacing the foreshore vegetation.

                   With Governments now adopting a policy of retreat when dealing with waterfront properties, homeowners unfortunately, will all to soon have to face the reality of a 'sea view'.

The amazing beach calophyllums are now in fruit.

Cassowary 'Snout' turned up yesterday. He was in a great hurry striding past me and into the mangroves quickly disappearing from sight.
It was disappointing to see him alone as it is two months now since he went off with the matriarch Jessie. This is the second year when he has not been successful in raising chicks.

He left behind a scat full of Quandong fruit.


The Quandong Elaeocarpus Eumundi fruit are ripe and they are without doubt the favourite food of the cassowary.

Although this quandong does not have a lot of fruit on the seed it is however still quite pleasant to eat. It is certainly welcome when, on a hot day, you come across a tree full of ripe fruit. The fruit is high in vitamin C and when eaten gives an energy boost and refreshes the mouth.

The fruit is coloured bright blue and the colour stands out in the green rainforest canopy.

Innisfail has a new budding naturalist in little Ainsley.  Ainsley visited the nursery today and quickly found a range of insects to examine. This little Leaf Katydid with its long antenna and amazing camouflage was particularly fascinating to Ainsley.

This little red cricket was the centre of attention and seemed to enjoy all the fuss.

The damp, warmer than normal weather has brought the insects out early this year. Mosquitoes are also back again and record numbers of imported cases of dengue fever have been reported in cairns.

It appears with the mild, wet winter the mosquitoes are over-wintering and it is of concern that they will have a head start when the normal mosquito season starts next year.

Young cassowary Rosie is moving around at the top of the hill, she moves from the melaleuca swamp on the ocean side down to the mangroves on the river every day. However there has been no sightings reported of any of the other Coquette Point cassowaries, with the exception of the one appearance of Snout this week.  With the rainforest now producing abundant fruit most of the cassowaries are remaining within the protection of their habitat.

As soon as the rain-clouds clear for a moment the sunbirds are out to play and preen. They are in a frenzy of activity and the males have been singing courtship songs to uninterested females. As soon as this rain clears I think there will be a hive of building activity.

Cheers for this week,