Saturday 28 September 2013

Hello from Coquette Point,

The weather on the Cassowary Coast is perfect - for the moment, with days of 29 and nights of 19. On the other hand, the IPCC climate report released on Friday paints a worrying picture for the future climate on Planet Earth. Australian meteorologists have stated that 2013 is already Australia's warmest year on record and summer hasn't started!

This year the north Australian Monsoon failed and this has resulted in searing drought across Northern Australia. Rainfall deficiencies have been recorded over most of Australia and combined with above average temperatures, bush fires are raging from the south to the north of the country; a desperate time for farmers and wildlife on the land.

Every morning this week cool land-breezes have pushed rolling fog down the Johnstone River and out into Glady's Inlet creating 'a grey mist on the sea's face' while an orange dawn was breaking. Greater egret, standing on the edge of the mangroves struggled to find a fish-meal through the mist.

So far this year I have only seen three Pied Imperial Pigeons 'sleeping over' in the melaleuca trees at Coquette Point.  Over the past ten years I have counted between 10 and 12 birds nesting in these trees; hopefully, more will turn up soon. However,  large flocks of these beautiful pigeons can be seen flying over the valley of Innisfail and the numbers appear to be about the same as last year.

The Brown Laurel, Cryptocarya triplinervis is in full fruit and the Pied Imperial Pigeons, moving through the tree with particular agility are taking full advantage of the feast on offer. The stain from the fruits colour the feathers of the feeding birds.

At long last the sunbird babies have fledged safely and flown to a nearby tree. This sunbird built her nest in a bougainvillea, the thorny rambler offering built-in protection.  When the babies fledged they flew to a nearby tree and mother sunbird devotedly attended to the fledglings searching for insects. I watched her examine the new leaves on the Johnstone River Almond, she appeared to understand that insects would be more likely to be found in the sweet clusters of new spring leaves.

Her search was finished when she spied a spider and quickly clutched it in her beak and fed it to her demanding infant.

The Osprey chicks have also fledged. The larger chick took to the air without any encouragement from the parents. The other chick was not so adventurous and would only venture onto a branch close to the tree. Eventually with much calling and 'how to fly byes' by the male the young osprey sprung into the air effortlessly.

Mother Osprey whistles encouragingly to her chick to take its first flight, while father Osprey flew around the nest showing the chick how easy it was to fly.

The chick took its first flight to a nearby branch while Mum whistled encouragement and Dad turned his back impatient, himself, to go fishing.
Now with confidence the chick launched into the sky quickly followed by the two adults and they flew into the setting sun towards the winding Johnstone River.

Today all four Osprey were flying over Coquette Point searching the river for fish.

The female Indian Koel is avoiding the company of the male. Often in the morning she calls with a shrieking, loud, impatience coo-eee from the trunk of a dead tree. He answers her from the seclusion of the fig tree and then they go their separate ways to feed in the rainforest.

Ciriono and his pelican mates appear to be enjoying each others company. They wander down to the river early in the morning then spend an hour frolicking in the water and preening their feathers.

Pelican bath-time.

Large numbers of Pacific Golden Plovers have arrived at Coquette Point, many of them are still showing breeding plumage.

Greater sand-plovers have also arrived.

Tiny lesser sand-plovers scurry across the sand.

Pied oyster-catchers search the sand with whimbrel -

and they are  joined by more grey-tailed tattlers also showing breeding plumage.

Bar-tailed godwits fish alongside the plovers.

Red-necked stints are busy finding  breakfast.

What a privilege to walk along a beach and observe these migratory shorebirds feeding in peace.

Jumping spiders are renown as superb huntsmen. However, it goes to show that no matter how good you are if you drop your guard some-one or thing will take advantage.

Mud dauber wasp unlike her cousin potter wasp is an aggressive hunter and seeks out spiders to feed her larva.  When she captures a spider she impales it with her sting and injects paralysing saliva into the prey.

Clutched in the wasps mandibles the paralysed jumping spider  is flown off to the mud duber's burrow.

Some genera of these wasps 'even use the tool of a stone held in their mandibles to help construct the burrow'. (A Field Guide to Insects in Australia by Paul Zborowski and Ross Storey.)

Drama happens all around us if we take the time to look.

While we enjoy this long spell of dry weather the green-ants are uncommonly busy building large nests high in the trees and stocking them with food. Generally this is a sign of a big wet to come! I think we have seen, often enough, that drought is always followed by flood.

Cheers for this week and be prepared.


Saturday 21 September 2013

Hello from Coquette Point,

What a difference a week can make in the weather. A hot north-easterly wind has brought low humidity and dry air onto the tropical coast and overnight the grass has turned brown. A dusty smoke haze is filling the air as Queensland National Park Rangers carry out hazard reduction burns.
At sunset the sky and the Johnstone River turns an eerie dusky pink.

The last of the autumn's deciduous rainforest trees, the Damson plum, terminalia catapa's leaves have turned a golden brown and are falling to the ground, the leaves will quickly convert to nutrients and be taken up by the tree to produce its summer flowers and fruits.
If you are lucky to have a deciduous tree in your yard ask the tree to share some of its leaves for you to use as valuable mulch in your garden.

The female Indian Koel arrived this week with another male. A territorial battle quickly ensured and the new male was driven off in a flurry of feathers and aggressive high pitched calls. Unfortunately the battle occurred at some distance and even with the long lens I was unable to get clear shots. However for the record I took the following photos of the confrontation.

The two male Indian Koels confront each other.

They moved close together uttering loud territorial calls.

The newcomer lowed his head in submission.

That was the signal for the other bird to fly at the new-comer with a final loud, triumphant, shrill call.

The territory and the female was now his.

My hungry lunch time visitor has returned. No sooner do I sit down to lunch then Major skink turns up. He seems to like a variety of food and is particularly partial to fruit cake. A piece of roast potato took his fancy and he demolished it quickly followed by a slice of apple.
Major has been busy over winter and he has a number of offspring living in and around the nursery shop.  Major is over 40cm in length and has a hefty girth: no doubt due to his exotic diet.

Major often startles my customers who are not used to seeing these large rainforest skinks. I think he is lovely and he is also rather partial to cockroaches which is a great advantage.

The hot dry weather has triggered the Christmas beetles into an early mating frenzy. The beetles form mating swarms where males fight over access to the female. When the female accepts the lucky male the union last for hours.

The warm weather has brought the Salticidaes, jumping spiders, out of their winter hibernation.

This week I found two more species to add to my photo gallery.  I now have photos of over 30 different jumping spiders taken at Coquette Point. However, some of them are male and female of the same species.

One can but wonder at the diversity of the natural world. How can we, with our 'runaway' population leave a place for creatures to coexist with us.

Once National Parks were set aside as a place for wildlife to survive. Even with that esoteric goal National Parks have always been a prime recreational earner for the State bringing in over 4.43b in earnings each year  for Queensland.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

                                                            Now Queensland's Newman Government is planning to allow more human activities within National Parks; logging, tourism- resorts, trail bikes, horses, quad bikes, shooters and more. We criticise undeveloped countries for not preserving a safe home for their animals and now we are about to do the same.

Young cassowary Quine walks down to the mangroves at the end of Coquette Point each day. When the matriarch cassowary Jessie sees her the chase is on. As far a Jessie is concerned their is only room for one female in this area and she is the dominant one.

Jessie goes to the fig tree every day to eat the fallen fruit. She carefully picks up the fig, tosses it up to the top of her beak then with a flip swallows the fruit down her throat. She repeats this action with every small fruit. She is a very fussy eater.

Lunch completed Jessie goes and sits down near an old bucket of water. With deep scoops of her beak in the water she raises her head and lets the water run down her neck.

Cassowary Rosie or maybe Ross, ( by the look of the tail feathers starting to descend, I think a male bird) has been visiting the large Quandong tree, Elaeocarpus grandis, behind Ruth's L's house.

This is the cassowary that had an injured foot. When he walked away I managed to get a shot of his foot and although you can see a large scarred area there is no infection and he is walking normally.

Looking up at Ruth.

              Iwas out in the nursery car-park on Monday and heard the unmistakeable sound of a bird of prey. I looked up and hovering low and moving in circles above me were, what I believe, 20 black- shouldered kites. I ran for the camera but when I returned they were ascending fast circling on a upward air current their pure white wings held motionless as the updraft lifted them high in the sky until, rising, rising they disappeared into the ether: truly inspiring

While up at Ruth's for lunch on Thursday we heard the distinct call of a boat-bill flycatcher. It was a fair distance off but you can just make out the distinct black eye stripe. Ruth advised she has heard by not seen King parrots this week. The drought in Western Queensland may force a lot of inland birds onto the coast this year, although the King Parrot has always been a regular visitor.

Meanwhile the Pied Imperial Pigeon is dominating the skies over the Wet Tropics. The long coos ring out from the first crack of sunlight as the birds bend their heads to puff out their song in the glow of the early morning sunrise. Then they look around to see who's listening before flying off to the rainforest to feast for the day.

When they return through the haze in the evening, once again they head straight for the highest tree to coo to the setting sun.

Cheers for this week,