Saturday 25 January 2014

Hello from croaking Coquette Point,

An active monsoon trough over Cape York and a south-easterly ridge are bringing showers onto the tropical coast and the frogs are loving it while the rain has triggered them into a mating and egg-laying frenzy.

The male Eastern Dwarf frog has his eye on the female resting on a leaf above him. She has just hopped out of the water after laying small clumps of eggs on a partly submerged water-lily pad and he will quickly fertilise them and in the process the eggs will sink to the bottom of the pond.

Tadpoles have already hatched from eggs laid last week in the same pond.

It is believed these little frogs can reproduce when they are two years old.

A lone juvenile Emerald Dove has remained in the nursery grounds while all the mature Doves have departed for the Tableland's rain-forests.

The little Dove has an abundant food supply of Macaranga tanarius seed and can fill its crop in minutes from the trees around the nursery.

Since the adults left the juvenile has remained silent and the soothing coo-coo is missing from the undergrowth. Only the rustling sound of dried leaves can be heard as the dove forages in the under-storey. It will be interesting to see this little bird mature or if  on the other hand it also departs when the monsoon, wet season starts.

Cassowary Haygar, who was known as Little Dad has lost his chick. I did not get a photo of it however there were several sightings. This week he was seen walking alone without the chick.   Debbie Lewry kindly sent me this photo of Haygar which she took on her phone. No one can tell what happened to Haygar's chick.

Haygar has been a successful father and I found some old photos of him for the record.

He turned up in the nursery with two brown chicks on the 3 February 2011 following cyclone Yasi.

The Queensland National Parks and Wildlife Service provided feeding stations for the cassowaries after the cyclone.  Hagar would take the sliced bananas from the bin, peel them then toss them onto the ground to feed the chicks. I named the chicks Don and Q.

The chicks grew quickly thanks to a regular supply of fruit which supplemented what they could find in the cyclone battered rainforest.

Soon the Matriarch cassowary Jessie was hanging about and Hagar couldn't resist. He left the chicks as they had grown into strong sub adult cassowaries. They had been taught how to forage for food and they were soon fending for themselves. On the 7 April 2012 Hagar started courting Jessie.

I next saw him on the 11 September 2013, photo below, he had one large chick. There has been no sightings of the chick since that time. Incidentally this was the only cassowary chick, at Coquette Point, recorded to reach sub-adult stage in 2013.

Now it appears Hagar has lost his 2014 chick.

I have no recent sightings of Brown Cone and his chicks and the only chick reported seen this week at Coquette Point was Snout's chick.

Snout and the chick this week are feeding on pond apple, white apple, damson plum, pandanus and Alexandra Palm fruits.

The chick is growing quickly and keeps in step with Snout wherever they go.

His feet seem to hold some fascination and when resting he continually pecks at them; perhaps a
Cassowary pedicure.

Poor Q has been displaced as this week Snout has extended his range into Q's territory - the mangroves.

It is fascinating to watch the chick negotiate the mangrove root-obstacles and it seems to easily do this and keep up with Snout.

The Pied Imperial Pigeons have added a feast of ripe Alexandra palm fruits to their diet.

Although they are still feasting on the Damson Plum and at times  coming into conflict with the Shining Starlings.  I watched a discussion between two Shining Starlings and a Pied Imperial Pigeon in a Damson Plum tree. Unfortunately, I could not understand what they were saying. Perhaps you could make a suggestion?

The upshot was the Shining Starlings left and the Pigeon remained to feast on the Damson.

The sunrises have been spectacular most mornings this week. I was up early looking to see if the Little Terns were nesting and although I saw six little terns fishing in the estuary none were nesting on the rookery.  This is the first year that Little Terns have not nested at Coquette Point, perhaps in thousands of years. The reason for this I believe is because people are walking over the rookery and often with dogs.

There has been a failure to place interpretative signs on the rookery area. At the entrance to the walking track where there is a sign saying,  'NO DOGS', ignorant people are ignoring the sign.

I saw two Beach Stone Curlews dancing on the dune in the early morning light.

Behind the dune another Beach Stone Curlew looked as if it was sitting on eggs. I did not go closer and you can just make out the bird's head above the sand.

Overhead several flocks of Whimbrels flew past me and up the river to the wetlands in the hinterland of Innisfail. I watch them every morning they are the first to move from the rookery area. In the evening they are the last to return.Then the Gull Billed Terns left the sandbar and beach and also flew into the hinterland swamps.  This clearly demonstrated the connectivity between the wetlands of the Johnstone River and the estuary. Many birds use both areas, one for roosting the other for feeding.

Most mornings this week the land breeze did not eventuate and an oily calm settled over Glady's Inlet.

Once the sun rose the sour-easterly pushed up the coast.

At the moment there is a low in the Coral Sea, off the Solomon Islands and tonight the Bureau of Meteorology has issued a warning that this low will quickly travel westwards and cross the coast between Cairns and Cardwell on Thursday.

It is expected to develop into a low category cyclone before it crosses the coast. Gale force winds combined with King tides all this week will cause severe erosion on exposed beaches.
So here we go again, do a clean-up and batten down the hatches!

If we're still all ship-shape please come along to Ninney Rise at midday on 13 February at Bingil Bay. Have a look at John Busst's old home, listen to Professor Lain McCalman tell the history of Ninney Rise and support the campaign to have the property remain in the communitie's hands.

All the best and stock up the cyclone stores - just in case!


Saturday 18 January 2014

Hello from the cool and green Cassowary Coast,

This week the southern states, South Australia and Victoria have experienced heatwave conditions and catastrophic fires, but on the Cassowary Coast cloud cover and good rain has kept us wet, green and cool.

Golden Orb Spiders are proliferating in the mild conditions and one must be on the look out when walking about the rainforest. The strong golden silk from the Orb Spiders web was used by Aboriginal people to make fishing lines and the web construction is strong enough to catch snakes, birds and small bats. Do not panic if you walk into the web of a Golden Orb as they will only bite if provoked and  their bite will only cause mild irritation.

Another week and yet another Jumping spider species, how many more can I find at Coquette Point?

I saw a lot of my old friends particularly a Cosmophasis species.
This Jumping spider is very brightly coloured and tends to hang out on croton shrubs.

In the photo on the right you can see the four sets of eyes which are placed strategically around the spiders head. which gives this spider superb sight and hunting superiority.

Three cassowaries are visiting on a regular basis; Snout with his chick; four year old Q and the matriarch cassowary Jessie.

The chick is growing in size and curiosity.

You can see the start of a casque forming on its head.

 The little chick looks fat and stocky and very strong.

The chick follows Snout through the swamp to the Damson plum tree where he fills up with plums as you can see from his scat, 100% D. plum.

Jessie is still eating the Damson plums but this week she has also had an eye on my Abiu trees.

I watched her swallow a large Abiu and you could see it go down her long neck.
When she finishes harvesting the fallen fruits at my place she always heads for 27V across the road and down into the Melelaeuca swamp.

I see Q most days and with a few mosquitoes around this week, no doubt due to the rain, he became annoyed and spent hours  trying to kill them on his neck. I know just how annoying it feels.

Cassowary Hero has been seen crossing the road and walking the hill on a regular basis. Not a good crossing place for a cassowary.

Hero is looking in good condition and perhaps he is venturing down this end of Coquette Point to get away from matriarch cassowary Peggy who was seen chasing him when he still had a chick.

I was at Ruth's house on Friday and heard cassowarie's drumming and some chasing and it was on my way home that I found Hero heading down the hill. The poor hen-pecked male!

A bit of cassowary chasing is also occurring at Mission Beach. I went down to Liz Gallie's for a meeting of the 'Friends of Ninny Rise' on Wednesday and cassowary Jove walked through the rainforest while we were there. Liz has an old mango tree which is dropping green mangoes and Jove knew exactly where to go to find such a fruity meal. Liz told me the matriarch cassowaries have been chasing him.

Liz keeps a record of the movements of Cassowaries at Mission Beach and puts it up on her blog Mission Beach Cassowaries, (MBC). The link is in the right had bar of this page.

In the MBC blog you will also find a petition to ask the Newman Government not to sell 'Ninny Rise'. The 'Ninny Rise' property was bequeathed to  National Parks by Mrs Tody on the understanding it would be conserved within the National Park system and with the intention that it would one day become a rainforest research facility or at least be used as a site to promote the history of the area.

The artist John Busst built 'Ninney Rise' and it was from this home that the campaign to prevent oil drilling and coral mining on the Great Barrier Reef began. The historical significance of 'Ninny Rise' cannot be overstated so please take a moment to sign the petition and ask that the Government follow  Mrs Tody's wishes.

A white-throated Gerygone has been in the orchard most afternoons for some weeks and its sweet, melodious song has been coming from high in the canopy of the trees where the bird has remained concealed; it was extremely frustrating when trying to photograph it.

I managed to get a couple of distant shots this week and what a sweet little bird it is. As it flies around the branches you get a brief glimpse of its bright red eye but the melody of its song compares with the best of canaries and its appearance is as beautiful.

I hope you have the privilege of listening to the Gerygone's sweet song.

The black wattle, Acacia aulacocarpa is in flower on the hills at Coquette Point and the insects are feasting on the nectar.

In the past I have noted this wattle generally flowers at Easter, so it is flowering very early this year.

The bright pink flowers of Evodiella muelleri are opening on the branches of this small tree. The little Evodiella is one of the host trees of the Ulysses butterfly.

The fruits of Syzygium forte, the white-apple are ripe and the Pied Imperial Pigeons are feasting on them and knocking many to the ground where they are eaten by the cassowaries.

A wide range of fruits are in the cassowary scats this week.

 The Pied Imperial Pigeons are still feasting on the Damson plum trees. The harvest seems to have no end this year.

The shining starlings fly into the Damsons in large flocks consuming hundreds of fruits.

A wonderful assortment of fruits are available for rainforest animals at the moment. The bowl contains, White Apple, Syzygium forte;  Pandanus;  Grey Milk-wood, Cerbera inflate; Damson Plum, Terminalia catalpa Wax Jambu Syzygium aquem and the Mango Pine, Barringtonia calyptrata.

The rain this week has given encouragement to Crickets and Cicadas and frogs and they have increased their vocalising. No insect is louder than the Mole crickets and it is certainly advertising its presence this week.

Normally only seen at night but with the heavy cloud cover this week they have appeared at dusk.

The summer wet season in the Wet Tropics brings to life many weird and wonderful insects and all with a purpose but not always to our liking.

One wonders what intelligence made this stick insect choose this gutter to rest under? Had he realised the sticks in the gutter above represented himself? Or was it coincidence?

Don't bury your head in the sand there are multiple worlds all around us.

Cheers, Yvonne