Saturday 29 March 2014

Hello from tropical Coquette Point,

A rainbow spread across the mouth of the Johnstone River on Wednesday signalling the end of a month of rain. Thursday was a perfect day, low humidity and a gentle tropical breeze.

The Feast of the Senses, Taste Paradise function held at Coquette Point was a great success: helped of course by perfect weather.

We dined on a selection of tropical dishes of quality and variety to astonish the most experienced foodie.

  The late afternoon was brought to a close with evocative Pacific Island songs and dances performed by James, Lohar and family from the Tokelau Islands.

The leaden flycatchers have arrived to winter over in FNQ.  Although I have seen several males the females do not appear to have arrived.

As yet the calls have not taken on their harsh notes and the boys are spending their days in the mangroves and swamps searching for insects sweetly whistling too-whit, too-whee in a very pleasant tone. No doubt this will change when the females arrive.

Driving home from town this week I saw a cassowary walking down Howe Street towards Coquette Point. I stopped the car and with the camera in hand kept a look out for any cars.

I did not recognise the cassowary, possibly a young female about five years old. The bird appeared to have come from East Innisfail, in the area which is the old Ninds Creek wetlands.

A number of cars approached coming from Coquette Point. All cars slowed and when the cassowary saw the vehicles it crossed the road in front of the cars and went into the area near the sewerage farm.

When the cars passed it crossed the road again and went into the area approved for the Metricon Canal Estate Development.

This cassowary appears in good condition and its movements are an example of the migration of these birds within the Moresby Range - Ninds Creek - East Innisfail populations.

It is imperative to mantain wildlife corridors which link different family groups of cassowaries for the future development of a genetically healthy population. Unfortunately very few safe migration corridors exist in the Wet Tropics for this endangered bird.

Cassowary Ky is growing fast and Snout is a very attentive father.

I saw Snout and Ky in the mangroves and when Ky saw me she hid behind a branch; her now brown colour the perfect camouflage.

It was very hot today and Snout and Ky enjoyed cooling off in the stream.
Lots of jumping spiders around this week and here's three of the eight different species I saw this week.
In the hot humid weather today the lemon migrant butterflies were mating, some on the wing others exhausted with the effort and continued their union while resting on leaves. The females are generally more colourful so I suppose that is 'her' in orange garb below.

When the rain stopped on Wednesday the birds took it in turn to dry and preen on the branches of the old dead trees.
While today in the heat the Pied Imperial Pigeons rested from the midday sun in the shade of the canopy.  
This week I bit the bullet and had full solar power installed.  Of course nothing is ever as easy as it seems and I discovered the power board needs a full upgrade. 
 It was Deja vu for Innisfail electrician Don Clark when he looked at the board with its asbestos backing. Don installed the board when he was an apprentice 40 years ago. As Don said in those days no one knew about asbestos and they cut and drilled it all the time! Australia along with many countries is living with an asbestos legacy that is fast catching up with workers in the building industry.

Tonight, as part of a climate change awareness campaign we are all being asked to turn our lights off for one hour from 8.30 pm. The Australian campaign focuses on the Great Barrier Reef and the irreversible effect our modern way of life is causing to the Reef and the environment generally.

While the lights are out take the time to look at the sky.

Cheers for this week,

Saturday 22 March 2014

Hello from Coquette Point,

The monsoon is in its death throes and has swept ex cyclone Hadi back onto Cape York as a low pressure trough. Combined with a high in the Bight the Wet Tropics is again in a convergence zone and as a result we are experiencing heavy flood-rains. A flood warning was declared for the Tully and Daintree Rivers and all over the Wet Tropical Coast rainfalls in excess of 300 mm has fallen in the last 48 hours.

The Johnstone Catchment hinterland saw less rainfall and the Johnstone River only had a good run of water coming down and thankfully, no flood and without a big silt load.

This afternoon the rain showers continued and the heavy clouds sat low over the mountains as the river created whirlpools in its effort to carry its watery load to the sea.


One lonely gull-billed tern remains at Coquette Point. These birds are nomadic within their range and they normally breed in lagoons inland. This bird appears to have formed a relationship with a pelican. When it goes off to hunt for food it returns to the pelican's side.

Around 50 lesser sand plovers remain at Coquette Point and a few are in breeding plumage. No doubt they will soon depart as lesser sand plovers do not breed in Australia.  Their migratory route will take them to China, the Korean Peninsula and eastern Siberia. They will return, with their offspring, in September.

On the outer most sandbank I saw whimbrels fishing with a few crested terns. The whimbrels will also be departing soon as they breed in the subarctic of North America and Europe.

No sightings of little terns, godwits, tattlers or Pacific plovers it appears they have already left on their migratory journey.

However the pied-oyster catcher do breed on the sand-dunes of their territorial beach. Dogs are the biggest problem for resident breeding birds like the pied oyster catcher and the beach-stone curlew, both nest on or behind the sand dunes.

Dogs often disturb and chase these birds and when the nesting bird is away from her eggs for some time the eggs become overheated in the sun and the small chicks within the egg, cook.

That is why it is important, for the survival of shore-birds, to make some beaches no dog zones.

Pied Imperial Pigeons have been congregating at Coquette Point in a flock of about 70 birds.
Soon they will depart for Papua and Indonesia.  The whole flock were in a flowering quandong Elaeocarpus eumundi tree this afternoon and as I walked underneath to get a photo they lifted off through the top of the canopy, magically manoeuvring their strong wings through the leaves and branches.

                   The metallic starlings have been particularly noisy this week and juvenile birds have been demanding food on the wing. I have not noticed this before, normally when the metallic starling chicks fledge they are shown how and where to feed by the parents. Perhaps the heavy rain has changed the normal feeding pattern?

Cassowary chick Ky is having no problems with finding food. Snout is constantly on the move visiting the fruiting trees two or three times a day.

The bandicoot berry, Leea indices' fruits are ripe and snout picks at them until many fall to the ground where Ky can feed.

The fruits of the Leichhardt tree, Nauclea orientalis are falling and the cassowaries search for fallen fruits around the these trees every morning and afternoon.

Jessie does not have to be so careful and she eats the Leichhardt fruits in
such a hurry they mount up in her throat.

I watched Jessie one afternoon as she strode down the road in a hurry. She turned quickly, crossed the gutter and with a mighty jump plucked a ripe guava from a tree.

 Later I watched her scramble down a steep bank, jump the gutter and dive into the rainforest. She purposely journeyed to each tree, harvested the ripe fruit and then went on her way. Food was on her mind and there was no stopping her.

I saw a young cassowary this week, about four or five years old. He was near Manayard Road and I could not identify him. He disappeared into the rainforest before I could get good photos. He is most likely one of the seven chicks from 2010.

About 100  red-tailed black cockatoos are flying to the Johnstone River estuary every morning. This week they have been mainly feeding on the paperbark trees, Melaleuca leucadendra. They appear to be feeding on the seeds and they do so with a great deal of noise and squabbling.

I photographed another jumping
spider species at Coquette Point this week and I sent the photo down to Robert Whyte at the Queensland Museum to identify. Robert advised that this jumping spider " is a well-known but un-named Euryattus sp. It is documented thoroughly by Robert Jackson from NZ who studies behaviour. He documented the signalling during courtship. They wave the first two legs in rather geometric poses like someone signalling semaphore." You can see the spider doing this in the right hand photo above. However, I did not see a female but I was very impressed with his peculiar behaviour. I picked him up and put him on my hand to get a better look and noticed he had a mite on his jaw.  I have seen mites on dragonflies and stick insects but never before on a jumping spider.

I also sent Robert a photo of another spider I could not identify.

Robert advised it is a golden orb weaver, 'but a rather unusually coloured one'.

Since the rain started the bird-wing butterflies have gone into a frenzy of egg laying. The wet weather must stimulate them into action.

The caterpillars from the last egg laying session are fully engorged and should form into their pupa stage shortly.

Ulysses butterflies are also very active at the moment. It is always a marvel to glimpse their iridescent blue flying across the bright green rainforest canopy: butterflies are one of nature's special gifts.

 If you can make it on Thursday 27 around 4pm at the nursery to celebrate the launch of the 3rd edition of Tropical Food Gardening and a feast of tropical food with 'Taste Paradise' you are most welcome. It is BYO drinks.

I hope you are getting some rain at your place.