Saturday 26 April 2014

Hello from Coquette Point,

Another week of wind and rain is behind us. Thankfully today opened with bright sunshine.

On Wednesday night the wind blew a sailor in from the sea with a desperate call.  It was Justin McCallum on his yacht 'La Boheme' he wanted to know what had happened to the marker buoys in the Johnstone River? Justin was returning from a voyage around the islands of Papua New Guinea and as fate would have it he entered the Johnstone River at night in a rain squall which allowed him little visibility.

As is normal after every flood in the Johnstone the marker buoys drift off their positions and the Harbour Master informs sailors by posting a Notice to Mariners. The Johnstone River marker buoys drifted off position in the minor flood which occurred with TC Ita on 12 April but the Harbour Master did not post a Notice to Mariners. Two weeks after the event, the Johnstone River marker buoys are still off position and still no Notice to Mariners has been posted.
Justin anchored up for the night and in the morning he popped in to say hello looking like something Neptune had rejected.

Justin was at Misima Island when the low that was to become TC Ita started to form into a cyclonic system. Justin took 'La Boheme' into the mangroves and sheltered while the storm raged over them. Justin said that when it passed the Islands in the region were devastated. The people of Misima and the Louisiades Islands had lost their homes and their crops to the cyclone.
We heard nothing about the plight  of these people on the Australian media. Of course we were all too concerned about what was to happen to us - yet again.

Misima island is located at lattitude 10.41 degrees south and it is unusual for a cyclone to form above 12 degrees south of the equator. It appears the unusual in weather occurrences is becoming the norm.

Another refugee arrived at Coquette Point this week and this time it took the form of a juvenile flatback turtle.

The turtle was found by Geoff Stapley of Mission Beach on Wednesday morning. The turtle was upside down at the top of the high tide mark on Mission beach. Geoff picked it up and tried to put it back into the ocean, but it was struggling with the rough seas and exhaustion. He called for help from Jason of Mission Beach Charters and Jason got in touch with Nellie Epong,  of Mandubarra Turtle Triage, here at Coquette Point. Now 'Slaty', as Nellie has called it, is receiving the very best intensive care.

There is good news tonight as for the first time, late this afternoon, little 'Slaty' took a feed of squid from James Epong. James told me the first feed is critical and he is hopeful this little flatback turtle will make a speedy recovery and hopefully will be returned to the ocean within weeks.

James drove down to Mission Beach to collect the injured turtle and it travelled back in a purpose built tank with a damp orange flannel on its back. James gently lifted the turtle into the holding tank he had prepared.

The next morning the turtle was swimming strongly around the tank.

Little 'Slaty' receives around the clock care from the Mandubarra Turtle Triage members.

Pictured Henry and Nellie Epong examining the turtle for any sign of injury.

This week only one Pied Imperial Pigeon was sighted and that was early Tuesday morning.  This bird is either a straggler or has decided to winter over. However, I have not seen it again nor any other PIPs, so I assume the birds are well and truly gone on their migratory journey.

I found this solitary yellow-eyed cuckoo shrike in my large fig tree. There is no fruit on the tree at the moment but the bird seemed quite happy, protected somewhat from the constant rain by the canopy of the fig.

The next morning when the sun came out, for a very short while, I found the cuckoo shrike was still in the tree.

These are not generally solitary birds, when not breeding, so this bird may have been separated from its flock in the gale force winds of cyclone Ita last week.

On Thursday cuckoo shrike was gone.

The wet and windy weather is tough on many birds and the rainbow bee eaters seemed to struggle to catch a feed as their sodden feathers reduced their normal agility.

The yelbow spotted honey eater sounded particularly unhappy as there was no food for him this week with the constant rain washing the nectar out of the flowers.

When the paperbark trees Melaleuca leucadendra opened its flowers to the bright sun this morning
  there was a flurry of feeding.

The first to feast where the Drongos, drinking deeply on the pungent nectar before enjoying the warm sun on their feathers.

Dozens of Zodiac moths have suddenly appeared, feasting on the melaleuca flowers. Once fed they rest on the understory foliage. They appear perfectly formed, perhaps newly hatched, their wings glistening in iridescent blue, yellow, pink and black, all perfectly outlined with a white zig zig margin.

Many jumping spiders are still active especially Mopsus mormon, I found this male, left, dangling from a tree over the road.
 The brightly coloured little Cosmophasis miearioides above is still active around the melaleuca trees.

I found  Cytaea xanthopus busily weaving a web in the rain on a hibiscus shrub.

Soon she built a nest retreat at the base of the web. Jumping spiders do not build webs to catch food but only to secure a retreat. Most jumping spiders build retreats in which to hibernate over winter.

She returned to the web and travelling upside down she pulled the sides of the hibiscus leaf together as she spun out the silken threads.

Late in the afternoon she found shelter in the gossamer home she had constructed. The silken threads forming a secure cover over her retreat.

Today in the sunshine she was out and about making finishing touches to her dwelling. I did not see her hunt or eat at any time over the last four days while she constructed this retreat.

With the end, we hope, of the wet season it is time to start planting the vegetable garden and Willie Wagtail has turned up to balance out the caterpillars and other insects that like to share my cabbages.

In many areas of Papua New Guinea, where this bird also occurs, the Willie Wagtail is regarded as a sign of good luck. I hope a Willie wagtail turns up in your garden to sing you a good luck song.

Cheers for this week,


Saturday 19 April 2014

Hello from Coquette Point,

In the wake of cyclone Ita the weather has settled down at last; an occasional shower but mostly fine, with a touch of cool air to tell us winter approaches. Cyclone Ita left an impact along most of the East Coast of Queensland from Princess Charlotte Bay to Rockhampton and now New Zealand is experiencing its wrath.

The old sailor's adage 'Red sky at night, sailor's delight' was displayed for all our delight as the cyclone passed to our south and a high pressure system moved in from the West.

All the colours of the rainbow were displayed in Ita's signature sunset.

However, the next morning the Johnstone River was swollen with brown murky water and the Bellenden Ker Range was etched purple-blue against the sky.

For some time Ruth Lipscomb has been searching for a description of the colour of this mountain range  and after some discussion this morning I think she has settle on 'Bartle-blue'. Mount Bartle Frere the highest mountain in Queensland, 1,622 metres is the main feature of the Bellenden Ker Range. If you can come up with something better please let Ruth know.

On a clear day the Bellenden Ker Range takes on a deep blue colour framing the Johnstone River Valley. The temperature and the weather changes the shades of blue colour, and all the while this mountain and its colour-changes dominate the Johnstone River Valley skyline.

On the beach the murky water of the Johnston River lapped the shore slowly, thick and heavy, as it was carrying a load of sediment containing the best topsoils from farmland in the Johnstone Catchment along with all the pesticides used on the farms.

The next afternoon, Monday, the river was still brown and I saw a large mudskipper swimming toward the beach.

When the mud skipper climbed out of the water I noticed what appeared to be a large growth around its face. I tried to get closer but it disappeared under the rock. I am still looking for this mudskipper or any others showing deformities.

From the top of the Moresby Range the extent of the Johnston River's muddy plume could be clearly seen.

As Cyclone Ita approached Greater Frigate-birds flew onto the coast; there were reports of a large flock circling over Flying Fish Point before the cyclone.  However, I did not see them until they departed when one bird flew comparatively low over the nursery flying in a wide circle before it caught a thermal that lifted it high in the sky where it joined its flock, which we could just see offshore; we watched them disappear out to sea.

Many birds are killed in cyclones and even if they find a protected spot they are weakened as they cannot feed while the storm lasts.

Much controversy has aired on the media today following the Attorney General Senator Brandis' comments on climate change. It was reported that the Senator stated " It was deplorable that one side has the orthodoxy on its side and delegitimises the views of those who disagree, rather than engaging with them intellectually and showing them why they are wrong".  It appears Senator Brandis does not understand that the one side he is referring to is the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), established in 1988 and this body bases its assessments on the published literature, which includes peer-reviewed sources. Thousands of scientists and other experts contribute (on a voluntary basis, without payment from the IPCC.  Senator Brandis I don't go to the butcher to engage intellectually or to find out what is wrong with my health and when I want to know whats wrong with the weather's health I refer to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology or the National Aeronautics and Space Administration or listen to the findings of the scientists contributing to the IPCC, and I hope your would as well.

Senator Brandis was in Ingham on Wednesday with the Member for Kennedy, Bob Katter MP and they inspected the flooding and damage caused by Cyclone Ita in Ingham. Most of Ingham's CBD was covered in one metre of flood water. A big hello to Bec from Ingham Garden Centre and her husband who owns the nearby fish shop, they had over a metre of flood water through their shops, we are thinking of you Bec.

In eight years we have experienced three category five cyclones off the coast of Queensland, severe drought through western Queensland, extreme flooding in south-east Queensland, bush fires in Spring; what weather events need to happen before our politicians take action on climate change.

California is experiencing the most severe drought emergency in history. This drought has been linked, by scientists to global warming.

This week a vast swathe of Arctic sea ice has shattered in the Barents Sea, as a powerful, heat-laden Arctic cyclone screamed up out of a rapidly warming extreme North Atlantic.

Siberia, a land once locked in ice, has been experiencing summer like temperatures during late March and early April. The result 19,000 hectares of once frozen perma-frost peat has erupted into wildfires.

The latest sea surface temperature anomaly in the Pacific has shown steady warming since February. An El Nino event is likely to develop and climate model forecasts indicate this. El Nino is often associated with drought over large parts of Australia. Who can predict what the natural Earth systems will do in a warming world?

Meanwhile, Acmena hemilampra, the blush satin ash has started to fruit, but not a good fruit set on the trees this year. This is an important fruiting tree for cassowaries and pigeons.

The paper bark tree Melaleuca leucadendra was in flower again in the swamps of Coquette Point. The pungent sweet nectar filling the air by day and at night hungry flying foxes drank deeply of the flower's nectar when they weren't feasting on the ripe quava.

The fruits of the native nutmeg Metrosideros queenslandica are starting to fall. These fruits are the favourites of the Pied Imperial Pigeon however, these birds appear to have all left for their northern migration. I have not seen nor heard a PIP for five days. If you have please record it on the comments below.

Small flocks of Metallic starlings are feeding on a fresh fruiting of Alexandra palms, Archontophoenix alexandrae. The starlings are so playful and a delight to watch.

The varied triller's distinctive trill-call can be heard in the melaleuca canopy as the birds feast on the last of the summer insects. The female, right, breast is lightly barred on her underparts.

The beautiful patterned feathers of this pheasant coucal were on display as it tried unsuccessfully to conceal itself in this callistemon shrub.

More often seen skulking on the ground than flying, its wings not adequate for the bulk of its body to achieve any serious flight.

 I hadn't seen the matriarch cassowary Jessie for over a month and was surprised to catch a glimpse of her striding in a great hurry. I grabbed the camera and arrived just in time to watch her knock a pawpaw off the tree and make a meal of it. It was a young tree and its first fruit, obviously she had been watching it; between the flying foxes and the cassowaries I am lucky to pick a pawpaw for myself.

Little Ky is growing by the day and he is now developing very strong legs, brown feathers have grown over his stripes but he still keeps very close to Snout. I see them every day as they feed on the fruiting trees at Coquette Point, wild quavas, Leichardt tree fruits, palm seed and now the blush satin ash fruits.

We had a get together on Thursday and when Snout and Ky turned up there was a rush to put the fruit bowl inside. You can see them in the distance under the guava tree.

It was with great pleasure that I attended the opening of the Mamu Health Centre Meditation Garden on Wednesday.

The garden was built by a young team lead by Harry Tanwoy as Horticultural Trainer, it was project based training for the students and they achieved certification 2 awards. The training co-ordinator, Louise Orbons, pictured, said the students learn by doing not sitting.

Students at Radiant Life College painted the mural on the walls surrounding the garden.

I was very chuffed when I was invited to place my handprint on the wall surrounding the garden.

Congratulations to all the students involved in turning this disused area into a beautiful relaxing space and I wish all the students, who worked so hard to achieve this makeover, success in their future.

Cheers for this week,


Saturday 12 April 2014

Hello from wild and windy Coquette Point,

Cyclone Ita crossed the coast last night at Cape Flattery as a cat 4 system and quickly lost strength. Ita's path took it close to Cooktown and Hopevale and damage to buildings has occurred in these areas.
 Subsequently, Ita has weakened to a cat 1 system as it continues to head south bringing gale force winds and high rainfall over a wide area of FNQ.

 The Bureau of Meteorology's track map shows Cyclone Ita will move over the Cassowary Coast tonight and we can expect to experience strengthening gale force winds for the duration. Cyclone Ita is expected to cross the coast over Innisfail tonight and head out to sea travelling south along the Queensland coastline, but bringing heavy rain to towns between Cardwell and Prosperine. The  cyclone is expected to weaken as it interacts with an upper level trough.

The strong winds have caused massive horticultural crop damage to sugar cane, bananas, tropical fruits and small crops. The Cairns airport was closed yesterday afternoon stranding thousands of tourists and is still not operating fully. The effects of cyclone Ita will be felt by business along all of north Queensland's coastline.

Wild animals are at the mercy of the weather and it was heart rending when Snout and Ky appeared at my back door yesterday. I imagined Snout wanted to come inside away from the wind and rain.

"Is this the Coquette Point cyclone
       shelter?"                                                                   "Let me in."

The back door is not normally opened as I am in the nursery throughout the day. Snout and Ky noticed something different and tried to work out what was going on.

Since a guava has been in fruit close to the house the  cassowaries have been visiting it and I have seen them in the morning eating the fruit fallen during the night. Since I have been in the house the last few days I have noticed them visiting the tree throughout the day.

Today Ky turned up alone and quickly started to eat the fallen fruit, then Snout came out of the forest but at the top of the stone wall, Snout was eager to get to Ky and no doubt the fruit. Meanwhile Ky was happy to eat all the fruit and not worried that Dad was missing.

When he joined Ky Snout didn't waste his time in gobbling up the fruit. You can see a quava going down his neck in this photo.

As the winds picked up today Snout and Ky found shelter under the quava tree and against the wall of the old ruin. Ky pressed close against the wall and Snout stood nervously protecting Ky with his body as the winds gusted around them.

On Monday a flock of at least 150 pied imperial pigeons arrived in the nursery.    They flew in circles around the nursery then plopped down in the tree tops.

The pigeons covered the tree branches looking like snow on the leaves.

The pied impérial pigeons filled every tree, resting and playing in the tree tops. I did not see them eating although there was ripe fruit on the Alexandrae palms and the white cedar.

They stayed for about an hour then suddenly left.
Their strong winds lifted into the air and they were gone, heading north. I have no doubt this was a migratory flock leaving for Papua.

Not all the Pied Imperial Pigeons have left Coquette Point and on Thursday I found an adult bird with two, what looked like, newly fledged chicks, they were enjoying a brief bit of sunshine.

 I saw the same three birds this morning feeding on palm fruit but was not quick enough with the camera.

I have not seen any flocks of metallic starlings this week, although a few juveniles are still around.

The spangled drongo is celebrating the starlings departure and all week they have been calling noisily and performing acrobatics through the trees.

Today I found only one drango and he was hanging on to a branch while the wind gusted around him.

A family of laughing kookaburras arrived early this week and have been singing and marking their territory; five birds on Thursday.  Their happy songs have replaced the noisy chatter of the metallic starlings. Although, they were not heard yesterday or today no doubt they are sheltering from the wind somewhere.

I hope you are warm and dry and that you come through this weather event safely.