Saturday 28 June 2014

Hello from Coquette Point,

It is said if the weather is good for the New Moon it will stay good for the whole month. At least let us hope so because at the moment, in far north Queensland, the weather is perfect and we can see the night sky again.

The Winter Solstice New Moon has traditionally been regarded as a powerful moment of magic. It was believed that it was the time to call back the sun. In FNQ we know it as the time to start planting root vegetables.

On the day of the new moon, (Friday 27th this month), the moon rose, as it does every new moon,  with the sun. The new moon sets when the sun sets and it crosses the sky with the sun during the day. That is why we cannot see the first phase of the new moon as it is hidden in the sun's light. However, by Sunday night it should be visible in the West after sunset. The natural mechanisms of Mother Earth are wondrous.

Very low midday tides this week with perfect weather created a playground along the Johnstone River for birds and people. Gull-billed terns were swooping and calling in unison as they scooped up fingerlings from the shallow water. While dozens of people tried to catch the elusive whiting which are now on the run with the new moon after the winter solstice.

All week the River has been busy with fisherman and holiday makers. Everyone is taking advantage of the sunny weather. It is so good to see the beaches filled with local people and visitors enjoying the day. How lucky we are to live in a place where there are so many beautiful beaches close to town and what beautiful weather to go walking on the beach.

A young French student, Florian, is
staying with me at the moment and he is a keen bird watcher, so this week we went looking for shorebirds.

We found
mangrove kingfishers out feasting for crabs on the sand flats,
while pied oyster-catcher was having a rest in the midday sun. I was concerned as I had never before seen a pied oyster-catcher sitting down on the sand.

When kingfisher and beach stone curlew came across pied oyster-catcher got up and joined them.

Pelican flew in and landed close to Florian. It was a magic moment for him.

Gull billed terns flew all around us and we watched as they fished in the river estuary. While out on the breakwater fisherman tried their luck for whiting.

On the outer sandbars crested terns rested for a while before returning to fish further out to sea.

Every creature was enjoying the sun.

In a small pool, left behind after the outgoing tide, Florian found a flat fish. Dr Helen Larsen has identified it as a tongue sole, (family Cynoglossidae). Helen said these soles are one of the most difficult of groups to identify, museums all around the world are full of misidentified Cynoglossids. Thank you Helen for the ID.

As we watched, the pool of water dried up. Lots of tiny fry were in the pool with the tongue sole and Florian collected them in his hand and ran to the water's edge to release them.

The cassowaries have been on the move and it is easy to see they are restless.

Queenie is spending a lot of time in the mangroves. The other day I heard her crashing through the Hibiscus
and was surprised to see her jump over one lot of logs with her two feet held together. She then wandered through the mangroves for some time before standing at the rivers edge gazing across to the other side. I left her and when I came back an hour later she was still looking across to the other side of the river.

On two previous occasions I have seen cassowaries swim the Johnstone River and I think perhaps she is considering that option. Is there sone primeval message telling her to migrate to a new area or is she just fed up with Jessie chasing her?

Florian and Queenie seem to have a special relationship and she will follow him when he walks around outside.

Florian has been helping me wash away the wet season mildew on walls and ceilings. The other afternoon I was out the back of the nursery when I heard Florian calling out in a panic.

Queenie was inside the house and had come up to Florian while he was on the ladder. Panic! The doors of the house were opened to improve the airflow while we cleaned so she had walked in.

I went running upstairs while imaging the damage a cornered cassowary in a panic could do inside, the scat alone would be enough.

No panic from Queenie she was calmly walking around inspecting the house. With a little gentle coaxing from me she went outside.  Queenie was no sooner on the lawn when out came the biggest wet scat you have ever seen. We were lucky.

On my way into town on Friday morning I was surprised to see Queenie around the houses at the top of the hill. I stopped the car to take a photograph to make sure of the identity of the bird when she stretched up aggressively.

Then I saw Hero he was walking up beside Ruth's house. As soon as he saw Queenie he fluffed his feathers and uttered deep aggressive drumming sounds.

Cassowary Hero drums aggressively at Queenie.

Hero lost his chicks from last season so he is an eligible male but he was not showing any interest in Queenie. He crossed the road and went down into the rainforest on the northern river side of the Range.

Cassowary Snout is alert all the time to matriarch Jessie's comings and goings. As soon as he sees her he stretches to full height and fluffs out his chest feathers, like a black bib.

Jessie confronts him and chases him. Little Ky who is often sitting around quickly follows his dad.

Cassowary Snout alert.

Matriarch cassowary Jessie on the move.

Cassowary Ky had a bath while Snout stood guard.

The cassowaries are not the only ones with hormone problems. The little sunbirds are in an absolute frenzy. There are females competing for the attention of a male while the males are competing for the attention of all the females. Lots of chattering, skirmishes and dare devil flying.

Mirrows are a problem and I watched one female throw herself at the car mirror trying to frighten the bird in the reflection. Some times she saw too many birds and she could not work out what to do.

A yellow honeyeater has taken a liking to the fruits of the Ceylon spinach. She came back repeatedly to pick the fruits and some times she braced herself on the wire and pulled with all her might to release the fruits. Many honeyeaters eat a wide variety of fruits as well as flower-nectar.

This little bird is difficult to photograph as it darts about very quickly in the flowers and foliage of trees and shrubs. So it was a rare opportunity to find it out in the open in my veggie garden.

Yellow honeyeater braced herself on the wire and pulled and pulled.

Green Sea Turtle Cindy-lou is doing well. She receives a scratch and a massage from Henry every day. Her appetite is growing and she is eating up to 14 squid and a few lettuce leaves in one sitting.

Florian and Nelly have constructed a turtle sculpture on the grounds of the Turtle Rehabilitation Centre, it's a work of art. Well, done to you all.

I received an email from old mate Ross Digman of Tully this week. Ross was cleaning up the lawn prior to mowing  and while so doing a green ant bit him in the eye.
Google states,  ' Green ants are squirters. They don't have a sting. Instead, a green ant grabs onto your skin with its six legs and bites a hole with its jaws. Then it pulls its tail underneath itself and squirts formic acid into the wound. It hangs on to the death, chewing on your skin to mix in the acid, like a baker mixing dough.'

After about 8 minutes of pretty significant pain, the green ant was extracted by Margaret, Ross's wife.  Margaret put some chloromycetin eye ointment in the eye, and would you believe it - Ross went out and finished mowing the lawn!

The pain was still bad so Ross googled 'ant-bite in eye' and got a shock when it stated in some cases you can lose the sight in the affected eye.

Ross went into the hospital and saw the local RN who rang the doctor and the RN was told to advise Ross to apply chloromycetin. So Ross bought a new tube and went home.

Ross said he was fortunate it wasn't the iris that was bitten.

I asked Ross to keep us informed on how his eye heals.

The last remainder for the Ninney Rise Rainforest and Reef Conference being held on the July3, 4 and 5 at Mission Beach. For bookings and more details go to

YOU ARE INVITED to the launch of 'Jigurru' Storm Season on the July 8, 10am at the Innisfail Shire Hall. Book-mark the event with more details to come next week.

Cheers for this week,

Saturday 21 June 2014

Happy Winter Solstice,

Isn't it great in far north Queensland our shadows have at last returned and just in time to help us celebrate the Winter Solstice.  It has been three months since I last saw my shadow and I can tell you it is wonderful to have it with me again as I walk around in the sun outside. Now that the Winter Solstice is here, it seems, from the weather bureau's prediction, I should see my shadow for a few minutes longer, walking out in front of me every day, or at least for the next week or so.

Soaking in every minute of the winter sunshine this red lace-wing butterfly turned in circles as she pulsated her wings whilst  drinking the sweet nectar from the camellia flower.

The cassowary population is very visible at the moment with regular sighting from all over the Cassowary Coast. Young cassowaries are trying to expand their home range and territorial battles have been an almost daily occurrence. I hear lots of threatening drumming followed by the sound of bush - crashing -  as Snout chases Jessie or any other cassowary which dares to wander into her territory.

I have identified the cassowary in the photos Taggs sent me last week. I believe it is Q. The last time I saw Q was December 2013, see left, and my how she has grown. The photo on the left is of her from the blog 20 December 2013. She is one of two chicks reared by Hagar from the 2010 breeding season. In the photo that Taggs sent last week, Q had an encounter with her father Hagar and his new chick Rainbow.

Liz Gallie sent me an email saying she thought the unknown cassowary was a female and not a male as I had written. Liz had seen females lowering their tail feathers and giving the appearance of a male from behind. Liz you were right.  Q has been walking about in the mangroves and on the beach this week and I managed to photograph her side profile which indicates that she is indeed a young female. As such I think we can call her Queenie.

Queenie turned to look at me, put her head to one side as if to say, 'hello I haven't seen you for awhile.'

It appears she is determined to occupy Jessie's home range. I do not know if Jessie is her mother as I did not observe Hagar's courtship.

Cassowary Jessie walking through the nursery.
I have seen Jessie every few days this week as she tracks from the rainforest down to the mangroves. She is generally on the move and doesn't hang about. This week she walked through the nursery and up to Plastic Cass, took a quick look and walked on.

I missed getting a photo of Jessie looking at Plastic Cass but the next day Snout and Ky came to pay her tribute.

When Snout moved on Ky stayed for a few minutes looking at Plastic Cass and I thought I heard him say 'are you my mummy?'

 I found Snout and Ky having a midday nap near the sediment pond this week, they were sound asleep.

Allision from Flying Fish Point confirmed that cassowary Kev has indeed lost one of his chicks. Allison's children have named the remaining chick Pippie. Kev and Pippie have been wandering onto Allision's property to eat the palm seeds falling from their numerous palm trees. Kev's home range includes the Mount Annie National Park.

Fred from Mourilyan told me that two of the three chicks belonging to the  Mourilyan Harbour cassowary have been killed by vehicles. Fred said he saw the bodies of the chicks in the grass beside the road. It is unfortunate that such a busy road in such an important cassowary connecting  habitat does not have reduced speed regulations and signs in the areas where the cassowaries frequently cross. It is vitally important for the genetic diversity of these endangered birds that they are able to expand their range into areas of non related family groups.

The brown cuckoo doves are still eating the fruits of the bleeding heart tree, Homalanthus novoquineensis. It is astonishing that I cannot find one fruit of this tree on the ground underneath the tree. The brown cuckoo doves pluck the fruit with such precision that no fruit escapes their hungry beaks until their crop swells full of fruits.

The brown cuckoo doves uses its long tail to balance and manoeuvre among the branches.

When the brown cuckoo doves had eaten their fill I watched them rest and preen on an old log in the fading sunlight.

Once again this week the cattle from the Brahman Stud escaped and wandered onto the Coquette Point Road. I rang the Council and within half an hour someone turned up to put them back. It is only a matter of time before there is an accident as these cattle spook very quickly when a car approaches. Or so I have found out. A bit of fence-mending is urgently needed.

Someone has cut a two metre swathe through the mangroves down to the river. They have also cut a track in the sand dunes to enable them to bring a vehicle down to the river. This illegal removal of mangroves has occurred in the World Heritage Area.  I have been told that the same people were illegally netting in the river on Monday. I reported the incident to Fisheries and an inspector visited the area and surveyed the damage. They will be on the lookout for the offenders.

The Green Sea Turtle Cindy-lou housed in the Mandaburra Turtle Rehabilitation Centre is eating well. Today she ate nine squid and several leaves of Cos lettuce.

Picture left to right, Henry Epong, Ted Bundy, Dr Isabel Beasley, Nellie Epong and PhD student Jessica as they inspected Cindy-lou.  Cindy-lou moved to the side of the tank where the sun shone through onto her head.

A reminder to book for the amazing Rainforest and Reef Conference at Ninney Rise.

How often we hear about Conferences in the capital cities with inspiring speakers and we think if only we had the opportunity to be in the audience. Now we have that opportunity.

The conference host will be Gregg Borschmann, well known Radio National Environment Reporter.

Book for day one of the conference 3July which includes morning tea, lunch and a guided tour.

Hear Aboriginal elders, Whitney Rassip and Leonard Andy with Dr Michael Davis of University of Sydeny.

Hear Dr Aila Keto AO, Mike Berwick, Max Chappell, Mary Ritchie and Maurice Franklin.

Hear Dr Charlie Veron, coral scientist, Lain McCalman, author and historian with Adam Smith of GBRMPA.

Day two

Hear panel discussions on Reef and rainforest art;  Hearts and minds: John Busst and others,
Reef and rainforest tourism;  Discovering the underwater world-cultural impacts; The future of Ninney Rise; and following afternoon tea the Girringun Dance Troupe will perform the Cassowary Dance.

Be part of the audience and contribute to the conference. The conference will be recorded for Radio National programming.

Registration information is available by contacting  or information on the conference from

I hope we see lots of Bartle-blue this week with a little more sunshine than that pictured in this early morning shot overlooking the Johnstone River Valley.