Saturday 30 August 2014

Hello from Coquette Point,

Low tide in the middle of the day this week and combined with perfect winter weather created the ideal conditions for a stroll on the beach.
When the tide goes out the sand flats at Coquette Point are exposed.

Clustered together on the outermost sandbar resident terns and pelicans rest and preen in between fishing expeditions.

Crested Terns stretch their wings before taking off into the wind.

Gull-billed terns cluster together in sheltered water.

Red-capped plover searches the incoming tide for water-insects.                                                  

It is that special time of the year, as the days lengthen, when the resident shorebirds are joined by migratory waders arriving from as far away as the Siberian Tundra. Many fly day and night without any rest until they reach their destination. The first of these migratory waders are arriving on the mudflats and beaches of north Queensland. These little birds are returning to Australia from the Northern Hemisphere and will spend the summer feeding on our beaches and in some cases, like the Little Tern, returns to Australia to breed.

Pacific Golden Plover
I found a newly arrived solitary Pacific golden plover feeding in the surf at Coquette Point on Friday afternoon.

On Wednesday I was delighted to see a flagged grey-tailed tattler. This is the first time I have observed a tagged migratory wader at Coquette Point. I reported the sighting to Birdline North Queensland and I received a return email advising, "Your report has been forwarded to the Queensland Wader Study Group who co-ordinate these leg flagged wader sightings, they will be very pleased to receive your report."
If you are lucky enough to see a flagged migratory wader please report it to the Queensland Wader Study Group or Birdline North Queensland.

Whimbrels have also started to arrive from the Northern Hemisphere and I saw three whimbrels on the beach on Thursday.
Unfortunately, in spite of the 'no dog' sign people are still walking dogs on the beach in the wader feeding areas and across the rookery at Coquette Point. It is astonishing that some people take dogs into areas reserved for migratory waders, in so doing they clearly demonstrate their ignorance and total lack of appreciation of the natural world.

The migratory waders are exhausted when they arrive on our shores and they have little energy left to survive a dog chase. The areas set aside for migratory waders are few and far between.  Why have these people so little understanding that they cannot leave these very few areas free of dogs so that these rare and in many cases endangered birds can rest, feed and breed?

On my way back from my walk on Wednesday I was surprised to see an agile wallaby hop out onto the sandbar and move towards a plover.

Plover did not want to play with wallaby and it walked away.

Wallaby watched plover walk away and then decided he would explore the beach.

Wallaby hopped over to the water's edge.

Wallaby put his front paws into the water then stood up and shook the water off his paws.

He quickly decided he did not like the water and in one movement he turned and hopped away from the water and back into the mangroves.

Agile wallabies go down to the river in the early morning to drink but I have never before seen one on the beach in the middle of the day.

On a dead tree overlooking the mangroves white breasted sea eagle rests between flights while keeping a lookout for any movement in the waters of the mangrove lagoon wetlands of Coquette Point.

At the edge of the mangroves white face heron stalked for crabs.

Feeding in the mud around the mangroves I heard shining flycatcher repeatedely calling with his rough, scolding croak.

A sudden flash of turquoise and I saw two sacred kingfishers land in a mangrove tree. Sacred kingfishers are solitary except when breeding. They normally winter in the north and return south in the spring to breed. These two are obviously a pair and I have seen them together for some weeks now. I noticed a freshly dug nest in a nearby termite mound so perhaps they will breed here.

Keeping a watch on this nest in the mangroves will not be easy with mosquitoes and sandflies at higher than normal number for this time of the year.

Cassowary Queenie has given up on her pursuit of Snout and I haven't seen her for ten days. Ruth saw Jessie once this week as she darted down into the mangroves and Don and his chick also paid Ruth a visit.

I see Snout every few days as he hangs around waiting for the fig birds and starlings to knock Alexandra palm seeds to the ground. It appears for every one fruit the fig birds eat they knock two to the ground for the cassowaries.

If you look carefully you will find five birds in the photo below.

Steve from Boutique Bungalows at Mission Beach was enjoying a stroll along Perry Harvey Jetty this week when he saw a small green sea turtle in distress. The turtle was being washed against the wharf pylons and could not seem to swim away. It was late in the afternoon but with the help of a tourist, Steve jumped in the water and rescued the turtle. He contacted the Mandubarra Turtle Rehibiliation Centre here at Coquette Point then drove all the way here with the turtle. Meanwhile Henry, Nellie and Allan Epong prepared a new tank to house the turtle.

Nellie has named this little turtle Lately. Although he has not eaten any squid as yet he did munch on some cos lettuce today. Well done Steve and great work Mandubarra in caring for another turtle.

Steve and Henry carry Lately to the tank.

Lately swam lopsided in the tank. He is covered in barnacles and when Nellie examined him she found a small crack in his shell.

Cindy-lou is still at the Mandubarra Turtle Rehabilitation Centre and is eating large amounts of squid on most days.

She recognises Alan and will always eat more when he feeds her.

Martin saw a whale shark out on the reef this week. Martin  said that he always sees them at this time of the year on the outer reef. The whale shark swam towards Martin's boat and stayed for over an hour looking at him. The whale shark was much bigger than Martin's boat.

A build up of stratocumulus cloud on Friday afternoon created a wonderful show of crepuscular rays over the Johnstone River Valley as the sun set.

Cheers for this week,

Saturday 23 August 2014

Hello From Coquette Point,

A week of winter sun has dried out the soggy ground and left the country side fresh and green. The outlook is for a winter pattern of high pressure systems moving across central Australia, so this perfect weather should continue.

Wonderful news from Ruth L, each day this week she has seen a young male cassowary with one stripy chick walking around the houses at the top of the range. The chick looks about six weeks old. Neither Ruth nor neighbour Jan can identify this cassowary. Ruth thinks it is a young cassowary as his casque is small and unmarked.

 I think it is Don.  Don is Queenie's sibling and the last time I saw him was 12 July 2012, the photo on the right is my last positive record of Don.

Checking my cassowary diary I noticed Jessie was missing for all of April, no one reported seeing her that month. Then she was photographed by Wendy Sheils on the beach at Coquette Point on May 3.  The time-line could be Jessie and Don courting April, Don sitting on the eggs May and June. The eggs would then hatch late June early July.  All of the mating activity, in this instant would have happened within the Moresby Range National Park, out of sight of the urban human population.

I don't know what has caused this young male to now bring his solitary chick into the urban area, or why he has only one chick. However, there are still territorial battles occurring between the cassowaries as from time to time I hear chasing and drumming coming from within the rainforest, and there are dogs still off- lead and roaming in and near the Moresby Range National Park. Let's hope this little chick survives and if it does Ruth, we will need a name from you for the first chick of 2014.

Meanwhile there is still a stand-off between Queenie and Snout. Snout does not seem to have any desire to kick his chick Ky out, no matter how much Queenie flutters her eyelashes, although he is looking.

Some days Snout hangs about close to the water ponds. Eventually Queenie shows up. The two cassowaries look at each other.

Snout will often sit down followed by Ky and they sit around glancing at each other until one or the other decides it is time to be somewhere else.

Sometimes it is Queenie who sits down at the rainforest edge waiting.

When Snout arrives and sees Queenie he becomes quite disturbed, stretching up and dancing around on his toes. Ky often copies his Dad's actions. Then Snout will hide behind the bushes and stretch out to see if Queenie is looking at him.

Ky is 10 months old and the first signs of a casque can be seen forming on his head. Soon he will be forced to bear the responsibilities of adulthood.

" Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And- which is more- you'll be a Man, my son!"

Rudyard Kipling.

Note above the eye arrangement of this Cytaea sp., possibly C. nimbata.

Although the nights are still cool the days are very warm. The jumping spiders are actively feeding on insects and enjoying the daytime warmth. The brilliant iridescent and metallic colours of the Cosmophasis sp. of jumping spider are peculiar to this species and make them distinctive to observe.

The fig bird's noisy chatter starts of a morning in the exotic black sapote tree where the fruits are ripening faster than I can collect them. When the fig birds feed on the fruits they knock many to the ground much to the delight of Snout and Ky who will sit under the trees for hours waiting for breakfast to fall in their laps.

The birds will then shift to the Alexandra palms, which are still bearing ripe fruits. Once these palms, Archontophoenix alexandrae covered much of the low-land coastal plains of the Wet Tropics, now only tiny remnants of Alexandra Palm swamps remain. These palm swamps acted as a filter for run off water in the wet season and a major food supply for cassowaries and other birds throughout the year.

The bright yellow flowers of the Golden Bouquet tree, Deplanchea tetraphylla,  are full of nectar and attracting birds and insects.

This beautiful Wet Tropics Rainforest trees is now being growing in backyards all over FNQ.

In the warm weather the Agile Wallaby joeys are leaving their mother's pouch. There is plenty of green picking for them at the moment.

Agile Wallabies will eat garden plants, so if you are privileged to live in their habitat and want to grow an exotic garden, protect the garden with a fence.

A tourist in Townsville told me the other day he would not come to Mission Beach because the people there were killing wallabies! All our actions impact on the environment. With an active internet they will also impact on our livelihood especially when it is perceived that a few people are acting immorally.

Cheers for this week.


Saturday 16 August 2014

Hello from Coquette Point,

It was so good on Wednesday morning to hear a grazier from Charleville report that he had received 14 mm of rain. Since then moderate rain has continued to fall, not only in Charleville but over much of the parched, drought declared lands of western Queensland and northern New South Wales.

Unfortunately, the wet weather is not so great for the sugar cane harvest along the coastal belt. While the cane sits in the sodden fields the sugar content falls and the mills undergo very costly stop-start procedures. The weather is predicted to be clearing and back to sunshine next week.

When the rain stops for a few minutes it is surprising to see the instant activity of  birds as they search for food.

Dusky honeyeater manoeuvres with great dexterity around the flower spikes of this match-stick bromeliad  as he extracts every drop of nectar from the flowers.

Leaden flycatcher waits for the first break in the clouds to dash about the branches in search of insects.

Nearby shining flycatcher appears to be intent in gaining the attention of his mate as he displays and chases her in and out of the low canopy of the mangrove trees.  If you are lucky she will sit for a moment so you can admire her rich chestnut wings and tail feathers contrasting with her satin black head and pure white chest feathers. Then she  darts off in search of an insect while ignoring him as he calls and displays close by.

Competing in the same mangrove habitat varied triller chooses from a wider culinary selection. She will eat insects, caterpillars and seeds, thus she is a very resilient little bird.

Cassowary Snout and Queenie continue to meet almost daily and mostly without aggression. At five years old this is Queenie's first season and she hasn't as yet pushed the right buttons for Snout.

On Tuesday Snout was hanging about the nursery with Ky, unusual for him, then Queenie arrived to take a drink. When she saw Snout she stretched to full height.
Snout stood up but lowered his head as if in submission.

Queenie approached Snout and he dropped his head in submission.

Then Snout, while looking back at Queenie, began to walk away.

As if sensing some danger to Ky Snout turned towards his chick.

He then turned, and started to walk out the gate with Queenie following. Little Ky uttered a low pathetic whistle and suddenly Snout sat down. Ky moved over to his dad and Queenie moved away.

Snout walked off with Queenie watching not sure what she was supposed to do.

Meanwhile old matriarch cassowary Jessie remains at the top of the Moresby Range hanging around in the vicinity of the two older males, Hero who is alone and Hagar with his chick Rainbow, no courtship happening there.

Matriarch cassowaries Peggy and Clara have not been sighted recently, nor have the male cassowaries Brown Cone, Stumpy, Don or Captain Starlight. No recent sightings of Dot or the two year old chick I saw last month or the old cassowary with the cracked casque that Pam B. saw.

I was told of two cassowaries around Clancy Park East Innisfail possibly courting but no photos as yet.

There is plenty of food for the cassowaries around at the moment with Quandong, Elocarpus eumundi seen in almost all the scats. As well, pandanus fruits falling and Davidson plum, Davidsonia prurient ripe and starting to fall.

Another fruit which the cassowaries are eating at the moment, but I am not able to identify, see below, possibly a Sersalisia sp. Please let me know if you can identify this tree.

Ian Laidlaw on the Palmerston had a

 little visitor to his farm this week, a Queensland tube-nosed bat. Ian rescued it from a barbed wire fence. Ian has noticed these little bats like to feed on fruits growing low to the ground or fruits that have fallen. The 'snorkel' nostrils are quite large vessels and when the animal is relaxed or flying the nostrils would collect large volumes of air and hence they have a very acute sense of smell.

Ian observed when the bats were feeding, the teeth of the bottom jaw pushed into the soft fruit, the top lip rolled up to prevent the puree from falling out and he thought perhaps that is when the snorkel nostril has another purpose in allowing the bat to breath.

Thank you Ian for saving this little creature and sharing your beautiful photos.

That's all for this week,