Saturday, 11 October 2014

Hello from dry and dusty Coquette Point,

Two months without rain and the backyard lawns of the Wet Tropics are brown and crinkly. The epiphytes in the rainforest canopy, like the basket fern, Drynaria rigidly, have dried back to their 'nest' leaves and they wait for the first rains of the storm season, 'Jigurru', then the new green fronds will appear in a burst of life.

The cassowaries are looking for water and Snout and Ky have been drinking from the nursery ponds every day this week.
Cassowary Ky has a bath

When they arrive they scoop the clean water up in their beaks and throwing their heads back drink deeply. When their thirst is quenched they spend up to fifteen minutes washing and grooming their feathers. No spot is left untended as the cassowaries go into contortions to reach every feather on their bodies.
Cassowary Ky cries

On Wednesday I heard Ky uttering distressed calls from the rainforest. I went to investigate and found him sitting alone on the rainforest floor calling for his Dad.

I detoured around Ky and walked down the track a little way then I saw Snout in the distance watching. I thought you clever Dad, you are giving Ky a taste of independence while at the same time keeping an eye on him, but Ky didn't want to be alone.

Snout must have made a noise as suddenly Ky jumped to his feet and ran to Snout and they walked off together into the rainforest without a sound.

The next day Thursday they were walking together and Ky seemed to be keeping very close to Snout.

Today Jessie turned up and she hung about all day watching. When Snout and Ky came in to drink they didn't stay to bathe but as soon as they quenched their thirst they walked off quickly into the mangroves. It appears Jessie is again inviting Snout to commence courtship.
Cassowary Jessie watches

There is a great deal of activity from the metallic starling camp as they have started to rebuild their nests. Great flocks of metallic starlings are flying in missions to collect building materials. They return in ones and twos to their nests with pieces of dried plant material streaming from their beaks.

It is fascinating to watch them harvest the pieces of plant material.

The metallic starlings pull and shake the dried vines using their whole body weight to part the twine.

This week I had the first sighting, for the 2014 season, of the green spotted triangle butterfly. A female was laying eggs on an exotic sour-sop fruit tree. The native host is the vine Melodorum uhrii, which is in the same family of plants as the soursop, Annonaceae. It is astonishing that the green spotted triangle butterfly could recognise through smell the exotic sour sop tree as a suitable host plant for her caterpillars.

There has been a big hatching of lurcher butterflies around the mangroves. When they fly out of the shadows and into a shaft of light their true beauty can be admired.

Lots and lots of Cairns bird wings around, both male and female.

I was sitting on my favourite seat near the sediment pond when I saw a small bird hunting in the cottonwoods trees, hibiscus tiliaceus, it looked like a female leaden flycatcher, but I had not seen nor heard any for over a month as I believed they have all left for their southern breeding migration. I noticed its call was not harsh like a leaden flycatcher and as I watched the little bird hunting I felt it might be a female satin flycatcher. Satin flycatchers migrate from as far away as Papua New Guinea to southern Australia for breeding, normally they are all gone by October. The female satin flycatcher has a darker cap than the Leaden however, as I was looking up in the shade of the cottonwoods I was unable to get a top head shot. I looked for her again over the next few days but she was gone. When you examine the migration journeys of these little birds, you are left with wonderment of the natural systems and the forces that drive them.

The shining flycatcher is a resident of north Queensland and its harsh croaking call and replying whistling call are commonly heard in coastal riparian areas and mangroves.

This week I watched a new male shining flycatcher try to win the heart of the resident female. He flew into the tree and looking very cranky tried to out sing the other male while  jumping from limb to limb with pirouettes and tail twitching.

The female shining flycatcher watched the males intently and also engaged in tail twitching and shivering as she sat on a nearby tree limb whistling loudly showing her red mouth gape and raising her semi-crest. She was flirting with the males and enjoying their attention.

Eventually one of the males retreated and the winner dropped to the mangrove floor to feed followed by the female; another magic moment in the mangroves of Coquette Point.

Every day this week there has been  confrontation between the pheasant coucals and a female common koel. The pheasant coucal's call resound over the Johnstone River estuary with a deep oop-opp-opp, increasing in pitch and speed. Although this bird is a cuckoo it does not parasitise the nest of other birds, whereas the common koel, which is also a cuckoo, does. It appears at the moment the female common koel has her eyes on pheasant coucal's nest. As both the male and female pheasant coucal share the nest duties their nest is not left unattended and common koel is having a battle to deposit her eggs in their nest. By the sound of the ongoing calls and chasing she is not having much luck.

I watched the male pheasant coucal chase the female koel into the canopy of a large milky pine, Alstonia scholars where she hid in its thick canopy.  Phesant coucal triumphantly looked at her from the branch of a nearby dead tree.

The candlenut tree Aleurites rockinghamensis is in full fruit and a solitary pied imperial pigeon is visiting it twice a day to feast on the ripening nuts.

Of a morning she calls mournfully for a mate but this year she is the only PIP staying at the Point. Every year since cyclone Larry I have noticed the numbers of PIPs in the Johnstone declining. Perhaps they are staying elsewhere, it will be interesting to see the trend in their population when the count is done early next year.

The sulphur crested cockatoos are also enjoying the candlenut tree's fruits, but they generally visit the tree in the late morning.

With the long dry spell the agile wallabies have been drawn to the orchard where there is some green picking around the fruit trees. I have not seen any joeys in their pouches. However the males look primed to mate.

The northern brown bandicoot has been staying up late and I found this one hurrying for home at 8.30am in the morning, well past its bedtime. Perhaps the dry weather is also affecting the availability of bandicoot's tucker.

Lots of flowering in the rainforest with the October glory vine, Faradaya splendida, looking splendid indeed.

The yellow-green tentacles of the butterfly plant, Macaranga tanarius, are attracting lots of insects while seed from last year's flowers are still on the tree much to the delight of the metallic starlings.

Layers of tiny white flowers cover the branches of the pink ash tree, Alphitonia petriei, as the tree's large dull leaves droop from thirst and a heavy coating of dust.

The long dry weather favours bottle brush trees, Callistemon sp. Their flowers are full of nectar and I watched rainbow lorikeets and yellow spotted honey eater having a feast. The joy was too much for yellow spotted honey eater and he burst into a song of thanks for the gift of the sweet nectar.

Find joy in the day wherever you are,


1 comment:

  1. Dear Yvonne,
    I am a PhD student at Royal Botanic Gardens Kew and am now preparing a scientific paper on Myrtales to be published. In order to exemplify one argument of my paper, I would like to ask you permission to use a picture of the honey-eater visiting Callistemon flowers.The publication has scientific purpose only and I will acknowledge you properly. If that's ok, could you please reply either here o sending me an email at
    Best regards,