Saturday 29 November 2014

Northern Australia is turning Green,

After three months with little rainfall the drought has broken and good rains have been recorded across most of northern Australia. Here at Coquette Point we are notching rainfall of 100 mm for the week.

The first sign of a change in the weather came on Monday afternoon when cumulus clouds started to build on the horizon, a rainbow formed off Flying Fish Point, the first for the season, and it was quickly replaced by a double rainbow spread in a glorious coloured arch across the mouth of the Johnstone River. It was a rainbow bridge linking Flying Fish Point to Coquette Point. I was walking on the beach at the time but only had the 600 mm lens and the double rainbow was so close I could not photograph it, I needed the wide angle lens, isn't it always the way.

The first rain squall of the season moved up the Johnstone River
On Tuesday afternoon rain squalls quelled the smoke and dust and almost immediately green shoots appeared in the lawn with fresh pickings at last for the starving wallabies.

 Looking out to sea I saw a dolphin, snub nosed I think, surface then dive followed by a spout of mist expelled through the dolphin's blowhole. Suddenly there was an explosion of fish as the dolphin chased a school of large sea mullet across the mouth of the river.

 For weeks now the surface of the Johnstone River has been alive with the movement of fish jumping or visibly stirring in the clear waters below. The lack of sediment-laden-runoff has invited a massive influx of fish into the river and by the looks of the fingerlings alongside the river banks the fish have had a very successful breeding season. The cost of agricultural runoff to the marine environment can be easily measured when the runoff stops. It has only been three months and the fish populations have bounced back. Nature is resilient but for how long?
Unfortunately I did not capture the dolphin which was chasing these fish.

While we are enjoying the rain the extreme drought continues in the West and always a measure of inland drought is the presence of large numbers of pelicans on the coast. The photo above is part of a pod of over 50 pelicans at the mouth of Liverpool Creek. Below,  more of the pod with two little terns in the foreground on the sand bar.  In the distance are the North Barnard Islands National Park.

It all looked so perfect, a natural haven, on the shores of the World Heritage Great Barrier Reef adjoining the Kurrimine Beach National Park, part of the World Heritage Wet Tropics. The World Heritage Listing for this area states."The beach area around the mouth of Liverpool Creek is a known nesting site for endangered little terns Stemula albifrons which are highly susceptible to predation from feral pigs and disturbance by vehicle."

The only sign to inform anyone venturing into this area is propped up against the mangroves and almost hidden from view. It looks as if National Park, EHP or Wet Tropics authorities don't care. No signs at all to warn anyone that this area, between November and March is a breeding rookery for the endangered little tern. No sign what so ever to say that this important area of high biodiversity is part of the World Heritage Wet Tropics.

If nobody knows, is it any wonder that people are driving Quad bikes all over the little tern rookery, smashing the eggs and squashing the chicks?

So what can be done? It is only one or two people who are causing the problem and possibly they do not know what they are doing. The guilty parties are without doubt the people we entrust with the duty to protect the natural integrity of these significant areas. Vehicles should be prohibited from this area and the area should only be accessible for low key nature based experiences.

Please join me and write asking for action to protect foreshore breeding sites for migratory and resident shorebirds, write to:-
 CEO, Cassowary Coast Regional Council.
Minister for National Parks, The Hon Steven Dickson MP. email
Minister for protection of flora and fauna, The Hon Andrew Powell MP. email  
Threatened Species Commissioner, Mr Gregory Andrews, Department of the Environment,
 GPO box 787, Canberra ACT 2601.
Federal Minister for the Environment, The Hon Greg Hunt MP

At Coquette Point two new common greenshanks have arrived. I found one bird fishing in a pool near the rocks and the other out on the front beach fishing with grey tailed tattler.

Only a few Pacific golden plovers remain feeding at Coquette Point and most of the flock of red-necked stints has moved on however there seems to be increased numbers of lesser and greater sand plovers. The populations of waders at Coquette Point is dynamic.


White-bellied sea eagle has two newly fledged young. I found her watching them as they flew on the updrafts along the Moresby Range on the ocean front.

On my way back from the walk I found two grey-tailed tattlers and a common sandpiper standing on a log in the estuary. It was very strange to see common sandpiper so still and away from his feeding grounds, normally he is bobbing his bottom as he feeds on the sand flats, perhaps something had chased the three and they moved to the log-raft for safety.

In the mangroves nearby striated bitten was feeding and he was only interested in finding dinner, nothing was interrupting his concentration.

I saw another two year old cassowary subadult this week and believe it is Hagar's chick from 2012. The left wattle has a chunk out of it and so this bird will be easy to identify in future. His neck and face colours are already strong but he is very small for his age and was enjoying the Panama berries on the tree outside Drahm's house. He was rather timid and it appears he has been deep inside the Moresby Range National Park for the last twelve months. No doubt the lack of rain has brought him out. It is good to see that the two chicks from 2012 are doing well and moving widely within their   territory.

When the first rain squall finished I went for a walk to photograph the wet leaves in the rainforest and I found Jessie, totally drenched sitting in the middle of the walking track and looking very happy with the rain.

There's not a lot of fruit on the forest floor at the moment and I watched Ky watching Snout as he ate palm seed. As soon as Snout finished Ky moved in and ate the rest of the seed.

Cassowary Queenie continues to cross Ninds Creek using the footbridge. Almost daily I receive reports of her walking to and fro across the bridge. Everyone is astounded when they see her turn to cross on the footbridge as if she knows instinctively that it is the safest way to cross.

Nellie and Henry Epong took these photos of Queenie this week, thank you Nellie and Henry for sharing them with us.
Taggs reports that Rainbow is still with Hagar and he sees them regularly, Taggs has promised some photos of them. Thanks Taggs will keep you to the promise.

Diana O reports, "Saw the two new young chicks again this week, the Dad is very good at herding them across the road. Communication between drivers is good too with drivers warning if they are on the road. "Thank you Diana it's four C's for the Coquette Point Community Caring for Cassowaries.

The rain instantly changed the soundscape of the rainforest area. White-lipped tree frog is back to his old tricks and in every downpipe an army of frogs has again formed the 'frog organ' and is playing relentlessly at top volume.

Litoria jungguy, northern Stony Creek Frog, has also become active and his softly murmured trill is a constant underlining sound around the ponds.

Below this may or may not be the same freckled individual I came across a few weeks ago.

The jumping spiders are also on the hop and I found one of the largest male green jumping spiders, Mopsus mormon, I have ever seen this week. He was hunting on a small shrub but I could not see his victim.

I photographed him as he moved across the plant, then I looked into his eyes. This male is the largest jumping spider found in Australia. Most jumping spiders are not aggressive when handled however, green jumping spider can give a painful bite, note the fang poised for action in the photo below.

The jumping spider on the left Euryattus wallace is putting on a defence display on my thumb.

Thank you Robert for identifying her she's a dark beauty. Robert told me the male performs complicated signalling displays.

Not to be outdone the very colourful Cosmophasis micarioides was out and about all over the place enjoying the multitudes of insects hatching in the hot humid air.
Stick insects have hatched in large numbers but kookaburra and butcher bird are keeping them under control.

               On a guava tree in the nursery Gloria found an unusual caterpillar it is 11 cm long and growing. In the sun its spines are iridescent blue. I sent a photo to Jack at the Insect Farm and he could not make an ID. So my spiny beast is encased in a mosquito net and I must wait to see what type of moth eventually hatches out.

When you look into his eyes he looks like an unhappy spiny pomeranian dog.

If you look the world is full of amazing creatures.

The happiest sound of all this week has come from the yellow oriole. From high in the canopy his bubbly mating call carries across the forests and not even butcher bird's melody can compete with yellow oriole's repertoire during the mating season.

A couple of date claimers this week. Mandubarra Turtle Rehibilation Centre will be releasing two  turtle at Kurrimine Beach next Saturday 6 December.  Meet at Lyons Park 10am.

Friends of Ninney Rise will be holding a 'Garden Ramble' at Ninney Rise  tomorrow Sunday 30 November starting at 3pm.

Cheers for this week,


Saturday 22 November 2014

Hello from Coquette Point,

It has been three months since any meaningful rain has fallen on the Cassowary Coast, the rainforest is dry and the creeks low with level 3 water restrictions now in force for all the southern water supply areas, while Innisfail which takes its water supply from the Johnstone has level 1 restrictions applied. However, my spring is still delivering good water and best of all with no runoff the Johnstone River is flowing clean and clear to the Great Barrier Reef.

On the banks of the river the footprints of the evening visitors tell the story of their night time excursions, and from the sky the early morning is filled with the excited calls of terns searching for a fishy breakfast.

Fish boils and swirls break the surface of the river as does a land breeze bringing a welcome coolness to the early morning.

Many years ago a young freelance journalist
Greg Borschmann, when he stayed here while writing stories on the campaign for World Heritage Listing of the Wet Tropics, would go down to the beach and meditate for half an hour before leaving to head into the heat of the campaign. They were muddy waters then and it is thanks to the talent of writers like Greg that people all over the world were made aware of the beauty of the Wet Tropics Rainforests and the World Heritage Great Barrier Reef.

Today Greg is part of a team of paddlers trying to paddle the entire 405 km of the Murray River. This Murray River Marathon is raising money for the YMCA programs for rural youth. Please join me in helping Greg raise money for Rural Youth and click on the link below.

Well at last I am able to identify the second cassowary dad with chicks, it is Hero. Unfortunately Hero again lost one of his chicks this year, the surviving chick is so cute and already has defined wattles.

Cassowary Hero was passing through Bill Farnsworth's yard and he took the opportunity to capture these photos for us.

Apparently Hero has been walking from the rainforest on the coastal side of the range and going down the hill on the western side. To do this he must cross the road and that is when there is always a danger for cassowaries, particularly chicks.

Cassowary Hero, photo right, is easy to identify because of his striated wattles.

Thank you Bill for these photos and I hope we see lots more photos as this new chick grows.

Nellie Epong caught a glimpse of Cassowary Clara this week. Clara's very long flat wattles and her casque with a slight right turn make this large female easy to ID. Thank you Nellie for the photo it has been a year since I last saw Clara, this female spends most of her time deep within the Moresby Range National Park and we only see her when she is looking around for a mate.

Nellie also got a distance shot of Queenie near the National Park sign. She has been seen reguraly crossing Ninds Creek, using the footbridge. Margaret D watched her walking across the footbridge this week and marvelled at Queenie's good sense, thank you for the information Margaret.

Great photos Nellie thank you for sharing, it is interesting to see the territory Queenie has mapped out for herself although we all miss her back at the Point where she grew up.

I saw cassowary Peggy at the top of the Range this week, she was by herself no sign of Starlight and she looked a little gaunt.

Time will tell if she has completed her courtship with Starlight and he is now sitting on eggs.

Peggy's broken casque make her easy to identify.
Cracked on the right side and rippled on the left.

Peggy walked on the footpath beside the houses at the top of the ridge then crossed the road and went down the Range to the River.

I took some good ID photos of young Cassowary Hope this week. I found him standing in the gutter on the bend leading to the Nind's Creek Bridge. For a young male he is large and looks well conditioned.

He crossed the road into the Moresby Range National Park.

Left and right photos Cassowary

Thank you JS for suggesting this lovely name for this young bird Hope.

Cassowary Snout and Ky visit the fountain on my front lawn almost every day to drink water and I also often see them when I go for a walk in the rainforest.

Cassowary Jessie is still hanging around stalking Snout, its just a matter of time before he accepts her attention. Jessie's neck colours seem to be particularly strong at the moment.

                                                      The cattle egrets are in full mating plumage and they have no difficulty in identifying their mate.


Cattle Egrets play an important role in agriculture by consuming many pest species of insects that are a problem in a wide range of horticultural crops.

Butcher birds are also performing mating displays as their long melodious songs carry across the river and mangroves every morning.

The male common koel has been very vocal this week he has eaten, to almost all of the last fruits of the plentiful fig,  ficus copiosa. I watched common koel as he sang a low gentle song, similar to the mating song of the metallic starlings, soft and melodious. I thought perhaps it was a distraction while his mate was trying to place eggs in another bird's nest. This was the first time I had heard common koels make a low sweet consoling song.

Male common
koel, left.  


The frenzied gathering of nest material by the metallic starlings is coming to an end as they put the last touches to their nest repairs and new buildings in the White Apple tree, syzygium forte.
 I watched one metallic starling pulling with all his might at a dried piece of vine when it snapped and he went tumbling backwards. Within seconds he regained his foothold and continued his search for nest building material.

The fruits of the white apple tree are maturing at the entrance to this metallic starling nest. below.

On Thursday this week my attention was drawn to an unusual bird call coming from high in the melaleuca trees. I looked up and saw three male cicadabirds putting on a display calling and chuckling at each other. At no time did I hear them give a cicada like call, they were not hunting but interacting with each other. After a few minutes they flew off towards the Coquette Point Wetlands. I have not recently seen any females but with three males present they must be somewhere close by.

I did a trip down to the North Barnards this afternoon and did a PIP count on the way.

In the Moresby Range National Park, Coquette Point section I saw a small flock of 10 birds feeding in the canopy. Before Etty Bay we saw three flocks of about 10 birds in each. Towards Mourilyan we saw two flocks of five birds. Approaching Robinson's Beach there was a sudden rising from the rainforest canopy of at least 100 birds before they settled back to feeding. As we approached the North Barnards three birds came to land. At sunset 11 small flocks of about five birds each and one large flock of 50 PIPs flew past the North Barnards and went towards the  South Barnards. Some stragglers flying alone and in pairs came in well after sunset about another 10 birds also flying to the South Barnards. This is the lowest count of PIPs I have seen along this part of the coast for this time of the year and that includes the years directly following Cyclones Larry and Yasi.

Some of around 100 PIP feeding in the rainforest canopy.

At Coquette Point the most PIPs I have seen this year is a small flock of five birds. They feed on the trees with ripe fruit until all the
fruit is eaten.

On the North Barnards only single PIPs were sighted roosting on the trees. It appeared the 'PIP-party' was on the Southern Islands.
Eight PIPs flying south out from Cowley Beach 

Cyclone damage is still very evident along the coast-line and on the islands. Many trees are dead and climber-towers of vines dominate the canopy, smothering the new growth.
23 PIPs flying past North Barnards to the South Barnards 1732 hrs.
Join me in sending  congratulations to Henry and Nellie Epong who are celebrating their 52 wedding anniversary tomorrow 23rd November.  Well done you two, you set a high standard for all of us to follow.

Cheers for this week,