Saturday 14 March 2015

 Hello from Coquette Point,

Since Tuesday night gale force winds and heavy rain have lashed the north Queensland Coastline under the influence of a strong ridge rushing into the low off Cape York Peninsular which became TC Nathan. Nathan is now moving East, very slowly, into the Coral Sea and is expected to strengthen. Unfortunately, we have not seen the last of Nathan as this cyclone is expected to move west, next week back to the north Queensland coastline and this time as a severe tropical cyclone.

Also this week, TC Olwyn, off Western Australia wrought a destructive path as it straddled the coast moving south as a category 3 then 2 system for over a thousand kilometres bringing flooding rains and storm winds to the West.
That however, wasn't the worst of this week's surge in the monsoon, further out in the South Pacific, category 5, Super Cyclone Pam wove a destructive path through the Vanuatu Islands bringing devastation to this small Island Nation. TC Pam is now expected to brush the North Island of New Zealand as a category 1 system before it dies out in the cool, southern Ocean. 

Above, on Thursday three tropical cyclones turned clockwise on the thirteenth parallel south, while at the same time another circulation, just above the equator in the North Pacific was turning anti clockwise. An extraordinary example of  the Coriolis effect and Rossby waves propagating a circulation to the north above the equator. 

Before the influence of cyclone Nathan was felt, the weather was very hot, still and humid. Sub adult cassowary Ky, in the extreme heat of the day always stays close to water; one cool cassowary.

I saw Cassowary Snout on Thursday he was hungrily searching for and eating any fruits that had fallen in the  strong winds. I have not seen Jessie for ten days and either Snout is not sitting on eggs or he popped off for a quick feed, it is normal for the matriarch to leave the male alone at this time.

As Snout looked
 up into the guava tree he half pulled over his 'third eyelid', the nictitating membrane, to protect his eyes from debris falling in the strong wind.
When a particularly strong gust of wind blew,  Snout did a little dance and fluffed up his feathers. Cassowaries are very nervous in strong winds.

On my way home from town on Thursday I was astonished to see a cassowary chick standing in the middle of the road. The dad, Brown Cone had already crossed with his other chick and was heading into the swamp. I hopped out of the car and saw Brown Cone go back to the chick, but it would not follow him and the chick started to walk up the middle of the road. I tried to chase it off the road and it stopped and gave me the 'Julie' eye look. Brown Cone appeared agitated so I backed off and the chick, with a mind of its own continued to stride down the middle of the road.

Brown Cone then walked beside the road with the other chick while the 'Imp' continued to walk down the middle of the road. Eventually Brown Cone went into the swamp and stopped and this time he gave the chick the 'look'. 
It worked and the chick crossed to the road verge where he stopped. I could sense Brown Cone was giving the chick a dressing down but the impish chick would not move into the swamp.

The obedient chick, which I have called 'lily-white', looked up at Dad as if it was pleading for him not to be angry with his sibling. In the end Brown Cone turned and with lily beside him walked into the swamp. In was a good minute before Imp followed his Dad and Lily into the swamp, only when he realised he was absolutely alone  did he start whistling, before running in a panic into the swamp. Perhaps Little Imp had recently experience something bad in the swamp and the thought of entering it again was terrifying.

Fortunately there were no other cars on the road at the time and when a car did pass the driver slowed down. Most of the residents of Coquette Point drive responsibly.

At Mission Beach this week, there has been three cassowary deaths due to vehicle strikes and on the Atherton Tablelands a young cassowary was killed by two dogs.

I briefly saw a new subadult cassowary this week and it fits the description of a chick from Rifle Range Road, which is part of the Ninds Creek Wetlands. The widely separated wattles are distinct so it is easily recognisable. If anyone knows this young cassowaries' history please leave a comment at the end of the blog. Unfortunately I did not see this cassowary out in the open so I cannot guess what sex it is.

At low-tide, late on Tuesday afternoon I walked around to the front beach to see what birds were about before the weather completely deteriorated. The wind was blowing sand drifts and the first of the rain squalls was approaching the coast. I was delighted to see at least four grey-tailed tattlers, I had not seen these birds for over a month at Coquette Point. They were very nervous in the wind and I could not get close to them.
All the sand plovers were still on the beach, many were tucked down in the debris line above the dunes. I could just see them in the fading light.

A flock of whimbrels flew from the front beach where they normally nest at night back into the Johnstone River estuary.

There was no sign of the pelicans or any terns they had already shifted to safer nesting sites.

I walked back and the first of the rain squalls caught me, I saw a sacred kingfisher, the first return for the season, watching the approaching     rain.

With the rain now falling heavily I found one whimbrel hunting in the mangroves and the fiddler crabs, enjoying the rain, were scurrying everywhere feeding hungrily before the river's flood covered their food stores.

Sometimes you have to make compromises when living with wildlife as your neighbours.
When I caught sulphur crested cockatoo stripping all the lemons and limes on my tree this week, just so he could eat the seed, I was very unhappy with him and we had words. Thankfully, he has now found some nice wattle seed to feast on and he is leaving the citrus alone while there is plenty of other food available.

The wonderful breadfruit trees are bearing and football size ripe fruits are falling from the very top of the trees, far too high for me to pick. Today 'super son' Martin and friends Justin and Jan picked boxes of the fruit for me. If you peel the mature green fruit then wrap and seal in plastic, the breadfruit will freeze for later use without any loss of quality.

  All the noise from the fruit picking caught cassowary Ky's attention and he watched what was happening with interest. Cassowaries will eat the very ripe, soft breadfruit when it falls.

The two drongo juveniles are still about and although spangled markings are starting to show on their feathers their eye colour is still black.

With all the wind and wet weather about I was surprised to see the peaceful doves engaged in selecting nest building materials. Unfortunately with the low light I could not see where she was building. Peaceful doves will nest several times a year.

My bird of the week is the male leaden flycatcher. Four Leaden flycatchers returned early this week and happily advertised the fact with much singing, dancing and tail quivering in the melaleuca trees.

The performance went on all day Monday and Tuesday and I believe it was only the rain and strong winds on Wednesday that brought an end to their frolicking. I have not seen them since.

The fruits of the blush satinash,  Syzygium hemilampra are ripe and starting to fall. Another fruit favoured by cassowaries.

Above: The Melealeuca leucadendra, weeping paperbark trees are in flower, and the spectacled flying foxes are visiting the trees during the night to feast on the nectar.

Above: The snowy white flowers of the Quandong, elaeocarpus eumundi, have been drenched by rain but not before the early blossoms were pollinated and have already set fruit.                                                                    Right: In the Wet Tropics rainforest the strange fruits of the match-box bean, Entada rheedii,  are starting to ripen and turn brown.

I found this large, 12 mm female white crab spider drawing out silk near her retreat in the middle of the day. The overcast conditions obviously had this night hunter confused.

Right: White crab spider's six eyes.

I had a visit today from Grant and Claudia, two young readers of my blog. They wanted to taste some wait-a-while fruit that I had mentioned in the blog some weeks ago. Unfortunately the fruits were starting to dry and they were not the best eating, however Grant and Claudia had a go. They were also lucky to meet cassowary Ky and the white crab spider and went home with a breadfruit and instructions on how to cook the fruit. Love to hear how you enjoyed the breadfruit guys.

It has been a tumultuous week for horticulture on the Cassowary Coast. A banana disease Panama race 4 has been detected in the soil at a Tully farm. This disease is carried in water and while the blame game is on with everything from birds to pigs being targets, the job of stopping farm run-off is being neglected. Again this week the Johnstone River turned brown with the irreplaceable top-soils of the Johnstone River Valley once again carried out to the World Heritage Great Barrier Reef. If farm run-off is not stopped there will be no stopping Panama race 4.

The brown water of the Johnstone River.

Take care.



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