Saturday 28 March 2015

Hello from Coquette Point,

Another hot and dry week of the 'wet season' with only a couple of millimetres of rain falling.  This month, so far, we have received only 255 mm and to put this in perspective our wettest March, since records were taken, was in 1945 with 1,650.5 mm of rain recorded. Our driest was in 1915 when only 87.4 mm of rain fell over the Wet Tropics. So we are up on the driest but way down on the wettest. Not to worry, BOM's latest rainfall outlook is for above average rain for the rest of Autumn.

Although the days are still very hot, 34.2 degrees on Thursday, the nights are becoming cooler. The mornings especially are wonderful, but the cool only last until 7 am. I hope you have been an early riser to enjoy the wonderful brisk mornings.

On the Atherton Tablelands the nights are already brisk and the emerald doves have started to move down to the coast for their winter holidays. A young female Emerald Dove was the first to arrive this week and she headed straight for the blush macaranga tree, Macaranga tanarius.  She was so hungry she allowed me to approach her without concern while she picked up the fallen macaranga seeds with incredible speed.

The on again, off again, courtship between cassowary Jessie and Snout appears to have run its course.

I saw Jessie and Snout together on Monday and since then I have only seen them separately.

While they were together it was fascinating to watch the interplay between the two cassowaries. Snout was eating the fruits of the Devil's Fig, Solanum torvum a noxious weed species, that is favoured by cassowaries and pigeons. Jessie allowed Snout to eat all the ripe fruits and made no attempt to harvest any for herself, almost the opposite to her behaviour in past weeks when I saw her taking the lion's share of any available food.

Early Tuesday morning I went for a walk down my rainforest track and came across matriarch cassowary Jessie sitting in the middle of the path. There was no sign of Snout and not knowing if she was laying eggs or just resting I backed off. As I turned to go she turned her head to look at me but she did not get up. I went back to the site several hours later, no sign of Jessie and no eggs laid.

The next day I walked further into the rainforest and came across Jessie once again.

Jessie was feeding on some fallen fig fruits but when she saw me she took off quickly away from the track and into dense undergrowth.
I have not seen Jessie again this week. Today Ruth rang to say that Jessie was at the top of the Moresby Range and was heckling Hero and his chick. Hero ran off and Jessie walked down into the Coquette Point Wetlands. It appears Jessie has severed her ties with Snout and is looking for another mate.

 On Thursday morning I saw Snout picking fruit off the  exotic sour plum tree Ximenia caffra. He jumped high into the air to knock the ripest fruit to the ground. I have not seen him since and I hope he is sitting on Jessie's eggs somewhere in the rainforest .

On my way home from town late Thursday afternoon I saw cassowary Hero and his chick run across the road in front of me, they headed for what I soon identified as a dead bird on the road. Cassowaries will eat meat and often scavenge carrion, when it is a road kill left on the road it is problematic for these birds.
Hero checked out the bird to make sure it was dead then with every encouragement urged his chick to eat the meat.

 The chick picked up the dead bird but could not swallow it.

Cassowary Hero pummelled the dead bird with his beak to soften it.

The chick picked up the mashed up carcass and swallowed it with great difficulty.

The chick had a feather sticking out of his beak which he could not swallow.

When Hero checked out the site where the bird had died the chick uttered a whistle and I am sure I heard him say, " Honest Dad I ate it all up".

Hero made no attempt to share the feast and was forceful in encouraging his chick to eat.

The barred cuckoo shrikes, have returned to the FNQ coast this week. Their wonderful calls have been echoing across the rainforest canopy as they hungrily feast on the ripe fruits of the Rusty Fig Ficus destruens.

Another walk along the beach this week and another dog running loose with an owner seemingly ignoring the 'no dog' sign which he walked past when he entered the walking track and again ignoring the sign on the rookery. The dog ran up onto the rookery and the owner did not bother to look where his dog was nor what his dog was doing.   When the man sat down I approached him and the dog ran at me with a low growl. I asked him to put the dog on a leash and I told him I had seen him looking at the 'no dog' signs and I thought he was irresponsible to ignore them. I asked him to take his dog and put him back in his car. The man argued that he was a conservationist and he had not read the dog signs, but he did see the crocodile sign. The man put his dog on a leash and went back to his car.

I continued along the beach another 50 metres and two beach-stone curlews ran out in front of me from behind the high dune and seemingly in great distress.

They were looking into the mangroves and I heard what sounded like a clucking noise. Standing on a branch I saw a white bird, tall and magnificent in all her menacing poise.

Meanwhile, the beach stone curlews huddled together with their eyes on the white intruder.

A grey goshawk was watching the birds on the beach. I moved back under cover of the mangroves to creep closer to take a better photo, when I looked out again she turned her back and flew into the seemingly impenetrable mangrove forest. This is my first photo of this spectacular raptor and I have not seen this bird at Coquette Point before nor are they on Billie Gill's bird observations for CP.

The grey goshawk is not migratory so perhaps this young female is looking for a new territory. She will have some competition with the high numbers of other raptors in the estuary. She is my bird of the week.

Eventually,  the beach stone curlews relaxed and started to feed, although, the other birds on the beach remained alert.
Grey-tailed tattler

Greater sand-plover left and whimbrel rignt.

Further along on the beach more grey-tailed tattlers. ignorant of the threat were busy chasing a feed.

While the grey-tailed tattler above waited for a passing fish, another bird was intent on catching a crab.

 He plucked a crab from the water and shook it then pummelled it into the sand.


Not satisfied he shook the crab again and again.

Grey-tailed tattler swallowed the crab whole with his eyes closed and his head shaking vigorously from side to side. A case of his eyes being too big for his belly.

Red-capped plovers were all along the beach hungrily picking up small molluscs on the incoming tide.

Two common sandpipers were also hunting for small molluscs on the mud flats.
Sacred Kingfisher had no problems eating the large solider crabs and had plenty of time to sit back and observe what was going on around him from his tree-top lookout.

Cassowary footprints where all along the beach and up around the sea lettuce shrubs, Scaevola taccada.  The ripe fruits of the sea-lettuce were on the sand around the cassowary footprints. The fruits of the sea-lettuce is a favourite of cassowaries and all through this plants long fruiting season the cassowaries will harvest the fruit on a daily basis. While the cassowaries are on the beach they will also hunt solider crabs.

As I returned along the beach I saw a large bulk carrier, seemingly much closer into shore than the normal passage taken south by these ships.

I remembered the concerns expressed recently by Anthony Albanese, the shadow minister for transport when China Steel was lobbying to traverse the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park without a pilot. Albanese said, "Any change to the laws would allow more flag-of-convenience ships to work Australian coastal shipping routes, with greater risks to both the local environment and worker's safety."

Mick Doleman the secretary of the Maritime Union of Australia has also expressed his concerns and commented that, "The Abbott Government is in a deregulation race to the bottom that would pose grave risks for the environment from foreign-flagged ships."

Oblivious of the passage of the large bulk carrier the whimbrels flew in to bed down for the night at Coquette Point. They had spent the day feeding upstream on the banks of the Johnstone River. About 100 whimbrels flew onto the sandbank as the sun was setting. This is a daily journey for these birds but soon they will heed the call to commence their migratory journey using the East Asian-Australasian flyway to their Northern Hemisphere summer breeding grounds in Siberia.

                             Again, I dallied too long on the beach and the sun had already set as I walked back through the mangroves but it was worth it to see the whimbrels arrive and to take this photo of the setting sun's rays reflected in the cumulonimbus cloud over Mt Bartle Frere.

The Pied Imperial Pigeons are one migratory species which appear to have left on their migratory journey. Early on Monday morning I saw a flock of 30 pied imperial pigeons emerge from the canopy of the melaleuca trees. Before I could focus my camera they were gone heading north. Late on Thursday I saw eight pied imperial pigeons resting on the branches of a dead tree in the rainforest.
One bird appeared to be dominating the group and one, I think a female bird, gave him the 'Julie' look then turned her back to him. 

After a bit of back-chat the large bird made the Captain's call and suddenly the eight birds lifted to the sky along with another, a least one hundred PIPs, which were concealed in the canopy of the trees behind, all lifted to the sky in unison and were gone heading north. Unfortunately, I had just put my camera down in order to lock the car when they flew off, perhaps it was the click-sound of the car locking or maybe it was the Captain's call but they were gone heading north and I haven't seen a PIP again this week.

Tonight at 8.30pm we once again celebrate Earth Hour. People from around the world will turn their lights off for one hour. The focus for this year's Earth Hour is supporting farmers and food production which are being affected by increased carbon pollution.

Earth Hour is an Australian born grassroots movement which launched in Sydney in 2007 and turned global in 2008. "We need to take care of this home, it's the only one we have, this pale blue dot".

Cheers for this week,



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