Saturday 30 May 2015

Hello from blooming Coquette Point,

The brown salwood wattle, Acacia aulacocarpa is in bloom along the ridges and roadsides of the Wet Tropics. The nectar laden flowers have attracted thousands of insects and birds particularly the rainbow bee-eaters and they are having a feast.

In the wetlands the paperbarks, melaleuca leucadendron are also in flower and a constant buzz can be heard as insects feed on the nectar dripping from the blossoms, much to a female leaden flycatcher's delight. The birds are double dipping on nectar and insects.

Another winter tree-changer has arrived, the rufous fantail, and it is exuberantly feeding throughout the  canopies of the trees; now you see him now you don't.

The abundance of insects attracted to the blossoms creates an opportunity for all the birds to gorge.


The rufous fantail is a show-off as he fans his tail at every opportunity, using it no doubt to flush out insects from the bark and leaves of the trees. Rufous fan-tail is most active in the early morning and late afternoon if you listen carefully you will hear his sharp, short pip-calls coming from the tree canopy.

I could not believe my eyes this week when I saw a strange bird swimming quickly down the river close to the shore, it was a great crested grebe.

There are no records of this bird being seen in the Johnstone River Estuary and the only records I could find for this region were two sightings by Billie Gill at Kaban,  west of Millaa Millaa.  Billie Gill saw great crested grebes on a lagoon at Kaban, 17 November 1964 and 1 August 1966. Subsequently other sightings of small flocks of great crested grebes have been made at Lake Barrine and Tinaroo Dam but none on the Johnstone River.

I saw the great crested grebe at 8am on Sunday 24 May and in spite of searching have not seen it since. I would love to hear from anyone who saw it at the same time or has seen a vagrant great crested grebe anywhere on the Johnstone River.

Great crested grebe swam quickly along the mangrove edge and from time to time dove down to feed. He disappeared into the
mangroves and as it was high tide I could not follow, I have not seen him again.

A new pelican arrived at Coquette Point, he appears to be a young bird and is certainly people friendly. He walked straight up to me and when I turned to go back to the house he followed me but stopped at the edge of the beach and looked very unhappy that I was not going fishing with him.

I have not seen the other pelicans, which are normally around the Johnstone River estuary, for several weeks so this fella is all by himself.

Beach stone curlew, striated heron and the pied oyster catchers have all moved into the estuary to fish, it gives them a little shelter from the strong sou-easterly winds which we have experienced over the last few weeks.

While there is always a high population of fiddler crabs in the Johnstone River estuary, lately that population has dramatically increased. Perhaps it is because we have had very few rain events this season and the fiddler crabs have not had any interruption to their breeding when they are often washed out to sea by rushing flood waters.

All the resident shore birds are having a feast of orange-clawed fiddler crabs.

                                                   There also appears to be an increase in yabbi numbers. I was watching students pumping yabbies at Flying Fish Point yesterday, they had arrived on the Daradgee Environmental boat and what a wonderful experience they were having learning how to use a yabby pump.

No problem for old sacred kingfisher who dropped down on the sand beside me and vacuumed a yabby out of the sand in a second and flew off into a tree to consume it in one gulp. That's how its done he seemed to say with a smirk and a glint in his eye.

Darter has remained in the Johnstone River estuary all week and at any time of the day you can see her either fishing or hanging out to dry. Her long neck stretched out looking for the next feed.

The little Willie Wag Tail, or Jitta Bird as he is also called, is fearless when trying to defend his territory. A pair of Jitta birds, perhaps starting to nest, were very upset when whistling kite landed in their tree. They took turns to bombard him flying at him in waves of attack again and again, but whistling kite would not move. Eventually the Jitta birds gave up and moved on.

Then suddenly whistling kite started to cough.

Eventually whatever was troubling him came up and he vomited a long line of saliva. He sat around on the tree for a little bit before taking off and soaring into the sky with his strong wings.

No sign of cassowary Snout again this week and Jessie was spotted once by Russell Constable who posted her photo on his Facebook page. I saw Ky once only and that was in the mangroves but he had left footprints on the beach almost every day.

There has been another incident with the signs at the end of the road. It appears a car has backed into the main sign and ripped it from the holding posts. The sign was left propped up against the posts and I think it was possibly an accident, where someone has backed into the sign in the night. I will be writing to Wet Tropics and request the sign be repositioned with some reflective tape placed on the signs in the grouping.

Cheers for this week and enjoy the rain.