Saturday, 13 June 2015

Hello from green and washed clean Coquette Point,

Good, soaking rain this week with warmer that normal 'winter' weather has sent the plant world into growth mode and provided a little respite for underground springs. The Wet Tropics is wet again.

I last saw the male cassowary Snout on the 21 April, 55 days ago. At that time he was in courtship with the matriarch cassowary Jessie and I found them drinking at the sediment pond. They finished drinking and went into the orchard where they found some wild guava fruits. When they saw me they quickly walked away and disappeared into the rainforest at the back of the orchard.

The courtship of these two cassowaries, up to that time, had lasted three months and since the last sighting of Snout I have not seen him nor any sign of him, but Jessie has been hanging about.

The incubation time for cassowary eggs is around 50 days. As it is now 55 days since the last sighting of Snout, we are all anxiously waiting for his return with stripey chicks, we hope.
The photo of Snout above and of him walking in courtship with Jessie below were taken on the 21 April.

                 I have not seen young cassowary Ky since Tuesday and then only briefly as he had his head down running in a panic. Over the last week Cassowary Jessie has been on the hunt for Ky. When Jessie was courting Snout it was always Snout who showed aggression towards Ky, while Jessie tolerated his presence or just ignored him. Everything changed this week and on two occasions I saw Ky on the run following some of the loudest drumming and booming I have ever heard from a cassowary, presumably from Jessie.

Jessie has been patrolling the end of Coquette Point and hunting and chasing Ky at every opportunity. On Sunday morning I found Ky eating the berries of Leea Indica, the bandicoot berry, the last photo I took of him.

I do hope I will see Ky again, however, I know that he will not go hungry as now is a time of bounty in the rainforest with many fruits ripe and falling and he has been well and truly told to find a territory of his own.

Meanwhile, Jessie continues to patrol the area, uttering low growling sounds and swishing her long wattles from side to side as she looks for Ky or any other cassowary. Sometimes, demonstrating her bad temper, she stops and pulls at her quills with her strong beak. Jessie's hormones are peaked and she is showing every appearance of being mean and domineering. This is so unlike the gentle Jessie we normally see wandering about the rainforest.

Cassowary Peggy photo taken in 2012

Jessie and Snout are not the only cassowaries with hormones peaking at the moment. Cassowary Peggy has been observed by Allan and Maria, who live at the top of the Moresby Range and they have sent me the above photo with these comments. ' In all the years we have been at Coquette Point we have never seen a pair of cassowaries so tolerant of each other. On and off this pair have been together for at least three months. In the early days of their courtship, she would not tolerate him within 10 metres, but now will stand beside him. Life must be very scary and confusing for a male cassowary. Not unlike their human counterpart!' Many thanks Allan and Maria for these photos and your comments from the top of the Moresby Range.

The female cassowary, I believe, is Peggy but I cannot identify the young male. He appears to be about five years old and this may be his first mating season. I have found an old photo of Peggy from 2012, see above right.

It was a very windy, overcast day with occasional showers when the Townsville Birdline Group came to visit on Sunday. Henry and Allan Epong introduced them to green sea turtle 'Etty B' and Henry told the guests all about the work Mandubarra do in rehabilitating the turtles of the Cassowary Coast.

After a cup of tea and cake we all went for a walk at low tide to the front beach. The strong winds meant there were few birds about however, the rain held off and everyone enjoyed exploring the Johnstone River estuary.

We watched a confrontation between a white breasted sea-eagle and an osprey. The white breasted sea-eagle chased the osprey across the mouth of the Johnstone River again and again before they flew over Flying Fish Point still in combat but we lost sight of them in the trees. Osprey did not appear to be carrying a fish to steal but white breasted sea-eagle wanted him gone. On our return trip we saw osprey diving and fishing but there was no sign of his opponent.

The sun came out briefly and lit up little egret who delighted us with her antics as she fished in the shallows.

We saw a large male pelican with a number of lesser crested terns on the outer sandbank and one silver gull by itself closer in.

                        As we returned two pelicans flew down the Johnstone River and landed in the water behind us, it was Cerino and his new girlfriend Georgi Girl.

It was lovely to meet the Townsville group, they spent the long weekend birdwatching on the Cassowary Coast. No doubt their next newsletter will have some interesting tales.

Crested Hawk has been hunting over the nursery every day for the last month. With the unseasonal warm weather the giant grasshoppers are active and can do a lot of damage to foliage, particularly palms. However, free echo-system services are being delivered by Baza and Company and they have eliminated the hungry grasshoppers from the nursery.

Baza was on  the hunt again today and all the frogs hatching out in this wonderful rain had better watch out.

The orange footed scrub fowls are very noisy at the moment making compost. These birds play an important role in the rainforest ecosystem by constantly raking over the accumulated leaf and twig debris on the forest floor, this hastens debris decomposition preventing the build up of fuel load and assisting the return of nutrients to the rainforest. The rainforest is a closed loop recycling system and it works perfectly as long as people do not light fires on the misconceived assumption that there is a need to reduce fuel load in rainforest. When rainforest trees are subjected to fire they die and the make up of the rainforest species changes forever. A good example of this is what has happened in the Kurramine Beach National Park where fuel reduction burning since Cyclone Winifred has killed most of the primary rainforest species in this rare rainforest type on silica sand.

Sometimes it is the smallest creatures in the rainforest that lead the most fascinating lives. I found this crab spider, Tmarus cinerasceus making a dinner of an ant and when I picked it up to put it on some white styrofoam to achieve a better resolution to photograph, the spider didn't blink and certainly didn't lose grip of its dinner.

Another unusual spider I found in the rainforest is this female Cheiracanthium. This spider is widespread in Australia and builds a sac-like retreat on foliage or secretly under bark. It is commonly known as the yellow sac spider and can render a nasty bite, however, it did not bite me when I relocated it to take a better photo but I did notice it lowered its fang, see photo left.

Lots of jumping spiders around and performing their echo system services in the nursery. The spider on the right is a common jumping spider Hypoblemum spp.  However, it is the first time I have found it at Coquette Point. My thanks to Robert Whyte of the Australian Museum for identifying the spiders on this page.

I have seen a lot of the jumping spider, Mopsus mormon of late, note male below and today I saw, but did not photograph due to the rain, one of the largest male Cosmophasis mica's I have ever seen, in all its iridescent blue splendour. The rainforest is full of amazing creatures.

The family below took advantage of a few minutes of sunshine this week to catch a feed of fish at the mouth of the Johnstone River. They no sooner got settled when our new free loader pelican, Georgi Girl, turned up demanding her 'tithe' of fish.

Right: The fruits of the blue quandong, Elaeocarpus eumundi are ripe and falling.
Above: In the rainforest the bright blue fruits of the native ginger Alpine cerulean are ripe and ready for a cassowary meal.

Adding to the colour on the rainforest floor the bright red poisonous fruits of the rosy apple, Phaleria clerodendron are also falling along the edge of the rainforest.

A big cheer for the Matildas' for winning their game against  Nigeria 2-0. This puts the team in for a real chance of the second round at the Women's World Cup. Although the girls lost the game against the USA they gave their best with a 1 to 3 loss. The team will face Sweden Wednesday morning SBS 3. A win or a draw will put them in the second round. Go Girls Go.

Cheers for this week,


No comments:

Post a Comment