Saturday, 4 July 2015

Hello from Coquette Point,

Female fig-bird.
This week the sun came out for two days and all the birds rejoiced. We grumble about the lack of rain and when it falls we grumble more, we are never satisfied. The problem, however, is that the weather is unseasonal, we are experiencing a wet 'dry season' which has followed a dry 'wet season'. This is tough on the land and especially the animals.
Male fig-bird.

As soon as the sun's rays touched the tree tops the birds compete for the best position to sun-bake and dry their drenched feathers, they they fly into the canopy of the rainforest to feed on fruits.

 Even yellow-spotted honeyeater stopped his hyperactivity and raucous calling and stayed still long enough to dry his feathers in the morning sun.

Although the rain event this week was not significant for the Wet Tropics, around 300 mm over three days, once again the run-off of top-soil from farms containing fertiliser and pesticides, flowed off the farms, into the rivers and out to the Coral Sea lagoon, where it was carried north and south along the coast.

 The sediment in the run-off washed up and covered the white sandy beaches in sticky, slippery mud.
The incoming tide carried the sediment back onto the beach.
Since the advent of residual herbicides the mangroves and dune vegetation along the coastline are dying. I believe it is because the silt which is washed back onto the shore is mostly farm run-off containing, amongst other chemicals, long acting residual herbicides. This residual herbicide has caused the death of the extensive mangrove forest which once protected the beach and dune systems along the coastline. The effect on sea-grass beds is equally devastating, as the once extensive sea-grass beds in the coastal rivers and along the coastline are mostly gone. The sediment flowing off-farm in the Johnstone River Valley has increased dramatically over the last 20 years, particularly since the start-up of industrial scale banana farming in the Wet Tropics area twenty years ago.

Pied oyster catcher was on the beach fishing up to his knees in the water, as I watched he ducked his head into the water to catch a crab.

When pied oyster catcher saw me watching he immediately stopped fishing and started calling in alarm. He flew to an outer sandbar where his mate and his juvenile chick were feeding.

The pied oyster catchers put on an alarm display, then gathering the chick between them, the adults marched off to safety on the very outer sandbar.

The pied oyster catcher's chick is nine months old but still the parents protect it with their life.

I saw only one beach stone curlew and it was fishing on the outer sandbar.

About one hundred terns; crested, greater crested and gull-billed, were either resting on the outer sandbanks or flying fishing forays over Glady's Inlet.
Many sacred kingfishers were active out on the 'mud' flats and in the littoral rainforest behind the lagoons.

In the mangroves rainbow bee-eaters were flying through clouds of mosquitoes and sandflies looking for large insects.

The mosquitoes and insects were happy to find larger prey like me, but I was covered in my insect lotion.

Mozzie Repellent Recipe.
400 gms runny sorbolene cream,
2mls lavender oil
2mls rosemary oil,
2mls tea tree oil,
2mls pure citronella oil, (from chemist).

Add oils to cream
and shake. Test on skin before overall use.

On my return I saw that two of the four Coquette Point pelicans had flown onto the outer sandbar with the pied oyster catchers and as I watched they were joined by seven 'wintering over' whimbrels.

When I walked back into the River estuary, in the distance I saw pelican Cenerio and Georgy Girl with a man fishing on the beach.

 The man caught a small fish and threw it into the air and the pelicans stood on tippy-toes and stretched their beaks to catch the fish.

Somehow Georgy-girl ended up with the fish and Cenerio made a playful tackle to take it from her but Georgy-girl had already swallowed the fish.

The man, CJ, continued to fish and I spoke to him and asked if he had seen Ross, Cenerio's friend. He told me he had not for some time and was concerned that Ross might not be well.

CJ then told me his story about pelicans. CJ is from Ingham and years ago when he was fishing at Hull Heads a pelican approached him begging for some fish. He told the pelican he hadn't caught anything that day and was almost out of bait. The pelican disappeared and just as CJ and his sister were about to pack up and leave the pelican walked onto the beach and coughed up a beak full of sardines. CJ and his sister collected the gift of bait and started fishing again. They soon caught a large fish and CJ gave it to the pelican and straight away the fish started to bite. They soon filled up a bag full of fish to take home. CJ told me from then on he has always given the first catch to the pelicans. As a result he always takes home a bag full of fish.

 The tide had turned and was on the run-in as I left CJ and when I looked back I saw CJ's fishing rods bending.

There is still no sign of cassowary Snout with or without chicks.

Matriarch Cassowary Jessie is covering a wide area in her daily roamings, from the mangrove swamp at the end of Coquette Point to the top of the Moresby Range.

I found her on Thursday in the swamp drinking the rainwater which had recently filled the swamp.

Ky is still managing to avoid Jessie and I see him most days crossing from the rainforest into the mangroves. He is often surrounded with a halo of mosquitoes.

Phillip and Margaret Hall, keen cassowary fans from South Australia, are visiting FNQ at the moment and they were very excited to see Brown Cone and his two chicks walking alongside the road near Ninds Creek. Phillip and Margaret kindly shared their photos, it was their first cassowary sighting.

It is great to see how well the chicks are looking. I last saw them in March when I took the photo on the right. At that time they were just losing their stripes.

Now look at them, they are golden tan and a metre tall. the first chick below appears to be a male and the second may be a female. I reckon they should be called Philip and Margaret  after our keen birdo friends from South Australia?

Philip managed to take a close up of Brown Cone and he is looking in good condition. I will never forget how skinny he was after cyclone Yasi and he would have died had he not found the National Parks and Wildelife supplementary feeding station.

 Philip and Margaret also visited Etty Bay and were fortunate to see Etty the matriarch of Etty Bay. Etty Bay is the southern end of the Moresby Range National Park. Thank you for sharing your cassowary photos with us Philip and Margaret and we hope you enjoy the rest of your holiday on the Cassowary Coast.
Etty Bay matriarch cassowary.

 The cool damp conditions have stimulated the stinkhorn fungi to send their fruiting bodies to the surface.  The foul scented horns rise above the ground and adorned in a petticoat of white 'Irish lace' they turn their heads to the wind which disperses the fungi's scent to attract pollinating flies.

This fungi is eaten in China and is used medicinally as an antibiotic. We can but wonder at a lifeform that quietly rules our planet.

At Tupeki on the Palmerston Ian Laidlaw took the photo of a fungi universe in the rainforest. Thank you Ian for sharing this amazing photo.

Monty the Amethystine python shed his skin this week. The tail was hanging from a down-pipe, but I found the head and body in the garden. It appeared he used the rough leaves on a grevillea to help pull the old skin off. What a shame I missed the event, sound asleep while the natural world goes about its living. No sign of Monica her new outfit may come in spring.

Amateur fisherman from Mackay are seeking help from Queenslanders to support their petition for three net-free zones in Queensland's waterways; St Helens Beach to Cape Hillsborough, Keppel Bay to Fitzroy River and Trinity Bay Cairns. Please support them and sign their petition on their Facebook page. Google

This afternoon I received the sad news that Clara Morton nee Mow passed away peacefully in the Innisfail Hospital last night. The date of her funeral will be announced on Monday. Our deep sympathy is extended to Clara's very large Innisfail family.

Until next week,



  1. Hello Yvonne, greetings from California and thanks for the updates from your part of the world. I appreciate your vast knowledge, energy, and excellent storytelling skills. Thanks also for your vigilance for conservation, animal protection, and community education. Wish we could stop by for a visit to see the growing cassowaries! Love the story about CJ.

  2. Hello Karen, If you are in this part of the world it would be my pleasure to show you around the sites of the World Heritage Wet Tropics of the Cassowary Coast. I hope I can continue to bring you stories of the exploits of the cassowaries of the Moresby Range National Park. We need to think hard and long about the conflicts that exists threatening the survival of the cassowaries of far north Queensland. Loss of habitat, motor vehicle speed, dogs and unsafe pig traps are the biggest problems the cassowaries face. We need the good will of the community to fix these issues. I hope the cassowary is still living in the rainforest when you do eventually come to visit us.