Saturday, 11 July 2015

Hello from damp and dreary Coquette Point,

We woke on Tuesday morning to the hum of the sugarcane harvesters as they cranked up for the start of the 2015 sugarcane harvest.  The deep volcanic soils in the Johnstone River Valley had dried out just enough for the huge machinery to move along the fields slashing into small pieces, as they crept along the rows,  the tall stalks of flowering sugarcane.

However, the sugarcane harvest only lasted three days before the clouds again brought soaking rain across the valley. The machinery momentarily has stopped but today sunshine once again covered the valley drying out the deep soils. A series of lows in the Great Australian Bight have delivered long awaited snowfalls to the Alpine Mountain regions of Victoria and New South Wales. Cold miserable weather in the South inevitably results in glorious sunny weather in the North, although, the temperature even here is expected to drop and for the first time in nearly twenty years we may experience some real winter weather.

A view over the Johnstone River Valley from the top of the Moresby Range at Coquette Point.

The birds celebrated the few days of sunshine this week with exuberant choruses of song.  The helmet headed friar birds were happiest of all as they saw the blossoms of the Bloomfield penda, Xanthostemon verticillates open full of nectar, in the warm sunlight.

Dusky honeyeaters flitted in and out of the rainforest canopy calling happily as they relentlessly sought out a feast of insects concealed among the leaves.

Two white-bellied cuckoo-shrikes arrived for  a short stay this week. This is a bird I see only rarely at Coquette Point. The white-bellied cuckoo shrike is commonly found in open woodland rather than  rainforest areas. The two birds stayed only a day before they went on their way.

      The female varied triller has hung about over the last month of rainy weather, perhaps she intends to build her nest somewhere concealed on a branch high in the canopy.  The female varied triller lays but one very large egg in a very small nest. I have not observed any male trillers since the rain started.

I am keeping my eye on the female leaden flycatchers as I am hoping to photograph their elaborate courtship behaviour this year. At the moment the male is disinterested in her no matter how prettily she sits and watches him from afar.

Kokei Miinin is a keen photographer and when he visited me this week he was excited to tell me that he had at long last photographed a yellow-breasted boatbill. He saw the bird for only a minute or two at Kennedy and was lucky to take the photographs above. Thank you Kokei for sharing this photograph with the blog, it is indeed a beautiful little bird, one that I have not managed to photograph - yet. An unusual habit of this flycatcher is the way it cocks its tail in a wren-like manner.  Kokei was lucky to capture this behaviour in the photograph on the right.

Cassowary Jessie is once again very elusive.  I have seen her only once this week as she walked across the bottom paddock then disappeared down into the mangroves.                  


Cassowary Ky stills walks through the nursery most days on his way from the mangroves to the rainforest. Somedays he just sits around for long periods partly concealed by the foliage.

I saw cassowary Hero and his chick Ruthie when I was visiting a friend at the top of the Moresby Range to take a photo from his verandah out over the valley, see photo above.  Cassowary Hero and Ruthie came to investigate the voices in their territory.

 Bill Farnsworth saw cassowary Queenie walking up the road north of the bridge at 6am on Friday morning and when he came back at 7pm she was standing in the middle of the road close to the same spot he had see her early in the day.  Cassowaries and roads do not mix however, Bill slowed down and did not proceed until 'the lady' crossed the road. Thank you for the photos Bill.

Elma and Bert Vreeken visiting the far north from the far south of Western Australia were absolutely delighted to see Cassowary Brown Cone and his two chicks Philip and Margaret relaxing in the grass alongside the road on the south side of the Mau Bridge. Elma only managed to get one of the chicks in the photograph but confirmed she saw the two. Thank you Bert and Elma for sharing this photo and I hope you enjoy the rest of your holiday in fine sunny weather.

At last the winds have dropped and glassy conditions on the river created a wonderful reflection of the ancient mangrove forest and the entrance to Smith's Creek in the Johnstone River.

The wintering over whimbrels sauntered along the beach before taking off for a days fishing in the wetlands up river.

On the sand-flats evidence of the industry of dozen of acorn worm's  lay on the sand. Mounds of spaghetti shaped sand deposits were all that remained from a mornings feasting on the detritus carried down the Johnstone River in last weeks 'wet event'.

An agile wallaby stood in the shadow of the mangroves watching as the pelican Georgy-girl arrived.

As the sun rose Pelican Georgy-Girl swam along the shoreline searching for a fishy breakfast.

A day flying moth landed on a hibiscus leaf close to me in the mangroves and somehow tangled itself in a cobweb. I watched as it used its legs to remove the cobweb from its face and antennae. Close behind a green ant was also watching.                

In the Coquette Point wetlands several species of pandanus are ripe and falling. A favourite food for cassowaries.

In the rainforest the last fruits of the onion wood syzygium alliiligneum are ripe and falling.
While the red bell mischocarp, Mischocarpus exangulatus fruits are freshly popping out of their red capsules.

 Far north Queensland is now entering its busy period. The sugarcane harvest has commenced and the tourist season is in full swing helped along with the falling dollar and continued unrest in many overseas countries. All of this increased activity results in a lot more traffic on the roads of the far north and inevitably becomes a problem for the endangered cassowary.

As I outlined in my blog on June 27 there were a number of injured cassowaries, most likely from incidents with motor vehicles or dogs, wandering in the Wet Tropics Rainforest needing urgent veterinarian attention. The Department of Environment and Heritage Protection (EHP), which is responsible for animals listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Protection Act 1992, (EPBC Act) appear to have abandoned these cassowaries to die slow deaths in the rainforest.

In a most uncharacteristic move veteriarian Graham Lauridsen  spoke to John Hughes of the Tully Times this week. The story was carried on the front page of the Tully Times July 9 issue.

The Cassowary at Flying Fish Point found by Dave Dall has still not received any care. I understand that one EHP Ranger who raised concerns to his Department about his responsibilities under the Federal EPBC Act and the general responsibilities of anyone regarding animal welfare, has been suspended from his employment.

Please join Dr Graham Lauridsen in writing to the Minister, the Hon Steven Miles, Minister for EHP, GPO Box 2454 Brisbane 4001. Or email the Environment Department,

Good night from Coquette Point and another spectacular sunset over the Johnstone River.


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