Saturday 29 August 2015

Welcome to Spring in the Coquette Point Rainforest,

Spring warmth has arrived and the rainforest is undergoing a transformation. The leaves on the tree species of Terminalia, Barringtonia, Nauclea and Brachychiton have changed their colour from green to yellow and red. These leaves are starting to fall to the forest floor where they will retain soil moisture for the coming dry season and then break down to nourish the rainforest trees and many insects that depend on their thick cover. At this time of the year the rainforest canopy is a coloured patchwork of leaves telling us we  have enterede the season of falling leaves.

This is also the time for cassowary Dads to reveal the eggs they have been sitting on for the last two months have hatched and they now have the responsibility of caring for chicks. So far at Coquette Point five new cassowary chicks have been recorded running about the rainforest with their Dads. We must be careful on the roads and let these little ones survive.

Cassowary Snout is a grandfather.  On Wednesday morning at 7am I saw Snout's chick Rosie born in 2010, crossing the Coquette Point Road near Maynard Street. I had not seen this cassowary for three years and it was a great thrill to watch this five year old with one tiny chick. He carefully checked the road for cars before he crossed and walked into the Moresby Range National Park. Now we know this cassowary is a male we have renamed him Ross, which as Ruth pointed out is a nice reminder of fisherman Ross the pelican's friend.

Cassowary Ross stopped for a moment, looking into the grass beside the road, the chick standing between his feet, they walked through the tall guinea grass beside the road and into the rainforest. The chick remained at foot all the time.

Cassowary Ross has been visiting Allan Halifax and Allan was delighted to be able to trace this cassowaries' family line.
Allan emailed me with his observations of Ross and said, "Like everyone who is privileged to interact with these wonderful birds, I never cease to be amazed at the care and attention the male gives to his chicks. The cassowary Ross is very calm and seems to know his way around our garden, as if he was perhaps a chick that visited years ago with his father. The chick seems skinny and shows no interest in eating the seeds or fruit that his father tries to encourage him to eat." Thank you Allan for your observations, cassowary chicks mostly eat a high protein diet of insects, you may notice them constantly picking at the ground. The Dad will slowly wean him on-to a diet of fruits but throughout their life cassowaries continue to eat a wide range of available protein. You are so right about the devotion a cassowary Dad shows to his chick. Often the stories of cassowary aggression is a display of the Dad's paternal instinct to protect his chick. It is wise to keep your distance from a cassowary Dad with chicks.

Below left: Cassowary Ross and chick in Allan's yard.

 Below right: Cassowary Rosie now called Ross at two years of age, in 2012, he was trying to pull apart a bale of hay outside a house at the top of the Moresby Range.


Meanwhile grandfather Snout, who is also a new Dad, is constantly on the move with his chick. I was on my way to close the gate when I saw Snout and his chick walking away from my sediment pond, as I watched I noticed they were walking in step. Left, right, left right, it was astonishing to watch the chick keep step with his Dad

Perhaps Snout and his chick are training for the new Border Force.

Suddenly they stopped, each putting weight on the right leg. Snout looked to the left, chick to the right then with a hiss they were off and still in step.  I caught a glimpse of cassowary Gregory with his head down as he disappeared into the rainforest on the hill. There seemed such a synergy between the Dad and the chick in their every movement.

Meanwhile the new cassowary Gregory is having a tough time trying to find a niche at Coquette Point. Gregory is a very calm cassowary and is displaying an interest in people and it is not unusual for him to walk up to investigate what we are doing when we are working around the nursery.

Matriarch Jessie has little tolerance for Gregory and she chases him relentlessly. I watched in horror as I saw her chase him up the hill alongside the road this week. Fortunately he turned and went into Lot 27. Poor Gregory he was obviously evicted from his last home and now Jackboot Jessie and Snout are determined he should not remain here.

Meanwhile cassowary Ky is doing his best to keep a low profile and is very wary as he looks out for any sign of the other cassowaries. Ky seems determined to remain in this vicinity and while the pandanus fruits are abundant and what looks like the fruit of an Endiandra sp, (walnut), which is prolific in all the cassowary scats at the moment, he seem happy to remain here.
Unidentified fruit, with thin black flesh.

   First Dog on the Moon again this week included his 'cassowary hero' in his column. The thousands of signatures on petitions,  hundreds of letters written to politicians, all have had little success with no firm commitment given from any level of Government to make the necessary changes which would alter the outcome for this new generation of cassowary chicks. First Dog's cartoons have grabbed the attention of Australians and put cassowary business on the front page; (at least in the Tully Times). Well done First Dog, please keep it up and well done John Huges, Tully Times.

If you have not subscribed to First Dog you are missing a weekly dose of good belly laughter. Laughter is good for you ye-know.
Tap the image or click here for the full cartoon.

While First Dog is working hard to save the cassowary Kie Per's petition has over 800 signatures not nearly enough guys, so send it around and see how Australia cares for cassowaries.

Click on this link for Kie's petition.

  • Don't forget September 26 is World Cassowary Day at Mission Beach and everyone is invited for a fun day on the beach. I hope First Dog's cassowary will be there. Anyway I'll be there, so come and say hello.

  • The migratory waders are returning to our shores and I was thrilled to welcome back three grey-tailed tattlers this week. There were two on the bank of Crocodile Creek, resting and drinking water. I watched as one grey-tailed tattler twice took a deep drink of water then lifted her beak up for the water to go down. Just like a cassowary.

She then turned and walked back up the bank to join her mate who emitted a loud piercing call to welcome her back.


 Out on the ocean front I saw another grey-tailed tattler but this one was keeping company with a greater sand-plover.

As I walked along the beach, close to the sand dunes, a red-capped plover ran out onto the sand-flats and desperately performed a decoy display to attract me away from the area.

This tiny little bird was prepared to sacrifice his life to protect his mate's eggs. He performed every trick in his repertoire to attract my attention. I left the area and thought what hope would he or his mate have if a dog was on the beach. Life hangs in the balance for these tiny creatures.

Two beach stone curlews also ran out from the sand dunes loudly calling in alarm. It appears the beach stone curlews are also nesting again. Last week Russell Constable found eggs in a beach stone curlew nest at Brampton Beach.                                    

I counted eight common sandpipers in the area, some solitary others with greater sand plovers.

Lesser sand plovers, red-necked stints and one Pacific Golden Plover in breeding plumage were gathered together and resting in the tidal debris line on the beach.

        Large numbers of terns are active in the river and across the estuary. Around 300 gull-billed terns have now been joined by equal numbers of crested terns. Many rest on the sandbars in between fishing forays out to sea and up the river.

Nine whistling kites, many juveniles,  were flying in between the trees and around the Johnstone River estuary this week. As I walked along the beach they flew above me, landing ahead of me on the now bare branches of the Johnstone River Almond, Terminalia sericocarpa. At times they allowed me to walk directly, under their tree, they were curious as to what I was doing and completely unafraid of me. I had to pull back on the lens to get them in focus. I stayed with them flying above and around me for over half an hour. The whistling kite is common and widespread around Australia.

Baldy Knob in the Moresby Range National Park was burnt last week by Queensland National Parks and Wildlife Service. An incendiary was dropped on the Knob and it burnt for most of the day, with some incursion into the rainforest around the grassy knob. Fortunately we had a small amount of rain which helped to quell the fire and it exhausted itself overnight.


Fisherman Ross and his pelican mate have been fishing on the beach early in the morning. While not far off white faced heron has moved into the estuary and has been feeding on snails from around the mangrove breather roots.

A big hello to Abbie who met Wallaby Charlie today in the nursery and I promised I would put some photos of him and his mates up on the blog tonight.

Every morning the wallabies go down to the beach to nibble on the mangrove roots and drink salt water. During the day they spend their time eating grass or anything that fancies them.

Below is a photo of Charlie enjoying the morning sun warming his back. This photo is especially for Abbie.

 The bottlebrush shrubs are in full bloom and birds everywhere are having a feast. Spangled drongo, above drinks deeply on the nectar of Callistemon viminalis.

Spectacled monarch takes advantage of a birdbath to cool off during the heat of the day.

Macleay's honeyeater has discovered the sweet nectar in the flame of the forest flowers. When she has finished feasting she sits in the sun and preens her feathers.

Fan-tailed cuckoo is still hanging about even though, from time to time, the other birds chase her. Soon she will find an unattended nest in which to deposit her eggs.

 Rufous fan-tail, left, constantly tweets as he hunts for insects under the canopy.

Rivers of Red

Click on the link below to watch 'Rivers of Red' on Background Briefing.

Thousands of dollars have been given by Federal and State Governments to Terrain Natural Resource Managers and The Johnstone River Catchment Association Inc. to implement programs to stop run-off to the Great Barrier Reef from the water-ways of the Cassowary Coast. Nothing seems to have changed, in fact the latest studies indicate that the sediment load in the Wet Tropics Rivers has increased. We must ask why? We need an immediate audit of how all Reef Guardian and Reef-Care monies have been spent followed by a full Senate Inquiry looking at all the issues of Reef Protection.

I have been told that the farmer has to, "Go, go every day to maximise the dollar, at all costs, we've just got to do things this way or we go bust."  What I see floating off the farm in the photo below is the farmers future, his top-soil and fertiliser. Is that maximising the dollar? Lose your top-soil you lose your productivity. Plants are then prone to disease and the inputs dramatically increase; that's not farming that's stupidity and the road to bankruptcy.

Also complicit in this 'run-off coverup' is the State Government. The riverside land you see below is publicly owned and mapped as Johnstone River esplanade, this is classified as a road. Once the esplanade was a fully vegetated, publicly owned, riparian zone along the River acting as a filter for runoff from farming on adjacent lands. The State Government, through Water Resources lease the Esplanades on most watercourses to the adjacent farmers. I am led to understand that most river-side farmers in the Cassowary Coast pay the Water Resources Department around five hundred dollars a year in lease monies for the use of this land. The riparian lands along the Wet Tropics waterways should never have been leased and cleared for farming.

In the 1980's Martin Tenni, then a Minister in the Bjelke-Petersen Government took it on himself to protect a 50 metre strip of riparian vegetation along watercourses in FNQ. Although, the Water Act of 2000, protects even wider riparian zones under legislation, tricky deals in declaring these areas esplanades and roads, then leasing them to farmers, (smells fishy to me), results in what you see below. How is this protecting the reef?

Listen to Radio National tomorrow at 8am or click on Rivers of Red to hear a Podcast of the program.


for this week,