Saturday, 1 August 2015

Hello from sparkling green Coquette Point,

July blue moon wrapped in a shroud of grey cloud on moon rise.

We have experienced drizzle to heavy rain showers with cold winds for most of this week. Today however, was brilliant and hopefully, now with another blue moon we will see a change in the winter pattern going back to what we normally expect for this time of the year; warm sun shining from a blue sky.

I have some wonderful news, Diana O has sent me a photo, see below, of a cassowary which could be Snout with three tiny chicks. I had not seen any sign of Snout for two weeks since I saw him with one tiny chick. Hopefully, Diana will be able to get better photos in the coming days as the quandong tree at the bottom of her property is dropping a lot of fruits and the cassowary and the new chicks are feeding on these fruits. You can just see the tiny chicks walking behind their dad as they move quickly into the rainforest. Thank you so much for the news and the photo Diana.

Cassowaries are on the move with many sightings this week. Cassowary Clara, the oldest matriarch cassowary of the Moresby Range National Park, has been seen in the Ninds Creek area and appears to be sussing out the males. Brown Cone and his two ten month old chicks are frequently in this same area.

The photo, below, on the left was taken on Thursday by Neil and Roberta on their way out to the nursery for a visit. Thank you for the photo Neil and Roberta.  Cassowary Clara was standing in the gutter beside the road and was about to cross the road, right on the bend near Ninds Creek, a very dangerous place to cross. However, there are signs warning that it is a cassowary crossing area. The photo on the right is one I took of Clara on the 21 November last year in the same area.

 Cassowary Brown Cone and his two chicks have been hanging about Ninds Creek all week feeding on the fallen fruits of a giant quandong, Elaeocarpus eumundi.

Cassowary Brown Cone is still having trouble with his disobedient chick, Cheeky.

Tim was on his way out to the nursery on Friday and he sent me these photos of Brown Cone and his chicks, thank you for the photos Tim.  Tim told me he slowed down when he saw cassowary Brown Cone and the two chicks. At first one of the chicks would not follow but when Brown Cone walked off Cheeky eventually followed. However, when they crossed the road Tim told me, Cheeky was far behind his dad and sibling and could easily have been run over on this very busy blind bend at Ninds Creek. Fortunately Tim slowed down and flashed his brake lights and the car behind him waited for Cheeky to catch up with his Dad.

Across the Johnstone River cassowary Kevin with his two chicks have ventured out of  the Mt Annie National Park. It was the first time in several months that Alison W has seen them and she managed to take a photo of this cassowary family as they were crossing the internal road on her property.  Alison has one of the largest Quandong trees I have ever seen and no doubt the cassowaries have come to feed on the fruits of this tree. Thank you Alison for the photos and the information about Kevin and the chicks.
On Friday I saw Hero and Ruthie walking down the hill, they were walking in the rainforest beside the Coquette Point Road. Hero does not often venture down the hill to the Point. It seems the cassowaries are all expanding their territories at the moment and Hero is showing Ruthie some new areas in which to harvest fruits. Diana also saw Hero walking down the road today and another cassowary, possibly Jessie walking back up the hill.

Cassowary Ky has been wandering further and I have only seen him a few times this week. Ky appears wary and is always on the look out for Jessie. Today I witnessed an encounter between Ky and Jessie. Ky was walking up the road and Jessie was standing under the trees, I did not see her. The next minute Ky turned and ran. Without raising her feathers Jessie walked out onto the road with that 'look', it was enough for Ky he turned and took off, like a bat out of hell. I did not have a camera with me.
Ky's scats are mostly quandong at the moment. Quandong is a particularly favourite cassowary fruit.  In the Moresby Range National Park pandanus fruits are ripe and falling as well as Davidson Plum and bumpy satin ash fruits.

Cassowary Jessie is out and about this week moving over a wide area of Coquette Point. I watched her move from the mangroves on 27V walk across to my property then walk up the hill and into the Moresby Range National Park, she made this journey in under an hour, stopping only to feed on fruits.

Cassowary Jessie is on the move walking the Coquette Point Road.


On Thursday I saw amethystine python Monty on the roof sunbaking, during a brief few hours of sunshine.

Martin was out with Ben giving me a hand to clean up around the yard. We were laughing and admiring Monty when suddenly Jessie appeared, she bent her head and looked up at Monty. By the look of the water mark on her legs she had just walked up from the mangroves. Cassowaries are very curious and when they hear unusual noise they will come to investigate.

Ben climbed up onto the roof to get some close ups of Monty. Monty was sunbaking in the gutter on the roof.

It was a surreal feeling to be standing next to Cassowary Jessie, watching her watching the giant python. Some travellers arrived from Victoria at the time and they were amazed to share this experience.

Ben put his finger out to touch Monty but when he reared up his head Ben decided to leave him alone and photograph him from behind.

Monty is about 40 years old, I put him in the ceiling of the house 30 years ago to control a white-tailed rat problem. The white-tailed rats were eating the electric wires and it was only time before we had a fire in the roof. Monty has kept the roof cavity clear of mice and rats and it is obvious that he is growing fat on the job.

The leaden flycatchers were carrying on a treat early this week. When I went to see what was going on I saw a juvenile fan-tailed cuckoo. It was obvious the flycatchers recognised that she was scoping out their nests to sneakily lay her eggs into. As such the leaden flycatchers were sending out alarm calls to all the other birds. Even so fan-tailed cuckoo is a beautiful creature, she just has bad habits.

Old darter was standing on a rock this week trying to dry his feathers in the blustery weather.

Little pied cormorant thought it was a good spot and flew onto a rock beside darter.

The next minute little egret flew in and sat on another rock close to little pied cormorant.

Then egret thought it was too windy where he was and moved up to little pied cormorants rock and snuggled up beside him.

Three cold birds trying to dry out on the rocks.
Peter Stanton speaks to the meeting.

I attended the Fire in the Landscape meeting in Cardwell on Monday afternoon. A small crowd were present to hear Peter Stanton, ex QPWS Director and Ian McCallan naturalist from Cardwell make presentations to the meeting. Peter spoke about his long career with QPWS and how he sees many rainforest types disappearing in the landscape. Peter spoke at length on how Aboriginal firestick burning had developed a complex mosaic of staged forest types within the landscape. Peter told the meeting how Aboriginal people burnt small areas of grasslands or forest in long time-scale rotations to achieve the Australian landscape the first Europeans saw. Peter explained the forest types that did require burning to maintain their regeneration. Again and again Peter expressed his disapproval of the current practise of large-scale hot burning of the landscape. However, he did say that given no other alternative he would rather see this than no burning at all. When Peter was asked to explain the burning of Gould Island during the Pied Imperial Breeding season, Peter explained that the Island had to be burnt to ensure regeneration of the trees and the birds and the chicks lost in the fire were a small number and it was the price that had to be paid when you look at the larger picture.

Ian Mcallen spoke of his personal love of the bush and how he felt when he saw the thousands of dead birds on Gould Island and he could not understand when he reported this fire to QPWS only to learn that they had lit it. Ian went on to talk about witnessing other birds and animals die horrible deaths in fires. Ian explained his personal beliefs that the life of all creatures is precious and the damage to the landscape that he was seeing due to annual hot fire burning was in his opinion irreversible. Ian showed slides of hills which had been burnt year after year and now are devoid of vegetation.

World Heritage Hinchinbrook Island National Park burning.
Many people in the audience spoke of their health difficulties in coping with the annual burning of Hinchinbrook Island and the surrounding hills, particularly when the smoke hung over Cardwell for up to eight days at a time. At such times some people told how they had to leave Cardwell and go to live in Cairns while the smoke engulfed the township.

The recent study by James Cook University,  'Post-fire plant regeneration in montane heath of the Wet Tropics, north-eastern Queensland', observed that the blue banksia, 'Banksia plagiocarpa, a rare shrub, is killed by fire'. The seed of this rare shrub and others within the community will regenerate after fire but: "Therefore, although fire can promote seed germination and species richness in this significant community, fire at intervals of more than eight years are required to allow the maturation of shrubs." In other words the plants the study examined took up to eight years to set their first seed. Burning within that time scale will see the extinction of these plant communities.
Is the blue banksia now extinct on World Heritage Hinchinbrook Island?
When acclaimed nature photographer Steven Nowakowski visited Hinchinbrook Island two weeks ago he went in search of the Hinchinbrook blue banksia and could not find it. Steven said the blue banksia was gone from Hinchinbrook Island.

 The burning of Hinchinbrook Island is achieved by dropping incendiaries from helicopters onto the Island resulting in huge hot fires which are lit on an annual basis - year after year. This practice has changed the landscape and the animal communities on Hinchinbrook Island. Steven reported he went in search of the orange footed scrub fowl, and found none. He looked for the beach stone curlews and found none. Gone were all the little song birds which once called this Island home. Steven told me.

Another meeting is being called, and will be announced, to further discuss burning in the Wet Tropics. As the traditional owners of the area were not invited to the meeting on Monday night, I made a request to the Rural Fire Office that the TOs be invited to the next meeting. Last years burning of Hinchinbrook Island used helicopter hire for four days at $1500 per hour. That is a lot of money just for helicopter hire. That amount of money would go a long way in finding jobs for the Traditional Owners of the land and give them an opportunity to reinstate their traditional cultural practices of fire-stick land management.

Join the Johnstone River Community Gardeners tomorrow for their National Tree Day Picnic.

There was wonderful weather today for the wedding of Bernadette and Andrew, here at Coquette Point. Our very best wishes to these two best friends for a long and happy life together.

Create a date claimer for the 26 September, World Cassowary Day at Mission Beach.

Cheers for this week,

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