Sunday 27 September 2015

Hello from Coquette Point,

It is the day after the World Cassowary Day event and I am pleased to report it was a wonderful success. It was so great to meet and link with the people in groups and government departments involved in the environment from all over north Queensland.  They came to World Cassowary Day to showcase their areas of environmental concerns and to place a focus on their activities.

Friends of Coquette Point displayed, with pictorial exhibits, the cassowaries, migratory and resident shorebirds and the amazing diversity of insects found in the World Heritage Wet Tropics forests of Coquette Point.
Ruth Lipscomb, Jan Shang, Bill and Kerry Farnsworth and Yvonne

It was wonderful to have entomologist and photographer Bill Farnsworth, resident of Coquette Point, who brought his amazing photographic collection of insects. Even better was having Bill on hand to discuss the distribution of some of these, mostly common but sometimes rare insects.  Bill talked to students both local and from all over the world, who attended World Cassowary Day. It showed hope for the future to see so many young people interested in the environment.
Paul Webster hands over WCD to Mayor Julia Leu
Next year World Cassowary Day (WCD), will be held in the Douglas Shire. The handover of the 'cassowary' was given to the Douglas Shire Mayor, Julia Leu by WCD founder Paul Webster.

Special guest Bob Irwin closed WCD with the inspirational words "Its just nice being amongst like-minded folk who share a care".

Ruth Lipscombe offers a special word of thanks to the organisers of WCD.
"The well organised promotion of WCD at Mission Beach by a large number of groups and individuals, resulted in one of the best attended events I have seen for years.
Two of the Cassowary Hot Spots, Mission Beach and Coquette Point were covered by wonderful photos taken by Liz Gallie, Yvonne Cunningham and Bill Farnsworth amongst others. Yvonne's banner told a story in its own right. Bob Irwin was also very impressed with the visual display by Nellie and Henry Epong of the Mandubarra Turtle Rehabilitation Centre. A huge round of applause to everyone involved".   Ruth Lipscomb.

A special thanks to Henry and Nellie Epong for helping to erect our tent. We took our own tent and tried to make our display as sustainable as possible with the fewest inputs.

A special thanks to the Cassowary Coast Council who provided us with display material for recycling and composting.

I have been invited to be guest speaker for the local Diabetes Innisfail group on Tuesday and have set aside some of the Council's recycling and composting display material to use for that talk. Compost bins are the best way to recycle household waste and turn it into valuable organic food for the garden. Even old display material can be reused or recycled.

The Cassowary Coast Mayor, Bill Shannon stopped by our exhibit and commented on the Clean Rivers campaign and his desire to see a better outcome for the quality of water in the rivers and creeks of the Cassowary Coast Region. He also expressed an interest to learn more about the special environment of Coquette Point as detailed on this blog. Welcome to the mailing list Mayor Shannon.

Late Wednesday afternoon I received a phone call from a lady who was driving on the Coquette Point Road and said she saw a cassowary with a severe limp walking very slowly into the nursery grounds. She described the cassowary as being all black but rather small in size. It sounded like a description for Gregory. Although it was right on dusk I searched the area where she said she had seen the cassowary cross but I could not see any sign of it. At the bottom of the road I could hear a dog barking. As it was getting dark I decided not to investigate.

First thing in the morning I went looking for the injured cassowary but still I found nothing. I went to the end of the road and saw an old ute with a dog locked inside. He barked at me and it sounded like the deep bark I had heard the night before. There was no sign of any people around the car.

I walked all my bush tracks but saw no cassowaries at all. This was unusual as I normally always see a least one cassowary on early morning walks. I returned to the nursery and phoned the Cassowary Hotline and reported that someone had seen a cassowary limping badly. I told them not to bother to send anyone as I would continue to search and would ring if I found an injured bird.

About an hour later I heard a car engine start and I went down to see if the car occupants had any knowledge of an injured cassowary. I saw four men loading a small dingy into the back of the ute, the dog was still locked inside the car. They said they had no knowledge of any cassowary.

I returned to the nursery and was surprised to see two EHP Rangers arrive, they asked permission to search my property for the injured cassowary. I gave them permission but could not go with them as a nursery customer had arrived. They returned a half hour later and told me they had not seen any sign of a cassowary.

This is the first time in three years that I have had an immediate response to a report of an injured cassowary. It shows that there has been a change in the mindset of the Department of EHP towards reports of injury to threatened species, at least cassowaries anyway. I do hope now that World Cassowary Day is over that the Minister, Dr Steven Miles, stays firm in his resolve to protect threatened species in Queensland.

I did not see juvenile cassowary Ky at all this week. I have always know a time would come when he would leave and establish his own territory within the Moresby Range National Park. I do hope this is the reason for his disaperance and that he was not the victim of a dog attack.

Cassowary George was absent in the latter part of the week and I saw him only once when he entered the nursery for a feed of palm seed.

I have seen lots of cassowary footprints on the beach and the magnificent red fig ficus drupacea is in fruit again and I think the cassowaries are walking up from the beach to access the fruit.

It is  always fascinating to watch the flocks of shining starlings flying into the canopy of the fig tree, when they jostle each other for possession of the fruit they knock at least half the ripe fruits to the ground. It is often only a matter of minutes before the cassowaries show up to collect the fallen fruits.  At first it appears the starlings are carelessly wasting half the fruits, whereas their playful antics provide a feast for the cassowaries. This is a good example of the interdependence of species within the rainforest environment.

Cassowary chick Kin, all this week, has been staying very close to his dad Snout. I think the temporary separation last week has taught him a lesson not to let dad out of sight.

You will need to look carefully to see cassowary chick Kin in the photo on the right below. The cassowary chick's stripey brown colours are a perfect camouflage on the rainforest floor.

I saw matriarch Jessie sitting and looking very demure.  Most unusual for our 'Jackboots Jessie' as Ruth likes to call her. I was concerned that something was wrong and then I saw she was giving the 'Julie eye' to Snout. Snout looked at her but soon turned and walked away with Kin close behind.


This submissive display by Jessie is an example of how the female invites the male for courtship.  However, in this case the male cassowary Snout has a chick only a few months old and the last thing he is interested in at the moment is to enter into another releationship, so he walked away.  Cassowary body language is very revealing and fascinating to observe.

Pam Birchley drove out to Coquette Point this week and saw cassowary Brown Cone with his two chicks close to the Ninds Creek Bridge. Pam said the chicks are the colour of the dead grass and it was difficult to see them, she said it would be good to see that grass all the way around the bend in the road was kept mown a good distance from the side of the road. Thank you for the photos Pam and I will see what can be done about the tall grass on that bend of the road.
Cassowary Brown Cone's chicks are very large now and it won't be long before he separates from them. It is the time of separation which is the most dangerous for the young subadult cassowary as it tries to establish its own territory and find food without the dad's help.

I did just a short walk on the beach this week but was delighted to see, for the first time, at least three great knots. The photos below were taken at different positions on the beach and I believe, after I examined my photos that there were three different birds present. Billie Gill recorded great knots at Coquette Point in the 1970's but I had never seen them. Of course they use the sandflats at Coquette Point as a 'pit stop' and often they only stay a day or two and so it is easy to miss a bird if you are not on the beach every day. I was really thrilled to confirm that this little migratory shore bird is still visiting Coquette Point for some R&R.

There were lots of stingray wallows on the beach  and of varying size. This indicates a good population at varying ages of rays along this part of the coastline.

I noticed some chicks among the gull-billed terns. It is spring after all.

Even Major skink is in the mating mood. He grabbed hold of this female and held on for over an hour. She is likely to give birth to half a dozen young in three months time. There is a large population of major skinks at Coquette Point and they grow up to 60 cm in length.

When I see a frog and I am not sure of the ID,  I contact my froggy friend Russell Constable. When Russell is not sure he contacts herpetologist Andrew Small and that is how it went last week when I found the large frog in the photo above amongst my plants on the bench.

Andrew has identified him as Mixophyes coggeri the lowland mottled barred frog. Andrew states, 'There is lots and lots of variation in this critter: that's how it evaded detection for so long. It's generally a little more robust that M schevilli'. (the upland species.) Thank you Andrew and Russell when I tried to get a side photo he jumped away quickly and I have not seen it again.

The Clean Rivers Campaign this week focused on the erosion along the high and low banks of the North and South Johnstone Rivers. This should not be happening as these areas are a declared public esplanade. However, the Department of Natural Resources has granted leases and a permit to occupy the esplanade to the adjacent farms. Subsequently the riparian vegetation has been removed and as a result severe erosion has occurred along the high and low banks of the rivers. At times this erosion threatens buildings and is a real and ever-present hazard to farm workers using tractors along the farm headlands alongside the collapsing river banks.

Farm lands stretch alongside the North and South Johnstone River.

 Pope Francis addressed the United Nations this week and in an emotional plea to world leaders he told them, "We are not authorised to abuse the environment......Mankind is not authorised to abuse it and much less authorised to destroy it"

Sunset over the Johnstone River with the large fig ficus drupacea silhouetted against the skyline on the left. A cassowary is in the middle of the picture walking down onto the beach. I do not know which one, but he was walking quickly, no doubt after enjoying a feed of figs. Could have been either Ky or Gregory.

Cheers for this week,

Saturday 19 September 2015

Hello from Coquette Point,

It has been a wonderful week on the Cassowary Coast with mild, calm conditions and most mornings a fog on the Johnstone River.

The strong wind warning last weekend caused the cancellation of the Billfish Tournament, however with calm conditions this morning lots of boats left the river for the reef.

 I went for a walk at first light and was delighted to see a black necked stork feeding with whimbrels on the sand flats.

As the sun rose and the sky turned red two outrigger canoes set off for a paddle out to sea.

While on the beach the whimbrels joined the crested and gull-billed terns.

As the sun rose I saw a pied oyster catcher fly into the shallows where several bar-tailed godwits were fishing. This is the first sighting of these migratory shore birds for this season.

 I watched the solitary black necked stork briskly walk the full length of the beach. Then with a loud squark he stretched his wings and flew over the Moresby Range National Park and on until he was out of sight.


On the sand flats a number of common sandpipers were busy finding their breakfast.

Then my attention was drawn to a grey-tailed tattler who was racing to catch a crab, on its leg was a shiny silver tag. No numbers were visible but if someone can identify this tag and where and when it was placed on this grey-tailed tatler please put the details on comments. Its always very exciting to find a tagged bird.

White breasted eagle flew over the beach but the shorebirds ignored him as the tide had turned and they were in a race to feed.

Bar-tailed godwits.

Pied oyster-catcher speared the mud with its beak  hunting  for crustaceans.

I counted six eastern curlews, some solitary others in a small group fishing on the sand flats.

Lots of lesser and greater sand plovers were racing around looking for crabs.

Greater egret was joined by a mate who squawked loudly as she landed.

It was just after 7am when I returned, early mornings are the best part of the day.

Although I have heard the pied imperial pigeons calling for the last three weeks, it was not until Thursday that I managed to capture a photo. Two PIPs appear to be nesting in the large Kauri Pine at the gate. I do hope more arrive to join them.

The orange footed scrub fowls are particularly excited, raking through all the leaves that have fallen from the Terminalia trees. There's no doubt about it their feet are designed for raking.

When you hear the brush cuckoo call you know summer is around the corner. The old-timers called this bird the brain-fever bird as it can call persistently throughout the day and night.

On the right a white-bellied cuckoo shrike fluffed his feathers to keep warm in the cool of the early morning.

When the sun rises so does insect activity and that is when the rainbow bee-eaters are at their most active. Just imagine how many insects would plague our lives if not for birds like the rainbow bee-eater.

There were lots of cassowary capers this week and mostly instigated by matriarch cassowary Jessie. She has joined forces with Snout and they are both chasing Gregory and Ky or any other cassowary that catches their fancy, or not.

Early this week Snout ran off at such great speed that little Kin could not keep up with him. I heard the chick's pathetic calls coming from the orchard. Little Kin was running in circles looking for his dad.

I heard what sounded like a hiss of air escaping and Kin ran in the direction of the sound.

It was so incredibly touching to watch the reconciliation of Snout and little Kin.

Snout then took little Kin for a drink of water and I watched as Snout continued to reassure the chick that everything was all right.

After this chase I didn't see Gregory for three days then he returned and I found him eating cordyline berries. He walked through the nursery, inspected the Mandubarra Turtle Rehabilitation Centre and walked out into the melaleuca swamp as if he was the only cassowary around.

Cassowary Ky is spending most of his days over on Lot 27V, walking in the melaleuca and mangrove swamp areas.

His casque is starting to take on a unique pattern.

                                  I came across Cassowary July this week in the rainforest.

I was very surprised to come across cassowary July while I was out walking this week. She appeared to have some quills missing forward of her thigh. This is normally consistent with a minor injury sustained when mating. I have not seen her in courtship with another male so perhaps the relationship didn't last.

Bev Anderson sent me a text with a photo of a cassowary with a chick that she found in Martin Street.

The young male cassowary has a small brown chick, very difficult to see in this photo, right. It may have been chased by dogs or another cassowary which has brought it out into this urban area.  Bev said when the cassowaries saw the car they ran away. This is a good sign as if it was fed it may stay in that area where there are lots of dogs running lose. Bev has not seen the Martin Street cassowary again. Thank you Bev for the photos and information on this cassowary.

The Council has several machines cleaning up land at the sewerage farm and this could have caused this cassowary to flee. I spoke to Greg one of the slasher operators and he told me that every morning a cassowary comes from the Moresby Range National Park, walks halfway up the road then comes back and does the same thing on the other side. Greg could not work out what the cassowary was doing. At about the same position on either side of the road are pandanus palms and they are dropping ripe fruit at the moment. The cassowary, who I believe is Queenie, is going for breakfast every morning at these 'natural food outlets'. Greg scratched his head and said 'well I never'.

Apparently the Council has plans to replace the fence alongside the Sewerage Farm on Howe Street. I do hope they make the fence 'cassowary friendly' and keep the pandanus palms that grow in thick stands throughout the Sewerage Farm land.  This area is part of the Ninds Creek Wetlands and has always been a major cassowary habitat, mainly because of the pandanus fruits.

All that bare earth at the Innisfail Sewerage Farm shouts out an opportunity for the Council's Nursery or a Land Care group to plant a rainforest alongside the road, or for that matter over all the unused parts of the Sewerage Farm. There's lots of 'fertiliser' close by and the cassowaries would be happy.

  Here's another reminder that next week June 26 is World Cassowary Day at Mission Beach. Paul Webster, the inventor of (WCD), rang me this week and asked me to give him a hand to erect flyers in Innisfail promoting World Cassowary Day.

We went to every third shop with a request to erect the flyers. Not one shop owner refused to allow us to put the flyer up. Almost everyone wanted to tell us their story about cassowaries. We received exceptional good will from the shopkeepers we visited. The only problem was we didn't have enough flyers we should have had at least double the number.

We had lunch at Oliveri's Dellie and Paul was delighted to meet Lennie, the famous Innisfail Dellie owner and of course enjoy one of Lennies famous salad rolls.

Loss of habitat, motor vehicle strike and dog encounters are the biggest threats to the endangered cassowary. It was very disappointing that at this week's Council meeting the mayor defended his right and the right of other residents to break Council's law and walk their dogs off-leash on the beach at Mission Beach.
Mayor Shannon cassowaries walk along the beach. Many rainforest fruits wash up in the tide line on the beach and the cassowaries go there to eat them. Cassowaries also eat small crabs and snails from the mangroves. Many plants like scaevola and pandanus grow in the dune systems behind the beach, these are important cassowary foods.  It is common to find a cassowary on the beach.

Dogs and cassowaries do not mix as it is dangerous for the cassowary, dangerous for the dog and dangerous for the dog's owner to have a dog off-leash around a cassowary or in cassowary habitat. Please Mayor Shannon retract your statement and set an example in lawful behaviour. Do not break your own Council's Local Law 2 (Animal Management) 2011. You also might like to get some legal advise on this matter in case someone is hurt because of your example. Mayor Shannon you have a duty of care to uphold your Council's laws and set an example to the ratepayers of this Shire.

Just after Mayor Shannon's outburst this week the 'No Dogs Allowed' sign at Coquette Point was covered over with packing tape. I removed the tape.


Meanwhile my campaign, 'Roads for Wildlife' continues and I am lobbying all levels of Government to implement a funding solution for projects to prevent the slaughter of native animals on Queensland Roads and as such make the roads safer for people in motor vehicles.

You can help:  If you like my idea please write to the Minister for Main Roads, The Hon Steve Bailey,

A sediment laden Johnstone River flows out into the Coral Sea Lagoon.

The Clean Rivers campaign to protect the World Heritage Great Barrier Reef continues with the following press release this week.

See You at World Cassowary Day Mission Beach,