Saturday 31 October 2015

Hello from Coquette Point,

This week Coquette Point was invaded by Scientist Tom Lawton and his assistants, Mark, Brett, Dan and Adrian. The lads were here carrying out a cassowary study looking at cassowary movements through a mosaic of habitats. The study areas covered by Tom and his crew were at Daintree, Kuranda, Jubilee Heights and Coquette Point.  In order to gather the information Tom put tracking devices in pieces of fruit for the cassowaries to eat. It was then a matter of waiting to see where the cassowaries went and how long it took for them to expel the fruit. The feed stations were loaded with the fruit at first light, 5.13 am and a motion camera was placed at the feed station to identify the feeding cassowary.

Tom found it took between four and eight hours for the cassowaries to evacuate their stomach and in that time they could cover an extraordinary area. It quickly became evident that at Coquette Point the cassowaries were spending a lot of time in mangroves and melaleuca swamps. As these areas were tidal it did pose a problem in trying to retrieve the tracking devices before they floated out to sea.

Late on Wednesday afternoon the ping signal indicated the device was somewhere in the Coquette Point mangroves on Lot 27V. Fortunately Lyle, the manager of the property was home and willingly gave permission for Tom to search the area. So off we went into the mangroves, 40 minutes before last light and the tide starting its rush in. Lyle, an old bushy in bare feet, showed us the quickest way in. The boys with the satellite tracking gear followed Lyle and I ran behind with the camera, documenting the trip.

Tom Lawton, Lyle and Brett Montgomery holding the aerial.

It was later identified from the motion camera on the feed station that it was Jessie that had taken the tag at 6am in the morning.  Six hours later she had taken a walk into the mangrove forest. As I have often recorded on this blog,  Jessie spends a lot of time in the mangroves and on this occasion she certainly went a long way into the forest to do a poo.

Left satellite tracker in cassowary scat.

On another occasion the signal came from the rainforest at the base of the Moresby Range. Tom decided to access the point at low tide from the beach. This time, young bushmen Adrian was with us in bare feet. The boys not wanting to get their shoes wet jumped Crocodile Creek, much to Adrian's amusement.

We intended to try to find the old walking track which led up the range, it has been closed since cyclone Yasi. We found the old National Park sign but after an hour of slogging through steep, thick wait-awhile covered forest hill-side, we decided to give it away. The next morning Tom and Brett found the tracker by going down the mountain.

A documentary team with Bob Irwin has been following Tom and his crew for the last couple of weeks and there were some funny moments when they arrived at Coquette Point.

They are a great mob and we had lots of laughs. Most of the crew were a little hesitant in trying some of the topical and bush fruits I offered, particularly the Davidson Plums. Of course Bob had no problems in eating them when I told him they were an aphrodisiac.
Dan Mead, Bob Irwin, Margie Brown, Brett Montgomery, Tom Lawton, Brodie Poole, Shannon McCann, Mandy Lake
We had just finished breakfast one morning when we heard a noise from the rainforest. Jessie had come out of the rainforest and was walking up the back at a good pace, suddenly she put her head down and with feathers flying she ran up the road at great speed. She had, heard, smelt or sensed something?  The boys followed.  We found Snout and chick Kin on the top road, Jessie had stopped in her tracks, she was standing to one side, head down submissively and Snout and Kin were looking at her. It seems that as soon as she saw it was Snout her aggression collapsed. Eventually Snout and Kin walked away and Jessie went in the other direction.

The boys told me it was a different story when they witnessed an encounter between July and Jessie. On that occasion Tom told me Jessie boomed loudly and chased July angrily. However, we saw July back the next day.

We were sitting having a cup of tea and a break when Cassowary July turned up. Tom had noticed on the motion camera that she had taken the fruit with the tracker in the morning. Sure enough when tested she still had the tracker inside her. The last I heard Tom was still following July waiting for her to do a poo.

I attended Brian Kebby's funeral on Wednesday and afterwards a group of  friends gathered at the family home at Coquette Point.

I suppose it was the noise of the conversation but amazingly the cassowaries that Brian loved to watch all came to visit.

A juvenile cassowary which Brian had named Rastas was the first to arrive. The wattles on this cassowary are set well apart and it has long chest feathers between the wattles. On his head a down of soft feathers cover the blue neck markings. No doubt they will fall out shortly. I believe Rastas hatched in December 2013 and I think his father is Brown Cone. I previously photographed him close to the Nind's Creek bridge.

Rastas ran away suddenly when cassowary Ross and his chick arrived. Karen and the boys have asked me to record this chick's name as Brian.

Cassowary Ross sat down on the edge of the garden and eventually went to sleep. I took a photo of Ross in July not long after the chick hatched. You can just make out the chick between his dad's feet.

We were all astonished at the sudden appearance of the cassowaries, then to our surprise matriarch Peggy paid a brief visit. All these cassowaries arrived within a few minutes of each other, life is strange.

I received a phone call from Steve and Sharon of Mission Beach Wildcare on Thursday morning. Steve had a juvenile crested tern called Pingu which was due to be released and he asked if he could release it on the beach here. If you go to my Facebook page you will see the video of the release.
Boutique Bungalows Mission Beach uploaded a new video.

Steve released the tern at lunch time, I kept an eye on it through the afternoon as it stayed on the beach. At the low tide in the afternoon coming back from the 'cassowary poo chase' with the boys a tern flew low over our heads and landed on the rookery behind us. I was so pleased to see Pingu, other crested terns were close by and I hoped he would join them.

At first light the next morning I went out looking for him. I saw the crested terns on one of the outer sandbars but there was no sign of Pingu on the rookery. I turned for home at about 6.30am and suddenly a tern flew low over the beach and landed in front of me on the sand. It started walking at a good pace ahead of me towards the mangrove track and home, it was Pingu.

It's a good 800 metres from the rookery through the mangroves to the beach in front of my house but Pingu did not stop. To my amazement he walked up onto the lawn and walked to the bottom of the steps. I thought I should pick him up and find something for him to eat.

When I tried to pick Pingu up he flew away and back towards the mouth of the river.

Early this morning I went down to the river at 6.30am there was no sign of Pingu.

I checked again at 7.30 am and there was a fisherman who had just caught a net full of bait fish. I asked him if he had seen Pingu, but he hadn't. I turned to go back to the house when I saw him, Pingu was walking down the mangrove track towards us. I couldn't believe my eyes. I asked the man if I could buy some bait to feed Pingu, he wouldn't accept payment and gave me a bucket full. We gave Pingu some fish and he ate them quickly. When he finished he turned around and walked back down the mangrove track. I looked for him today but did not find him. I have some fish ready in the fridge to feed him tomorrow, if he turns up again.

When Pingu had enough to eat he walked back along the mangroves towards the front beach.

The Little Terns are nesting on the sandbar behind the rookery at Coquette Point. On Thursday morning I counted twelve little terns nesting on the rookery.  Other little terns were on the beach and more were fishing in the river. I estimated about 40 little terns have arrived at Coquette Point this year.

 When I was walking with the boys on Thursday chasing cassowaries, one of the local fellas who walks his dog on the beach passed us. It was in the zone of the pied oyster catcher's nest area and they were pipping loudly in alarm. Before I could say anything Brett approached the man and explained to him about the birds nesting on the beach and thanked him for having his dog on a lead and for not walking on the rookery. The local man appreciated Brett explanation about the birds and he changed his direction and walked away from the nesting area. When the man left the pied oyster catchers went back to their chick which had remained hidden in the mangroves.

A small thing like walking away from a rookery can mean survival or extinction of these bird species in any one habitat.

 The fiddler and mangrove crabs are very active at the moment and the mangrove floor is dotted in red, blue and yellow as the crabs move about feeding.

Blue brassieres are the latest fashion item in the mangroves.
 I watched grey-tailed tatler have a battle with a flat-fish but in the end he swallowed it down but it took over 10 minutes.

There has been more damage to the signs at Coquette Point. Above with Mandubarra Land and Sea Inc,  how it looked before and below what is left. Since I took the photo below the Coquette Point bird interpretive sign has disappeared.

Cheers for this week,