Saturday 17 October 2015

Hello from Coquette Point,

You would never know it was the dry season, while most of Queensland is in severe drought we have welcomed light showers, mostly falling at night, for most of this week.

The trees that shed their leaves at the beginning of the dry season are covered in new light, bright, lime green leaves. Some of the trees, a little slow to sprout their new leaves, spread a lacy pattern above the rainforest canopy. It is a time of change in the rainforests of the Wet Tropics.

Terminalia sericocarpa, damson plum, sprouts new leaves in the Wet Tropics Rainforest.

One must feel sorry for cassowary Snout, while he is diligently performing his role as a cassowary dad and caring for his new chick Kin, Matriarch Jessie and the young female July are both giving him the 'eye'.

On Friday I was astonished to suddenly see cassowary July dancing on the road.  I soon saw that cassowary Snout with his chick Kin were close by and keenly watching July.

After a few minutes of dancing and stretching July approached Snout but demonstrated no aggressive behaviour.

On July's approach the chick Kin started to whistle and Snout let out a hiss. He walked away at a fast pace with Kin running beside him, followed by July. Snout disappeared into the rainforest and July turned and went into the mangroves, she seemed to have lost interest and I have not seen her around since.

On Tuesday when Snout and the chick crossed Jessie's path Jessie stood quietly then submissively lowered her head as Snout and the chick walked past.

It is astonishing that both Jessie and July appear to be attracted to Snout while the eligible male Gregory is out of favour. Whenever Jessie sees Gregory she chases him followed by a display of drumming the sound of which rises from the rainforest with a sense of dread, poor Gregory he has not won the heart of either Jessie or July.

Cassowary Matriarch Jessie

I have found Gregory in a wide range of locations around Coquette Point this week. He still has a slight limp, more evident after he has been chased by Jessie but he keeps returning to the nursery property as there are several fig trees dropping fruit at the moment.

Gregory often stops at the water ponds to take a drink. Much to the delight of Vicky Morta and her mother Marlene Doolan when they visited this week Gregory stopped to say hello to the ladies.

It is great to see that Gregory's leg is healing and the bare area on his side has sprouted new quills. They are coloured brown with fine hairs just like you see on a juvenile cassowary. Unfortunately Gregory still looks a little on the skinny side in spite of the feast of figs that are
    available at the moment but his neck colour is now strong.
Carallia brachiata also cassowary favourites
Ficus oblique 

Ficus oblique

These fig fruits are amongst the cassowaries favourite foods and it is common to see them congregating near these trees at fruiting time.

For cassowary Hero with his chick Ruti it is the exotic Panama berry which is their favourite. The fruits are ripe on the tree again and Hero and Ruti will visit this tree at least three times a day for the next month.

Other cassowaries will also visit the tree to feed on its fruits and at times there can be conflict or territorial disputes, particularly between mature male cassowaries, it is wise to keep well clear of cassowaries when this occurs.

A small miracle is again occurring on the beaches of north Queensland, armies of the blue soldier crabs Mictyris longicarpus are emerging on the falling tides to feast on detritus and other small organisms in the sand.

This week many of the shorebirds were delighted with this sudden abundance and ran in circles confused by the moving army of food not knowing which crab to grab.

 Grey tailed tattler and greater sand plover ran about trying to catch a crab. When grey-tailed tattler caught a soldier crab he ran down to the water's edge with the crab in his beak. He then washed it several times before taking a big swallow and dispatching the crab.

Bar-tailed godwit had no trouble eating his soldier crab, he seemed to squash it in his beak before swallowing. Greater sand plover took great interest in bar-tailed godwits methods.

There was an increased number of red-necked stints on the beach this week, about 150 birds. While most were preoccupied with feeding others fluttered about appearing to have disputes with their mates, a behaviour I had never noticed before with these gregarious birds.

Lots of little plovers have arrived, left, but I have only seen one Pacific golden plover so far this season, right.

Good numbers of common sandpipers are on the sand flats and feeding along the Johnstone River. Most appear to have settled down on the Johnstone River for the season.

At least 50 whimbrels have joined the seven winter-over birds. Most of the whimbrels leave Coquette Point on sunrise to fish along the Johnstone River and in the wetlands of the catchment. However, some whimbrels always remain on the beach to feed throughout the day. I watched with fascination as the two whimbrels, pictured, seemed to perform a display dance going around and around each other. It lasted for five minutes.

Three striated herons have taken up residence at Coquette Point. One on the banks of Crocodile Creek, one fishing out the front from the sandbars and another in the corner in from Thompson Point. These birds are master stalkers and it is fascinating to watch them sneak up on their prey.

  Small numbers of lesser crested and crested terns were on the beach. Again no sign of the Gull-billed terns this week. What I was delighted to see was the first arrival of the little terns, only three but their call was unmistakeable. They landed for a short spell on an outer sand dune.

No sighting of the pied oyster-catcher chick and I only saw the male patrolling along his nest area and pipping loudly as I walked back along the beach.

As the shadows fell across the beach pelican Cerino joined Georgie Girl and walked up from the water to bed down on the beach for the night.

Shadows competed with crabs to form patterns on the sand as the sun sank below the Moresby Range and a reminder for me to hurry back before the incoming tide blocked my way home.

I returned home and heard a loud call from high in a tree above my gate, it was common koel. I have been hearing them call for a month now but this year I have not been able to capture a photo. Normally I frequently see the male and female common koel in easily accessible places. However, this year they have both been very secretive.  

Flocks of pied imperial pigeons flying to and from the Barnard Islands to the coastal rainforest are common now. Only three are visiting Coquette Point again this year which surprises me with the number of trees I see in fruit.

Sacred kingfisher is still here however, he will soon leave for his southern migration. The leaden flycatchers have already left and I have not seen any rainbow bee-eaters for over a week.

I have noticed big flocks of yellow-eyed cuckoo shrikes arrive and they are taking advantage of the feast of figs on offer. Their noisy chatter can be heard all day long from the rainforest canopy.

Gertrude the green tree snake has been active in the warm weather. I have seen her on the benches in the nursery a few times and often wondered where she went when the irrigation was turned on. The clever girl has made a hollow steel beam under the roof of her penthouse.

Although I have seen lots of jumping spiders this season, none of them have been adults. So when I found this beautiful Cytaea frontagliera this week it was a run for the macro lens.  Although I have photographed this little beauty many times before it was still nice to capture him again with his remarkable metallic patterns.

Some date claimers, to remember this week be involved in the Aussie Backyard Bird Count 19-25 October.

While you are out counting birds on the beach take part in the Great Barrier Reef Clean-up 17-25 October.

A big congratulations to the Minister for Fisheries the Hon Bill Byrne for delivering on the Labor Parties' promise to create three net-free fishing zones in Queensland before the end of 2015.
A generous compensation and buy-back package is being negotiated for the netting licence holders. What it will mean for these fishers, in the long run,  is better catches in the off shore areas where many of the same fishers are licensed to operate. It has been known for many years that Rivers and their estuaries are the nursery areas for fish. Everyone wins when fish nursery areas are protected from netting. It is particularly good news for dugongs, dolphins and turtles. Thank you Minister Bill Byrne and Katter's Australia Party for supporting these net free zones.

This change has only come about after 15 years of lobbying from the Mackay Recreational Fishers Alliance Inc led by their president Lance Murray, well done all.

Tonight we should give a thought to the people of the Philippines where cat 4 typhoon Koppu  is sweeping down on them.

While in the South Pacific a small cyclone, the first for the season in our region, is heading towards New Caledonia but should peter out in cold water as it heads south. However, it does signal the start of our cyclone season and alerts us all to be prepared even though it is an El Nino year.

While here on the Johnstone it is rainbows and sun showers in perfect spring weather.

Cheers for this week,


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