Saturday, 10 October 2015

Hello from wet and windy Coquette Point,

A strong wind warning is in force along the far north Queensland coastline. Day turns to night as ominous black squall-lines sweep mini gales into the coast. The squalls are driven by a ridge of high pressure which is moving ever so slowly across the Great Australian Bight.

Crested terns took shelter on a 'sand raft' as the strong wind and lashing rain swept in from the sea.

The crested terns have returned although not in large numbers. Whereas this week the gull-billed terns were nowhere to be seen, perhaps they have sought shelter from the wind in the wetlands of the Johnstone catchment.

On the beach bar-tailed godwits constantly shook the rain out of their feathers as they continued feeding while the squall's wind blew stinging sand drifts along the beach.

The rain was just water off a grey-tailed tattlers back as it ran about looking for fishy bits.

As quickly as it came the squall passed and as if by magic the sun came out. So too did pied oyster catcher. He ran out across the freshly wind swept beach pipping loud alarm calls.

Then I saw it, a tiny fluff-ball running along the beach line close to the sand dunes. It was a newly hatched pied oyster catcher chick, the same colour as the sand. The chick ran towards the mangroves and disappeared. The two parent birds became very distressed at my presence and they were pipping loudly, I left the area so as not to disturb them any further.

                                  Early in the week I had seen some very unusual behaviour from the pied oyster catchers.

 I was standing on the beach looking at the ridge lines in the sand and marvelling at the workings of wind and water over the shallows which create these patterns.

I heard very loud pipping in the sky and before I could turn my camera around three pied oyster catchers landed close to me on the beach.

They marched in a circle around me, pipping loudly and I soon became aware that the parent birds were doing their best to chase the juvenile bird away.

The parent birds were relentless as they ferociously chased their juvenile around and around, seemingly without any awareness of my presence as I stood as still as possible.

The chase continued for over 10 minutes, around and around and across the sand. Mercilessly they chased their offspring pipping loudly until eventually they took to the air still pipping and flew out of sight in pursuit of the juvenile as they headed towards Thompson Point.

This all happened at the beginning of the week and now what I believe to be these same birds are the ones with the new chick.

Perhaps knowing the chick was about to hatch they decided it was time for their juvenile to find its own territory.

Pied oyster catchers mate for life and will defend their nest territory from any invader.  It is interesting that they allowed the juvenile to remain for so long in the nest territory and only chased it away days before the new chick hatched.  On Friday afternoon I looked all along the beach line and there was no sign of the juvenile pied oyster catcher. I only found the two adults and the new chick.

It is always fascinating to watch the behaviour of wild creatures.

The remnants from feeding of large numbers of acorn worms were evident on the sand.

Several groups of red-necked stints were feeding at the water's edge, not phased by the strong winds sweeping the beach.  It is normal to see at least 100 red necked stints spread out over the sand and mud flats and the numbers are similar again this year.

In the estuary behind the rookery with some protection from the wind a silver gull watched the water's edge for movement. Further upstream a striated heron was keeping tabs on a pool of water left behind by the retreating tide. The striated herons have been missing from the estuary for the last six weeks so it's good to see their return.

As I approached the rookery a beach stone curlew sounded an alarm call and started to run backwards and forwards along the high-tide line. It looked as if he was drawing attention to the Nesting Seabird sign.

It is nesting time for the beach-stone curlew and this bird gave every impression it was trying to protect a nest. Beach-stone curlews are an endangered shorebird as their nesting sites are constantly disturbed by people with dogs off-leash and from people illegally collecting drift-wood. The beach-stone curlew has disappeared from most beaches around Australia.

Click on link below to participate in the GBR Clean-up from the 17-25 October.
            marine debris

Yellowed-eyed cuckoo shrike has returned and I found him with his mates hunting in the casuarina trees behind the Coquette Point Rookery.

          Fan-tailed cuckoo flew into a nursery shed this week and it took some effort to show him how to get out. Eventually he managed to escape but has remained close to the nursery shed all week.

There has been an extraordinary number of wild nutmeg mannikin finches hatching this year.  It seems wherever you drive along a road, finches rise in large flocks from where they are feeding on roadside grass seed. When there is lots of feed numbers in any species will increase and certainly this little exotic fella is doing so this year.

Cassowary Gregory's leg has healed and he has full movement of the leg. He appears to be gaining weight and full colour has returned to his wattle and casque. He is still being chased by Jessie and Snout and although he has a slight limp when he runs, he is able to run very fast when escaping from old Jackboots Jessie. I sent a report on Gregory's condition to the Department of EHP.

There is still no sign of cassowary Ky. Every day I venture into another area of forest looking for him but without success. On one such trip this week I was coming down the walking track when I saw Jessie ahead. Normally a cassowary will move away quickly when a human approaches in the rainforest. Not Jessie she just stood still on the path and I had to take to the bush to make my way around her.  When I passed and looked back she had disappeared. Cassowaries do that all the time it is amazing, no noise and they are gone.

Cassowary July has remained in the area and I have come across her on a number of occasions this week. She if very timid and will walk away quickly as soon as I approach.

What can I say about cassowary Snout and Kin, it is such a privilege to observe a cassowary dad care for his chick and watch him teach the chick where to forage in the rainforests of Coquette Point in sunshine or in rain.

Jenny Mccallan took this photo of cassowary Peggy, left,  early this week and today a customer saw her near Maynard Road walking into the Moresby Range National Park near N P sign. On both occasions she was alone. Thanks for the photo Jenny.

Bill Farnsworth sent in the photo of Cassowary Hero and Ruthie. It is hard to tell but it appears Ruthi is a male and we might need to change his name to Ruti.  I hope that's OK Ruth to rename your namesake. Thanks for the photo and report on the cassowaries Bill.

If you are out and about tomorrow try to make time to participate in the Ibis and Cockatoo Count. The link to the web-site is below.

Cheers for this week,


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