Saturday 26 December 2015

Hello from hot and steamy Coquette Point,

It is the best of news, the little tern rookery at Coquette Point was not overtopped by the King tides this week. I walked to the rookery with heavy steps yesterday expecting to see a clean tide-swept sand dune. As I passed the western arm of the rookery site, where the sign sits, I was pleased to see the vegetation and the sign still intact. I turned the corner and immediately saw  little terns busily going backwards and forwards to the rookery, some carrying fish which they had caught in the Johnstone River estuary. Light rain was falling but it lifted as I walked on further.

I was delighted to see the tern rookery still very active with at least five terns still sitting on eggs while around a dozen little terns were busy bringing fish to chicks on the rookery. I did not manage to get a photo of a chick being fed.

Out on the sandbar, sitting with crested terns, I counted another 15 little terns, ten of these were juveniles.

Pingu was on the sandbar, in the foreground but separate from the other crested terns, he is looking very fat.

Photo above: A glassy calm at King Tide of 3.15 m at 9.30am Christmas morning on the Johnstone River. Although there has been good rainfall throughout the Johnstone River catchment this week, very little sediment runoff has occurred and the river's water is still clear.

 The winds were strongest this week on Monday night and throughout Tuesday before the Spring tides reached their maximum. Fortunately the big tides on Wednesday,Thursday and Friday occurred during calm conditions and with a north-westerly flow off the coast it tended to reduce the tidal maximum. Now with Christmas full moon gone,  the maximum tides will lessen and the little terns will have another month to rear more chicks, cyclones permitting. This is the best breeding season the little terns at Coquette Point have had for many years.

 On Monday morning Adrian Hogg turned up at Coquette Point with the Green Army. Adrian and his team planned to clean-up the Coquette Point beach. Adrian knew the little terns were nesting on the beach and he asked me to identify the rookery area for them.

Just as we were about to leave the Mulgrave River Catchment boys arrived, they have the job of reading the flow metres in the sediment monitoring shed. It was a good opportunity to show the Green Army the work the Queensland Government's Department of Science, Information Technology and Innovation are doing to monitor water quality in the Wet Tropics Rivers.

At low tide we left to walk the beach and before we reached the sign on the rookery each of the team members had already filled their first bag with rubbish they had uncovered on the beach and from the mangroves.

As we approached the little tern rookery I told the team about the little terns and the long flight they make every year to arrive on this beach to breed and nurture the new generation of chicks.

As we walked around to the ocean front, Cinerio the pelican, who had been feeding out on a sandbar, came into the beach to see what we were doing. As the Green Army members walked along the beach Cinerio accompanied them, walking and sometimes flying alongside the team..

Pingu also came in and flew low over our heads then settled down in the shallows watching the team as they searched around the mangrove roots for rubbish.

I was happy to show the Green Army members the success of Ipomoea pescaprae, goats's foot, plantings in some of the worst erosion spots on the ocean front.

I noticed a little egret out on the sandbar with the terns. He left and flew onto a dead branch along the shoreline, maybe the wind was too much for him out on the sandbar. As he flew over the beach one of the greater sand plovers dropped in a defence display, perhaps it had mistaken the egret for a hawk.

Adrian spotted the beach stone curlews and the Green Army members asked about the difference between the beach stone curlew and the bush curlews they hear calling around the suburbs. The Green Army Team members showed an interest in learning about the beach environment and the foreshore birds.

Whimbrels and common sandpipers were fishing within the river, no doubt finding some protection from the wind.

The Green Army Team did a fantastic job collecting a heap of rubbish from the beach, thanks guys you are all fabulous people.

Cassowary Jessie was caught redhanded by the Green Army Team as she tucked into a ripe soursop she had stolen off the tree, I had intended to pick the soursop for the Team to eat.

Jessie has been wandering a lot of late and I have seen very little of her down this way. I did find what looked like her footprints in the sand in the mangroves.
 Coming back from town on Tuesday I saw Jessie at the top of the range eating the ripe fruits on the Panama berry tree. Because of her size she is able to reach fruits that the other cassowaries can't.

I heard little Kin whistling in alarm and found him below the wall, his dad Snout had already gone down the rainforest path.

Kin summoned all his strengt and with one mighty jump leapt up the wall and ran to find his dad.

The good night time rains this week were mostly followed by below average cool mornings and I found large horse mushrooms popping up everywhere, also a large variety of toadstools.  I didn't manage to photograph the cassowaries eating them this week but when I went to check on the fungi mid morning, it was all gone.

A kingdom of fungi.
At the moment there is an abundance of ripe rainforest fruits falling in the rainforest for the cassowaries and other ground dwelling animals to eat.

Native olive, Chionanthus ramiflorus.

Above white apple, Syzygium forte


Native cashew, Semecorpus australiensis.

Wax Jambu, Syzygium jambolana.

The cassowary scats are also showing cloud fruit, Irvingbaileya australis;  buff walnut, Endiandra longipedicellata; native olive and other unidentified seed.

I was on the beach with Aboriginal elder Victor Maund and his granddaughters last week when we saw a strange object in the water. To date no one has been able to identify it.

So I'm putting out a challenge for someone to come up with an ID for my mystery creature of the Johnstone River estuary??????????

While we in the North see the close of 2015 with mild weather conditions it is not so for other parts of Australia. In the Wye River and Separation Creek areas of Victoria over 116 homes have been lost to fire over the Christmas Season. While in the Northern Territory evacuations are being undertaken at the moment as heavy monsoon rain causes rivers to rise. All of our thoughts are with our friends and neighbours in these areas and we hope you stay safe.

My eldest granddaughter Julia turned 13 today so a big happy birthday to you darling. Julia is spending Christmas in France with all the French relations.  Martin and I hope you have a wonderful birthday today with lots of French pastries and cake.

Cheers for this week and see you next year,