Saturday, 19 December 2015

Hello from Coquette Point,

The search for the Monsoon Trough is over, it has arrived early and it will be welcomed by many as a long awaited friend as it is expected to bring Christmas wishes of rain to drought stricken graziers across the North.

Even before BOM placed the dotted monsoon line on their charts, you could feel and see the changes in the weather;  a ramp up in the humidity, extreme heat, increased insect activity,  cumulus cloud formations and rainbows in the sky: the latter always the herald of the monsoon.

Sometimes magic happens.

On Tuesday morning a double rainbow formed across the Johnstone River. It formed in the mangroves on the Coquette Point side and slowly the apex of the rainbow moved across to the other side of the river, forming a spectacular arch of colour across the Johnstone River. I waited until it slowly faded hoping a boat would arrive and sail under the rainbow, but it was low tide and very early in the morning and none were about.

With the hot weather this week a queue formed at the 'Coquette Point Cassowary Aquatic Centre'.  Cassowary Jessie was enjoying her bath when Snout and Kin arrived. They sat down under a nearby tree and waited, trying not to watch Jessie as she was in no hurry to finish her ablutions.

Little Kin stretched out at his father's feet, he occasionally lifted his head to look impatiently  at his mother.
It is interesting watching these three tolerate each other's presence in the same space.
Eventually, Jessie finished her bath and left the pool, Snout and Kin quickly moved in for their turn.

There is no tolerance towards cassowary July from Jessie or Snout. Snout honks at July then walks away,  while Jessie drums aggressively then chases her.

Cassowary July, on the left, was not so cocky this week, I think she knows Jessie is Queen and she is doing her best to avoid her and Snout.

At the top of the hill Cassowary Hero, right, is enjoying his freedom from chick-care and has extended his range further into the National Park.

Cassowary Peggy who was trying to gain Hero's  attention has been reported as having an injured leg.  Alan Halifax saw Peggy on Friday down in the gully near the Moresby Range National Park sign, she had a profound limp to her left leg, Alan did not manage a photo. I reported this to the Cassowary Hotline and EHP immediately placed an additional yellow cassowary sign in the area where Alan saw her.

Cassowary Peggy photo from earlier this year.
Cassowary Peggy has an unusual casque and is easy to identify. She is a very large and old cassowary so please look out for her and if you see her and she is still limping, please do your best to assess the injury and report it to the Cassowary Hotline on 1300130372.

Thank you Alan for contacting me, it was no trouble to report this incident. Let us hope that Peggy has just strained her leg in a chase and that it is not something serious. All animals have an extraordinary ability to heal themselves, however, Peggy will need to be monitored.

I saw cassowary Brown Cone this week, he had only one chick with him. The other chick which I called Cheeky, because he would never do what he was told, has either gone his own way or met an untimely end. The photo above was taken early this year with the two chick following Brown Cone at some distance.

 Great tides this week for shore bird watching, low in the mornings and evenings.  No matter how early I visit the little tern rookery I always find the birds already airborne and feeding.  Unfortunately,  this forthcoming week will most likely be their last for nesting, as the King Tides, starting mid week, will be accompanied with monsoonal storms and heavy rain, so it is most likely that the rookery will be overtopped.

Thankfully, over the last twelve months there has been significant sand replenishment to the rookery and a good grass cover is starting to appear, further wind events should build on what is now established. However, when storm winds and King Tides combine they tend to scour 

The little tern is a very small bird, around 20 cm in length, when you watch it flying or see it alone it is hard to realise it is so small. When compared with other terns, the photo below left shows a little tern on the beach with two gull-billed terns, the size difference can be easily seen. While the gull-billed terns remain all year in Queensland coastal waters, the little tern migrates to Asia at the end of its breeding cycle, normally departing Australian waters in March.  We are very privileged at Coquette Point to have a small breeding colony of little terns.

The numbers of gull billed terns roosting on the beach at Coquette Point has increased over the last few weeks. They arrive, from their hinterland feeding grounds, as the sun sets and roost on the sand bars and dunes overnight. At first light they take to the sky and fly inland  for a day's foraging, it is always fascinating to watch the daily passage of these birds.
 The land breeze failed to appear on most mornings this week and the inshore waters reflected the clouds and birds in an oily calm.

 The bar-tailed godwit population on the beach at Coquette Point varies from one or two birds to several small flocks of four or five. This week I found four bar-tailed godwits searching for a feed on the sandbars.

Around fifty greater sand plovers were scattered along the beach shoreline and I could make out more on the outer sand bars.
 On dusk the greater sand plovers congregate on the rookery with the little terns and sometimes at first light you can find  them on the edge of the dune as they wake and shake the sand from their feathers ready to start the day foraging.


There has been no sign of the pied oyster catcher chick which I photographed last month, it appears to have been lost.      The male red-capped plovers have calmed down and are now more interesting in feeding than territorial displays.                                                                                                                          Common sandpiper, below left, and grey-tailed tattler, right, all were solitary and busy fishing.      


The beach stone curlews were hiding in the foliage behind the sand dunes and did not run out onto the beach as I passed.


Along the edge of the mangrove forest the nocturnal flowers of Sonneratia alba were starting to scatter their white stamens over the mangrove floor.

On the salty leaves of an Avicennia marina two mangrove snails were deep in conjugal bliss.  While higher up on the tree's flowers
a longicorn beetle was feeding on nectar.

As I walked
back along the mangrove path, I heard frenzied calls from the beach where I saw an agile wallaby had hopped out to the water's edge and several gull-billed terns were screeching and dive bombing it. Wallaby quickly headed for the safety of the mangroves.

Lots of wonderful hairy creatures turned up in my garden this week where they were enjoying the heat and moist conditions.

Enjoy Summer Solstice celebrations on Tuesday 22nd.



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