Saturday, 2 January 2016

Greetings and New Year Wishes from Coquette Point,

The threat of a cyclone and the accompanying monsoonal weather of last week has gone and now the sun is shining again. North Queensland has had a very good start to the year with wide spread rain over parched areas of the countryside. 2015 is likely to have been the hottest year on record for our globe and yet we are already hearing that 2016 will be hotter, what can we expect?  In North Queensland we often experience extreme weather, for us in FNQ 2015 came with little extreme weather and this year has got off to a good start with very mild weather conditions, we can be lucky, sometimes.  It is not so for many other places around the globe; in South Australia and Victoria extreme hot weather and devastating fires have destroyed over 100 homes. In north and south America unprecedented flooding and extreme storms and typhoons have killed many people and the Missouri River is still rising. The UK is bracing for yet another storm which will bring more floods and devastation, unprecedented in recorded history.  Is this freakish weather a sign of global warming? Why worry about weather when we can be distracted by competing firework displays?

The water in the Johnstone River is always warm at this time of the year and combined with the fresh flow from the recent monsoons rains the saltwater crocodiles are on the move.

I was just finishing my breakfast on Tuesday morning when I noticed a crocodile swimming off the beach. I grabbed the camera and ran down to see what he was up to. The crocodile swirled his head and looked at me.

Earlier I was reading about storm Frank which was the fourth storm of the season about to impact northern England, so I decided to call the crocodile 'Frank';  like the storm he will cause an uproar and will probably not survive for very long. Frank was concentrating on something on the riverbank and it wasn't me, I looked closely and saw bubbles. The bubbles were coming from the same area where the 'Creature' was seen last week.

Whatever the creature was under the bubbles, it was in very shallow water and moved slowly, when common sandpiper walked along the water's edge I saw a swirl in the water as the creature shifted spots.

I have received a few suggestions that the creature is either a Sea Hare or a stingray. Until someone gets a better photo we will never know.

Frank maintained his position and I watched fearing for the common sandpiper's safety.

Frank didn't favour common sandpiper and when sandpiper passed Frank continued to watch the bubbles as the creature appeared to dig itself into the mud.

 Suddenly the bubbles stopped, Frank stayed looking for some time but when a boat went by he slunk away into the river and out of sight, I haven't seen Frank since. However, a crocodile has been sighted most days at Flying Fish Point and or the Coconuts, which are on the other side of the Johnstone River. Apparently a pig carcass was in the water at Flying Fish Point and a crocodile was filmed eating the carcass, it could have been Frank. It was on the TV news.

There are a lot of 1080 baits placed around farms to kill feral pigs. When a pig eats these baits the first thing it does is run for water before it dies. Dead pigs which have consumed baits are often found near waterholes and rivers. If the pig had eaten 1080 bait, then when the crocodile ate the pig it would most probably be affected by the bait, so it may not be around for long.

Anyway, back to the creature, at low tide I discovered a strange shape dug into the sand, it was about 40 cm long and 10 cm deep. There were slide marks on the sand where something had been moving. I poked a stick into the hole, it went in about 1/2 metre but nothing came out. So the mystery continues.

With the strong wind and rain for most of this week I did not walk around to the front beach, but I did notice many of the shorebirds have been sheltering in the estuary,  lots of common sandpipers  and the whimbrels also found shelter and food along the river bank.

The little terns were also hunting in the river and I watched as they caught a fish, they flew with it to the rookery, backwards and forwards, I think there may be lots more chicks hatched.

The fruits on the damson plum, Terminalia sericocarpa are ripe and the pied imperial pigeons are having a feast. The calls of the PIPs can be heard from sunrise to sunset. Ruth, from her lookout on the Range has been watching many flocks of PIPs flying from the Barnard Islands towards Flying Fish Point every morning.

I was delighted to see two wompoo fruit-doves with the PIPs early this week. The wompoos flew in and out of the trees seemingly picking the fruit on the wing.

   Before cyclone Larry it was common to see the wompoo fruit-doves here, we would hear them and watch them eating the fruits of the figs and damsons. I have seen them in the Moresby Range National Park over the last couple of years, so it is good to see their numbers have built up once again and that they are extending their range and returning to their old foraging areas. The wompoo is one of the worlds most spectacular birds.

Much to the delight of the rainbow lorrikeets the umbrella tree, Schefflera actinophylla, is stretching its nectar laden flowering arms above the green canopy of the rainforest.
Melicope elleryana, the butterfly plant is flowering profusely this year and when the rainbow lorikeets finish drinking the nectar from the umbrella tree they pop over to the butterfly tree for a different flavour of drink.

Sometimes the green Christmas beetle beats the lorikeets to the nectar.                                                                                                                                                           
The Christmas and grey-back beetles need to watch out as old noisy friar bird likes a bit of protein in between his nectar snacks on the blossoms of the Melicope.  This fearsome hunter made short work of a grey back beetle, definitely a farmer's friend certainly doing a better job then old Mr Toad.

Every now and again, if you are lucky, you see something very unusual. Late in the afternoon as I was going to close the gate I heard two birds chirping which I recognised as mistletoebirds Again this was another bird I had not seen a lot of since the two big cyclones so I was keen to take a photo of them. I hung about waiting for them to show up again and was surprised to see both birds fly into the ant plant, Myrmecodia beccarii and start feeding on the ant plants fruits. They were picking out the ripe fruits and flying off into the rainforest with the tiny fruits clasped in their beaks. Both birds were engaged in the task.

I contacted my old friend Jack Hasenpusch of the Daradgee Insect farm, I knew Jack had been studying ant plants.  Jack emailed me by return and said he had never noticed mistletoebirds eating the fruits on his ant plants but he will take more note in future particularly as his plant was in fruit at the moment. Although I have kept a lookout I have not seen the birds return to the ant plant.

 Lots of ticks and leeches about at the moment and I noticed Cassowary chick Kin had some ticks on his neck. I wondered how they would affect him when an hour later I watched Snout pick them off as Kin sat quietly beside the fountain. I could almost hear Snout say, ' Now sit still chick, you will feel better afterwards.' Kin sat still until Snout removed all the ticks.

There was no sign of cassowary July this week.  I have watched a few encounters between Snout and Jessie, but it always results in Snout walking away and Jessie lowering her head submissively then sitting down and waiting, but Snout never returns.

I see Jessie most days patrolling the area keeping any other cassowary away from Snout and Kin.

There is very good news from Alan and Maria Hallifax, they have seen cassowary Peggy and she no longer has a limp. Allan feared greatly for her when a week or two back she actually fell when trying to put weight on her left leg. Now there is no sign of an injury to the leg, Allan said, and the problem seemed to have been in the knee or hip joint. It is a great relief to know that Peggy has healed herself,  thank you Maria and Allan for keeping an eye or her. I know EHP were waiting for your assessment on Peggy as to whether she should be taken to the Rehabilitation Centre or not.

With the constant rain about this week the frogs are having a ball, the eastern dwarf tree frogs are constantly harmonising for their big Monsoon House event, more heavy rain of course. While the giant white-lipped tree frogs decided it was the right time to start mating. Note the tick on the chest of the frog on the right.

Grass-hopper has made himself a new coat for the New Year celebrations but the little sunbirds went one better and hatched new chicks.

I do hope you see lots of great things in your backyard this year.



  1. Best wishes for a good new year to you and all the wild critters in your world, Yvonne. I look forward to reading about your adventures and sightings in 2016.


  2. The very best to you for the coming year Karen and I hope you also experience some amazing wildlife encounters in 2016.