Saturday 6 February 2016

Hello from Coquette Point,

Glassy calm on the Johnstone River at sunrise.
What can I say about the weather it's summer in FNQ hot, sultry and oppressive; we wait for the monsoon to start and bring some relief. Each morning opens with a glassy calm over the Johnstone River estuary, not a leaf moves in the rainforest. Every afternoon storms form over the Tablelands, but so far they have all slipped past Innisfail. The cloud covering the sun gives a little relief, then it passes and we bake again.

Thunder clouds bring temporary relief as they cover the sun but so far have failed to deliver rain to Innisfail.

Last Sunday night I received an email from Allan and Maria Hallifax with a photo of cassowary Peggy advising that she had walked through their property at 4.30 pm that afternoon. Allan could not see the fishing line in her mouth and he reported that Peggy appeared to be in good condition.  I arranged with Allan to stakeout the area on Monday afternoon so as to attempt to get close up photos to check she was OK and the line was in fact gone.
We only waited 30 minutes when Peggy turned up. I managed to take some clear photos and there was no sign of the fishing line or any hook inside her mouth. Somehow Peggy has managed to disentangle herself from the fishing line; it was the very best of news.

When Peggy passed through she dropped a large scat on Allan's driveway. The scat was 99% Garcinia warrenii, the native mangosteen, containing 31 seeds.  The whole fruits still in the scat contained only one seed and the seeds measured 35 to 40 mm across. When I cut the seed it was pure white without any discolouration. The flesh of the fruit was bright red and very large, appearing pear shaped in the scat, but that could be due to compression as the fruit passed through the stomach of the cassowary.

As G. warrenii's southern most distribution is said to be Babinda, I called on Adrian Hogg to confirm the ID of these extra large Garcinia fruits and seeds. Adrian arrived on Friday and measured and cut a seed, the internal stained circle as shown in Cooper and Cooper's Guide, was now present in the older seed. Adrian confirmed they were the native mangosteen and we believe the tree/trees were growing somewhere in the Moresby Range National Park. Thank you Adrian for your interest and help in identifying these seeds, your knowledge of the rainforest is inspiring.

It is interesting to note that the exotic commercial mangosteen Garcinia mangostana did not fruit this year, in the Wet Tropics, possibly due to rainfall before its flowering time. Whereas the native mangosteen's fruiting cycle does not appear to have been affected.  The native mangosteen's fruit is edible although not palatable.

I saw cassowary Jessie only once this week, she came into the nursery on Friday and went straight to the old bath for a drink. Normally she drinks from the front of the bath but this time she walked behind the bath and beside Plastic Cas, she drank long and deep, occasionally blowing bubbles as she gulped to fill her beak with water.

Cassowary Snout and his chick Kin arrive at the nursery every morning around 8 am. They go straight to the Alexandra Palms and eat all the seed that has dropped when the PIP's and other birds have been feeding. Snout and Kin then go and have a feed of figs from the small leaved fig, Ficus oblique.

The small leaved fig produces large quantities of fruit three to four times a year.

When Snout and Kin finish dining they enjoy a drink from one of the many ponds around the nursery.

Later they enjoy a swim in the pool behind the nursery shed, before they wander off again to find some more rainforest fruits.

This morning on my beach walk I saw one large flock and one small flock of Pied Imperial Pigeons flying very high, and a long way out to sea heading north. Normally the PIPs fly low over the coast, or along the coastline. I suspect I saw some of the first of the seasonal migratory departures. I felt a little sad, but as soon as I returned I found a dozen PIPs feeding in the damson, so it will be awhile before they all leave.

  The Pied Imperial Pigeons, when they finish feasting, find a cool spot under the canopy and preen their feathers, I counted 12 birds on my trees today.

The black cockatoos have been back for several weeks and every morning they fly down the river to Flying Fish Point to feast on the beach almond fruits,  Terminalia catappa.

Ian and Jenny Mc Callaum joined me for a walk on the beach on Friday afternoon and we were all disappointed with the amount of plastic we found along the beach and caught up in the mangroves. The bag below looked as if it had been dropped earlier in the day by some fisherman. What will it take to stop people dropping plastic on the beach? Thank you Ian and Jenny for your diligent collection of beach rubbish.

Whimbrel was the first to greet us then we saw the bar-tailed godwits running about looking for a feed. The same seven birds which have been here for the season, I think.

The Pacific golden plovers have returned but I counted only seven of them.

 Greater sand-plovers still around, about 50 birds spread out over the estuary, some with other birds and some alone.

The beach stone curlews were fishing separately, both birds sounding their alarm call as we approached.

Striated heron stood on a worm pitted old log to get a better view of the water, while he waited for the tide to turn.

On the outermost sandbar, eagle eyed Jenny caught sight of a small block of crested terns resting, while the hot north-easterly wind whipped up the incoming tide.  Earlier we had seen them fishing in the estuary.

The pied oyster catchers moved to the water's edge looking for a careless crustacean.

Old Osprey was on his favourite look-out tree again, he flew off as we approached.

A stalk-eyed crab poked his head out of a hole watching us as we made out way home.

Two research officers from the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary visited me this week. They asked if I would help out and allow them to collect caterpillars from my nursery area. They have recently noticed a disease affecting Ulysses butterflies on the Atherton Tablelands. The disease affects the newly hatched butterfly and although the butterfly appears perfect, it will not feed and starves to death.

The Ulysses butterfly is an icon of the Wet Tropics. It is the emblem for Queensland Tourism, and many businesses in Far North Queensland use the Ulysses butterfly to promote their business. This butterfly is of commercial significance to the State. So what is going wrong? James Cook scientists are investigating but so far have not been able to identify the pathogen causing the problem. If you notice any strange behaviour with the Ulysses butterfly or for that matter any butterflies or moths, please get in touch with the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary at Kuranda.

I have noticed a marked decline in Ulysses butterfly numbers this year. We searched stock plants of the Ulysses host trees in the nursery and did not find any caterpillars, most unusual.

I emailed Jack Hasenpusch and he replied, " I have noticed over the last few years there is a decline in butterflies generally. Not as many orchard butterflies around nor many others."

Thank you Jack for your comments, it is a worry when we notice marked declines in populations of any creature.

I was delighted this week when Henry and Nellie Epong brought their Australia Day Environment Award and medal down for me to see. We are very proud of you Henry and Nellie congratulations, it is well deserved and all your friends are very proud of you both.

As we get through this week of cyclone anniversaries, 30 years since high category 3 Winifred and 5 years since category 4 Yasi, we need to look very carefully at the weather.

Martin rang me from sea and reported the sea-surface temperature inside the Great Barrier Reef Lagoon
was 31 degrees. It is normally 28 degrees at this time of the year.

We can expect a surge in the monsoon later this coming week and already there are three circulations evident on the trough line.

At least in this day and age we know what weather is on the way, but in the long run it makes no difference as the outcome is still the same; devastation.

On that bright note,

Cheers for this week,

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for the good news and pictures of Peggy! All of your photos are a joy to see. Love the crab! Good luck in any upcoming monsoons. Hope the cassowaries can find shelter.