Saturday, 2 April 2016
Hello from Coquette Point,
At last the heat of a long, long summer is behind us and April should deliver milder, autumn conditions. The Bureau of Meteorology has just stated that on March 2nd Australia had its warmest March day on record.
In FNQ the summer heat and humidity has been exhausting. The failure of the Monsoon left us without cloud cover and the sun beat down on the land and the sea relentlessly.
Off shore the sea surface temperature reached 33 degrees in large pools around the Coral Sea. Coupled with the heat, unusual periods of glassy calm persisted throughout summer. Coral bleaching in these conditions was inevitable. Even now the sea surface temperature is well above average for this time of the year, over 28 degrees in much of the northern Great Barrier Reef waters.
The hot sun this summer warped the sleepers supporting my raised vegetable garden beds. It was a big job on Tuesday to lift them and turn them around. If we are to experience even hotter conditions in the years ahead, what impact will the increased temperature have on infrastructure such as timber bridges?
When the sprinklers are on in the nursery the birds love to play in the cool water. A little dusky honeyeater was 'singing in the rain' from the sprinklers. She danced through the air in total abandonment, enjoying the relief from the heat of the midday sun, a special moment to capture.
The fruits on the strangler fig, Ficus drupacea are red-ripe and flocks of birds continue to descend on the tree to feed. The metallic starlings have been feasting, no doubt building up their fat reserves for their impending migration.
When the cassowaries hear the birds feeding in the fig tree, they often arrive within minutes, walking up from the beach or down from the rainforest. Snout and Kin usually arrive first followed shortly afterwards by Jessie. There is always a bit of honking and display while they eat as many of the fallen figs they can find.
Three lads, Jeremy, Ethan and Paul were fishing on the beach, they did not see the cassowaries arrive.
When they turned around they got the shock of their lives to see three cassowaries, metres behind them. Jessie went down on the beach to see what they were shouting about and the boys made a scramble for the rocks to get away from her. Unfortunately I had the big lens on my camera and could not capture the shock on the faces of the boys. Jessie searched around looking for crabs before she disappeared back into the mangrove forest.
Jessie left a long line of footprints on the beach.
Kin watched as Jessie walked away. The slightest shade of blue is just starting to show on Kin's face and neck.
Cassowary Hero is still without a mate and has been visiting a number of backyard orchards at the top of the Moresby Range.
On my way home from town on Friday afternoon I saw Hero's independent chick Ruthie standing within the gate of number 309 at the top of the hill.
The neighbours John and Lindsay were concerned when Ruthie could not find her way out of the fenced yard, she had started to panic, running at and into the fence. Quick thinking from the boys saved the day. They ran a line of fruit from inside the fence to the road. Ruthie soon ate her way to freedom and walked across the road and down into the rainforest. Well done John and Lindsay.
This is not the first time that a cassowary has been caught in number 309. The occupants leave the gate open and the cassowaries wander in. John and Lindsay have spoken to the occupants, but it appears they do not see it to be a problem, as they told me last year when I raised the same issue with them, "The cassowaries eventually find their way out." Most of the cassowaries at Coquette Point, like Snout and Jessie, have damage to the top of their beaks and carry scars from their encounters with this fence.
You never know what you might see when you walk around looking up into the trees with a camera in hand. It is always exciting when you find a bird you have never seen before. It happened this week on Monday morning at 9.10 am I saw a white-headed pigeon in the giant
fig tree. I managed to get two photos before he flew off and I haven't seen him again. Unfortunately, the light was difficult and the striking red eye patch and upper red beak colour do not stand out in this photo. The white-headed pigeon is usually found in rainforest at higher altitudes, so he has wandered far from home, perhaps he just wanted to spend his Easter holidays near the seaside.
A number of migratory shore birds are still present at Coquette Point but their number have diminished. Most are showing breeding plumage. Above left greater sand plover now in full breeding plumage. Right and below, grey-tailed tattlers starting to show their breeding colours.
Seven bar-tailed godwits were feeding on the sand flats at low tide this week.
Over fifty whimbrels were moving around at the water's edge. Normally the whimbrels fly inland to feed in lagoons throughout the day but this week they stayed on the beach with the crested terns.
The red-capped plovers are back. I have not seen them on the beach for over three months so it is good to see them return.
On Tuesday afternoon a young osprey flew across the estuary and landed in the shallow water well offshore. It stayed looking left and right, sometimes raising its wing like a heron, I did not see it catch a fish but after 40 minutes it left and flew towards the Mt Annie National Park.
Coconuts often wash up on the beach and I found a little welcome swallow busily pulling threads off an old coconut. Her mate was nearby watching, and when she was happy with her selection she flew off, with him following, into the mangroves, no doubt to continue the construction of a nest.
I photographed two birds this week trailing fishing line. The Easter holidays are a great time to take the family fishing or just to go down to the beach. It's also a good time to teach children responsibility about rubbish because it's time all beach goers learnt to take their rubbish home with them. Fishing gear and plastic rubbish left on beaches are deadly to all birds, turtles and fish. Do people really want to eat fish that's 30% plastic? It's about time fishers realise what's in the digestive system of many fish they eat.
I was worried that the crested tern with the fishing line caught in its leg might be Pingu, but later I was relieved to see a crested tern on the old derrick and I feel sure it was Pingu.
Lots of visitors turned up at Coquette Point this week, from Mackay Birdlife, Sylvia Martinez with daughter Natasha and grandchildren Jacob and Nike.
Jacob has a real knack with the camera and took some great shots of birdwing butterflies in flight. I hope you share them with us Jacob.
On Friday an old friend dropped in to say hello, bird guru Del Richards from Mossman. 20 years ago Del established Fine Feather Tours and is regarded as the local expert on our fine feathered friends.
Whenever I am in doubt about the identity of a bird, I email Del. While Del was here, cassowary Jessie and Snout with Kin came in to feed on the fruits of the giant fig tree.
It was lovely to catch up with Del and share bird sightings and tales about past and present adventures.
Cheers for this week and look out for the flowers of hibiscus tiliaceus falling on the sand.