Saturday 7 May 2016

Hello from Coquette Point,

Low tides and fine weather this week created ideal conditions for beach walking. The spring tide fell to .39 metres on Friday.  The bar across the Johnstone River esturay could be clearly seen from the lookout above, on the Moresby Range, when a 15 knot south-easterly breeze sent breakers over the bar.

Deb at Mission Beach Wildcare phoned me this week, she had six pied imperial pigeons (PIP's), ready for release and wanted to let them go at the mouth of the Johnstone River. Deb asked if she could release them on my property. At 4 pm on Wednesday, Deb arrived with her precious cargo.


Deb gently opened the boxes and the six PIP's took to the air, free again. They quickly made themselves at home, flying through the canopy of the trees and feeding on the various fruits of fig, palm and satin- ash trees that are ripe in the rainforest at the moment.

Debbie was happy that the birds demonstrated their flying capability and she knew they would have no trouble in finding food.

Deb still had one more PIP. It was smaller than the others and she had felt it was not ready for release. The next morning, back at Mission Beach, the last little PIP seemed out of sorts and Debbie felt it was missing its mates. So she rang me and came up straight away with the little PIP on Thursday morning. The other PIPs were still feeding in the fig tree, they had slept in it overnight, we felt sure the 'little one' would fly straight up to her mates; not so.

Debbie had lifted her out of the box, said goodbye, then lifted her high into the air, but she would not fly away.  Debbie walked around the fig tree, where the other PIP's were feeding above; still she would not fly away. So we decided to sit her on a palm frond underneath the fig tree, while we went off to have a cuppa.

We heard a fluttering and I saw the look of surprise on Debbie's face, managed to snap a shot as I felt something land on my shoulder, it was the little PIP. Again we put her back and again she followed us into the nursery.

I put the jug on for a cup of tea while Debbie organised some fruit for the little PIP. We had no sooner sat down when cassowary Jessie walked through the nursery. Little PIP clucked at Jessie but
when Jessie came closer to investigate she flew off to safety on the roof of the shade house.

The next minute Snout and Kin walked through the nursery. They stopped and looked at the little PIP, now sitting safely up on the door to the shop; then they walked on.

The little PIP sat on the roof of the shed looking down at the cassowaries.

Meanwhile cassowary Jessie was waiting under the melaleuca trees. When Snout and Kin saw her they stopped in their tracks.

Several nursery customers arrived and they were fascinated to watch the standoff between the cassowaries.
When cassowary Snout turned to go back towards Jessie, Kin stretched up higher than his dad and he puffed his neck out as if begging his dad not to leave him.

The cassowaries moved on and little Pip flew down to Debbie and ate, grapes, banana and pawpaw, while we had a cuppa. Debbie left and little PIP hung around the nursery all day.

At 4pm I was thinking what arrangements I should make for little PIP for the night, when suddenly she flew down the nursery path towards the big fig tree. I followed and found her in the tree's canopy feeding on fig fruits.

I locked up the nursery and when I returned to the fig tree I could just make out seven PIP's asleep in the tree.

I was very relieved she had found her flock and would bond with them; there is safety in numbers.

At first light on Friday morning I checked out the tree and saw the PIP's  were all there. I returned to check the tree at 8am before I started work, the PIPs had left.  Suddenly I heard a blood curling scream from the nursery. Gloria, who had the day off on Thursday and did not know about the PIP's, arrived for work, opened the gate and 'little PIP' flew down from the large tree at the gate and landed on her head. She had no idea what was 'attacking' her. Little PIP had flown off with the others and possibly did not have the strength to continue and had stopped to rest in the damson plum at the front gate, when Gloria showed up she dove down and landed on her head.

Little PIP stayed around the nursery all day. From time to time she flew to the fig tree for a feed then returned and sat watching Gloria as she worked in the nursery. Around 2 pm she flew to the fig tree and joined her flock again.

Today she did not visit the nursery and this afternoon I saw that she was with the other PIPs in the fig tree. At least I believe it is her, when I matched the tail markings.
Little PIPs tail markings photographed on Thursday, 6 05 16.
Little PIP in fig tree this afternoon, 7 05 16.

Three of the other PIPs released showing their tail markings.

The PIP's were not the only wild release this week. I had a message from Deb Pergolotti, at the Frog Hospital in Edmonton. Deb asked me to call in and collect two frogs, which had come from Innisfail, and were now ready for release.

There was a white-lipped tree frog with one eye and a little graceful tree frog, which had a crushed leg. The leg had healed but was slightly disfigured.

I released the frogs into the waterlily ponds and they hung around for several hours before disappearing. Lots of insects about at the moment so I don't think they will have any trouble in finding a feed. Deb does a wonderful job in rehabilitating hundreds of sick and injured frogs every year; she is a real north Queensland hero.

On Tuesday I was on my way home from town when I received a phone call requesting assistance at 309 Coquette Point Road, a cassowary had entered the property and the people could not get it out. I immediately knew the house, it was not the first time a cassowary had been caught in that yard. The owners leave their gates open and the cassowaries walk into the yard and panic when they get caught behind the gates.

When I arrived I was told the cassowary had fallen down a hole. The cassowary was one of the two subadult chicks from Hagar. The two subadult cassowaries had walked into the yard, one found its way out, the other had tried to push through the fence to join it and in a panic ran over the septic system and fell down a hole between the septic and the fence.

Everyone was crowding around over the top of the hole and the only escape for the cassowary was through the fence. I checked to see if the cassowary was injured and she appeared to be OK.  I knew if I called EHP it would take a minimum of an hour for someone to attend and I figured, with a little luck, we could safely get her out of the hole. One of the men went to the outside of the fence and encouraged the cassowary away from the fence. Everyone else stood back away from the cassowary. With her perceived means of escaped blocked, on the fence side, the only way out for her was up and over the septic. I spoke firmly to the cassowary and with my voice urged it to jump. Cassowaries jump over logs and out of holes in the rainforest all the time. On the third attempt  with one mighty leap she jumped over the septic tank and ran out through the gate and into the Moresby Range National Park. She did not limp and appeared to be none the worse for the unfortunate incident.
Again, I spoke to the homeowner and begged her to close her gate when she went to town. I told her cassowaries were getting caught in her yard on a regular basis. She told me 'it was a lot of bother to close the gate but they would block the hole by the septic'.  I said I would report the incident to EHP and she might receive a visit from a ranger. I reported the incident. This unfortunate experience separated the two chicks. There have been no reports of either of them being seen after this event.

Cassowary Ruthie's neck colour is starting to show. I saw her briefly on my way to town on Friday. She had crossed the road ahead of me and did not hang around for long.

Cassowary Ruthie was named by Aboriginal elders Henry and Nellie Epong in honour of Ruth Lipscombe.  Ruth, if you are reading this your name sake is growing into a very impressive cassowary.

All week I looked forward to walking out on the beach at the very low tide on Friday afternoons. I visited Ruth on Tuesday and from her 'verandah lookout' saw two large flocks of terns on the sand flats. We estimated there were about one hundred birds in each flock.

On Friday I found only one flock of around fifty crested terns, there were a number of immature chicks in the flock which were still being fed by the adult birds.

Nearby six gull-billed terns rested on the sand flats. One of the gull-bills was an immature bird, it was the first return of the gull-billed terns from the offshore Great Barrier Reef Islands where they  go to breed.

What really surprised me was to see four bar-tailed godwits with the gull-billed terns. I had not seen the godwits for two months and now they have turned up again, wintering over in FNQ. Did these bar-tailed godwits go out to the Islands with the gull-billed terns, or have they been foraging down the coast a bit and only just returned, by coincidence with the gull-billed terns?

A lot of slippery mud is covering the sand across the mouth of the Johnstone River, it is from the runoff in the rain events over the last month. It made very slippery walking, and as I walked through it, I thought of the terrible loss of valuable topsoil to farms in the area and the deadly impact to the Great Barrier Reef that this slippery sediment represented.

It has been extremely hot for May and as I walked back from the beach I saw the pied oyster catchers cooling off in the river. I felt tempted to jump in with them, they were having such a good time.

Be involved in a Global Big Day Bird Count. Click on the live link below for more information. It all happens next Saturday 14 May.

 the full story on eBird.

Cheers for this week,


UPDATE. Sunday morning 7.25 am; I just counted seven PIPs in the fig tree. 3 pairs and one large bird by itself. Seven is the number of PIPs released by Debbie.

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