We’ve now been Wongaling Beach residents for 17 months, watching our “garden birds” list slowly increase as we planted more shrubs and flowers. The garden has slowly changed from lawn, palms and heliconias (seems to be the default for the area) to something more attractive to birds, reptiles and bandicoots (of course), with more native flowers and fruit. Twenty-eight bird species were on our garden list, which did include those travelling in the airspace above – such as osprey and kites.
We have since added Barred Cuckooshrike, Eastern Koel and Leaden Flycatcher to our list – species that we had not previously seen in the area before (though have heard koels). Most mornings the cuckooshrikes have been moving through the big paperbarks along the creek behind us, gathering what look like caterpillars. Does this mean that some species have been forced to go farther afield for food?
The koels have been the most entertaining. Both are immature – one is a young male and the other a female. They arrived on the 29th March and as of the 4th April are still here, feeding each day on ripe palm fruit by our verandah, climbing around the cyclone-damaged fronds like parrots. The male announces his presence upon arrival and is quite fearless of people peering at him from a distance of a few metres.
There are still some “missing” garden birds but I am sure they will return as the forest regrows.
I thought it would be good to add Helens account as a newcomer to Mission Beach from the beginning so here is an earlier account..... Ed
SIX MONTHS IN MISSION BEACH
Today is May Day and we have been in Wongaling Beach for exactly six months now – after driving down from Darwin to become “retired” beach people in Queensland. It has taken us most of that time to adjust to the idea that we live here
Our house in Darwin sat in the northern suburbs adjoining open woodland and paperbark swamp habitat protected by military land and the airport. Very different to our “new” house here, looking at a sandy beach with regrowth rainforest along a creek line and cattle on the property behind us and national park reserves a few minutes away.
The differences in flora, fauna and ‘people culture’ have been striking. We have been both pleasantly and unpleasantly surprised by things. Our Darwin garden looked like open woodland with exotics such as flame trees (Delonix), an immense traveller’s palm clump (Ravenala), bananas, a mango and five-corners along with many fruiting and flowering local native plants and leaf litter and fronds lay everywhere. Messy, but full of birds and animals.
Our inherited garden here at Wongaling looks like many others around it – lots of boring lawn, heliconias and palm trees and with a mass of self-sown native trees fighting for light and space in a big clump across the front. We are slowly dealing with this – and the skink population has exploded since we started leaving piles of leaf litter and fronds down for them (as a zoologist, I want many creatures in my yard).
The black butcherbird family has discovered the bird bath we installed – one of the joys of this area is having these birds carolling in the garden.
I guess everyone knows the feeling when you first see a wild cassowary close to you – heart in throat and mind amazed at the presence and power of the animal.
For me, it is the same feeling when I encounter a very rare or completely new fish; the word thrilling has been over-used but that’s what it is, a physical thrill.
I have excavated 7 million year old fossils of giant birds such as extinct emus and mihurungs (dromornithids) and as these are extinct, they are somewhat mythical to comprehend. The power of the cassowary is such that it has that same mythical quality. We have fallen in love with these prehistoric palaeognaths. And do not want to see them vanish like the mihurungs (if you want to learn about these giant birds and other megafauna, go to www.australianmuseum.net.au/Dromornis-stirtoni as a start, or check out the book Magnificent mihurungs: the colossal flightless birds of the Australian Dreamtime by Peter Murray and Pat Vickers-Rich from the library).
To learn more about the area, its people, the cassowaries and to see if we could help keep Mission Beach in the condition we’d like it to be, we joined C4. We have met an amazing range of people, with backgrounds and skills very different to ours in some ways, and very similar in others. We have learned quickly about community issues and the great range of opinions held about them. We also were amazed at how far some proposed projects have got without what I would consider to be proper process and understanding of potential environmental and social impacts (e.g. Boat Bay).
We discovered why there is so much empty cleared land sitting around, that should have been left vegetated and available as habitat for cassowaries and other creatures and plants. We discovered that the views and opinions of the Traditional Owners do not seem to be highly valued or sought after – very different from the way in the Northern Territory.
All these things can be fixed, given considerable good-will and effort on all sides.
We moved to the Mission Beach area as we wanted to live by the sea again, in a small tropical community that shared our fascination with the idea of living among quiet beaches, intact rainforest, real mountains with clouds sitting on them, hundreds of birds and fast-flowing clear streams full of fascinating fishes all nearby. And here it is.
Dr Helen K. Larson Wongaling Beach 4852