Saturday, January 20, 2018

Pipit swims into view after dry Aussie crawl

Bit of dry Aussie crawl across baked mud at Melaleuca viewing area today brought Australian Pipit closer than commonly - for a few frames.

Pity, bird didn't offer 'that' perfect pose. Then, better pose, but greater distance.

Too much greenery to allow crawl up on Horsfields Bushlark. The species can, however, be surprisingly tolerant of people walking patiently toward them. Not at all tolerant, and thus unphotographed, pair of Brown Quail and a Red-backed Buttonquail unseen till flushed from long couchgrass nearby.

If only their behaviour matched that of Owlet Nightjar. Haven't got daytime look at species in the Town Common. Got lucky early in the week at western edge of Townsville while having casual look for honeyeaters near bottom of highway climb up local range. Spotted huge scar 20-metres up towering gum - with curious grey blob.

Which resolved through binoculars into alert nightjar. No way down 20m drop off highway and 40-50m across to gum, so lucky find could not become lucky sharp image.

If only nightjars thronged like Rainbow Lorikeets. In this case, to rose gums flowering at eastern fence  edge of the Town Common. Plenty of action again today: bird above feeding on Thursday morning.

No thronging for Eastern Koels, but above female and a male tucked into a mixture of native figs beside the entry gate this morning.

And to polish things off, immature Pacific Baza about to end several minutes of carrying big colourful caterpillar and polish it off with one quick swallow.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Two glossy legs good, four grossy legs bad

Glossies and grossies: too few of the first; too many of the second. Four Glossy Ibis recently dropped in on the Townsville Common and showed a taste - with two later arrivals - for life around the pools at Payets Tower and Melaleuca viewing area.

First quartet displayed uniform breeding plumage.

Later two offer more contrast, with one bird less colourful.

Less attractive - but lovable enough as curly-tailed piglets - feral pigs.

Pig count topped bird count at Melaleuca one morning last week. Perhaps if the damage they wreak came close to Parks and Wildlife's state HQ more resources would be found to deal with them.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Booboo prompts more questions of identity

Big booboo last post - since mostly corrected, but clue left as challenge. Error came from initial assumption of bird's identity. Mistake then blocked any chance of self-correction. Here's a look at recent examples of ID problems, all from within limited confines of Townsville Common Conservation Park, starting with one of most frequent, Collared Sparrowhawk (juvenile above and below: but barred adults also look alike ) versus Brown Goshawk.

Sparrowhawks stare, Goshawks glower. Easy! Except Sparrowhawks often glower a bit. And their tails (square tipped with notch, against rounded unnotched) fold inconclusively in the field. And their very long middle toes and thin legs look less impressively different in the field than in the field guides. Ditto colour, head, bill, and, specially in the north, size differences. So, no surprise if Collared Sparrowhawk ID should be challenged.

Less contentious, though commonly mislisted as Grey Shrike-thrush, Little Shrike-thrush. (above and below), previously called Rufous Shrike-thrush. Above image closely matches what birders expect to see.

Same bird taken a day earlier in less sunlight shows why Little becomes identified as Grey, which is larger, lighter grey, sounds different, and in North Queensland prefers higher and drier inland woodland.

No question about Australasian Pipit. Until it's identified as Anthus australis  australis. Because across the Top (of Australia) there's another subspecies, Anthus australis rogersi, which stands very upright, is more heavily streaked down the breast, is said to have a shorter tail and longer legs than the three other Pipit ssp.

It seems rogersi may have snuck southeast hundreds of kilometres down the NQ coast without drawing field guide attention to itself. Problems: every Pipit locally stands very upright, but often without extra heavy streaking. Tail and leg lengths difficult to measure without bird in hand.

Here's to further challenges (and fewer booboos) in 2018.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Little Egret, Red-capped Plovers fight for last bites

Last days of 2017, last days of action on, around and over the last two pools as Townsville Common wetland hardens under baking sunny days - which may last past January. So, bit of pressure for last of prey, as above with Little Egret flexing muscles and wings and things to see off fleeing rival.

And junior Red-capped Plover letting older bird know who's stud of the mud.

Red-necked Stint sticks to stints picking up prey and avoids those picking fights.

Black-necked Stork won't be walking across Payets pool with any more tilapia until next year's Wet (if it comes - no sure thing for Townsville). Even the hardy pest fish species are dying in the deoxygenated water.

But there's still prey enough in the air on and just above the water to keep Gull-billed Tern coming back every day.

And there'll always be the birds to keep me there day after day, wet or dry. Here's to 2018 and more Peregrine Falcons, White-bellied Sea-eagles and Whistling Kites, and . . .

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Merry Xmas and Happy New Year from some Townsville Common friends

Crimson Finch, Golden-headed Cisticola, Dollarbird, Red-tailed Black Cockatoo, Black Swan, Pelican and Royal Spoonbill, Red-backed Fairy-wren, and one of two unexplained recent arrivals.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Nature in the raw . . .

Be sad for Grey Teal, glad for Australian Raven: nature in the raw today.
 Raven chanced upon injured or sick Teal in Townsville Common Conservation Park.
Quickly plucked breast plumage away from dying bird and began feeding.
 Flew off, to clean bill and return later.     No room for sentiment in the wild.             

Monday, December 18, 2017

Mud, mud, glorious mud . . .

Sloshing around muddy edges of fast-receding shallows at Melaleuca viewing area in the Townsville Common Conservation Park lately brought dodgy footing and images, including low overflight by young Brolga - bill much muddied - today.

Down on the 'ground' (mostly mud bounded by thick para grass), solitary Greater Sand Plover highlighted yesterday and today.

More numerous, thinly scattered Sharp-tailed Sandpipers came and went without troubling the plover.

As also did Red-necked Stints, in lower numbers and all flightier than others marching and munching across the mud.

And poised high and dry above it all this morning, Golden-headed Cisticola sings from dead sedge stalk.