Sunday, October 15, 2017

Reality of the fish that got away just old crap

Plenty of fishing stories boil down to little more than boring old crap, as Black-winged Stilt feeding today in shallows near Payets Tower might attest. Might, if it had bought into above inadvertent illusion.

'Fish' turns out to be boring old crap stuck on the mud. Just another story about the one that got away.

Whited-faced Heron (same site, two days ago) comes up with dinkum catch. Not a fish, but anything living in or near the water is fair fare.

Brolgas don't come up with many fish but like getting stuck into the mud. And muddy water. Many these days showing necks stained brown by the now fast-evaporating water.

Getting a bit dry on slightly higher ground.

Higher still, Brahminy Kite (once often miscalled Fish Eagle) circles the Payet Pool. Species can tell few fishing stories as it's more likely to be seeking to hook insects or frogs from sedges and reeds.

Whistling Kites also show little fishing ability, though a few (ditto Black Kites) learn to watch for and snatch dying fish as they rise gasping to the surface of stagnating waters.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Cracker! Whipsnake finally fronts up

Months of seeing back half of snake slipping away into long Town Common grass without being absolutely sure of species ended with Greater Black Whipsnake yesterday finally presenting front half to camera. The para grass surrounding the pool at Payets tower is probably home to more than six snake species. Mostly they're seen when swimming across open water.

One of their prey targets, Two-lined Dragon well out of snake danger on bonnet of Troopy. Nope, not my doing. It appeared from 'nowhere' the other morn. Clear bonnet one second, Dragon hood ornament the next. Odd, because dragon claws don't grip like skinks'. As seen when it nipped through open driver's door to inside Troopy but was easily scooped up as it kept trying to scale rubber matting over transmission tunnel, getting halfway up only to slide back down again.

Wouldn't be easy scooping metre's worth of Yellow-spotted Monitor from inside Troopy. But though the invitation's been made a few times my friend with a big earth burrow at the Pandanus viewing area prefers to walk alone. And it's a bit too big to pop out of nowhere and perch on Troopy's bonnet.


Monday, October 2, 2017

Black and white - and read and reread

Suffering from info overload? Just want things in black and white? Simple and easy, right? Well, yes and no. Recent portrait of Australian Raven comes full of subtle detail.

Nothing too subtle about early morning Spangled Drongo. Not much detail either. But while stark image is enough to identify Drongo beyond doubt, the Raven isn't so easy. Is the bill really bigger than a Torresian Crow's? Are those throat hackles longer? Can you see naked skin strip?

Much safe ground with Magpie Lark. Black face and throat identify bird as male (white face and throat for females). Easy to remember? Forget the difference for a few months and it's back to the reference books to make sure.

Is that barring on Varied Triller's breast? Yes, but it's too fine to be a female. Pity we can't see rufous underbelly. Black and white (and soft lilac-grey rump) don't tell enough of the story.

Add a touch more colour. Two Sulphur-crested Cockatoos fascinated yet again by old hollow hulk in the Town Common today. ID easy. But how to tell male from female? Catch birds and stare into their eyes. Their irises tell the story. Can't escape the need for more and more info, can we? 

Friday, September 29, 2017

Shining moments around foot of tower

Shining moments below Payets Tower in the Common yesterday included surprise visit by female Shining Monarch. Quick flit through trees close to pool's edge and the bird darted off northeast. No sign of male partner but no surprise there. The glittering blue-black males seldom leave heavily shadowed creek fringes, habitat hard to find even at the conservation park's wettest.

Osprey appeared overhead almost at same time. Made three circuits of the pool without ever seeming likely to take the plunge for fish, though a few hefty splashes tell of sizeable targets.

White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike struck better luck chasing sizeable insect targets in trees around the tower. Chose always to eat them away from the camera.

And Tawny Grassbird popped up out of para grass dying after recent killer dose of spray by Parks and Wildlife, which wants visitors to see more than high grass at the four main viewing areas. Prediction: Grass back bigger than ever within a year. Watch this space!

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Hobby and Kestrel offer differing views of passion

Hobby lacks intensity enough to describe my daily passion, but Australian Hobby at least offers link between obsession and its targets. This young female speeds after large dragonflies from two favoured vantages at the Pandanus viewing point in the Townsville Common Conservation Park (yes, I know, it's a mouthful).

Bird sitting in place today but no big dragonflies.  Images from past two days, with no catches recorded before high Sun cast underside of bird in darkness.

Sun did better job on back of female Nankeen Kestrel today. Minutes earlier she rejected male, then flew to another tree and allowed him to mount. Brief blurred (too distant) flurry and away he flew. Female allowed slow walkup to close beneath  5m tree.

Another allowing close-ups this morn, Little Bronze Cuckoo. Wasn't, however, willing to 'watch the birdy' and persisted in looking high left and right. These things can drive one cuckoo (sorry: corn for brekkie).

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Taking some of it with a grain of . . . grain

Fancy a bit of grain for brekkie? Not true grain, but digital noise from cranking up sensor speed to capture action.

Can't freeze birds without much more expensive gear, but it's fun trying.

Immature Brown Honeyeater took plunge several times yesterday in the Common.

Fast settings also slowed passing Striated Pardalotes. Plural? Second bird tucked away, bottom right.

And Black-chinned Honeyeater, another species not so often seen.

White-necked Heron usually to be seen. Not so easy to catch victim of swift strike.

Common Tree Snake not a rare sighting, but not seen one looped so tightly on twigs before.

Enough grain, here's my favourite recent Crimson Finch. Never tire of this species.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Centipede in midnight bed - should one leg it?

What to do when Scary Thing turns up in bed with you after midnight? Grab it inside fistful of sheet and reach for the bedlight, mumbling 'Bloody Geckos (Asian House variety) and reach inside sheet ready to hurl intruder back outside.

Ouch, intruder bitey. Fling on to carpet and see many legs in motion. Upturned microwave bowl stops runaway Giant Centipede - all 46 legs, two of them adapted as venomous black fangs (on show above) - in tracks. Pop into fridge. Return to sleep. Take pictures as Mr Scary warms up later in morn. Return to leaf litter under back hedge.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Egret flaps, Ibises stand out, Neon Bee shines

Oops, toes too long, twigs too tiny, Intermediate Egret fights for balance in the Town Common today.

But casting shadow of its head on inside of wing is a nice touch.

Sharing fast-dropping small pool with the egrets, Australian White Ibis stands shadowed in shallows.

Unlike Straw-necked Ibis, on rock in city park (and sitting in picture folder for weeks: awaiting 'right' opening).

And ... and a bright blue bee. A Neon Cuckoo Bee. It's not just birds that sneak eggs into other species' nests.

Colour here curved to max to show bee as it looks in strong late morning sunshine. Extremely neony!