Friday, November 30, 2018

Wagtail uncommoners come and gone

Seems the uncommoners have come and gone. Not one Eastern Yellow Wagtail sighted this morn in the Town Common. First miss in 17 days.

Never did get a decent picture of the one yellow bird.

'Blotchy' stuck around longest.

Larger sight on the wagtails' patch of saltwater couch this morn, White-bellied Sea-eagle tearing into long-necked turtle.

Elsewhere, three Brolgas in charge of two fast-drying pools in front of Freshwater hide. Male above.

Along the dam wall, nine Brown Quail, two of which, female (left) and male stayed on track long enough for distant shot.

Finally, not at all uncommon but rarely in the open by day, waterlogged water rat at water's edge beside dam wall.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Uncommon sightings give way to drier days

Rare week or two with several uncommon sightings showed signs today of settling back to drier days ahead. Pectoral Sandpiper casting reflection in Payet pool yesterday became no-show for first time since last Sunday.

Quartet (possibly quintet) of Eastern Yellow Wagtails down to two yesterday and again today at Melaleuca viewing area. Blotchy bird above was in company with even lighter immature.

Not so many Australian Pipits confusing the wagtail seekers either.

But resident Willie Wagtails (fantails, not true wagtails) hold their places. Juvenile bird pictured today.

Gone though, Pacific Golden Plover, thought to be juvenile bird with worn and thus gold-free plumage.

But sighting of the week came with Brown Goshawk swooping on to broken pandanus with frog clutched in talons. Clutched insecurely as it turned out. Goshawk looked down split second after landing and frog somehow leapt free. Thirty seconds of action at exactly the time I arrived at Jacana hide for lucky frames. 

Whereas hundreds of failed splash-action frames preceded indifferent shot of sopping Yellow Honeyeater on branch at Payets.

And talking of Payets, words of praise for Queensland Parks and Wildlife. Selective chainsaw work has restored great viewing from the tower. Not needed so much in the Dry, as now, but essential for the coming Wet. Well done, rangers!

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Yellow-spotted Monitor digs up mystery prey

Getting hot. So the Yellow-spotted Monitors are enjoying life. And thinking more of food than sex - unlike a few weeks back. But what food? How about unidentified snake?

Came upon monitor digging away at sand hole by road through Townsville Common. Dig, dig,  dig. Head into hole. Out again. Dig, dig, dig. Head... Dig... etc, etc.

Finally, comes up and chews away at slender snake (or, less likely, long, strong legless lizard, or mystery sand worm: or?).

So, did it smell the live prey through the dryish sand? And is the soft egg sac significant? Don't know! Fun, isn't it?

Monday, November 19, 2018

Pectoral Sandpiper in flight shows Sharp differences

Uncommon and often unnoticed, Pectoral Sandpiper launches into view at Payet Tower pool today. Obvious differences from commoner Sharp-taileds - when seen up close - streaky breast with sharp upsloping cutoffs, light colouring at base of bill, yellow-green legs (if light is right) mean almost nothing from 50 metres away.

But crawl in through the tall grass and inch (millimetre really, but that's not yet a verb) forward, and talk nicely to the bird, and bingo! all doubts about identity disappear. This bird seems content with companionship of 8-9 Sharpies, but here today, gone tomorrow may well apply.

Just up the road to the neighbouring wetland extension at Melaleuca viewing area in Townsville Town Common Conservation Park, Eastern Yellow Wagtails made it a week of sightings, though just two and not the regular three were on show today. Jump and flight images from yesterday.

Surprise newcomer this morning at Melaleuca, Pacific Golden Plover. Probably a juvenile with somewhat worn feathers, thus lacking any hint of gold spangling on its back. Two images, dark one from early morn, lighter other much later. What will tomorrow bring?

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Wetland gumboot gumshoeing turns up Wagtails

Wetland wading paid off with surprise find of three Eastern Yellow Wagtails this week.

Donned gumboots to get closer to large shorebird (turned out to be Black-tailed Godwit)
and squelched upon unseen and startled wagtails.

Less often met in Townsville Common Conservation Park than around my old stomping ground, Ingham, the species wings down from Russia and northern Japan to escape northern freeze, fattens up for a few months and returns north to breed.

Quick glimpse yesterday of yellow adult led to associated find of two immature birds (probably family) today.  The trio's relative rarity will draw local birders. But Eastern Yellows are common enough across the top of Australia and well down into New South Wales.

And here's the bird that brought the gumboots out, Black-tailed Godwit.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Chewing over corvid cleverness

Clever birds, corvids (crows and ravens). Toolmaking. Zip opening. Number counting. Canny Cane Toad chewing. Egg munching. Golf ball eating . . . Well, not so clever with the golf balls. And maybe some vaunted skills are more lab products than typical wild behaviour. Above, Australian Raven tearing at eye and shoulder, near poison gland, of toad - probably dead when found - today at Townsville Common Conservation Park. Terrible image, but taken from about 50 metres away.

Bird, without any sign of distaste then turned toad over and drove beak several times into underside trying to tear into flesh. Unfortunately it then flew off with toad so outcome unknown. But it seems clear raven never got the memo about avoiding toad toxins. And nor had its immature offspring, watching proceedings from beside parent. One case proves little, but I've argued previously that any sensible bird would seek to eat toads or frogs from the underside, because of the soft underbelly. No genius required.

Which brings us to golf balls. Stolen by hundreds every year from the 27 golf holes the Town Common almost encircles. Stolen and abandoned after failing to crack open like eggs. Year after year corvids steal hundreds of golf balls. Not an egg among them. How clever are they really? Better to be lucky than clever. Bumble along and stumble upon Bush Stone-curlew and eggs (above).

Curlew chases Australian Raven trio off. But they return. Two pick up eggs and fly off. What usually happens, I've since been told by witnesses to corvids raiding henhouses, birds fly off with egg, land, poke hole in top of egg, and eat contents without spilling a drop. I couldn't find any trace of eggshell along 40-metre flight path of adult raven carrying one of the curlew eggs. Bird (above) landed, egg was gone. Swallowed into thin air, or perhaps simply swallowed. Be a clever trick. But, then, they're clever birds. aren't they?

Brown Goshawk drops in for brekkie banter

Gidday. Just flying up this track and thought I'd drop in and have a dekko for bit of brekkie. Scared? Why'd I be scared of you, sta...