Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Spotting Spotted Ducks makes for happy year's end

Great year of birding for me in Town Common ended with five mornings of getting to know rare visitors originally from Papua New Guinea, three Spotted Whistling Ducks. Members of the species have been gradually heading heading south for some years. Birds have in past three years been seen in Townsville at the Palmetum lagoon near the Ross River,  and at the Bohle Wetlands revegetation site.

Happily for me, the trio at the new borrow pits in the Common are much less flighty than a pair of Pacific Black Ducks sometimes associating with them.

And they seem mostly to get along together. Every now and again there'll be a minor flurry of touchiness. But as yet I've been too slow to catch the action till peace almost resumes, as above, today.

Did get lucky with other action in the same pool at the borrow pits this week. Australian Gill-billed Terns believe in high-speed drinking. Hundreds on images were binned before one passable picture emerged.

Similar story with the scores of Carpenter Bees visiting blue water lilies. Happy with the shot, specially given the Tamron 150-600mm lens is workaday gear without pretence to macro credentials. But it is much easier to manage than massive Canon 600mm when clambering through 3-metre bulrush and across stretches of thick oozy mud and deep-broken pig-churned ground.

Hopeful and happy 2020 to all.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

One or two Christmas goodies from the Town Common

Saved up one or two goodies for Christmas. Only those who have been good this year are allowed to look . . .  Are you sure you've been good? OK then. Start with best near crash of the year. Question: Should the light Whistling Kite with the height on the right have given way? Near thing over Melaleuca viewing area in Town Common Cons. Park, Townsville.

Same area, best long watch on one bird, Eastern Yellow Wagtail. Sightings over several weeks eventually brought a few closeup pictures of uncommon long-distance migrant. Not great, but best of my 15 years chasing the species around Townsville and Ingham.

Also same area, also long-haul migrant, also not so common, Little Curlew. Tip for those seeking to get close to these wary birds. Get down and crawl or creep slowly. No, slower than slowly, with pauses. Dress accordingly.

And if the rarities aren't around? Just stand still near suitable para grass and wait for Golden-headed Cisticola to announce itself happy to be photographed. Scores of the species busy most recent mornings at Melaleuca. Hundreds all up in the Common.

Not so willing to pose for pictures, nor anywhere near so numerous, Dingo pauses during morning patrol along edge of para grass at Melaleuca. Good year for the species with research showing they are not the genetic 'mongrels' many have claimed them to be. (Sadly, in my experience, the worst in the Common have two legs, drive utes, and enjoy roadkills.)

Most at risk on the road: snakes. Good thing then this Lesser Black Whipsnake was sharing a track with me on a recent morning. I'm no expert, but the species seems to have longer breeding season than others in the Common. Pairs sighted twice in last two weeks circling interwreathed before breaking off encounters through my intrusions, months after start of breeding.

Cuter by far for most nature lovers (though not so much in NZ), Brushtail Possum. Seen in residence atop pole supporting Payets Tower hide in the Common.

Cute, but not totally so given female Agile Wallaby's liberal coating of nasty black mud on forepaws, joey eyes the camera. Seconds later as I twisted the camera around to portrait mode for fuller picture the joey lost all interest, turned away, and the moment was gone.

Back to the birds for one last lingering stare from pair of Barking Owls. They've set up roosts near a hollow with an unfortunate history, probably for these same birds. Two breeding efforts in the past two years have led to eggs but no live young. This pair show no signs of reoccupying the hollow. But another pair at nearby Cape Pallarenda Con. Pk recently produced two healthy youngsters. We must just wait and see.

Melaleuca sunset. Sorry, couldn't find any birds willing to fly across the dying Sun. Next Christmas maybe. Happy festive season to all!

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Bank on power performance from Sea-Eagles

Been able to bank on power performances from White-bellied Sea-Eagles at the Melaleuca viewing area in the Town Common, Townsville, lately. Mostly at distance, as above.

Full power only becomes apparent with images from closer to bird thrusting away from paperback perch on a recent evening.

Another big bird in the air, but Australian Pelican is all grace.

Pied Stilts display fluke example of formation flying within full frame image. No cropping.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Yellow Wagtail rewards hours seated on Common mud

Finally! Eastern Yellow Wagtail sees things my way and comes close enough for decent image.

But all water is fast vanishing from main pool in front of Payets Tower, Town Common Conservation Park, Townsville. And the wagtail vanished a day or two later.

Couldn't con uncommon Little Curlews into coming near, particularly when a solitary bird drew another three to the site. All four went about same time as wagtail.

Sitting on wet grass early in the morning or the drying mud later in the day brought other rewards however, including wary Australian Pratincole venturing within handy range.

Pied Stilt more interested in food than photographer.

As also Horsfields Bronze-Cuckoo. Three active in the paperbarks near the hide over the past 10 days. Not so often on the ground.

Can usually count on a few Brown-backed Honeyeaters to be drinking at a small deeper pool nearer the hide.

The Black-fronted Dotterels have been the consistent stayers. First to appear as the mud began to appear. Almost certainly they'll be the last to leave.

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Unsound crows found to wear ravens' gear

Those birders in the know
Who hear corvids and crow
Of ability to ID by call
Should take all due care
Or they may fail to hear
What's abundantly clear
Their unsound crows
Wear ravens' gear

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Yellow Wagtails' cool distance creates the blues

Six days of chatting to Siberian visitors and still getting distant treatment and cold shoulder from Yellow Wagtails at Melaleuca viewing area in the Town Common Conservation Park, Townsville.

Perhaps they're from northern Japan and upset by my ignorance of their origin. Or worse, took offence at comments about their - in first two seen - total lack of yellow. Anyway, four birds stayed for more than two weeks last year. Here's hoping for closer sightings in next week or so.

As with Latham's Snipe foraging along edge of Melaleuca pool. Not often seen quite so close.

Bit much to expect sharp shot of Wagtail in flight. Pied Stilt much easier to track through the air.

As also Comb-crested Jacana, till quite recently main resident of the deepest Melaleuca water.

And I'm afraid there's little likelihood of Yellow Wagtail ever posing so perfectly as the Jacana. Pity!

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Fruit-Dove leads way in Common catch-up

Time for bit of catch-up from the Town Common Cons. Pk, Townsville. First with young Rose-crowned Fruit-Dove, spotted yesterday in a fig tree right at the park entrance. Still a few weeks from maturity as evidenced by emerging rose crown and unfinished splotches elsewhere.

On opposite side of road, Yellow Honeyeater turns out in dinkum Aussie gold and green.

Plenty happening early morning in the pools in front and beside Payets Tower. White Ibis unusually stayed after several others flew off at my approach.

White-bellied Sea-Eagle thought about going, delayed, then flew seconds later.

White-throated Honeyeater one of several birds taken cautious route to drink from remaining small puddles beneath fallen tree in front of hide.

Nearby, Brown-backed Honeyeater at work putting finishing touches to nest: probably the pair's second nest - or possibly the third - for the year.

Popping up out of the para grass, Golden-headed Cisticola.

Too big to simply pop up, pair of Brolgas allow uncustomary close shots as they stroll across the fast-falling shallows of the main Payets pool.

Along the road, at Melaleuca viewing area, young Australian Raven reveals colours other than the sombre blacks seen under most conditions.

Above, Brahminy Kite also benefits from full morning light on its under surfaces.

Ending on sad note, but that's life! Wandering Whistling Duck started life on pool at Melaleuca with four siblings, and parents. Parents went off. Four siblings vanished. Parents returned 2-3 days later. Trio together for 2-3 days. Parents vanished. Duckling vanished. All three back day later. Parents gone again. Duckling alone. Gone day later. Can't help observing, anthropomorphically, how sad little bird looks in last picture.

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...