The Borrow-pit near Ross Dam

pond with waterbirds
A view of the borrow-pit at the end of the Dry season, with spoonbills and ibis in the small pond in the foreground

Articles about bird-watching around Townsville routinely mention the Town Common, Ross Dam and the Borrow Pits. I have known the first two for years but never quite located the third until a trip to Kelso a fortnight ago presented me with an opportunity. Finding a map that shows it is harder than finding the the pondage itself so here is Ross Dam at lower right and the Borrow-pits – nameless – on the other side of Upper Ross River Road:


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dam with pelicans
Borrow-pit, with pelicans, at the end of the Dry. The ridge in the background is the side wall of Ross Dam

The area is not particularly prepossessing unless you happen to be a water-bird. There are a couple of benches and shelters, and a rough track runs around the pond a little above high water level, and that’s about all. A half-hearted attempt to make it more attractive to human visitors is remembered primarily by a sign at one of the entrances: the project was “due for completion” ten years ago. The birds love it, though: in a visit of less than half an hour I saw Pelicans, Ibis, Spoonbills, Black ducks, Cormorants, Stilts and Greater Egret around and on the water, and Hawks, Crows, Peewits, Friar-birds, Peaceful Doves and unidentified parrots nearby.

My favourite photos from my visit are a short sequence showing a Stilt taking off and landing but I’ll add a couple more to this post too.

black and white wading bird
Black-winged Stilt, Himantopus himantopus, coming in to land
tiny bird pursuing larger one
Woodswallow harassing a hawk; picture orientation is correct – the hawk is flying vertically upwards in its effort to escape
brown hawk in flight
Hawk – perhaps the same one – flying to a tree
wind-ruffled pelicans
Pelicans having a bad-feathers day

More information

The city council offers a short introduction to the borrow pit, this pdf. It probably gets a mention in Jo Wieneke’s birders’ guide, Where to Find Birds in North-East Queensland, too although I can’t check because I haven’t (yet) got the book – I only found out about it while researching this post. Soon!

Update, September 2014: Where to Find Birds in North-East Queensland is now an e-book. Ian Montgomery’s name has been added as co-author and the book is advertised on his site, Birdway – see http://www.birdway.com.au/publications.htm for a preview and downloading links.

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