The birds along the Ross River bike paths are a constant pleasure. Every time I ride there, there is something worth stopping to watch and (if possible) photograph. Here are three such highlights, all from the short stretch of river between the Nathan St and Bowen Rd bridges and all within the last month.
We often see one or two pelicans along this stretch of the river but larger groups are not so common. This group on the Annandale bank, opposite the end of Water St, had four or five members when I first saw it, late one afternoon, but more came in as I watched. I caught some of them doing weird things with their enormous beaks.
A dead tree on the Annandale bank just above Aplin’s Weir was an ideal perch for a flock of Little Black Cormorants (Phalacrocorax sulcirostris). When I first saw them, there were two egrets on the lower branch but one of them soon left and the other moved up to join the cormorants.
Rainbow Bee-eaters (Merops ornatus) roost communally overnight except during the nesting season. Riding down the Annandale side of the river between Aplin’s Weir and the Bowen Rd bridge late one afternoon I saw large numbers of them in the air. They are one of my favourite birds so I stopped to watch.
They were coming in to roost in a dense tree (a fig, I think, but I was more interested in the birds) right beside the bike path, often settling briefly in straggly smaller trees nearby while (apparently) making up their minds that it was indeed bedtime.
I saw larger groups of them shoulder to shoulder when I caught them roosting beside Ross Creek in South Townsville a few years ago; you may like to visit that post for more photos and information.
Early on Saturday morning my daughter heard a lot of scuffling going on in the leaves near the back fence and, through her bedroom window, saw two kookaburras locked together in some kind of struggle. After closer examination through binoculars she identified one as a Laughing Kooka and the other as a Blue-winged. The latter, let’s call him Bluey, had more extensive and more vivid blue plumage and also a pale, “scary-looking” eye compared with the Laughing one’s deceptively gentle-looking brown eye.
What she discovered was that Laughing Boy had its beak jammed down the throat of Bluey, which in turn had its own beak firmly clamped down on the intruder, and they were dancing about like that apparently unable, or unwilling, to unlock themselves.
We’ve had lovely weather for ducks in the last week – ever since I posted about last year’s rainfall, in fact, although I don’t think my post was the cause. I visited the Town Common on Wednesday morning and enjoyed sloshing around in intermittent drizzle before the really heavy rain started about 11 o’clock. Everything was beautifully green and the waterbirds were feeding happily.
Most of this group were Cattle Egrets (more precisely Eastern Cattle Egrets, Bubulcus coromandus) – which are pure white in non-breeding plumage and rufous in breeding plumage. The bigger pure white birds are Intermediate Egrets (Ardea intermedia).
I have been keeping a running tally of birds visiting our Mundingburra garden on this page and it is going well (about 30 species since May 2019) but two lots of recent visitors deserve more attention, so here we are.
I noted ten days ago that we had been hearing and occasionally spotting Magpie Geese, Anseranas semipalmata, in the early morning, perhaps on their flight path from wherever they spend the night (presumably somewhere further up Ross River) and where they spend the day feeding (perhaps Anderson Park). We are now seeing them quite often in the middle of the day as well, and last Thursday a group of them settled in the top of a neighbour’s tall gum tree.