Shore-birds at the mouth of Ross River

cloudscape
Sand flats, mangroves, clouds and lots of fresh air at the mouth of Ross River

Thursday was a day of dramatic clouds so I made a spur-of-the-moment detour on my way home from the city, visiting the mouth of Ross River for the open space and big skies of the sand-flats. I found I had company – lots of shore-birds were out and about, most of them probing into the sand and mud for small prey.

Large brownish wader with long straight beak
Bar-tailed Godwit, Limosa lapponica

The two largest were both about the same size, i.e. a bit under ibis size, and colour. Both had long beaks but one was straight and the other down-curved like that of an ibis. They turned out to be a Godwit, above, and (I think) a Whimbrel – here is a better photo than I managed to take.

Three smaller species were more numerous but harder to identify. None were as big as the abundant silver gulls sharing the area.

mottled grey wader
A Sandpiper?
small grey wading bird
Wandering Tattler, Tringa incana
two small waders in shallow water
Stints or Sandpipers?

 

 

 

 

 

I’m not feeling too guilty about my inability to identify all of these birds because they are all from one extensive family (Scolopacidae) and all very similar in appearance, as a visit to this index page on Ian Montgomery’s Birdway shows. I would be rather embarrassed, however, if I didn’t know these impressive creatures:

Two pelicans swimming together
Australian Pelican, Pelecanus conspicillatus

Coucal pheasant

long-tailed dark bird in mango tree
Pheasant Coucal, Centropus phasianinus

Another bird story? What’s happened to the insects? Well, it still hasn’t rained, so birds are coming to town for the water but insects are not particularly plentiful. They will be back, however, in reality and on Green Path.

We spotted this visitor in our garden yesterday morning, on the ground near the swimming pool and then in the mango tree where I managed a couple of photos. Continue reading “Coucal pheasant”

Figbirds

A month ago I took a walk along the Ross River bikeway early one morning in the hope of seeing some birds and was rewarded with sightings of quite a few species – an Egret, White-gaped Honeyeaters, Friarbirds, Rainbow Bee-eaters, a beautiful little Red-backed Wren, Ibis, Peaceful Doves, a common Pigeon, Indian Mynas (not special) and a few I couldn’t identify. (Links in this list take you to previous posts featuring these species.)

But the bird of the day has to be the Figbird, Sphecotheres vieilloti. Continue reading “Figbirds”

Nature photography online

I have been having such a good time outdoors lately that I am welcoming this wet day (our first for a very long time) not just for the much-needed rain but for the chance to catch up with my photos and my blog. My visits to Alligator Creek on Boxing Day and Magnetic Island (blog post to come) have reminded me how often I use several online reference collections to help me identify the wildlife I come across. I think they deserve to be featured in their own right, both to thank all the people involved with these excellent sites and to help any readers looking for wildlife identification guides. Here they are:

  • The Flickr group Field Guide to Insects of Australia is the hub of a community of interested and helpful folk with varying levels of expertise in entomology. With 600+ members and 22 000+ photos it covers a lot of bugs!
  • Graeme Cocks’ Wildlife of Townsville is unrivalled as regards insects of my local region and has smaller sections covering spiders, birds and other animal life.
  • Brisbane Insects and Spiders is a very big site which is great for SE QLD and very good for most of the East coast.
  • Spiders of Australia is Flickr’s counterpart to Field Guide to Insects of Australia. Very useful if you want help with ID, or if you think you know what you’ve got but want to look at lots of photos of it.
  • Arachne.org (Robert Whyte and Greg Anderson), Spiders of Australia (Ed Nieuwenhuys) and Find-a-Spider (Ron Atkinson) are all large, authoritative photographic catalogues. The third is focused on SE Qld (although of course many of its species have much broader ranges) but the other two are national.
  • When it comes to birds, Birdway (Ian Montgomery) is my first, and usually last, click but Birdlife Townsville (formerly the Bird Observers’ Club) is well worth a visit.

Most of my readers will have already visited Flickr, the online photo-sharing service, by now, if only because my links have taken you there. One of their ancillary services to users is the option of tagging other people’s photos as ‘Favorites’ to be able to return to them with a single click. My own favorites album, containing nearly 80 photos, is (unsurprisingly) full of nature photography and has a good proportion of macro work. Please click here to visit it … but only if you can remember to be kind about my own less-polished efforts afterwards.