The Town Common after rain

I’m not going to claim credit for it, of course, but my post about rainwater tanks was followed almost immediately by the best rain Townsville has had for years, with totals like 250 to 600 mm over a week or so, depending on exactly where you looked. Ross Dam went from about 15% to over 80% – but I will say more about that in another post.

I visited the Town Common yesterday, very briefly, to see the difference the rain had made there. The road through the park to Freshwater Lagoon was closed at the gates near the Golf Club, so we walked in from the Pallarenda carpark and up to the Tegoora Rock lookout instead; it gave us better views but we were further from the birdlife.

town common flood
The view from Tegoora Rock towards the city (Castle Hill is on the left)
town common
Looking West towards the Bohle River along the inland face of Many Peaks Range

Clicking on my photos normally gets you a full-size version in a lightbox but because I’ve visited this vantage point so often I thought it would be fun to show the seasonal change, so in this case clicking will show the same scenes as they were in April 2015 after a failed Wet season.

We were lucky enough to spot a small group of brolgas from our lookout. This pair looked at first as though they were swimming across the lagoon, although I think they were actually wading, and after foraging in the swamp for a minute or two they treated us to a brief dance.

town common brolgas
Crossing the floodwaters
town common brolgas
The dance

I saw the brolgas’ famous dance display at much closer range a few years ago, near the entrance to the Common; photos are here.

Brolgas at the Town Common

reed beds with distant mountains
View of Town Common near Freshwater Lagoon

After lunch on Sunday I made a snap decision to visit the Town Common. I had been thinking about it for a couple of weeks but hadn’t had a perfect opportunity; Sunday afternoon still wasn’t perfect but I decided it was good enough and I wouldn’t delay any longer.

I knew that there had been fires in the park but I didn’t have much idea of their extent. I found that most of the area from the park entrance almost to the Freshwater Lagoon bird hide had been burnt (there’s a map here – a pdf which will open in a new window) but the area between the Freshwater Trail and the ridge line of the Many Peaks range was untouched and still quite beautiful (I didn’t visit the seaward side – it may be fine, too). It was all quite dry, however, with more mudflats than water, as one would expect at the tail end of the Dry season. The Wetlands Walk, between the Pallarenda carpark and Tegoora Rock, had dried out completely although the vegetation was still green.

My ‘bird of the day’ was the brolga. I saw a flock of a dozen on mudflats of the Long Swamp, a group of three near Tegoora Rock and – closest of all – a pair beside a pond in front of the Golf Club. I watched them for ten or fifteen minutes and saw a small example of their famous courtship behaviour but the female wasn’t very interested and the male soon went back to grazing companionably beside her. Here’s a selection of photos in their correct sequence:

Brolgas grazing together
Brolgas grazing together
brolgas touching beaks
The kiss
brolga leaping
Watch my leap!
brolga leaping
Wasn’t that great?

There’s more about Brolgas, from ABC Science, here, and a previous Green Path post about brolgas on the Common here.

I also saw an egret, plovers and many smaller birds including Rainbow Bee-eaters, Peaceful Doves (it actually seemed odd to see them in the wild after seeing them so often in suburbia!) and a Red-backed Wren. The insect life was dominated by Danaid butterflies (Marsh Tiger and Plain Tiger), Clearwing Swallowtails, grasshoppers and green-ants (these links take you to older photos).

trees in grassland
View near Tegoora Rock

Brolgas on the Town Common

Brolga amongst reeds
Brolga, Grus rubicunda, on Townsville’s Town Common

I went down to the Town Common yesterday, taking advantage of the beautiful weather we’ve been having lately – sunny, with a top of around 24C after an overnight low of 10C.

The Common, a large area of wetlands on the edge of the city, is well known among bird observers (worldwide, I understand) for the large numbers of waterbirds it attracts during our Dry season. There were certainly plenty to see yesterday, and will probably be many more in a month or so, but the highlight of my morning was seeing the brolgas, perhaps ten or fifteen of them in two or three small groups.

Brolga feeding in the swamp
Feeding in the swamp

The Common comprises a variety of habitats – freshwater lagoons, salt and fresh water swamps, salt pans and mud flats and forested areas dominated by mangroves, paperbarks and pandanus. Most of it is flooded at the peak of the Wet. It gradually drains and dries out from April onwards but it still wetter than most of the hinterland. It is managed as a Conservation Park and is therefore well equipped with access roads, walking tracks and bird observing hides.