Winter arrived yesterday, with its usual suddenness.
As in most years, a big weather pattern somewhere down South pushed cold, dry air from Central Australia out over the ranges to Townsville. Overnight temperatures dropped, and the humidity crashed. Last year I reckoned the Dry arrived at the end of April, as it did in 2014 and 2015 so we’re running a couple of weeks late this year.
In numbers, the changes are from overnight minimums of 18 – 21 C for the beginning of May down to 13.4 and 10.6 on the nights of the 12th and 13th, and humidity from 55 – 90% down to 16 – 19%.
In daily life that means the cat becomes a permanent lap-rug, if he can get away with it, but we’re not permitted to stroke him because sparks leap painfully from the tips of his ears and tail. Meanwhile, we search for windcheaters we haven’t worn for six months and seek out patches of sunshine in the morning instead of drifting automatically into shade.
Let me be clear, however: I am not complaining. I love this weather, and after a good Wet season I really look forward to it.
Townsville’s Town Common Conservation Park is a world-famous (amongst birders, at least) wetland and bird refuge but it is not at its best now, six dry months after the second of two consecutive failed Wet seasons. My first three photos were all taken from the lookout above Tegoora Rock a week ago, looking towards the city, then turning right to look along the inland face of the Many Peaks Range, then (for completeness and variety) right again to look into the scrub on the ridge behind me.
Our few days of rain last month, welcome as they were, seem to have been an aberration and we’re now enjoying a normal Townsville winter – cool nights, warm days, blue skies and humidity low enough that static electricity sparks off car door handles. Every second person you meet asks, “Isn’t this weather gorgeous?” and the answer is always some version of, “It sure is!”
I paused at Sandy Crossing quite early one morning last week for this photo. The dew was still on the grass and the birds were moving around the mangroves – Brown Honeyeaters making far more noise than their size seems to warrant, as they so often do; a Rainbow Bee-eater perching watchfully on the power line; and a little gathering of Woodswallows not far away.
Easter seems to me to mark the usual turning point between Wet and Dry seasons here in Townsville, and it has certainly seemed so this year. Cyclone Debbie was looming as we left for Bali on March 25 but by the time we returned, a week ago, humidity had dropped right off, nights were noticeably cooler, the frangipanis were losing their leaves and the prospect of more real rain seemed to have evaporated.
Coucals are infrequent visitors to our suburban Townsville garden but we saw this one this afternoon after seeing another, or perhaps the same one, a couple of days ago. As chance would have it, a friend I spoke to this morning mentioned that he had seen one in Annandale, just on the other side of Ross River from us, in the last few days.
We were inclined to think that they come into town along the Ross River parkland, which forms a continuous wildlife corridor from the (rapidly drying) Ross Dam to the mangrove-fringed estuary in South Townsville.
This post presents more information about the species, so I won’t repeat it here.