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.

Butterflies and other insects on the Town Common

Here are some of the insects I saw on the Town Common yesterday – far more numerous than the birds I talked about in my previous post, although I have to say that wasn’t entirely a Good Thing (more on that later).


  • Marsh Tiger, Danaus affinis
  • Lesser Wanderer aka Plain Tiger, Danaus chrysippus
  • Common Crow, Euploea core
  • Blue Tiger, Tirumala hamata
  • Common Eggfly, Hypolimnas bolina
  • Blue Argus, Junonia orithya
  • Bush Brown, Mycalesis sp.
  • Grass Yellow, Eurema sp.
  • Clearwing Swallowtail, Cressida cressida
  • Black-spotted Flash, Hypolycaena phorbas

Of these, the first two are always abundant on the Common and the next three are nearly as common. All five are about the same size. The next three are all smaller. They are also common but are trickier to identify because close relations in each genus look so much alike (which is why I have just said “Eurema sp. [species]” and so on). The last one is the odd one out, belonging to a different family (Lycaenidae) and being much rarer.

Marsh Tiger butterfly
Marsh Tiger
Plain Tiger butterfly
Lesser Wanderer or Plain Tiger
Common Crow
Common Crow

One of my reasons for posting these three photos as a set is that they happen to show all three species feeding on the same kind of flower, the Tridax Daisy.

Black-spotted Flash
Black-spotted Flash, female

Lycaenidae (Blues) are usually quite small but this one is bigger than most, about the same size as the Grass Yellow.

I did also see many other small butterflies and moths but they were impossible to keep track of.


Golden dragonfly
Golden dragonfly, unidentified
Red dragonfly
Common Glider, Tramea loewii

Standing water always means dragonflies and they were as numerous as the butterflies. Once again, I couldn’t begin to identify all of them and I’m just posting a couple who posed nicely for me.

And the rest

Add together the numbers of butterflies and dragonflies and you might be close to the total number of grasshoppers; add together the grasshoppers, butterflies and dragonflies and you might be close to the total number of mosquitoes – or that’s what it felt like! The Common is not a place to visit without repellent in the Wet season.

Most of the mozzies were the little standard-model grey-black types but one, seen below attempting to drill through my pants leg, was special enough for a photo.

Brown mosquito
Brown mosquito

She (males don’t suck blood) was about twice the average size – perhaps not as big as the magnificent Metallic Mosquito, but close.

My oddest discovery of the trip was this:

Pandanus leaf
Pandanus leaf

Pandanus leaves are spiked along the edges but this one – and others on the same plant – seemed to have pairs of supernumerary spines coming from the lower face of the leaf. A closer look revealed that each pair of ‘spines’ was a pair of wings attached to plant hoppers (Derbidae, Hemiptera), each of which was attached to the leaf via its proboscis (properly called a ‘stylet‘) and earnestly sucking sap from a vein.

sap-suckers on leaf
Derbid plant-hoppers feeding on pandanus

The Town Common after rain

Freshwater Lagoon from the bird hide

I visited the Town Common today, for the first time in months, to see what our recent rain had done for it. The good news is that there was plenty of water; the bad news, for bird-watchers, should also be apparent from my photo.

Where are the birds? Flown, in a word – dispersed to inland areas which have also received good rain. This happens in every Wet season, of course, and the birds drift back towards the coast and permanent water as the Dry season progresses, but visiting the Common and not seeing a single magpie goose, or even an ibis, still feels weird. That’s what happened, though – magpie geese, ibis, spoonbills, egrets, cormorants, pelicans: nil.

Smaller birds were still around, however. I saw a couple of Sacred Kingfishers, one Forest Kingfisher, a Dollarbird, several Sunbirds, one White-throated Honeyeater (I think) and a small flock of young Crimson Finches.

brown finch with red tail
Juvenile Crimson Finch

These young finches will grow up to be much more colourful, as these photos (on Birdway) show.

Seeing a sunbird improves any day, so I will post one of today’s shots before I sign off. Dragonflies do, too, but I will leave the Common’s abundant invertebrates for another post.

Sunbird on twig
Yellow-bellied Sunbird, male

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.