Lovely weather for ducks!

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.

cattle egrets on Town Common
Cattle Egrets and others under dark grey skies

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 met an old friend who was very excited at seeing a Pied Heron amongst them – a really rare sighting, she said, but I had to admit that I don’t know enough about birds to fully appreciate the rarity. I did get a (bad) photo of the bird, however.

pied heron feeding with Cattle Egrets and Intermediate Egret
Pied Heron feeding with Cattle Egrets and Intermediate Egret

For better photos of the Pied Heron (Ardea picata), you could visit Birdway.

The other unusual sighting was a Jabiru aka Black-necked Stork, Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus, fully-grown but still in juvenile plumage.

jabiru immature and adult feeding
Immature Jabiru with an adult female

Also seen in this short trip: small flocks of Magpie Geese were moving around; a single White-faced Heron and a few White Ibis and Spur-winged Plovers amongst the Cattle Egrets; Crimson Finches, a greenish honeyeater and a Dollarbird near the Freshwater bird hide; a couple of terns; and (heard but not seen) a Pheasant Coucal (links are to older photos on this blog).

Ducks? I’m sure there were but I can’t remember them.

I think I will have to start making lists like real birders do.

Unexpected visitors – Magpie Geese and Black Cockatoos

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.

Magpie Geese

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.

Magpie Geese
Magpie Geese in a gum tree

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Wet-season visitors – PIPs and Koels

Torres Strait Pigeons, aka Pied Imperial-Pigeons (i.e. PIPs) and Koels, aka Stormbirds or Rainbirds, are Wet-season visitors to the Townsville region. As I write, the Wet hasn’t arrived but the visitors have been with us for months.

The PIPs are often to be seen high in the tallest trees; their call is a baritone “Coo”, as befits their size, and we tend to smile when we hear them. The Koels, on the other hand, are rarely seen but the males’ incessant calling – a frantic rising wockawockwocka! – can wear out its welcome. The females are far quieter, which is probably a good thing.

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The joy of sprinklers

The Dry Season continues, and the birds are more and more grateful for our bird baths and lawn sprinklers – well, they seem to be, but who knows what’s going on in their little minds? All we can say for sure is that they come to fly through the spray or sit where the water is falling.

Spangled Drongo on mock orange
Sprinkled Spangled Drongo

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Dollarbird

Oriental Dollarbird Eurystomus orientalis
Dollarbird

The Dollarbird (Eurystomus orientalis) is the latest addition to my list of species seen in or from my (new) Mundingburra garden. This was one of two perched on power-lines across the street this morning; we had seen them on similar vantage points closer to Ross River in the last week or two, so we weren’t surprised when they came to us.

I wrote about the species five years ago after photographing one near Ross Dam, and all I have to add now is that the prolonged dry spell (5 mm of rain in four months, and still waiting) probably drew them into the suburb via the Ross River parkland corridor.