No Laughing Matter

Guest post by Liz Downes

Early on Saturday morning my daughter heard a lot of scuffling going on in the leaves near the back fence and, through her bedroom window, saw two kookaburras locked together in some kind of struggle. After closer examination through binoculars she identified one as a Laughing Kooka and the other as a Blue-winged.  The latter, let’s call him Bluey, had more extensive and more vivid blue plumage and also a pale, “scary-looking” eye compared with the Laughing one’s deceptively gentle-looking brown eye.

What she discovered was that Laughing Boy had its beak jammed down the throat of Bluey, which in turn had its own beak firmly clamped down on the intruder, and they were dancing about like that apparently unable, or unwilling, to unlock themselves.

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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).

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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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