Ibis in flight

white bird carrying branch
Not a dove, not an olive branch; not a stork, not a baby

This lucky shot was one result of a visit to the Palmetum yesterday. It was good to get out for a walk after retreating indoors during the 37 and 38 degree days we had last week.

The bird is, of course, an Australian Ibis or White Ibis, Threskiornis molucca. It probably intends to use the branch (paperbark, I think) as nesting material, since it is flying towards the park’s rainforest zone, which is occupied by Black Flying Foxes and nesting ibises as I wrote here a few months ago.

Birds on the Town Common

birds on small pond
Waterfowl on the Common: Pelicans with Black Duck (heads down), Royal Spoonbill and White and Straw-necked Ibis on the far bank of the lagoon

Early on Monday morning I made another of my periodic visits to the Town Common. Nearing the end of the dry season as we are now, I expected a good number of water birds congregating on the relatively small areas of open water and I wasn’t disappointed. What I hadn’t really expected was to find so many birds in the grasslands, reed beds and forest. My final list comprised nearly 40 species and the split between water birds and the rest was almost equal:

Waterfowl, roughly in order of size:

black and white bird in bulrushes
Jabiru (Black-necked Stork) Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus

Birds of the grasslands, reed-beds and scrub, again in size order:

brown bird perching on grass stem
Brown-backed Honeyeater, Ramsayornis modestus

As well as the above there were three species of small wading birds, probably sandpipers or dotterels but not quite identifiable; a blue-grey flash across the road which might have been a Leaden Flycatcher; the unmistakeable call of the Pheasant Coucal but not a sight of one; and a flock of small birds which I think were Spice Finches. There are far too many species to show them all here so I have linked some to previous posts about them or to my own photos of them on Flickr. Beyond that, you may have to indulge or assuage your curiosity at Birds in Backyards or Birdway.

brown bird on grass stem
Just because she’s cute … a tiny Golden-headed Cisticola

Just by way of a footnote: I was pleased with my 40-ish species, for one short morning’s visit, but the total recorded for the Common is over 300! As always, there’s lots more to do and see.

Three species of Ibis

purple-black bird on lawn
Straw-necked Ibis in Sherriff Park, Mundingburra

Australia is home to three species of ibis and all of them live in the Townsville region (in fact they are all widespread, occurring throughout Queensland, NSW, Victoria, most of the Northern Territory and parts of WA and SA) but they are by no means equally common here.

The Australian White Ibis, Threskiornis molucca, is by far the most common and has featured in numerous posts here on Green Path, Percival’s Portrait being the most recent.

The mostly-black species should logically be called the Black Ibis but no, it’s the Straw-necked Ibis, Threskiornis spinicollis. The reason for its name is clear enough in the photo above (but I still think Black would be better).

The Straw-necked Ibis is much rarer around town than the White, outnumbered at least 10:1. Even so, it is more common than the Glossy, which I have never seen in town and rarely seen anywhere else – and the only place I have photographed one is at Billabong Sanctuary.

purplish wading bird beside billabong
Glossy Ibis

The Glossy Ibis, Plegadis falcinellus, is noticeably smaller than the other two (50-60cm rather than 60-75) and doesn’t share their habit of feeding on land, preferring to keep to shallow water.

Ibises and Spoonbills, all large wading birds, comprise the family Threskiornithidae. Wikipedia’s article on the order they have been assigned to (Pelicaniformes) says that there is considerable debate about their evolutionary history but that pelicans, egrets and herons  are among their next-nearest relations. Back in the real world, ibises and our two species of spoonbill often forage together in mixed groups, sometimes with Magpie Geese, Whistling Ducks, Cormorants and other species.

Percival’s Portrait

head of white ibis

May I present, with thanks and apologies to the artists, curators and judges of the Percival Portraits exhibitions at Riverway and the Perc Tucker Gallery, Percival?

I spotted him on the bank of Ross River just below the Pinnacles Gallery while I was musing on the exhibition I had just seen: many wonderful photographs and a wide varity of approaches to portraiture but a strangely narrow range of … species.

Homo sapiens without exception.

Dull, really – even though Homo sap is my own species (and no, I won’t get side-tracked into whether we really deserve the “sapiens”).

Furthermore, if the whole concept of the portrait is to depict a person, then surely it is another example of our mildly unhealthy habit of thinking of people as somehow separate from the rest of the animal kingdom, the rest of the natural world.

And there was this handsome gentleman, posing for his portrait as though he knew what I was thinking …

Kingfisher, Bee-eater, Lorikeets and Ibis

Yesterday, for some unknown reason, was an exceptional day for birds in my garden.

Sacred Kingfisher on power-line
Sacred Kingfisher, Todiramphus sancta
Rainbow Bee-eater on power-line
Rainbow Bee-eater, Merops ornatus

The day began well with these two beautiful small hunters. They are both the same size (Slater’s Field Guide says they are both 23cm long, a little smaller than the Rainbow Lorikeet) but the Bee-eater (see its front view here) takes insects on the wing while the Kingfisher takes larger, heavier ground-dwelling prey such as grasshoppers and small lizards.

Our big paperbark is in blossom and the Rainbow Lorikeets have discovered it. Flocks of them hurtle into the tree and … vanish. They are so brightly coloured that they should stand out like clowns at an undertakers’ convention, but somehow they don’t.

Rainbow Lorikeet
Rainbow Lorikeet in paperbark blossom

As well as all these, I saw (but didn’t photograph) a Sunbird, some Sulphur-crested Cockatoos (they’re in town for the Dry season), a Cuckoo-shrike and our usual Honeyeaters. Finally, standing at my front gate I saw these Ibis heading for the mangroves of nearby Ross River.

Three Ibis in flight
White Ibis, Threskiornis molucca, in flight