Birds along Ross River

The birds along the Ross River bike paths are a constant pleasure. Every time I ride there, there is something worth stopping to watch and (if possible) photograph. Here are three such highlights, all from the short stretch of river between the Nathan St and Bowen Rd bridges and all within the last month.


We often see one or two pelicans along this stretch of the river but larger groups are not so common. This group on the Annandale bank, opposite the end of Water St, had four or five members when I first saw it, late one afternoon, but more came in as I watched. I caught some of them doing weird things with their enormous beaks.

Pelicans on Ross River
Coming in to land

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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.

Birdwatching with the Conservation Volunteers

View across the Common from the elevated hide. Cattle Egrets in foreground
View across the Common, with Cattle Egrets in foreground

Conservation Volunteers Australia has a new summer programme (pdf here) of excursions open to everyone and we went along to one this morning – birdwatching on the Town Common. A CVA worker met us at the park gate and took us or led us, by mini-bus or our own cars, to the bird hides where members of the Bird Observers Club were waiting with identification checklists and telescopes.

It was my first visit to the bird hides on the Common and I was impressed by their siting and construction. From the first of them we saw Pelicans, Black Cormorants and a young Jabiru quite close to us, with the adult Jabiru and some Brolgas in the distance. Here are Black Cormorant (represented by a neck sticking up out of the water) and Pelicans fishing together. The Cormorant are divers while the Pelican spear from above, so each scares prey towards the other – a win-win strategy, except from the prey’s point of view.

Pelicans and Cormorant
Pelicans and Cormorant fishing together

From the second, elevated, hide we saw dozens of Cattle Egrets and a scattering of other birds – Glossy Ibis, Jabiru and Brolga, Honeyeaters, Grebes – as in the top picture. I didn’t use my checklist but I know I saw several more species, too.

The children with the group enjoying ticking off their checklist and some of them were very good at spotting birds for us. Right at the beginning, while we were waiting at the gate for the group to assemble, one of them pointed out a family of Tawny Frogmouths – adult and two well-grown chicks – in a pandanus palm ten metres from the road.