Winter in Townsville

Mt Stuart
Looking across Ross River to Mount Stuart

When we returned from our holidays, just three weeks ago now, we came back to winter weather. The whole town looked dry – any grass that hadn’t been watered regularly was dry and brown, and shrubs and trees looked parched. Townsville does tend to look dry compared to most places, most times, but more so in winter because we can go months without significant rain. This year, for instance, we had 30 mm in May but have had only 5 mm in the two months since then. There have been grass fires as usual; notice the burnt area of riverbank in the foreground of the photo above.

I took that shot from parkland near Ross Creek, a spot I have previously posted about here and here. Here are more from that visit two weeks ago:

line of black birds on sandy bank
A flock of Cormorants on the bank of Ross Creek

We are seeing more birds as they move from inland areas towards the coast. The flock of cormorants above is a bit unusual in two ways: there are a lot of birds and they are all of the same species, Little Black Cormorants, Phalacrocorax sulcirostris. They are more commonly seen in mixed flocks with Pied Cormorants, Darters, etc. When I got too close to this lot, they went for the safety of the water:

Cormorant splash
Cormorant splash

There was also a flock of pigeons, doing exactly what they evolved to do in the environment they evolved to inhabit – foraging for grain in grassland. It’s a much better place for them than urban roof-tops and window-ledges!

Pigeons in grassland
Pigeons in grassland

A wet-season visitor: Torresian Imperial-pigeon

Torresian Imperial-pigeon 7676
Torresian Imperial-pigeon, Ducula spilorrhoa, in paperbark tree

The Torresian Imperial-pigeon, Ducula spilorrhoa,  is an occasional wet-season visitor to our garden. We had a pair of them in February last year and this one has been here for almost a week so far. They usually stay high in the trees; this photo shows our current visitor in our paperbark but I have also seen it in our palms, where it has been feeding on the berries, and in the poplar gum and mango.

They are very big as pigeons go, about the same size as a big magpie or small currawong, and mostly pure white except for black tail-feathers. Clicking on the image above will take you to a larger version on my Flickr photostream and thence to other shots of it. Their call is a deep, loud coo-hoo. 

There is some debate over their proper name, as they are also known as the Torres Strait Pigeon, a sub-species of the Pied Imperial Pigeon, Ducula bicolor. More broadly, Ducula is a genus within the pigeon family Columbidae. All members of the genus are correctly called “imperial pigeon”, with or without the hyphen, and are large, tree-dwelling fruit eaters.