Ross Creek mangroves and birds

mangroves with stilt roots in water
Mangroves – not a million miles from the city

One of the nice things about Townsville is the network of parks threading through the suburbs. Some of them seem to have no particular reason for existence until the wet season arrives and they become floodways for a day or two, but the most important network is associated with Ross River: the parkland along its banks is almost continuous from the Dam down to the city, and bike paths run through most of its length.

The city centre, however, is not on the river but on a tidal mangrove creek, Ross Creek, which runs from Hermit Park past the Civic Theatre to the ferry terminal; this map may make the situation clearer. Continue reading “Ross Creek mangroves and birds”

Just because they are pretty …

bBee on feathery white flower
Honeybee visiting a Water Snowflake in the Palmetum lagoon

Most of my photography is documentary rather than artistic in that I am trying to take clear, self-explanatory photos of my subjects – insects, spiders, birds and so on – for scientific purposes rather than beautiful and evocative shots. It would be lovely if I could do both at once, of course, but I can’t choose  location and lighting or ask my subjects to pose for me and clarity is my primary goal.

Sometimes everything comes together and I end up with attractive and entomologically interesting shots, and other times I find myself with attractive shots which have no great scientific interest, such as these three. The top one was taken in October and shows a common (European) honeybee feeding on a common aquatic plant. The Water Snowflake (Nymphoides sp.) is part of a large family of waterlily-like plants whose leaves float on the surface of the water while the roots are anchored in mud below.

black and gold bee on pink flowers
Carpenter Bee feeding on Maiden’s Blush flowers beside Ross Creek

Maiden’s Blush, as I have said before, is much hardier than its name or appearance suggest. This one is flourishing in full sun beside Ross Creek (I took a photo of a butterfly on it back in May – click here to see it and read more about the park).

When I stopped there a week before Christmas the white mangroves along the creek were in full flower and I took several photos of them. It wasn’t until I got home and saw them at full size on the computer screen that I realised I had taken a photo of a tiny fly as well.

star-like white flower
White mangrove flower beside Ross Creek

I have been thinking about photography in more general terms lately because I spent a lot of time preparing a series of my non-wildlife photos for a gallery exhibition and then putting it on a virtual gallery here on Green Path. I have medium-term plans to add galleries of wildlife photos, chosen for their attractiveness more than their usefulness; meanwhile, the general offer here will have to suffice.

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

Red-tailed Black Cockatoos

The highlight of Thursday’s stop-over was actually nothing to do with insects but was discovering a pair of Red-tailed Black Cockatoos (Calyptorhynchus banksii, aka C. magnificus) feeding on the fruit of a Sea Almond tree (Terminalia catappa) in the park. The male, distinguished by bright red patches under the tail and pure black feathers around the head, immediately flew up to a nearby power-line but his mate, hungrier or braver, stayed in the tree and from only a couple of metres away I watched her pick a green fruit and munch through the whole thing.

black bird on powerline
Male Red-tailed Black Cockatoo
close-up of bird head with fruit
Female Red-tailed Black Cockatoo with sea almond
black bird in tree
Finishing off the fruit

There’s another photo of a female here, just to prove females do have crests.

There are six species of large black cockatoos in Australia, according to Slater’s Guide, but this is the only one found in North Queensland except for the Palm Cockatoo which is restricted to northern Cape York and, as this photo on Birdway shows, is distinctive enough not to be mistaken for our local species.

Striated Heron

Here are a couple of photos of a bird that was new to me at the time, a Striated Heron, Butorides striata.

dark bird on boat railing
Striated Heron, Butorides striata, at the Ross Creek marina

Ian Montgomery of Birdway, who was kind enough to identify it for me, mentioned  that it is rather similar to a Black Bittern (my first guess) and that Striated Herons are often more reddish brown in NQ than elsewhere.

Heron on railing - closer view
The same bird in a little more detail

I took these photos eighteen months ago but mislaid them. In the circumstances, a further delay of a couple of weeks doesn’t seem to matter so I have set up this post (and a few more) to appear automatically while I am away on holiday, discovering unfamiliar parts of SE Asia.