I took my camera down to the Ross River parklands a few days ago and was amazed by the bird life. (It’s funny how every photo looks like a bird when your lens is a telephoto!)
In the space of an hour or less I saw a White-faced Heron, a Plover, Welcome Swallows, a Rainbow Bee-eater, Magpie-larks, Peaceful Doves and a Cuckoo-shrike – but they all seemed insignificant after I saw the pair of Sea Eagles patrolling along the river.
They are very big, powerful birds – something you only really see at close range, which is a rare privilege. Slater’s Field Guide gives their body length as 76 – 84 cm, as compared to the Brahminy Kite at 45 – 50 cm; only the Wedge-tailed Eagle (90 – 100 cm) is bigger.
After my Morning on Mount Stuart I arrived in town at morning tea time. It was too nice a day to sit indoors without good reason and I still had some coffee and fruit with me so I stopped off in the parkland beside Ross River, looking back up to Mt Stuart (the lookout mentioned in my previous post is at the foot of the radio towers).
The insects were enjoying the sunshine as much as I was: innumerable tiny grass moths, so many that a dozen would fly up at every footstep; a couple of larger moths, Utetheisa and Nyctemera; half a dozen species of butterfly, including the Bush Brown and Eurema I had seen on top of the mountain; a couple of kinds of spider; a native bee, Amegilla sp., with its distinctive blue tail; green ants (I felt them before I saw them!); and several dragonflies.
One of the dragonflies was the reddest possible – bright red abdomen, thorax, face, eyes, and even some of the veins in its wings. Another, about the same size, was a dull orange-tan. When I got home I discovered that it was the female of the same species (the fine dark line down the abdomen, with wider blotches, was the confirmation). Here they are, then – the Scarlet Percher Dragonfly, Diplacodes haematodes, male and female. As usual, clicking on the pictures will take you to a larger image.
Another visitor: the Marsh Tiger, Danaus affinis, is common on the swampy grasslands not far from us alongside Ross River, but this is the first time I have caught one in our garden. It’s about the same size as the Eggfly or the Migrant, and the sexes are very similar as you can see in this photo which I took near Ross River last year.
These Marsh Tigers are sometimes called Swamp Tigers, but a real Swamp Tiger is a very different beast and you wouldn’t want to get so close to it. There’s a YouTube video about them here, but my first introduction to them and their unique homeland was a fascinating novel, The Hungry Tide by Amitav Ghosh; it’s warmly recommended.