In the next six weeks we will present a series on birds of the tropical north of Australia following a wonderful birding exploration of the last two weeks. We flew to Townsville in Far North Queensland where we spent 5 days exploring some Australia’s famous wetlands, in particular Townsville Common. These low lying coastal wetlands fill up during the heavy wet season of summer and provide food for many species of waterbirds during the winter months, some of which I will showcase below. The longer than usual wet season caused a reduction in bird numbers on our visit.
A peculiar feature of Townsville is the large pink granite rock called Castle Hill (Rock) that towers behind the town, which is only 8 metres short of a mountain. From its top a wonderful birds-eye view of the city and the wetlands can be obtained.
My wife and I visited the Common on several occasions and saw a variety of both water and tree birds. The most exciting sightings were of the Jabaru, the Brolga (at a distance), the Comb-crested Jacana, the White-necked Heron, Magpie Geese and the several species of raptor that constantly circled over the wetlands looking for vulnerable subjects. Straw-necked Ibis are plentiful here and around town also. I love the iridescence of colour in the birds wing plumage.
The weather here was warm and cloudy while it poured rain just 100 km further up the coast. We felt very blessed to have escaped the bitter cold of Sydney’s winter weather. The Black-necked Stork or Jabaru as it is known is wrongly named, as you can see below, it sports a beautiful iridescent blue neck in the sunlight. Sadly the female (which is differentiated from the male by having a bright yellow eye) was quite shy and flew off leaving her partner alone to our camera.
We enjoyed chatting with Matt, a local birder, about the Common. Matt shared that as the wetlands dry up toward the end of winter, thousands of birds start gathering around these last wetland areas. I joked about the name Jabaru as I watched Australia’s only stalk repeatedly jab its long powerful beak into the shallow waters hunting for small creatures. The Brolga were quite shy and stayed in the tall reeds at some distance, so I apologise for the poor footage and photos. Brolga are known for their beautiful dance routine when in flock, but the tall grass is no place for dancing. The elegance of the Brolga can be seen in this clip of them landing.
As you can see these water birds all live harmoniously together, despite eating similar food, unlike the honeyeaters that fight over nectar blossom.
A single White-necked Heron dropped in to check us out and forage nearby the Jabaru.
The beautiful elegant Great White Egret were in great number scattered throughout the wetlands as were the Intermediate .
This White-faced Heron did a fly past to avoid attention.
Interesting enough, when we first passed these ponds we saw no birds much at all, and we both disappointingly kept saying “Nothing, nothing!” as we drove all the way to the Jacana Pond where all we saw at first were hundreds of Grey Teal. You will notice an occasional Hardhead in among them, maybe they thought they were Grey Teal, or maybe just joined the throng for company.
We had read and heard about this place, how this was the best place to see waterbirds, but our hopes seem dashed. So instead of feeling sorry for ourselves and complaining to God, to selfishly ask for him to make them appear, we were humbled to to pray toegther asking our loving Heavenly Father, what it was HE wanted to show us, and he did. This displays one of the exciting features of our birding adventures. Birds are quite mobile and can relocate quickly making a revisit of a previously birdless area all the more interesting. This was the case when we prayed after experiencing bird empty ponds. On return the birds were there, no great numbers, that is, but representatives of the species we expected to see. One very peculiar bird in a classification all of its own, the Magpie Goose, a large flock bird is found in great number here.
The greatest delight for me was to see the Comb-crested Jacana which is known jokingly to many as the Jesus bird because it appears to walk on water. In actual fact this very small bird walks on water plants such as water-lily. It has long stick like toes which allow it to spread its weight over the leaf. These birds are seen in greatest number here and also in the Ross River wetlands nearby.
Notice that the juveniles seen here have more orange and flat head dress where as the adult has the bright red comb head dress. Jacana are difficult to get clear photographs, them being so small and so shy, as they take flight when they see you.
If you want to have a birding feast of raptors, the far northern Australia is the place to go, there are raptors visibly seen flying almost every where you look. The three raptors we saw surveying the wetlands were the Brahminy Kite, Black Kite and Swamp Harrier.
So our loving Father turned the day around for us, for as we drove back to the previous birdless areas birds were present, including interesting passerines in the surrounding forest, but these have to be for next week. Matt, the local birder we met, was also rejoicing at the numbers of different species he photographed afterwards also. My wife and I take God along with us when we bird, not to let him share the experience with us. “Lord, what is that you want us to see, what do you have for us, to teach and encourage us?” It is the intimate living loving relationship that we share with God through the Holy Spirit he has put within us that our birding experience, and most all experiences, are experienced at a much more enjoyable and meaningful level. We have hearts filled with an attitude of gratitude like little children we receive the blessings of gifts and surprises from a generous Father.
“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never end.
They are new and fresh every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.”
The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him,
to the one who seeks him;
it is good to wait quietly
for the salvation of the Lord.” – Lamentations 3: 22-26
Yes it is true, I have finished full time work in medical science and currently finishing a few weeks as part time as well as helping train new staff. I will now explore the offer to become a birding tour guide in the Southern Highlands.
Thank you to the blog followers who have purchased my book here online, and thank you for the wonderful encouraging reviews I have received. For those who have not checked it out go to my birdbook page. Check out the rest of my website for birding info at my Homepage.
Have a wonderful week!
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