Continuing our birding adventure in Townsville, one of the birds we saw many times in large flocks, not seen in Sydney, is the Red-tailed Black Cockatoo. We saw several times small groups of immature birds playing and feeding together. Above is a mature male having the red tail. The female and the young have a patterned yellow/orange tale and spotting on the head and trunk. These guys were feeding by the road.
We found the following small group of youngsters chasing each other about in between feeding from the plenteous native fruit trees. They circled and called for ages, unfortunately the wind made the recording impossible.
A bird that we saw often around town, as often as our Australian White Ibis, was the Straw-necked Ibis. I love the way the sun catches the iridescence of its plumage.
Of course our Australian White was also present in good numbers there also.
The bird that caught our attention with its raspy call, in the thick darkness of the fig trees growing along The Strand, was the Great Bowerbird. Listen to its call:
Notice that the Great Bowerbird which is mostly white, has mostly white objects to attract the female in the bower, whereas the blue Satin Bowerbird has mostly blue objects.
While we followed the bowerbird this Black-shouldered Kite landed on a dead tree some distance away to watch us, but soon took flight when it saw us give it attention.
It is always amazing to see so many raptors up far north, it seems the further you go the more you see, and so many varieties. The most common is the Black Kite, where often flocks are seen circling areas, usually over townships or nearby. The interesting thing is the Black Kite is actually brown not black.
The Brahminy Kite was another one seen frequently here. On Magnetic Island we saw a juvenile being fed and cared for by its parent. It fed on a pole on a wharf while the parent flew around, sometimes they would play together. Notice the head missing from the fish, the parent always eats this itself and leaves the body of the fish for the youngster and female partner, which is not present.
Here is some footage of the youngster, I had to trim the wind sound, but you can hear it call as it lands after trying to get the fish a lady had put out for it.
Here is some footage of the adult flying, it is one of the most beautiful raptors to see in full sunlight, unfortunately it was cloudy. In the last part the teenager plays with the adult for a second.
However, our most exciting raptor experience was to happen upon this Spotted Harrier who had just caught a mouse and had landed on a fence post and was about to eat it as we drove toward it. Excitedly I stopped the car and proceeded to photograph, it was a distance but its keen eyesight saw me and finally departed, catching the spotted plumage in the light. See the mouse in its mouth. Raptors are important for removing rodents and other vermin. What most people do not realize is that they eat many more insects as well in their diet than most birds while they soar.
Last week we saw the water birds of Townsville Common Reserve, so this week the passerines we saw in the common. We had only just past through the gate when we heard the sounds of many birds as we excited ly spotted birds we never see down south. The Varied Triller male and female (has the stripey tummy) made themselves known to us, as did the Chestnut-breasted Cuckoo as it silently and cautiously watched.
The Forest Kingfisher was a frequently seen bird around the wetlands and glowed in the sunlight. It differs from our Sacred in that it has white instead of buff markings and bright blue instead of greenish plumage.
The Spangled Drongo another frequently seen bird sitting in trees out of the sun. Its unusual tail and shiny iridescent plumage make it an interesting bird.
Blue-faced Honeyeater were also common here, but were more common in town where the many fig trees are. Notice the juvenile having the yellow face. It will become blue as it becomes a mature adult.
We were also blessed with a lifer the White-throated Honeyeater which looks so much like the White-naped cousin. The Yellow Honeyeater was also one we do not see down south, but saw several times here. The White-cheeked Honeyeater was present also.
But the noisy and most aggressive honeyeater is the Helmeted Friarbird, especially when it feeds in native fig trees as it calls with its unusual sound. Listen and watch this one as they call and then feed, call and then feed etc.
It gets its name from the woolly looking short hair do, which someone once thought looked like a helmet.
When we walked to the Jacana Pond we heard this loud twittering and saw a cloud of unusual birds. At first we thought maybe Starlings, but when we saw the curved bill and finally in the sunlight, their gorgeous colors, it was the beautiful Rainbow Bee-eater. We saw several in a tree at a time, flying in and out as they catch insects on the fly. This is where our Bee-eaters migrate to during our Winter months. They will be back down south in Spring before the harsh wet season begins here. The male has the longer tail extension.
But we have to say the most exciting sighting was that of the Red-backed Fairy-wren, we had only seen for our first time in the rain two years ago near O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat. These photos were amazing and brought much rejoicing and thankfulness. We were hoping to include the Lovely Fairy-wren as a lifer but our searching did not produce one.
This male Satin Flycatcher was a great find also as he sat silently in the shade.
While we stood in the sun watching the Black-necked Stalk, this pair of tiny Double-barred Finches would fly to the ground and then back under the tree when they saw us, and continued to preen as we watched.
Lastly the one little bird that every one loves up here. The hoenyeater or nectar eater that is most like the Hummingbird, that is the Olive-backed Sunbird. The male has the shiny iridescent throat. These tiny birds can push their beak into tubular flowers to extract nectar. They are so tiny, and in a similar way to the Hummingbird can extract nectar from flowers on the fly, that is while hovering in flight. If you look carefully at the photos you may see the long tongue of the bird extended which is specially designed to draw the nectar up.
So many beautiful and very different birds to discover and these are but a few. The tropical north is bird rich having so many diverse habitats and constant warm weather. Then there is the Masked Lapwing which is plentiful here, which like anywhere in Australia, is also very common up here,We always see pairs of them guarding mowed fields and parks.
However, take a good look at its facial attachments on these northern race specimens again, for their facial mask is much longer than our southern race. We also saw a juvenile (pictured below). This feature could easily be missed by an uninformed birder, or anyone who shunned these birds at a distance as a common bird. This is the northern race of this bird.
This is a warning to me each time I bird in a different part of Australia, not to assume that a common bird where I live is exactly the same where I am visiting. In fact you will see in most good bird field guides you will see depicted, the different races or sub species, their distinguishing features and where they are found.
In the same way, when we or others, no matter how many letters may follow one’s name, make assumptions and believe them without concrete scientific (observable) evidence, we are not only making a big mistake in not seeing the truth of the matter but also missing the appreciation and understanding of that truth and what it represents. Today sadly much of what is called science and scientific, is purely speculation and an attempt to describe a secular humanistic world without God, Even Charles Darwin at the end of his life wrote in his autobiography and private memoirs:
“[A] source of conviction in the existence of God … follows from the extreme difficulty or rather impossibility of conceiving this immense and wonderful universe, including man with his capability of looking far backwards and far into futurity, as the result of blind chance or necessity. When thus reflecting … I deserve to be called a theist.” – April 1881 “Darwin’s Struggle With Faith”
“For this is the way God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world should be saved through him. The one who believes in him is not condemned. ” John 3:16-18
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Have a wonderful week!
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