Monday, 17 February 2014

Townsville - 8-10 February 2013

Leaving Proserpine approximately 9:30am, I set off on the three hour drive north to Townsville to attend John Young’s once-off public presentation of the Night Parrot. I figured I may as well stay two nights in Townsville and hopefully tick off a few new species, especially Black-throated Finch and Rufous Owl.

Stopping in at Cungulla Beach, just South of Townsville, there were huge numbers of waders. But as the tide was out and the mud on the flats was more like quicksand, I couldn’t get a decent view – they were probably Great Knots. I saw a few solitary birds wading closer by. Pointing my camera and binoculars, I discovered that they were Lesser and Great Sand Plovers, with one solitary Grey Plover wandering around. Grey Plovers are sure not all that rare, but still a tick for me and the first for the trip.

This is a horrible 100% crop – the bird, whilst closer than the Knots, was still miles away!

Grey Plover (Pluvialis squatarola)
Leaving Cungulla Beach, I checked in to my accommodation in Townsville and headed off to JCU to attend John Young’s Night Parrot presentation.

After the presentation, I headed off to an area of Townsville where some Rufous Owls were known to breed. In early January, the chicks were fully fledged so it was doubtful if the owls would still be around. They weren’t. I visited the spot on 3 different occasions and they were nowhere to be seen. A disappointing dip, but Townsville is only 3 hours away so I will make sure I visit at a better time for the owls later this year. 

The following day, I started off visiting the mouth of the Ross River which was down the road from my accommodation. Nothing there to speak of except two Bar-tailed Godwits, so I decided to visit one of Townsville’s Northern Beaches, Bushland Beach to see me some waders – hopefully Red Knot which I missed out on in Cairns. At Bushland Beach I was again greeted by hundreds of waders, mainly Great Knot, with a few godwits, sand plovers and a one Pacific Golden Plover thrown into the mix. Locking onto a small flock of birds with the binoculars, I noticed the smaller, thicker bill and more uniform colouring over the wings. Finally, some Red Knots! They flew off before I could get any photos and joined the hundreds of Great Knots.

Great Knots (Calidris tenuirostris)
Walking back towards the shore, I heard a Mangrove Gerygone calling from the mangroves. Embarrassingly enough, this would be another new bird for me. I tried coaxing it out to no avail, so decided to head back to my car to get my phone to play a quick call. I spotted a boat ramp and figured this would be a good means to get back to the car. Not noticing how slipperly it was, I placed my foot on ramp and proceeded to go @rse over tit and smash my collarbone, knees, elbow and 7D and 100-400 lens on the cement. The camera and lens survived thankfully, but I had a lot of bruises and missing skin to show for it! Whilst walking away swearing at my predicament, I didn’t see a small rock covered in oysters and to proceeded to accidentally kick it on the way past, giving myself a nice big cut under my foot. Long story short, I got back to the car with blood everywhere, got my phone, went back to the mangroves and coaxed the Mangrove Gerygone out and then headed back to the Hotel to clean myself up!

Mangrove Gerygone (Gerygone levigaster)
Later that afternoon, I ventured out on the Flinders Highway to visit a spot which Stanley Tang gave me the coordinates for to hopefully see Black-throated Finch. Arriving at the location, I walked around for about 20 minutes before spying a flock of finches in the grass. They were Zebra Finches. Spotting another small group of finches soon after, I got excited before the binoculars revealed they were Double-barred Finches. Circling back to where I came from, I spooked two small birds feeding on the grass which I didn’t see. They flew into a tree about a hundred metres away – two Black-throated Finches. One landed about 1m off the ground on a perfect perch, however I only had my 100-400 so missed a great photo opportunity. Not to worry, at least it was a tick and a decent photo could wait for next time! A family of Black-faced Woodswallows also watched on as some silly dude trampled around after a finch which wouldn't sit still.

Black-throated Finch (Poephila cincta)

Black-faced Woodswallow (Artamus cinereus)
A total of 4 new species for the trip. I had hoped to see 6, but 4 is better than nothing. I have terrible luck when it comes to seeing owls, so hopefully next time I have a bit better luck!

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