Tuesday, 22 November 2011

A farewell to palms.

Eastern Grey Kangaroo. Not tied down.

One bonus from hanging out with a bunch of bird-banders is that they know the best places to look for waders, and they tend to have a tide-table conveniently to hand (thanks Brenda!) - so Monday saw us heading back south towards Brisbane, to the pleasantly anonymous town of Toorbul, at the civilized hour of 9 in the morning. Unfortunately the weather wasn't going to let us have it all our own way: a stiff southerly breeze was bringing cool air into the state, with scudding clouds and the occasional burst of rain to remind us what we were missing at home in England.

Toorbul is the sort of place you'd probably never think of going unless you had to. Nice enough, but nothing particularly special - apart from hordes of kangaroos feeding along the roadside. We followed the road to the very end of town, south until we had a nice view of Bribie Island, then parked up by a little grassy bund, beyond which was a small sandy beach. Even as we parked, the first birds were pushing in on the rising tide, looking for a safe spot to hunker down until the mud was exposed again. Larger migrant species; Bar-tailed Godwits and Whimbrel, made up the bulk of the flock - only about 150 birds at first - with a handful of resident White-headed Stilts, Pied Oystercatchers and a couple of disconsolate-looking Gull-billed Terns.


Wader palindrome: Bar-tailed Godwit. Grey-tailed Tattler. Sharp-tailed Sandpiper. Grey-tailed Tattler. Bar-tailed Godwit.

Small flocks of waders soon started to appear, heading down into the wind in straggling lines: mainly godwits, but an increasing number of smaller migrants as well: Grey-tailed Tattlers, Sharp-tailed Sandpipers, Great Knot, Red-necked Stints... A line of Black Swans stood offshore on a small sand-bar, black curlicues against the green-grey waves. The roost built up steadily to around 1,500 birds, then the parties of waders pretty much stopped coming - those that had been displaced by the tide all arrived at their respective hangouts. Caspian Terns joined the party, and with the birds a little more settled, we began to pick out a few other species: a small group of Greenshank, a Black-tailed Godwit or two; best of all a smart Terek Sandpiper, with yellow ochre legs and a perpetually smiling expression.

Snooze-time on the sand. The bulk are Bar-tailed Godwit, with a smattering of Great Knot (smaller, slightly curved bill, dark chevrons on the flanks). A single tattler on the left with a plain grey back and an out-of-focus Curlew Sandpiper at the front left, disappearing out of shot.

The birds may have been settled, but they were far from still: the larger birds tried to sleep, heads turned round and bills under wings, whilst the sandpipers trotted rapidly around below them, tucking in to the unfortunate invertebrates in the sand. Every so often one of the Pied Oystercatchers would take great exception to all these interlopers and take a run at the roosting birds, sending them running - or flying - out of its way.

Eventually the tide turned, the birds began to think about moving off to the mud again, and we headed back towards Palmwoods for our last evening, before heading south, to Tasmania and a whole new week.

Ichneumonoptera chrysophanes (a.k.a. Carmentera chrysophanes), a clearwing moth, bids us goodbye from Queensland, leaving a parting kiss on my jacket.

Green Tree-frog on pot.

No comments: