Monday, 11 February 2013

Birding in the Rain?

A grey and overcast morning. To bird or not to bird? It looks like rain. Oh well, let’s go anyway. Off to Port Douglas along the Captain Cook Highway. There are plenty of White-breasted Wood-swallows about and even a few Pacific Black Duck around in the muddy pools in the sugar cane paddocks. Ferrero Road may be worth a look. Last week there were three Barn Swallow about near the pond. Not today though. There are some Wandering Whistling-duck, a tree full of Little Black Cormorants and two Australasian Grebe. Well, here comes the rain. Wipers on and off we go. Glancing at a herd of cattle I notice a lone Cattle Egret still with some of his breeding plumage. A quick look down Heritage Lane turns up a bedraggled Horsfield’s Bushlark on the fence. The rain eases off to a light drizzle and then sunshine. I put the windows down and hear Golden-headed Cisticola calling and then the humid heat hits me like a wet slap in the face.
Australasian Grebe

Turning into Port Douglas Road the Purple Swamphen line the roadside to give a birdie welcome. Swing a left at the first traffic circle and visit the lakes in St Crispin’s Street. Bugger, here comes the rain again. The usual Grey Tattler has company today. A Pacific Golden Plover. The rain is really belting down now. Hang on, what was that? I back up and see a large bird on the green at the golf course. I open the window a crack and peer through the sheets of rain. A Beach Stone-curlew! On the golf course?

It’s Sunday and the markets are on so I head into town. Maybe I should take a look at the mangroves near the Marina before stopping at the markets. The rain is easing. Two Nankeen Night Heron. Worth the detour. A quick whip around the muddy markets is uneventful. I get back to the car just in time to watch a young fisherman pull in a mug crab. He has no idea of what to do with it and it eventually plops back into the water.

Ah! here comes the sun again. Pass another golf course. This time it’s two Bush Stone-curlew on the golf course. And a Magpie Goose! A stop at Warri Park and its lake full of water lilies is rewarding. More Purple Swamphens, a few Dusky Moorhens and one White-browed Crake. No – make that two! Dash back to the car to grab the camera, focus on the crake. What’s that? A two and a half meter croc! These birds are inches away from becoming a snack! Last time I was here I’m sure there were three crake...  Here comes the rain again.
Crake 'n Croc (Bottom right)

Back on the Captain Cook Highway again I think a quick visit to the local rubbish tip may be rewarding. The skip bins are swarming with Australian White Ibis. Two Pied Heron are also scavenging for a free feed. A Black-fronted Dotterel dashes across the road. Even a couple or Radjah Shelduck are enjoying the roadside puddles. Down at the settling ponds a flock of Hardhead are cruising about watched by a few Black-winged Stilt. A Collared Kingfisher shoots out of the mangroves followed by a Sacred Kingfisher. A Brahminy and a Whistling Kite float overhead. There are Chestnut-breasted Mannikin and Golden-headed Cisticola in the grass. Am I really at a rubbish tip?
Pied Heron and Australian White Ibis
Radjah Shelduck

Time to go home. Yes it is worth birding in the rain.

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