The Townsville Common is normally very rich in birdlife, and armed with our up-graded camera gear we had high hopes of returning with magnificent photos of sunbirds and kingfishers etc., but it was not to be. Townsville, in August 2015, was very dry, and the Townsville Common was desperately so. The lakes and swamps were all empty of water, and the landscape crisp and in places, burnt.
At first it seemed to be barren of birdlife, and that was certainly the experience of another couple of bird-watchers Laura met at one of the bird-viewing towers who had seen nothing but a grey fantail.
In the past, we had found the woodlands to be buzzing with bee-eaters and sunbirds, but this time we struggled to find just a few. In place of the numerous sacred and forest kingfishers, and even the odd azure kingfisher, seen on previous visits, this time we only found one lonely, distant forest kingfisher.
With persistance we did find interesting species, such as the whistling kite and osprey photographed near their nests. And there were still brolgas in the dried out swampy area between the Common and the airport, and even a pair of bustards in the long grass by the roadside.
There were yellow, brown-backed and brown honeyeaters in the flowering eucalypts, and we spotted both varied and white-winged trillers, a pair of satin flycatchers and a few mistletoe birds. In spite of the arid state of the woodlands, white-bellied cuckoo-shrikes and spangled drongos seemed still to be able to find sufficient prey to stay alive at least, and we photographed a couple of pheasant coucals that had clambered up into trees to sunbake.
Birds that live in the long grass still abounded, including crimson finches (a new species for us), and double-barred finches and chestnut-breasted mannikins. A tiny golden cisticola became a convenient subject for photography, blasting out its territorial call from a dead branch projecting above the top of the grass. And there were still a few red-backed fairy-wrens, as usual too far away for good photos.
And we did see grey fantails. The ducks and magpie geese and jabirus were all gone, perhaps to return when the rains come again.
And we, also, will need to make a return visit during wetter conditions.
It was a disappointing, but not entirely fruitless visit.