Sunday, 17 September 2006

Swamp thang

Hastie's Swamp lies a few kilometres south of Atherton. It's a seasonal swamp, so should be dry at this time of year. But unseasonable rainfall following Cyclone Larry has kept it nicely topped up. Waterbirds on the Tablelands must find it difficult to pick a place to hang out.

This spot seems to be top of the list for plumed whistling-ducks (Dendrocygna eytoni). During the day, anyway. They feed in paddocks and grasslands at night, leaving the swamp in small flocks, whistling and twittering constantly to keep in touch with one another. They're rather handsome ducks with upswept white plumes on their sides.

National Parks have built a splendid two storey hide on the water's edge. It's a great place to sit with a pair of binoculars, a camera and/or a sandwich and gaze out at the ducks and other birds. Apart from the ducks, I also saw white-necked herons (Ardea pacifica) and magpie geese (Anseranas semipalmata) among others. (Look here for a full list of birds recorded at the site.)

The magpie geese were difficult to photograph. They kept themselves to themselves at the northern end of the wetland, where there was plenty of grass to feed on. They were very stand-offish. I remember a couple of wet seasons in Townsville when magpie geese gathered in huge flocks on the flooded oval at the Weir School. The playing fields were one huge bugling, piebald carpet of feathers.

I'm not sure who Hastie was or why the swamp is named after him (or could it be her?) but I'm going to have a go at finding out.


David Nelson said...

Sounds like you had a great time. Bring back the things smaller than a fingernail clipping though, what're all these references to feathered and furred vertebrates?

Snail said...

I know. I'm letting down the side a bit. But the charismatic megafauna is so much easier to see!

Anonymous said...


Atherton tablelands -- I didn't know of such beautiful wildlife exists there! If only ... I could have seen these when I was there for almost 4 years.
Thanks for sharing these photos and observations.


Snail said...

Hi Ann

There's still plenty of time to see it all!

Anonymous said...

G'day !

I feel rejuvenated this time and indeed there's plenty of time to see it all ! I may even help you play socio-cultural sleuth on Hastie, i.e., if you haven't solved yet the mystery.


Snail said...


It's a deal! (And I haven't found out about Hastie yet.)