Monday, 15 May 2017

Here Be Bustards

The Maryfarms area of Mt Carbine is usually a reliable location for Australian bustards (Ardeotis australis). So when at Kingfisher Park, Julatten, recently, I headed north on the Mulligan Highway to see whether I could get some photos of these wonderful birds.

As the name suggests, Maryfarms is a farming area on Mary Creek. It is surrounded by savanna woodland — tall grass and eucalypts — and is close to the rainforest of Mt Lewis. This combination of habitats making it an excellent spot to see a variety of birds. Especially if you are a better bird watcher than me, as you almost certainly are.

Bustards were once widespread and common, but hunting and changing land use reduced populations. In many places they are rare or locally extinct. Captive breeding programs such as that at Serendip Sanctuary in Victoria bolster wild populations of these wonderful birds. For the moment, they are still abundant and easy to spot in drier parts of northern Queensland. I have seen them at Chillagoe, Mt Garnet and Bowen. They even turn up (on the odd occasion) in the maize fields around Atherton.

At Maryfarms, I had my own curious onlookers while I searched for bustards.

Rainbow bee-eaters perched on the fences along East Mary Road. Families of red-backed fairywrens flitted and twittered in the long grass. But no bustards.

The paperbarks along the creek were full of honeyeaters and bees. There were also mosquitoes. Just picture this photo covered in thousands of black spots for the full effect.

I drove back to the highway and turned down West Mary Road. There were fewer rainbow bee-eaters here, but plenty of white-breasted woodswallows.

And agile wallabies. Because I only see pademelons at home, these wallabies looked enormous. I mistook one big male for a kangaroo. I will hand in my macropod identification badge as I leave.

I was beginning to think I wouldn't see bustards at all this time. Then these three did the Abbey Road thing right in front of me.

They were wary of the car, but not frightened, so I was able to drive up very slowly.

Fortunately, there's not much traffic at Maryfarms, so I parked at the edge of the road and watched the trio until they disappeared into the vegetation.

I probably missed two dozen other species that morning, but I saw the bustards and that was good enough for me! 

* Not actual oversized chickens 

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