Saturday, 3 August 2013

Tyto Wetlands Ingham north Queensland

We have just spent a couple of days in and around Ingham where the famous Tyto Wetlands are located adjacent to the Bruce Highway and Information Centre on the southern edge of town. Ingham is a small rural town similar in size to our own hometown Bairnsdale in East Gippsland Victoria. However the climate is tropical here and the main rural industry is sugar production.
The Tyto Wetland gains its name from the Grass Owl, Tyto capensis, which can be found at the wetland. Tyto of course is the genus name and also covers three other species of owl in Australia, the screech owls, Barn, Masked and Sooty. The other Australian owls are within the genus Ninox, the hooting owls, and include Rufous, Powerful, Barking and Southern Boobook.
I visited the wetland reserve for several hours on two occasions and as both were not at dawn or dusk my chances of finding a Grass Owl were near zero and this proved to be the case. However the birding there is excellent with many dry land and wetland species.  
Crimson Finches are easy to find across the reserve. We managed to find a small flock in a garden bed in the Information Centre carpark on the first morning. Here are a few photos of the male, a possible juvenile male close to reaching full maturity, and then a female.
This is the male Crimson Finch

The male from behind showing the pointy tail.

This is possibly a young male that has not quite reached full maturity.

The more somber coloured female Crimson Finch.
Another plentiful and easy to find species is the Red-backed Fairy-wren.
It is hard to resist taking yet another photo of this fairy-wren.
Not so easy to find are the Tawny and Little Grassbirds. Both of these species have a reputation for remaining hidden in dense grass and if they do appear then only briefly. I managed to find and take a couple of poor shots of a Tawny Grassbird. Another similar species in terms of looks and habitat use is the Golden-headed Cisticola, which I also found and photographed.
The Tawny Grassbird peeping out from the long grass.

I was lucky to get this shot as the Tawny Grassbird departed the scene. Note the short wings - this species does not spend much time flying, it mostly jumps and makes short flights in dense grassy vegetation.

The smaller but similar Golden-headed Cisticola.
The only water bird shots taken were of a Comb-crested Jacana. The photos are not great however I have included them because the two flight shots show the bird’s amazingly long toes evolved to allow this species to exploit wetlands by walking on water lily leaves and other aquatic vegetation.
A Comb-crested Jacana - note the incredibly long toes trailing behind the bird in flight.

Coming in to land on a water lily. It would be good to capture the moment before landing to see how the bird manages the long toes at touch down. One could imagine the odd tangle up?

Even walking with such long toes seems a hard task however the bird appears very nimble as it dashes about on the lily leaves chasing food.
Another unexpected highlight at the Tyto Wetlands was running into a fellow birder and what’s more, a bird blogger! A lucky encounter as my planned early visit to the wetland was delayed by rain. Sadly I have to say that I rarely see other birders in my travels, we are a rare breed. However the birder turned out to be the local Ingham resident Tyto Tony. Needless to say when two binocular and serious camera totting birders cross paths in a wetland there is no prize for identifying the other as a birder. An enjoyable discussion followed covering the Tyto Wetland, cameras and lenses, blogs, etc etc. Thanks Tony for the local information.
You can visit Tyto Tony’s excellent blog site at:

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