Re: Cairns Crocodile Farm turns up trumps (as usual?)

To: Kirrama Wildlife Tours <>
Subject: Re: Cairns Crocodile Farm turns up trumps (as usual?)
From: Dr Richard Nowotny <>
Date: Sun, 08 Nov 1998 19:52:40 +1000
Thanks for the response, Klaus.
Actually, the Little Bittern sighting was a very interesting one.  We were
standing looking over the main, central reed-bed when I saw a honey-yellow
bird come up out of the reeds about 30 metres away and fly low over the
reeds, legs dangling slightly, for about 5 or 6 metres and then sink back
down into the reeds.  I couldn't place it at first - the size, colour and
behaviour didn't fit anything I'm used to seeing in Australia (and I had no
time to get my binoculars onto it).  I toyed briefly with Rufous
Night-heron (because of the somewhat related colour) but rapidly ruled it
out on all sorts of grounds.  I was therefore left wondering.  Then, out of
nowhere, Little Bittern just "popped" into my mind.  I know why - we've
seen Little Bittern on a number of occasions on the south Texas coast (at
Anahuac Reserve, in fact), both at close quarters clinging to reed stems
and flying low across the reeds.  The colour is unmistakeable, and the size
and behaviour were the same.
This would not have been sufficient for me to make a solid identification,
however.  It would have remained as a "probable".  However, to my
considerable pleasure it repeated the flight about 5 minutes later for
another 5 or 6 metres, just while I was watching across the reeds (Diana
missed BOTH flights - such are the fortunes of birdwatching).  On this
occasion the jet-black upperparts of the wings were clearly visible on the
otherwise yellow bird, clinching the already suspected identification.
In spite of staying another 20 or so minutes (and playing the relevant tape
- although from some distance of course, and with a moderate breeze blowing
across the line of the sighting) no further sighting was made (to Diana's
considerable chagrin, as you can imagine).
PS  Of related interest, as we walked out to the fence surrounding the main
reed-bed, the unsealed service road had some wheel-ruts which were full of
water, from out of one of which an approx. 0.6 metre "feral" crocodile
leapt into the adjacent pond as I approached, suitably unnerving Diana (she
worried subsequently that we were going to be locked into the Farm, as I
was proving reluctant to leave what had swiftly become my premier
reed-birding experience!). 

At 08:25 AM 11/8/98 +1000, you wrote:
>Hi Richard and Diana,
>Normal results of the croc farm? You must be joking!!! I haven't seen a
>Little Bittern yet! 
>Are you sure it wasn't a juvenile Jabiru? We up here just can't trust the
>identifying skills of you southerners.
>All the best, Klaus
>At 23:43 7/11/98 +1100, you wrote:
>>A short (3.30 - 5.00pm) visit to the Cairns Crocodile Farm today produced a
>>rather spectacular little list of 5 crakes, rails and bitterns.
>>White-browed and Spotless Crakes, Black (our second for the trip) and
>>Little (my first Australian sighting) Bitterns and Buff-banded Rail
>>reinforced the importance of this site for reed-birds.
>>Another feature of the day's birding (at Cumberland Dam, Georgetown in the
>>morning and the crocodile farm in the afternoon) was the 7 finch species:
>>Zebra, Double-barred, Masked, Black-throated, Red-browed, Crimson and
>>Chestnut-breasted Mannikin.
>>North Queensland can certainly put on a good birding show, can't it!
>Kirrama Wildlife Tours   Klaus & Brenda Uhlenhut

From:    Dr Richard Nowotny,
             Melbourne, Australia.
             Tel. (w) 61-3-9214.1420

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