Sarus Cranes & Australian Pratincoles on the Tableland (Far North Queen

To: Messages Birding-aus <>
Subject: Sarus Cranes & Australian Pratincoles on the Tableland (Far North Queensland)
From: Dr Richard Nowotny <>
Date: Fri, 03 Oct 2003 22:24:11 +1000
A couple of weeks or so ago Alan Gillanders ("Alan's Wildlife Tours - On the beautiful Atherton Tablelands") posted a short report under the heading of "Casual birding on the way home, Atherton Tableland style" in which he described some interesting birding along Forsythe Rd, some 6 kms from Mareeba.  As I was heading up to FNQ myself I asked Alan for some directions, which he generously provided.
Today (3/10), in company with Jim Flynn and Marissa Benevente, Seattle-based birders freshly arrived from the US (literally their first day in Australia), I/we followed Alan's instructions, with the following interesting results (among other less dramatic sightings along the road):
1.      Approximately 450-500 Sarus Cranes in recently ploughed cornfields along Forsythe Rd - and this literally on the eve of the annual Tablelands Crane Count.  Quite a large number I think. (Would anyone involved in the Crane Count like to comment on just how significant this crane flock is?  I'm not up to speed with the current status of cranes on the Tableland - but I've not seen anything like this up here before.  Jim & Marissa likened it to some flocks of migrating Sandhill Cranes in the US.)
2.      A fairly tight flock of approx 35 Australian Pratincoles repeatedly flying in and out of the spray generated by a very large field sprinkler - almost opposite the Crane field. Interesting behaviour - and quite a large flock in my experience.  (ABC News later this evening reported that it was unseasonably hot on the Tableland today - 37*C at Malanda, only a handful of kms from Forsythe Rd - although I insisted at the time to Jim and Marissa that it was just rather warm!)
3.      Two sub-adult Spotted Harriers quartering another nearby field, one of which dropped into a crop, causing a quail (? Stubble, ? a button-quail) to flush, somewhat urgently.

Casual birding, Atherton Tableland style?!!
Richard Nowotny

PS  Jim and Marissa will be in Australia for approx 6 weeks (FNQ, Sydney to Melbourne, Melbourne to Adelaide).  I'm sure other Birding-Aus members will meet up with them at some stage in their birding travels.

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