It has been cold and it has been windy!
This may well seem an odd statement from the tropics, but it is true. When there is a high in the Great Australian Bight we get strong easterlies and the temperate falls. The winds have been between 25 and 30 knots for days now and the warnings have been from Queensland right across the top and down the coast towards Perth. This is a huge area and it is amazing that a weather event thousands of miles away in the south can make all the difference to the tropics in May. Our overnight temperatures have plummeted to 12c (54f) and it has struggled to 27c (80f) the last few days. We are all in denial of course and we just put on thicker shorts and thicker T-shirts! Unless you go south on a regular basis you just do not own winter clothes and you know it will be 32c (90f) every day again soon. The big difference at the moment is only having 20% humidity and it feels incredibly dry. The shorebirds on the beaches have worked it out…stand close together in a flock of 5000+ and if you can find some warm sand on high tide you sit on it and enjoy it!
As a result of the cold weather we decided to do some birding from the car for a change with the air-conditioning off. We are able to leave the bitumen once again as the land is drying out and just out of town we came across several Australian Pratincoles. These shorebirds are mainly found in arid areas of Australia and the population is believed to be approximately 60,000. They are slender birds that are well camouflaged on the open grasslands and as such are usually noticed when they first take flight. They have very long pointed wings and a distinctive black and white tail. They feed on the insects found on the grasslands and can be observed either feeding in flight or running across the land and grabbing insects that they flush. As a result of this there is a lot of head movement as they investigate all around them.
Australian Pratincole looking out for insects
Immature or adult non-breeding Australian Pratincole
Breeding Australian Pratincole
As you can see, they are a rather smart looking shorebird even though they are more likely to be found inland.