Animals, Australia, Beach & Coastal Walking, Streams, Creeks & Rivers
Comments 10

The Egret has Landed

Just back from a few blissful days of doing nothing much at all in the mountains of northern New South Wales. Alex and I stayed with his brother and his partner at their cozy and evolving home in the gorgeous Border Ranges near Kyogle. I’d forgotten how magical and soothing the Australian bush can be. There’ll be a few posts about our time there coming soon…

This is how a typical day begins for me in the coastal suburbs of northern Brisbane.

Insomnia, whether innate or learned (surely my brain has caught on by now that this is my favourite time of day) drags me from bed around 5:30 — and if the sleep doesn’t, the whining crows and disgustingly mellifluous magpies surely will.

I suppress the powerful urge to assemble a life-restoring caffeinated beverage, knowing that the flat white (a latte-like Australian style) I buy in an hour or so will beat anything I could make — plus there’s the delayed gratification, a powerful lure for any addict.

Through the local park…

mmm

..where (at least until Spring is well underway) it’s still dark; the odd cyclist’s headlight, a lady with a dog, rowdy mobs of at once gregarious and cantankerous crows…

mmm

..and I’m on the backstreets of Shorncliffe, passing the spookiest and perhaps most impressive of the grand old homes in these parts, the Drew Residence, which dates from the the 1890s and is essentially a huge Queenslander with a rare central tower straight out of The Addams Family:

mmm

The Drew House, Shorncliffe, dawn.

Past the frangipani on the corner favoured by yet another raucous mob, rainbow lorikeets who apparently never learned about the turn-taking crucial to polite conversation…

Rainbow lorikeets in a winter-bare frangipani -- the noise worse than a Korean middle-school corridor between classes.

Rainbow lorikeets in a winter-bare frangipani — the noise is worse than a Korean middle-school corridor between classes.

..and I reach the mangrovey banks of Cabbage Tree Creek, where the trawlers that prowl the waters of the Bay come home to roost:

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“Ocker” is old Australian slang for, er…Australian.

It’s always worth a quick detour soon after, to the boat ramp area where pelicans and other opportunist fowl will often edge ever closer to anyone with a fishing rod. Too early this morning, though…

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Fish-cleaning station & distant egret near the mouth of Cabbage Tree Creek.

..so I continue past the marina of the Sandgate Yacht Club…

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..to the fig-lined bank of the creek mouth and a typically impressive sunrise:

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Stingray holes & the Port of Brisbane — further off than it looks here.

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The stingers are clearly outlined in these stingray holes.

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Looking across the creek to the Boondall Wetlands.

This is Baxters Jetty at the northern lip of the Cabbage Tree Creek mouth (I want to put an apostrophe in that name but it’s non-existent online, so what do I know?):

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The jetty is usually well patronised by anglers and those who enjoy tossing bait nets over the side. On this morning, though, there was just a solitary fisher taking a break from trawling the banks:

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Well, not solitary for long:

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I believe this is an intermediate egret, but after much research and examination of the eye markings on high magnification, I’m not entirely sure it isn’t a great egret. The neck would help (the great’s is 1.5 times the length of its body!) but this fellow, quite possibly the same individual who can often be spotted haunting this lucrative spot, kept his/her head tucked in close to its body and was no help whatsoever:

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I crept ever closer to my wary subject…

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..and finally onto the jetty itself…

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An excruciating & possibly fatal encounter would take the fun out of any stroll along the beach.

..just as the sun exploded above and beyond Moreton Island and the day was officially underway:

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Australia has numerous species of egret, and their relatives, and many range from southern Europe and eastern Africa across South East Asia, Australia and even to North America. In less enlightened times — or perhaps more stylish ones — their plumage could be found adorning the hats of sophisticated twits in the New World, an arrangement 100% fatal to the original possessor of the plumage.

Apparently they nest communally — I’m not sure where our locals do so — but they tend to hunt solo, either stalking or playing statue and using their beaks as formidable spears to land fish and small vertebrates.

This one, a beautiful, tranquil fellow whose lifestyle had me quite envious even with that wretchedly non-vegetarian diet, let me met get to within a few metres…

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..and then just as a rainbow-like shard of dawn sky seemed about to touch its head…

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..I looked up from my viewfinder to find it flapping downstream.

Now with the day taking form and a few humanoid fishers entering the scene, I continued on my rounds, passing the rocky headland of Shorncliffe as the sun climbed higher and the need for caffeine narrowed my own predatory focus to one clear and delicious objective…

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~ And that’s all the Goat wrote

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10 Comments

  1. I love that house! It’s so magical. Those stingray holes are interesting too. And there’s nothing like a bird with a rainbow coming out of its skull! 🙂 your pictures are, as always, captivating! Love this post! Oh and I’ve decided my new favorite word is “mangrovey”. I just have to figure out when I can use it in conversation here…hmmmmm

  2. bill murray says

    Nice pictures Mate ….. and i’ll have to look up Stone Fish …. I couldn’t read the sign ….
    look forward to seeing you back in the States ….. Be Well/Be Safe ……

    • Stonefish are one of those legendary Australian nasties, Bill. Apparently one of the most painful stings you can imagine. Thanks for reading as always!

  3. I love a nice jetty plus sunrise shot. Beautiful pics! For my birthday one year I got up very early and took my thermos out to Wellington Point to watch a sunrise at the jetty It wasn’t as idyllic as I expected though as there were plenty of fishermen about setting off in their boats at the crack of dawn! I live on the southwestern side of Brisbane so It’s a bit of a drive to catch a beach sunrise in the warmer months.

    Ah yes, stonefish. I lived for years at Hervey Bay without knowing there were stonefish near the Urangan jetty until a friend jagged one up to show me after pointing out the tell-tale rippling in the sand. I was horrified actually!

    I’ve been trying to sneak up on egrets for years without much success. You’ve managed a beautiful shot though. Great read!

    • Thanks, Jane. I was down in Redland Bay a few days back — what I saw of it was great.

      Yes, the smart fishermen, like the smart egrets and the smart walkers/photographers, know the joys of an early start. The wharf/pier/jetty at Shorncliffe is a very popular photographic subject, and it will probably get even more popular once they complete the renovations (it’s actually been closed to pedestrian access for some time now) and reopen it to the public. Trouble with this time of year is I have to get up around 4:00 to make it to the water in time for sunrise!

  4. Lovely pics as usual! I have been having some egret identification issues myself, and I *believe* the key difference between the Great and the others is the commensual line from the base of the beak under the eye. The Great’s line goes well behind the eye. The intermediate (and presumably the little’s) just finishes under the eye. Some egret pics to compare and contrast about halfway through this blog post (no egrets with rainbows balanced on their heads though!!) https://berowrabackyard.wordpress.com/2015/06/28/waterbirds-of-the-wyong-river/

    • Great! Thanks, mate, I really need to invest in a little pair of binoculars, since I don’t think a zoom’s gonna happen for a while yet. More gear to carry! (Perhaps a bird I.D. guide as well.)

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