Brian (Rowdy) Lee | Guest contributor
I've been counting the Pacific Golden Plovers, on a salt marsh near Cairns, pretty much every sunrise from September to April for six years now (as at 2023).
These delightful little shorebirds breed in Alaska and Siberia during the northern summer, then toddle down here to enjoy our summer away from the snow and ice.
Here’s a non-breeding Pacific Golden Plover:
…. and here (below) is a Pacific Golden Plover in transition plumage, in June, on Green Island, Cairns, Tropical North Queensland. Its presumed it was over-wintering here in northern Australia.
My most interesting, if unproven, observation is that while they appear to be a flock-bird, I believe they actually exist in clans of 7–8 individuals within the greater tribe.
My reasoning is that for the first couple of years I was counting them, I'd see them all wake around first light; have a nice stretch along with their fluff and puff; then at some unseen signal I've never been able to isolate, a small group would lift as one and zoom off toward The Esplanade, or the Barron, or perhaps East Trinity.
A few minutes later another random group of 7–8 birds would do the same thing, then another and another until the cupboard was bare.
For the next couple of years, there was a change in behaviour and, rather than taking off in groups, they'd work their way back into the low shrub-like grey mangroves, and always in what appeared to be groups of 7–8.
It has even got to the point where I know where individual birds are going to be standing each dawn, though this season (2022–2023), they've taken to wandering off in their little groups to a different part of the flat they haven't previously bothered with.
Much of this is supposition on my part, but makes for wonderful birdwatching when you can see the same birds each day, rather than always seeking and ticking a species you haven't seen before, without a thought to the bigger picture of our wonderful feathered friends.
We tend to forget the sheer beauty of the birds we see around us every day.