Friday, February 25, 2011

Collared Sparrowhawk

Collared Sparrowhawk, Accipiter cirrocephalus.

This rather imposing bird of the week is the Collared Sparrowhawk. It appears almost entirely identical to the closely related Brown Goshawk but is considerably smaller. At this close range you will also notice that the Sparrowhawk has a much longer middle toe which the Goshawk does not. I’ve looked everywhere this week, but I’ve been unable to find an explanation for this longer toe. I’m sure a reader out there can enlighten me during the week.
            This picture was taken to the north of town but these birds can be seen in an around Alice Springs at a few places. There is regularly one in the trees each morning around Braitling School on northside, and at the Telegraph Station and along the Todd Riverbed you might spot one chasing down some smaller birds with its superior agility.
Sightings this week: 
-          Tawny Grassbirds – a few lucky birders have now found this out-of-towner at Ilparpa Swamp and Simpson’s Gap
-          Ruff – still lurking at the sewage ponds
-          Gallinago Snipe – a bird of uncertain species has been seen around the sewage ponds but it seems it may prove to be Swinhoe’s which is a rare visitor to Alice
-          Channel-billed Cuckoo – Neil Woolcock has spotted a huge juvenile making life very difficult for a couple of Little Crows in the Anatyeke Gardens in front of the Airport
-          Little Corellas and Long-billed Corellas behind the racecourse on Heath Road.
Remember tomorrow will be the Land for Wildlife Feral Dove Trapping Workshop at Bloomin’ Deserts Nursery on Hele Crescent. Come along at 10am and learn how to help eradicate this pest and welcome more native birds into the gardens of Alice Springs.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Black-shouldered Kite

Black-shouldered Kite, Elanus axillaris.

The Black-shouldered Kite has an ethereal beauty which is hard to put your finger on. Bright yellow feet, pristine white plumage with pastel grey wings and a dab of charcoal black around the shoulders, and eyes which are a deep blood red – what an ensemble!
            The bird above was seen on Commonage Road just near the tip, but since the rains began in early 2010, these birds have been present in increasing numbers. As with so many birds in the inland they will stay while conditions suit them and then when it starts to dry out again they head back to milder, and more coastal territory. Perhaps we won’t see them again for many years.
            So enjoy them while they last folks. The best places to spot them at the moment are Ilparpa swamp where they have been collecting in flocks of 10 or more, around the airport there are regular sightings as well and of course around the Alice Springs tip.
Sightings this week: 
-          Banded Stilt, a single juvenile bird has been at the sewage ponds most of the week
-          Glossy Ibis was spotted by Barb Gilfedder on a “Morning with the Birds” outing arranged by the Alice Springs Field Naturalists Society on Sunday
-          Dusky Grasswren by the dozen on a late afternoon walk up Mt. Gillen
-          Grey-headed Honeyeater and Painted Finches on the same walk
-          Several Black-tailed Godwits have been present at the poo ponds for a while now
-          Buff-banded Rails continue to be reported near culverts and floodways in the early mornings
-          Sacred Kingfisher also seem to be a species enjoying a resurgence in The Centre with many reports each week
Thanks again, and enjoy the birds!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Sooty Tern

Sooty Tern, Onychoprion fuscata. Dazed and confused.

While Tropical Cyclone Yasi didn’t deliver all the rain some of us were expecting this weekend, we got a delivery nonetheless – and what a delivery!
Danny Gillies called me late on Sunday afternoon to inform me that he’d found a strange-looking bird that seemed injured. This was in a transport depot in Ghan Rd and Danny said, “it looks like a sea bird”.
            Well Danny, you were spot on. You found an undisputed first for Alice Springs in the form of an exhausted and starving Sooty Tern. It boggles the mind to consider for a moment what this bird must have been through.
            We regularly get inland varieties of terns here in Alice; Whiskered and Gull-billed Terns are fairly frequent visitors to the poo ponds. The Sooty Tern however is a dedicated oceanic bird. It is only an occasional visitor to the coast of the mainland, spending most of its time at sea or on island colonies well offshore.
            Yet this bird, barely the size of a skinny pigeon, has been buffeted by category 5 winds and hurled smack dab into the centre of the continent and local bird watching history. Now in the hands of talented carers, we hope he will put on some weight and be strong enough for the flight home to Queensland – of course we won’t make him fly back himself. Befitting such a distinguished visitor he will have a place reserved for him in the cargo hold of a plane in the near future. I’ll keep you up to date with his progress.
Sightings this week: 
-          Latham’s Snipe, there were three birds allowing some crippling views in the horse paddock opposite the poo ponds.
-          Ruff a single bird present at the Poo Ponds on Monday.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Feral - Spotted Turtle-dove

Spotted Turtle-dove, Streptopelia chinensis.

G’day bird lovers, this week, instead of the usual bulletin, we are looking at invasive pests with a particular focus on the bird above – the Feral Spotted Turtle-dove. This is an introduced species which bullies our smaller native doves out of their own habitats.
            Land For Wildlife are continuing their program of feral dove monitoring and trapping, with a special effort on counting the birds throughout February. With the size and distribution of the population established, trapping efforts can be targeted in March to the feral dove ‘hotspots’.
            We’re asking for community involvement with this program. All through February surveys will be conducted on Saturday mornings at 8am, and here’s the best part - you can help by staying at home! Just count all the feral spotted turtle-doves you can find on your property in the 10 minutes from 8am each Saturday, starting tomorrow. Anyone can participate and the more people who get involved the more accurate our picture of the feral dove population will be.
            Our month of monitoring will culminate with a dove trapping workshop on the 26th of February at Bloomin’ Deserts Nursery on Hele Crescent at 10am.  We’ll show you how to build a trap and start catching feral doves on your property, and specialist animal keepers from Alice Springs Desert Park will be on hand to explain how important the trapped doves become as part of the diet of captive and rehabilitated animals. 
            So get out and start counting tomorrow. All you need to do is email your total feral dove count for each Saturday morning, along with your address, to
Remember, if you don’t find any feral doves you can still send us an email – this is good news that we need to hear as well.
            For more identification tips and information about Land For Wildlife’s feral Spotted Turtle-dove trapping program you can visit and follow the links to Land For Wildlife.
Happy counting!