Friday, March 25, 2011

Brown Quail

Brown Quail, Coturnix ypsilophora.

It’s been an exciting week of birding in The Centre. The bird surveys have almost wrapped up out at Newhaven and the Field Nats have been out on the weekend enjoying the wet conditions. The final plans have been locked into place for Red Centre Bird Week out at the Alice Springs Desert Park, and you can expect some official dates for that event soon.
            The bird in the frame this week is the Brown Quail. Usually not too common around The Centre, this bird lurks around in grassy areas and in wet years it can become much more abundant and spread out across the arid zone. This round-looking bird was snapped on the road into Simpson’s Gap.
Sightings this week: 
-          A Black-chinned Honeyeater of the gorgeous laetior race was identified by local birdo Uwe Path out at Emily Gap on the weekend
-           Southern Boobooks are very active at the moment with several birds calling around northside and allowing great views from Dixon Road
-          Crimson Chats are still being seen in reasonable flocks along Colonel Rose Drive
Now is a great time to start conducting bird surveys around your home or property. Land for Wildlife is starting a database of regular monthly bird surveys on private land around Central Australia. We’d love as many contributors to this project as possible. Whether you are in town or out on a bush block you can join Land for Wildlife in its mission to preserve wildlife corridors through town and monitor the state of our birds. To find out more visit the website at or email and we’ll pop round and get you started.
Happy Birding!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Whiskered Tern

Whiskered Tern, Chlidonias hybridus.

The picture this week is one of our more common species of inland tern, the Whiskered Tern. These birds are very common over many inland bodies of water and are also known as Marsh Terns.
            This bird is in breeding plumage but often when we see them here they will be in non-breeding plumage without the dark belly, or the bright red bill.
            That dagger-like bill is used for plucking insects out of the air or from the surface of the water. These birds can often be seen working in teams, patrolling in lines up and down a body of water and skimming insects from the surface.
            If you’re ever out looking for this bird it is worth keeping an eye out for the related White-winged Black Tern. This is a smaller, paler bird but it is superficially similar. The difference is in the head markings, where the White-winged Black Tern more closely resembles an ‘Elvis Presley’ hairdo with pronounced sideburns.
Sightings this week: 
-          A Rainbow Lorikeet has been reported in Arunga Street. No doubt this is a lonely aviary escapee – let’s hope he doesn’t have any mates.
-          Grey Fantails of the stunning albicauda race have been reported at Kunoth Bore and Jessie Gap.
-          Orange Chats are making something of a comeback with reports from Tilmouth Well and the Lasseter Highway near Curtin Springs.
-          Another pest, Peach-faced Lovebirds, a Namibian native, are now being seen very regularly in a number of different areas of town.
If you spot any feral bird species around town you can ring the feral hotline – 1800 084 881
We’ve got to keep control of the ferals as this wet weather continues as conditions are ripe for any introduced species to take advantage and establish a breeding population.
Happy birdwatching ‘til next week!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Wedge-tailed Eagle

Wedge-tailed Eagle, Aquila audax.

In latin Aquila audax means “bold eagle”.  The bird in this picture certainly fits that description having let me approach within a few metres before flying off very casually.
It’s been a week of ups and downs for Centralian birdos. The “Disneyland” of Alice Springs birding destinations, the sewage ponds, has been temporarily closed following an increase in feral dogs.
            This brief inconvenience has had an upside. I went birdwatching in a few spots that I haven’t been for a while and turned up some corkers. After a trip out to the Rufous-crowned Emu-wren site (where that species has bred well lately) I got a look at a rare Flock Bronzewing as it flew over the car.
            Around the back of the claypans were plenty of Mulga Parrots and a trio of Bourke’s Parrots. Also, the swamps at Ilparpa have just been flooded by Power & Water. As this starts to dry off over the coming weeks we may have some more luck with the lurking Crakes and Rails that have been seen in the area over summer.
            It looks like the sewage ponds might be re-opened in time for a wader count by April.  When this finally goes ahead, the organisers will need expert birdos to do the counting and scribes to write up the lists. Send me an email if you think you’d like to help out.
Sightings this week: 
-          Buff-banded Rails with some very small hatchlings have been seen in the Todd riverbed lately
-          3 Gull-billed Terns seen over the sewage ponds
-          Flock Bronzewing on the Santa Teresa Road
-          Black Honeyeater at the claypans
-          Bourke’s Parrots behind Ilparpa Claypans
-          Australian Bustard seen on the road to Kata Tjuta from Yulara