Friday, April 29, 2011

Peaceful Dove

Peaceful Dove, Geopelia striata.

The long weekend is behind us and like many Centralians, I spent most of it out bush. The weather has been perfect for bird watching and this weekend I concentrated my efforts on the Western Macs. I caught up with this tiny Peaceful Dove at Redbank Gorge.
You’ll be able to separate this little bloke from his close relative, the Diamond Dove, by the distinctive blue eye ring – the Diamond Dove’s is red. This tiny native is another species which has been bullied out of Alice Springs by the feral Spotted Turtle-dove. It is now quite unusual to encounter the Peaceful Dove in town, but out in the bush there are still plenty to be found.
With so many visiting and local birdos out in the weeds this week, it has delivered some great sightings.
Sightings this week: 
-          Pick of the crop from this week’s reports was Mark Carter’s encounter with a rare Grey Falcon a few kilometres south of the prison on the Stuart Highway.
-          A Grey Butcherbird was seen roadside just past Glen Helen Resort on Namatjira Drive.
-          Australian Owlet-nightjar and Southern Boobook were common (and noisy) visitors to the woodland campground at Redbank Gorge after dark.
-          A Blue-billed Duck is reported to still be present at Alice Springs Sewage Ponds.
-          Painted Finch, Black-breasted Buzzard, and White-backed Swallow were among a great haul of birds reported by Richard Waring down around Uluru/Kata Tjuta National Park over the weekend.
-          Spinifexbird and Hooded Robin were easy gets around the Redbank Gorge campground
-          Western Gerygone, Inland Thornbill and Southern Whiteface were found in dense mulga just east of Serpentine Gorge
Happy Birding!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Black Kite

Black Kite, Milvus migrans.

Raptors, also known as birds of prey, are birds which use their feet to attack and kill their prey. It’s a diverse group, taking in owls, eagles, falcons, hawks, harriers, and kites. The bird in the picture this week is another one which will be familiar to any Territorians who turn their eyes to the skies.
The Black Kite is an adept scavenger as well as killing its own prey like small mammals and reptiles. There are often great flocks of these birds circling over the tip and they are common around highways where they make short work of any roadkill.
Their other favoured tactic is to surf along burning fire fronts. Here, they can take advantage of the thermal updrafts and disturbance of the fire to send insects shooting upwards into their waiting talons. Their diverse and adaptable skills have made them one of the most successful raptor species in the world and today they can be found throughout Australia and right up through most of Asia.
Sightings this week: 
-          Bush Stone-curlew spotted on the Plenty Highway by eagle-eyed ambos on a late night dash to Harts Range
-          Wood Sandpiper and Black-tailed Godwits appear to be the last of our migratory waders left and will soon be gone to their breeding grounds in Siberia
-          Australian Pratincole, four birds put in a brief appearance at the sewage ponds
-          Australian Bustard, Black-chinned Honeyeaters, and Chiming Wedgebills were the birding highlights of some work I did this week out along the Barkly Highway around Frewena
-          Eastern Barn Owls continue to be the most commonly reported night bird along the roads at night
Happy Birding!

Friday, April 15, 2011


Galah, Eolophus roseicapillus.

This week I decided to spend some time with the most underrated bird in Australia, the humble Galah. As is so often the case, speaking with tourists is a great way to get a fresh perspective on the familiar things we may take for granted. Without exception, visitors to Alice Springs always comment about our Galahs.
            For Aussies, their erratic flight and raucous, loutish ways have made their name synonymous with affable oafishness.   But if you take a second to appreciate the pastel grey and pink colour scheme, their contentedness in living cheek-by-jowl with humans, and their knockabout camaraderie, it’s hard not to love the Galah.
            It’s been a big week for birdos in Alice with two rare ducks showing up in one week, and some fantastic migratory birds showing up on their way north for the winter.
The wader count at the sewage ponds was a great success and a big thank you to Barb Gilfedder for organising the whole affair, and all the volunteers who came and helped out.
Sightings this week: 
-          Freckled Duck, one of the rarest ducks in the country has paid our sewage ponds a visit giving a few locals their first ever view of this enigmatic bird
-          Blue-billed Duck, astonishingly, the very next day we had one of these show up at the poo ponds. Not quite as rare as Freckled Duck but much less frequently reported here in Alice
-          Pectoral Sandpiper, just in time for the Field Nat’s wader count, president Barb Gilfedder spotted this uncommon migrant fattening up for the flight north at the sewage ponds
-          Peach-faced Lovebird, this introduced pest was found hiding out in corkwoods at Maynard Park on Head Street
Happy Birding!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Masked Lapwing

Masked Lapwing, Vanellus miles.

When I was kid, this bird was called a Spur-winged Plover. Indeed it does have a bony “spur” protruding from near the carpal joint on its wing – that part of the limb which is analogous to our wrist. These days though, it has been renamed and is referred to as a Masked Lapwing.
They are fiercely territorial and will dive-bomb anyone or anything that encroaches near their eggs or young. Anyone who has inadvertently stepped into one of these birds’ territories will know what I mean – the battle cries are instantaneous, “EK – EK – EK!”
            They couple this strong territorial instinct with the most ridiculous nesting arrangements. In fact, they don’t really make a nest. Their eggs are a well camouflaged speckled texture and they just lay them straight onto the ground. When they hatch, the fluffy chicks are a black and grey dappled colour and blend beautifully with the surface, making them easy to tread on by accident.
            This Masked Lapwing was at the sewage ponds but they can usually be found in flocks on and around Blatherskite Park, Traeger Oval, or anywhere else you can find a nice open area of grass with some water nearby.
Sightings this week: 
-          Black Falcon has been seen hunting around Ilparpa Swamp this week
-          Pied Honeyeater seen in a few spots around the back of Ellery Creek Big Hole
-          2 Southern Boobook owls seem to be courting around Cliffside Court and Dixon Road
-          30 Little Corellas at the Convention Centre
-          20 Red-tailed Black Cockatoos at the end of Heffernan Road
Thanks for all your feedback folks and please keep sending your bird sightings for the bulletin each week -
Happy Birding!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Crested Pigeon (with funky white colouring)

Hypomelanistic Crested Pigeon, Ocyphaps lophotes.

The camera doesn’t lie folks – this is not the bog standard Crested Pigeon that you are used to seeing around town. This bird has a genetic condition known as hypomelanism which results in a very low level of the pigment melanin, responsible for dark colours. This is the reason for the “washed-out” look of its plumage.
            This is not an albino – that is a different condition altogether which results in no pigmentation at all. If you look closely you will see this bird still has the normal colouring on its feet and in its eye, and the markings on its wings are still present albeit a little pastel compared to the usual colouring of this species.
            This bloke was lurking around Heffernan Road, but I’m told there is a similar looking Crested Pigeon to be found around the stock feed mills in Elder Street.
Some exciting sightings this week: 
-          Ground Cuckoo-shrikes are plentiful at the moment out along the Plenty Highway.
-          A Sacred Kingfisher was overseeing proceedings at the Tangentyerre Nursery Open Day on Saturday.
-          Cinnamon Quail-thrush and Banded Whiteface have been reported down south of Erldunda.
-          Bourke’s Parrots have also been reported on the Plenty Highway this week and in sizeable flocks down near Stuart’s Well.
-          2 Wedge-tailed Eagles were seen soaking up the morning sun right in the middle of Albrecht Oval by Jesse Carpenter on Sunday.
To see high resolution photographs of all the featured birds, and lots more, you can visit the Birds Central website at
Happy Birding!