Friday, June 24, 2011

White-faced Heron

White-faced Heron, Ardea novaehollandiae.

A bumper list of interesting sightings this week is due to the efforts of many local birders and the sudden influx of a number of birding tourists from interstate. With the swamp areas south of the sewage ponds once again flooded, there have been a number of reports of “lurking” species among the reed beds.
Spotless Crake is a bird which is yet to make it onto my Centralian list but several folks have found this species lately around the bushy areas of the poo ponds. I still haven’t been able to track this species down, but I did find hordes of their, usually shy, cousins the Australian Crake. These birds have been dancing around in the open with the Buff-banded Rails in the afternoons.
The Spotless Crake was proving so difficult to find that I almost didn’t notice the White-faced Heron in the picture. These birds are common enough around watery areas near Alice, but it’s always good to get a close look.
Sightings this week: 
Orange Chats – Are now a regular sighting at the poo ponds and a few other areas to the south of town.
Flock Bronzewing – Still being seen in flocks of up to 150 birds around Burt Plain at sunset.
Buff-banded Rail, Australian Crake, Spotless Crake – All these species are being seen in the early morning and late afternoon by patient observers at the sewage ponds.
Square-tailed Kite – An unconfirmed report of this species at the sewage ponds should have local birdos on their toes and checking all raptors carefully.
Grey Falcon – Fleeting reports of this species are still coming from the river end of Heath Rd
Australian Bustard – Has been reported at Kunoth Bore just a short drive up the Tanami Rd.
Happy Birding!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Nankeen Kestrel

Nankeen Kestrel, Falco cenchroides.

To all those Centralians with lots of rodents around your homes, this week’s bird should be right up your alley. The Nankeen Kestrel, frozen in mid-air for 1/400th of a second, is a specialist mouse hunter. It is no surprise that they have been doing very well this year.
This bird is unmistakeable when it is seen hovering like this over an open field. The broad, black band across the bottom of the tail distinguishes it from any other bird of prey around Alice. In a stiff breeze, the kestrel can remain almost motionless as those powerful eyes scour the ground for any tiny movement that could be a mouse scurrying under a bush.
These birds are common around Alice at the moment and can be seen along the Todd Riverbed, the poo ponds, and out along Colonel Rose Drive. They’re often sitting in the exposed upper branches of trees in the morning, soaking up the warmth of the rising sun and surveying their territory for good hunting spots.
Sightings this week: 
Grey Falcon – More sightings of a mega-rarity, this time two birds out on the Mereenie Loop just west of the Areyonga turn off.
Flock Bronzewing – These birds are being seen in flocks of up to 150 birds around Burt Plain at sunset.
Pictorella Mannikin – This stunning little finch was reported in small flocks along the Tablelands Highway by ecologists Angela Stewart and Holger Woyt.
Buff-banded Rail – A report of this species from Meg Mooney on eastside confirms the continued presence of this charismatic lurker.
Happy Birding!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Australian Bustard

Australian Bustard, Ardeotis australis.

The boom season here in the centre has delivered another unusual feathered visitor. The Australian Bustard (Ardeotis australis) has been hunted out in most areas around human settlement. Fortunately, they are still found in scattered populations around Central Australia but rarely close to town.
Local marine biologist (yes, they exist in Alice Springs!) Matt Le Feuvre was heading down Colonel Rose Drive last week when he found this bloke standing beside the airport side of the road. This is a spectacular discovery. These birds are famously cryptic and adept at freezing in long grass and becoming almost invisible. Luckily, Matt was paying attention and managed to snap this photo before he flew off – a great effort.
For those of you hanging out for an answer to our mystery corvid picture last week – I’ll put you out of your misery. I had a truckload of emails, and I am aware of at least a couple of wagers hinging on the identity of the bird - a juvenile Little Crow, Corvus bennetti. The sharp-eyed birdos out there pointed to the smaller size of the upper mandible and the proportionately longer tarsus (lower leg).
Well done one and all, and thanks for your participation! If you got the correct answer you have well and truly earned the right to crow about it… sorry, I couldn’t resist. Happy birding ‘til next week.
Sightings this week: 
Horsfield’s Bronze-cuckoo – Plenty of these about at the moment, particularly south of the ranges.
Scarlet-chested Parrot – Some of these beautiful desert nomads have been reported out near King’s Canyon.
Little Eagle – Drew Pendavingh had a few close encounters with this species along the Lasseter Highway this week.