Friday, September 30, 2011

Purple Swamphen

Purple Swamphen Porphyrio porphyrio.

The smoky atmosphere has not slowed the bird action out at Glen Helen Gorge. I was in the Western Macs this weekend, and the upper reaches of the Finke are still well stocked with fish, attracting plenty of waterbirds.
This Purple Swamphen scrutinised me closely as he scavenged dead fish and invertebrates from the water’s edge. Colin and Shelagh out at Glen Helen Resort are having a bumper season and Colin pointed out a tree full of Nankeen Night-herons roosting on the bank opposite the pub. Also at Glen Helen, I managed to catch up with a Dusky Moorhen; this is one of a very small population that are resident in central Australia.
Albrecht Oval has had some birding highlights this week with Mark “Huss” Hussey finding a mob of Straw-necked Ibis. Later in the week, Jesse Carpenter had the good fortune to find a sleepy Spotted Nightjar out on the turf. The west side of town has had some unwanted birds as well with a few Rainbow Lorikeets reported around Bokhara Street.
The young Nankeen Night-heron that was in care last week has been successfully released into Ilparpa Swamp and was last seen happily hunting around like he owns the place.
Centralian Birding activity will reach a peak this week as Red Centre Bird Week fires up. The fun begins on Saturday with a tag-a-long birding trip through the Owen Springs Reserve and the action continues right through the week, culminating in the 24 hour Twitchathon next Friday. To get involved you can contact the Alice Springs Desert Park directly or view the full program of events at the following web address:
 Happy Birdweek!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Caspian Tern

Caspian Tern Hydroprogne caspia, at Alice Springs Sewage Ponds.

Alice has had some fascinating visitors this week. First up was a pair of Caspian Terns sighted at the sewage ponds. This is the largest tern on earth with a wingspan approaching 1.5m. These huge birds are known to lurk around inland bodies of water but we don’t often see them here in The Centre.
The terns weren’t the only unusual sighting though – local bird man Mark Carter had a very unexpected encounter with a Pheasant Coucal only a short way up the track from town. We’ve had this species reported quite a bit around Tennant Creek this year but this far south is highly irregular. Also pushing south at the moment are the Masked Woodswallows that have been seen in flocks 300 strong, high over town this week during their annual migration.
The sewage ponds have been hosting a few interesting waders this week as well; a Pacific Golden Plover and a couple of Red Knots have been seen by a number of birders. These birds have all still got some of their breeding plumage and have just touched down after non-stop flights from perhaps as far away as China and North Korea.
Lastly, a single Nankeen Night-heron is currently in care after being found by the pool at The Chifley resort! This is another uncommon species around Central Australia. You would normally have to head to Boggy Hole or 2 Mile Waterhole to track one of these down. He’ll get looked after by the very best wildlife carers in Alice before being released once he regains his strength.
 Happy Birding ‘til next week!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Flock Bronzewing

Flock Bronzewing Phaps histrionica, Old Andado Homestead.
The Old Andado Track (south-east of Alice) was the destination for my birding efforts this weekend. Along with a bumpy old ride, my companions and I found some spectacular bird life including this Flock Bronzewing who sat on the road very obligingly for a picture. Normally a bit tricky to find, these birds are currently common around Indinda Swamp near the Old Andado Homestead. During our stay there were often flocks of up to 100 birds circling around our heads. Other common birds in the region were Eyrean Grasswren, Banded Whiteface, Chiming Wedgebill, Orange Chat, and Cinnamon Quail-thrush; a great trip!
There have been a couple of impressive reports this week. Local birder Richard Waring took some great photos of White-browed Treecreeper out on Larapinta Drive. This species is right on the northern edge of its distribution here and is notoriously difficult to find.
Gilbert Swamp, just south of Tennant Creek, has had two reports of Painted Honeyeater this week. This is an exciting find as this bird is usually found considerably east of here. Not commonly reported in the NT at all, it is exciting to hear some reports coming through.
A few different cormorants have been seen at the poo ponds this week, but the highlight was perhaps an Australasian Darter that chose to stop over for a few days and hang out with the ducks.
More ominously, I found a few feral Spotted Turtle-doves during a walk along Ragonesi Rd on the south side of The Gap – they’re spreading. Residents in Eastside have reported a small flock of Rainbow Lorikeets in the area over the past few weeks which would be another unwelcome invader.
 Happy Birding ‘til next week!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Southern Boobook

Southern Boobook Ninox novaeseelandiae. Photographed by Matt LeFeuvre.

Fires, controlled and otherwise, have continued this week making Alice a smoky old town. Many might sympathise with this Southern Boobook, snapped by marine biologist Matt Le Feuvre near town last week. Matt has caught this beautiful little owl at its daytime roost, and the smoke seems to be playing havoc with his eyes.
There have been some interesting sightings from near and far this week. A visiting photographer friend turned up with some spectacular shots of 20,000 Flock Bronzewings near the Queensland border on the Plenty Highway. Alice Springs expats Terry and Jo Brennan-Kuss were up from Coober Pedy for the weekend and reported hundreds of Inland Dotterels and more Flock Bronzewings along the road to William Creek. 
A Curlew Sandpiper was identified by Barb Gilfedder among other waders at the Alice Springs sewage ponds. This is a common migrant visitor from the Arctic region, but not seen too often in Central Australia.
The big question for the week is – who has lost a Princess Parrot? Birdwatchers around Central Australia are waiting for confirmation that one of these scarce (in the wild) parrots seen on Northside, was indeed a wild bird and not an escaped aviary pet. If anyone is missing one of these birds I’d love to hear from you.
Lastly, Centralian birdos are crossing their fingers and hoping that fires to the south-east of town along the Deep Well Road haven’t pushed into a well-known population of Rufous-crowned Emu-wrens. The fires came perilously close to this area and these tiny birds are not safe yet.
A big thank you to all the regular and volunteer fire-fighters who have been working so hard in the last few weeks to protect not just people and property, but valuable habitat for our birds and other unique wildlife.   
Happy birding!

Thursday, September 1, 2011


Weebill Smicrornis brevirostris.

Welcome to the week of birds in Central Australia. Our bird this time around is perhaps the smallest in Australia. At between 4 and 5 grams the Weebill (pictured) has few rivals in the super-lightweight division of the Australian bird list. This tiny yellow bird may go unnoticed by many, but its garrulous call will be familiar to most. This is a common bird anywhere there are eucalypts that might house the lerps and other small insects which make up so much of its diet. The old telegraph station is a favourite haunt, as is the Olive Pink Botanic Gardens.    
There’ve been some interesting reports from far and wide this week. Big Trav up in Tennant Creek saw 5 Pheasant Coucals down on Peko road – a spectacular, and unusual sighting this far south.
A bit further up the highway, folks at Banka Banka Station have seen plenty of Brolga passing through the area, most likely dispersing from a frenzy of waterbird activity up at Lake Woods at the moment.
Visitors to Ininda Swamp near Old Andado report plenty of water still around those parts and a few Letter-winged Kites still in the area.

Closer to home, water birds have been the order of the day in Alice Springs with Little Pied and Little Black Cormorant both reported along with Australasian Darter this week. Also at the sewage ponds have been Straw-necked Ibis, Common Greenshank, Intermediate and Eastern Great Egret.
Birds of prey nesting around town at the moment include, Brown Goshawks, Collared Sparrowhawks, Black-breasted Buzzards, Peregrine Falcons, and Wedge-tailed Eagles; it should be an exciting time ahead as these youngsters get airborne.
The Budgies seem to be coming back strongly also, and several decent flocks of these uber nomads have been spotted around town over the past week.
Happy birding!