Friday, October 28, 2011

Rainbow Lorikeet

Rainbow Lorikeet Trichoglossus haematodus.
This stunning bird is not one I had hoped to encounter this week. This will be familiar to many as the Rainbow Lorikeet, one of the most dazzling of all our parrots. If you head further north in The Territory you will find Rainbow Lorikeets… but not this particular kind. About as far south as Mataranka, we get a sub-species of the Rainbow Lorikeet, which some have even elevated to full species status as the Red-collared Lorikeet. The bird in this picture is the southern and eastern sub-species familiar in backyards from Adelaide, right around the east coast.
There have been increasingly frequent reports of small flocks of these parrots from Old Eastside, Northside, and Larapinta, and this week I found a couple of birds in the Grandfather Tree – the big old River Red Gum at the corner of Parsons Street and Todd Mall.
I’m often accused of banging on about feral birds a bit, and there are some in the community who have a “live and let live” attitude to avian invaders, and they’re welcome to their opinions, but the Rainbow Lorikeet is just that - an invader. This is a hardy species that will breed quickly and push to the margins any of our native birds that are smaller or less aggressive.
They’ll surely add a splash of colour to Todd Mall, but it’s a brash, gaudy sort of colour, completely at odds with our surrounds. It’s bird bling gone crazy and simply no match for the subdued pastels of a Galah, the tidy colour scheme of a Port Lincoln Parrot or the spangled evening gown sported by the Red-tailed Black Cockatoo.
Please let me know where else these birds are being seen, and have a very birdy weekend!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Horsfield's Bronze-cuckoo

Horsfield's Bronze-cuckoo Chalcites basalis.

Red Centre Bird Week has been and gone, but the birding is still heating up around The Alice. Our bird this week is Horsfield’s Bronze-cuckoo which can be heard commonly around town at the moment as it searches for another bird’s nest to sneak its eggs into. Richard Waring and I caught up with this crafty species out on the Tanami Rd during the week.
The Waring family figured prominently in Bird Week with Richard, Banjo, and Moses winning the 24 hour Twitchathon with a stunning list of 91 species. Their team, The Buff Budgies, travelled day and night around central Australia to eventually win the event by 2 birds – congratulations!
An honourable mention must go to Twitchathon adjudicator Mark Carter who, though ineligible to win the event, conducted the first carbon-neutral Twitchathon by doing the entire 24 hours on bicycle. Despite this apparent handicap he and team mate Gareth, though suffering a couple of scraped knees along the way, managed to equal the score of the winning team. The carbon-neutral category of the event seems set to become more popular next year.
The Alice Springs Desert Park and the birding community of The Alice has put on a great event this year which has attracted a lot of attention from interstate and overseas through social media like Facebook and Twitter. Alice is rapidly becoming one of the premier birding destinations in the country and it is thanks to events like this and the generosity of participants, volunteers and organisers.
To all the staff out at the Desert Park, the Alice Springs Field Naturalists Club, Dick Kimber, Mark Carter, and all the participants in all the activities through the week; as my grandfather would have said, “your blood’s worth bottling!”
Well done, and many thanks.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Nankeen Night-heron

Nankeen Night-heron Nycticorax caledonicus.
Once seen, the Nankeen Night-heron is never forgotten. This creepy little heron is sometimes found lurking secretively around reed beds and thick undergrowth around permanent bodies of water. As such, they’re not seen too often around Alice, but lately they’ve been showing up everywhere. Out at Glen Helen they are roosting in many of the trees along the river and there have been recent sightings at the Telegraph Station near town.
The bird in the picture is the juvenile that was rescued a couple of weeks back and released at the sewage ponds. I checked on him a few days later and he seemed very much at home. The “nankeen” in the name refers to the buff colouring taken on in adulthood. Nankeen is a type of cloth produced from a yellowish cotton which was originally made in Nanjing, China. After a bit of Anglophonic mangling, we ended up with the name nankeen for both the cloth and its characteristic colour. The colour reference is now used in the names of several Australian plants and animals.
Red Centre Birdweek is about to reach its apex with the 24 hour twitchathon kicking off out the front of the Alice Springs Desert Park at 6pm this afternoon. For this event, competitors will have the southern NT as their playground and try to tick off as many different species as possible within the time limit. Event adjudicator Mark Carter will attempt to put the entire field to shame by completing all his birding by pushbike – and there’s a fair chance he’ll out-tick the lot of us.
 It’s never too late to register a team, so grab your binoculars, grab a partner, and get involved! I’ll see you out there.
 Happy Birdweek!