Notes to readers of this Blog


Thank you for dropping by to check out my blog. You will see a lot of other Blogs about birds I follow down the left hand side. I strongly encourage you to check some of these out as well, they are entertaining and I love to see birds from all over the world, I hope you do too.

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Finches, Finches, Finches .... and a Mannikan

I have travelled through the land of Finches in the past couple of days. I feel like I'm living atop the Magic Faraway Tree!

The collection of Finches is a wonderful sight. Some places had one or two species, others had 6 or more. The Top End, or the southern extremities of the Top End of the Northern Territory are a bird-watcher's paradise. The Finch species are normally quite noisy, and the bird song has been everywhere. Here are a few snaps:

Gouldian Finches

Long-tailed Finches

Masked Finch

Crimson Finches

Double-barred Finch

Long-tailed, Double-barred and Zebra Finches

and a Pictorella Mannikan

Friday, 15 April 2016

Spinifex Pigeons

During my travels this week, I stopped off at a small creek crossing just north of Renner Springs. I had just passed a bloke riding his bike southwards on the Stuart Highway, have to be keen to do something like that. Just before the creek, a small flock of reddy-brown pigeon like birds flew from the creek side across to the rather dry looking other side. "Probably Spinnies" I thought to myself. As I passed the creek, I noticed a pair of Brolgas standing on the waters edge. I could also hear a Painted Finch or two nearby, so I decided to stop. I was fairly sure my chances for good photos of the Brolgas were slim. In the spot they were standing I would have to go across the "bridge", and with the cyclist approaching ... well, one crappy shot through trees was all I managed. To his credit, the cyclist apologised as he rode past. "No worries mate" I said, as I knew there would be other opportunities at some stage.

I was wondering whether or not to get back in the car when I heard the Painted Finch again. There it was, just sitting on top of a rock not far from me. I tried to bring the camera up slowly, but it flew off, in under cover. Oh well. I figured it would probably come back soon for another drink, hopefully with some mates, and decided to sit in the shade for a little while, watching the waters edge.

After 10 minutes of watching a Willie Wagtail dance above the small creek pool of water, I had pretty much decided to return to the car. Then some movement caught my eye. The Spinifex Pigeons had returned, probably 15 or so in total. They waddled across the sand, rocks and then finally down to the water for a drink. They really are a very colourful but unusual looking bird.

Spinifex Pigeon

Longreach Waterhole near Elliott, waterbirds and birds of prey

This area is one of the jewels of the Territory. Following a dirt track for 11 kms off the Stuart Highway just north of Elliott, the scrub opens out onto a vast expanse of water, teeming with fish and birds.

Camping overnight is worth the wait for the morning. Whistling Kites call before the sun rises, the herons, egrets and ibis croak in the still morning air, and cormorants and pelicans frequent this haven in their thousands. Honeyeaters, pardalotes, crows, Apostlebirds ... the list goes on of birds around the shoreline.

Elliott is half way between Alice Springs and Darwin, and Longreach Waterhole is the perfect place for a stop-over. You may end up staying longer than you thought.

Here are a few photos from my recent stay.

Pied Heron

Nankeen Night Heron

White-necked or Pacific Heron

Australian White Ibis

Glossy Ibis

Straw-necked Ibis

Australian Pelican

Australasian Darter

Intermediate Egret

Little Black Cormorants

Black Kite

Brown Falcon

Whistling Kite

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

A second Black Bittern experience.

Sometimes birding is weird. Even though the sighting of one bird might suggest a second sighting in a reasonable proximity is possible, or even likely, over 400 kms away is stretching things. However, that is what happened to me.

I'd never seen a Black Bittern before Saturday. I wrote about my first experience here. Today was sighting number 2. By road more than 420 kms to the south, at Lajamanu. I had already scared off 2 White-faced Herons, and a Pacific Heron stayed a lot further down the creek. There were Double-barred Finches coming down to drink, Grey-fronted, White-plumed, Yellow-tinted and Brown Honeyeaters flitting around, as well as Striated Pardalotes piping from the treetops, and the mournful cries of 5 or 6 Red-tailed Black Cockatoos. A pair of Pied Butcherbirds seemed to completely ignore the alarmist honeyeaters, Willie Wagtails chatted away and a lizard went for a dunk in the creek before clambering up and scurrying away. All a pretty normal afternoon at Hooker Creek.

Settling in to my chair, compiling my e-bird list, a bird, a largish bird, appeared on my left side in my peripheral vision. The camera snapped into position and I stupidly fired off four or five shots before I even had a chance to focus. The last photo in the sequence was pretty much in focus and I could tell straight away it was yet another Black Bittern. Fully expecting it to continue on down the creek, I was ecstatic when it pulled up not far from me and landed in sight about half way up the tree. Unfortunately there were some pesky sticks in the way but I could see the bird clearly. At first it was fairly hunched over, then it straightened in a manner reminiscent of an emu, A weird sight. Hoping it would fly back from whence it came, I was overjoyed when it flew virtually across the river from me, alas via the backs of trees, butlanded in some tall grass. It slowly came out of the grass, very shyly, but standing quite upright. More photos, these ones even better than any from today or Saturday. I think I started to tremble. I always get excited when opportunities like this arise. The camera was having trouble focusing as the grass behind moved in the breeze. Then the Bittern squatted and flew up into the nearest very bushy tree. It stayed there for 10 or so minutes, before again flying to the ground, this time stalking behind the grass and a tree, until it flew up to the back of the trunk of the tree directly opposite me. After 30 seconds, it decided it would head back to its original location, and it disappeared from view.

I originally thought it was a male, but shadows can play tricks with both your eyes and the camera. Once I downloaded the photos it is obviously a female. A truly weird and wonderful experience. Hope you enjoy the photos. Make sure you check out photos 4 and 5. The two stances on the bough, and 1 and 2, the stances on the ground.

Black Bittern

Monday, 11 April 2016

Star Finch was the star amongst a plethora of others at Timber Creek

There are some birding moments that happen when you least expect it for particular birds. Of course they have wings and can move around. I had already been to a few "certainty" spots around Timber Creek, without a sighting, without a "peep". I decided to give up. It was "crotch-pot pudding" hot, around 40 degrees with pretty high humidity. I thought that I would probably prefer to find some air-conditioned accommodation as the night before in the swag had been unbearably sweaty and resulted in little sleep. I saw a sign for "Self-contained Cabins" and decided to follow the signs. Well, sign. The only one I saw was the one on the highway. I followed the road all the way around until I was almost back to the highway again when I spotted a very yellowy puddle by the side of the road. There was a bit of shade to sit under so I grabbed the chair, the water bottle and the camera.

After a couple of minutes I heard some bird noises, then more, until there was a chorus. It had probably been there before I pulled up and was just getting used to my presence. I hoped for my target, but wasn't confident. Silly me. Providence provides!

There it was. A Star Finch. Resplendent with bright red head, dull green back, white spots across the neck and down the front to a yellow tummy. It had perched in a bush above the water. I waited. It gave a quick flick of its tail. Oh no, a Brown Honeyeater had come down to the water. I thought my chances of seeing the Star Finch had been a wonderful, but very brief encounter. To my surprise it stayed where it was. The Brown Honeyeater eventually flitted off up to a nearby tree. Again I waited. Finally, the bird I was waiting for came down on to the far rocks. It constantly moved its head in all directions, watching for dangers. Then, it became more confident its safety was assured and moved down to the water, this time hopping slowly, carefully picking its path across the rocks until finally it stopped for a drink. Normally finches fly off quickly, but this finch didn't. It stood there, and then sped back up to its bush perch. After sitting in the shade for about a minute, a peep came from somewhere behind me and it flew off across the road.

Star Finch

There were a number of other birds at this little puddle. Here are a few shots of them.

Leaden Flycatcher

Peaceful Dove

Yellow-tinted Honeyeater