Notes to readers of this Blog


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.
Cheers,
Richard

Monday, 20 June 2016

Little Birds South of Alice Springs

I managed to have the opportunity to head south of Alice Springs recently. I drove a "road" (really just a fairly upmarket track) for about 7 kms and was stunned by the amount and variety of birdlife available for viewing and photographing.

Pied and Black Honeyeaters as well as Crimson Chats seem to be everywhere around Central Australia at the moment, as well as the Woodswallows. I was also hoping to see a few other species though, and was delighted to find Cinnamon Quail-thrushes in numbers, as well as Southern Whiteface, both Red-capped and Hooded Robins, Chestnut-rumped Thornbills, and a highlight was catching up with Bourke's Parrots.

If you are thinking about heading to the Centre, any time in the next few months will be a wonderful time as the explosion of bird numbers is set to continue.

Cinnamon Quail-thrush


Southern Whiteface


Bourke's Parrot


Crimson Chats

Hooded Robin

Red-capped Robin

Saturday, 18 June 2016

Birds of Nyirripi

Nyirripi is about 450 kms north west of Alice Springs. One enjoyable part of getting to Nyirripi is the chance to drive through Newhaven Conservation Reserve. The road is dirt from the Tanami Road, totalling about 200 kms of dirt at the end of the journey, but driving through large tracts of Desert Oaks and spinifex is very enjoyable.

The Masked Woodswallows were by far the most common bird. Flocks of over 100 would periodically burst into the air, full of voice. White-fronted Honeyeaters, Pied and Black Honeyeaters also fill the air with their calls, and Crimson Chats are often heard but not often seen. Rufous Whistlers, Grey Shrike-thrush, Red-capped and Hooded Robins, as well as the occasional bird of prey including Wedge-tailed Eagle, Peregrine Falcon and Black-breasted Buzzards.

There are budgerigars around, but not in huge numbers, flocks of 40-50 would burst out of their feeding area and into the sky to whirl around and then settle again at the next feeding point. Occasionally some would come close, but interestingly these were the only parrot species I saw.

The scenery around Nyirripi is covered in lush greenery at the moment, thanks to the recent rains. Some of the claypans are still holding water which means the birds that normally hang out at the Sewage Ponds are spread out, and a few unusual sights such as Pacific Heron, Straw-necked Ibis, Grey Teals and Black-fronted Dotterels were all observed briefly at the waterside of the claypans. The following are photos from the past week around Nyirripi and some from within the borders of Newhaven. I hope you enjoy.

Red-backed Kingfisher

Australasian Pipit

Australian Bustard

Banded Whiteface

Brown Honeyeater

Budgerigars

Crested Bellbird

Crimson Chat

Grey Shrike-thrush

Rufous Whistler

Slaty-backed Thornbill


Thursday, 9 June 2016

Landscapes, Snakes, Foxes Waterbirds and Honeyeaters

Central Australia offers such a wide variety of natural experiences. Recent rains have transformed the landscape into a lush, colourful, and sometimes dramatic experience. A short drive from Alice Springs can be rewarded by photos such as the one below from Rainbow Valley, 80 kms south of Alice Springs:


A little bit further away, about 460 kms north west of Alice Springs is Nyirripi Community. The nearby hill is known as Karku, or "Little Uluru". The recent rains have created small pools in the clay pans. Karku dominated the landscape, but the rains have created a lovely foreground:




Driving to Nyirripi can be via Yuendumu or Newhaven Conservation Reserve. Occasionally being in the car offers close-up encounters with reptiles. My most recent trip was one such occasion with this beautiful Stimpsons Python slowly meandering across the road through the Reserve:



Another wildlife experience was not so nice. Red Foxes are slowly making their way north through the NT, killing lots of native wildlife along the way. I don't like seeing dead animals of any sort really, but this sighting confirmed the foxes really are a threat to the native wildlife here in Central Australia. I saw this deceased fox on the Tanami Road:


The rains have dispersed the normally concentrated birds of Nyirripi away from the Sewage Ponds and across the lands. Strange little clay pan temporary pools of water are now home to a few birds. This scenario is being played out hundreds of times across Central Australia. I came across a pair of Grey Teals and a family of 4 Black-fronted Dotterels in two separate pools:



The Honeyeaters have started to breed and ready themselves for the onslaught of flowering that is destined to occur over the coming weeks and months. Virtually everywhere I stop the car now once away from the main living areas of Central Australia, the piping of both Pied and Black Honeyeaters can be heard. I do wonder why the Black Honeyeater is not called "Little Pied Honeyeater" or "Lesser Pied Honeyeater" in the same way other birds are named "Little .." or "Lesser .." of birds of similar species and appearance. As you will see from the photo, the Black Honeyeater is not totally black, but very much a "Pied" plumed bird.

Pied Honeyeater

Black Honeyeater

Thursday, 2 June 2016

Rufous-crowned Emu-wrens - one of the iconic birds of Central Australia

The Rufous-crowned Emu-wren must be one of the birds most Australian photographers and bird-listers would love to see and photograph. For a long time, I have been trying to get better photos of this tiny bird. Pizzey and Knight list it as 12-13 cms including the tail which can be 6.5 - 7.5 cms, meaning the bird itself without the tail is only 6 cms or so. In anyone's estimation, that is a small bird! Previously I have managed photos of the bird hidden behind many spinifex strands, and at a distance. Recently, however, I managed to finally enjoy some close up views, and delighted in their playful jumping, diving and disappearing act amongst the spinifex.

Their call is fairly high-pitched and quite short, with a few exciting squeaks from within the spinifex. It is almost as though they are saying "found an insect!" The males are more colourful than the females, but both birds are beautiful to see.

They seem to enjoy early morning, in full voice before the sun rises, then jump and hop around the spinifex for the first hour or so after sun rise. On the morning the photos were taken, there was a spectacular sunrise with cloud cover.

They are quite widespread through inland Australia, and I am very glad they are found only a short distance from my home. Hope you enjoy the photos.

Rufous-crowned Emu-wren

Male

Female






Sunrise

Habitat

Monday, 30 May 2016

A few photos of Major Mitchell Cockatoos

I came across three Major Mitchell Cockatoos near Alice Springs recently. Their unmistakable squawk gave their position on the power lines away. Their squawks continued after I arrived at the spot, and they were behaving like three children, just mucking around, Eventually they all flew off, but managed to capture some of the silly moments and in flight shots.

 Major Mitchell Cockatoo






Wednesday, 25 May 2016

A relaxing week - road trip Alice to Camoweal to Mataranka to Alice

Spent a week with an old good friend last week. Even though I travel all the time for work, last week was more a return to the past, two mates, get in the car, decide where we are heading once the car is rolling, and wherever we end up, that's where we are going.

Our initial thoughts were to head to the warmer north. We pretty much stuck to that. Alice Springs to Camoweal to Mataranka and back to Alice Springs. Over 3000 kms, not a single second of music in the car, just waffling on and the sound of silence (apart from the car noise).

Day 1 was a cultural experience for Mick. Wycliffe Well, Devils Marbles then stop by the side of the Barkly Highway for the night, the obligatory fire-side discussions and a few ales.

Day 2 was a drive across to Camoweal in Queensland, a few stops along the way to look at trees, shrubs, plants and flowers, as well as a few thousand budgerigars. After restocking for the evening we headed out to the caves, then back to the lagoons for the night, the obligatory fire, lovely lilies in the water, a few feral pigs for company that night, and an Owlet-Nightjar just above our heads to send us off into lala land.

Day 3 was a short drive to Mataranka, and somehow we managed to arrive at Jularark campground before dark. No fire tonight as it was very warm and a bit sweaty, mozzies inside the swag, and the complaints of a 50 year old man in the morning about sore neck, back etc from the lack of practice driving, well, being in a car anyway.

Day 4 was off to the Mataranka Hot Springs. Mick was very impressed and couldn't believe it was free, and the lack of tourists at the Springs, then to Bitter Springs. The 50 year old was like my pre-teenage kids - had to drag him out of the swimming loop to go and grab some lunch. Then back in the car to head to Longreach Waterhole near Elliott. Again, no fire as it was still warm, but very enjoyable discussions well into the night (9 pm for us oldies).


Day 5 and before the sun rose the birds were actively feeding, although not in the same numbers as I had seen before. Back in the car for another cultural experience at Wycliffe Well (drinkers under the bridge) and then back to Alice in time to watch the AFL game on the TV.

A very relaxing and enjoyable week with a friend of over 35 years. A shame those times come and go so quickly. Here are a few shots from the trip.

Budgerigars on the Barkly Highway


Camoweal

Intermediate Egret with fish

The flowers on the lagoon


Plumed Whistling Ducks
 
Brolga

Brown Falcon

Blue-faced Honeyeater

Australsian Darter with fish


Intermediate Egret in the late afternoon at Longreach Waterhole

Longreach Waterhole at sunset