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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.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Finke delivers some surprises

I should have known it was to be a special day bird-wise after I received a text at Erldunda from Peter Shanley ( read the WFS Twitch blog here ) about some Brolgas in Victoria.
After leaving Erldunda, I was treated to a parallel flyby by a Wedge-Tailed Eagle. I slowed the car down to match its pace - lazily flapping at 100km/h!
The purpose of the day was to do a reccy for work, down to Finke and then up to Alice via Titjikala. I was a little surprised by the lack of Birds of Prey in the Sky, although I did see Black Kites, Whistling Kites, Wedge-tailed Eagles and Nankeen Kestrels on the drive to the Kulgera turnoff. There isn't as much of the countryside burnt south of Erldunda as there is north of Erldunda, and on parts of the drive between Finke and Titjikala, there was quite a lot of green reflecting rains from a couple of weeks ago.
So, onto the surprises. I arrived at Finke close to lunch, not a good time as everything shuts down for a couple of hours between 12 and 2. I decided to fill the car with fuel on the off chance the peo0ple I was to meet may have worked through lunch. After waiting until 20 past 12, there were still no signs of life so I decided to go for a bit of a drive. Amazingly, I chanced upon the water treatment area of Finke (damn! :-)) After having a few goes at driving around the ponds, and noticing ducks, as well as hearing lots of Zebra Finches, I parked the car and grabbed the camera. My first impression was that two of the ponds were full and the third was empty, but on closer inspection the third pond did have a low cover of water, with areas for waders. I started to get a little excited as I saw a White-necked, or Pacific Heron:

Not a bird I would have associated with a place near the absolute middle of Australia. The ponds had Hardheads, Grey Teal and Hoary-headed Grebes, as well as a number of species hanging around for the water including Little Corellas, Crested Pigeons and Diamond Doves, Red-backed Kingfishers, Yellow-throated Miners, Splendid Fairy-wrens, Willie Wagtails, Singing Honeyeaters, Rufous Songlarks and Galahs. At various point most of these birds came to the waters edge to drink. the Fairy Martins simply swooped down for a quick gulp and then off again.
As I walked around the ponds, the Zebra Finches were by far the most in number, well into the hundreds:

At one point, despite the cacophony the Zebs were creating, I could hear another sound. A young Painted Finch was calling to its parents who were hard to catch in the lens. the below is my best effort so you can imagine what the rest of the photos were like:
It was soon time to head back to find my contact people within Finke, and after finishing the purpose of the trip there, headed up the track to Titjikala:
You can just make out the Willy Willy on the top right hand side, which I managed to drive through and the car copped a decent spray of dust and dirt marbles. Always on the lookout for a sprinkling of bird life, I had stopped to look at a Red-backed Kingfisher and Black-faced Woodswallow fight over the top part of a dead tree on the left hand side of the road. Scanning across onto the right hand side, I noticed something hopping along in the shadows. At first I thought it was probably a Crested Bellbird, but the crest seemed wrong. Unfortunately the two birds I saw and tried desperately to get a good photograph stayed in the shadows and in and under the overhanging branches of the surrounding shrubs. The differences in the bird books I have between a chirruping and chiming wedgebills don't really identify much beyond the calls to be able to tell them apart. the area I was in is right on the edge of both species' distribution maps so that didn't help either. And alas, even though I waited for some time, neither of the two I could see were making any noises. One for the "could be this" file.
a little further up the road I saw a huge bird of prey drop below a sand hill. I stopped and walked up the hill but couldn't see any sign of the bird. Its size suggested a Wedge-tailed Eagle. On the way back down the sand hill I startled this beautiful Long-tailed Sand Dragon:
 and then a little further came across this Bearded Dragon on the road:
As the sun was setting, I pulled into Ewaninga Reserve. I checked the claypan thinking there may be water, but it was dry. Apart from a few Australian Ringnecks, Crested Pigeons, Yellow-throated Miners and some fairy-wrens, the last rays of the day provided a photo opportunity I've entitled "a sign of sunset":

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