Chris Watson

Birding Central Australia #18

Chris Watson

Sooty Tern Onychoprion fuscatus

Cyclone Yasi brings special delivery

While Tropical Cyclone Yasi didn’t deliver all the rain some of us were expecting this weekend, we got a delivery nonetheless – and what a delivery!

Danny Gillies called me late on Sunday afternoon to inform me that he’d found a strange-looking bird that seemed injured. This was in a transport depot in Ghan Rd and Danny said, “it looks like a sea bird”.

            Well Danny, you were spot on. You found an undisputed first for Alice Springs in the form of an exhausted and starving Sooty Tern. It boggles the mind to consider for a moment what this bird must have been through.

            We regularly get inland varieties of terns here in Alice; Whiskered and Gull-billed Terns are fairly frequent visitors to the poo ponds. The Sooty Tern however is a dedicated oceanic bird. It is only an occasional visitor to the coast of the mainland, spending most of its time at sea or on island colonies well offshore.

            Yet this bird, barely the size of a skinny pigeon, has been buffeted by category 5 winds and hurled smack dab into the centre of the continent and local bird watching history. Now in the hands of talented carers, we hope he will put on some weight and be strong enough for the flight home to Queensland – of course we won’t make him fly back himself. Befitting such a distinguished visitor he will have a place reserved for him in the cargo hold of a plane in the near future. I’ll keep you up to date with his progress.

Sightings this week: 

-          Latham’s Snipe, there were three birds allowing some crippling views in the horse paddock opposite the poo ponds.

-          Ruff a single bird present at the Poo Ponds on Monday.