Chris Watson

Birding Central Australia #91 - Western Gerygone

Chris Watson

Western Gerygone Gerygone fusca

This week I caught up with a little grey bird that has been eluding me for yonks – the Western Gerygone. There are a few of these frequenting the garden at the moment, and they can often be found in any decent patch of scrub around Alice, but it’s hard to get them to sit still!

It might not be much to look at but this little bird has one of the truly enchanting calls of all the small bush birds in The Centre. This song was famously described by the late Graham Pizzey, the doyenne of Australian ornithologists as a, “sweet, elfin, silvery ‘falling-leaf melody’ that seems to finish before end”. Personally, it reminds me of a tiny violin being played somewhere off in the mulga. Its distinctive song is perhaps fortuitous, as the Western Gerygone can easily be mistaken for any of six or seven other small grey birds that lurk in similar habitat around Alice. Once that call is heard though, there can be no mistake.

Some big news has come through this week; Letter-winged Kites are being seen again at Mac Clark (Acacia peuce) Conservation Reserve. Alice Field Nats President Barb Gilfedder was out there last weekend and reported four birds. These rare desert dwellers are mainly nocturnal hunters and are usually quite difficult to locate. They can be the subject of misidentification due to their close resemblance to the related Black-shouldered Kite. The clincher is to look for the bold letter “M” (or “W” depending on your viewpoint) inscribed on the underside of the wings which give the bird its name.

Apart from that bombshell, and a lone Pelican at the sewage ponds, it has been a quiet week as far as reports go. This is, no doubt, the calm before Alice Springs Bird Festival starts turning up some crippling sightings next month.

Happy birding!