While many may have been watching an epic struggle between Hawks and Swans last Saturday afternoon, seven local bird nuts were locked in a battle of similarly epic proportions – wrestling with a particularly troublesome question of bird identification at the sewage ponds. We had what is termed a “vagrant”. This is the most exciting occurrence in birding; a bird somewhere that it isn’t supposed to be. Within an hour of the bird being sighted, six of the finest ornithological minds that Alice has to offer (and your author bringing up the rear), were scrutinising a Motacilla wagtail of the vast and confusing Eurasian Eastern/Western Yellow complex. There could hardly be a more auspicious start to the week of Red Centre Bird Festival. Thus far the bird remains unidentified to species level, but whichever it turns out to be, it has provided a memorable start to this year’s celebration of all things birdy.
Other big news has come through recently; Letter-winged Kites are being seen again at Mac Clark (Acacia peuce) Conservation Reserve. Alice Field Nats President Barb Gilfedder has been out there 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, black, letter “M” (or “W” depending on your viewpoint) inscribed on the underside of the wings which give the bird its name.
Apart from those considerable bombshells, Alice Springs has hosted some other exciting migrant and blow in possibilities for the Twitchathon kicking off this afternoon – Grey-tailed Tattler, Common Greenshank, Marsh Sandpiper, Red-necked Stint, and a lone Pelican have all been in town recently. Will they make it onto your team’s list?