Chris Watson

Alice Springs Sewage Ponds

Birding Central Australia #6

birdingChris Watson

Pacific Golden Plover Pluvialis fulva

Here after 13,000km flight

Perhaps not much to look at, but the bird in this picture has arrived here in Alice Springs all the way from the northernmost reaches of Siberian Russia or Alaska. To avoid the frigid northern winter, migratory birds like this Pacific Golden Plover, undertake flights as long as 13000 kms. Most birds will make at least one refuelling stop along the way in places like the Saemangeum in South Korea, and the Yangtze River estuary in China. A few birds, however, have been shown to make non-stop flights of up to 9000 kilometres, flying for 7 days or more without touching down. 

Researchers have only just begun unlocking the secrets of these amazing long distance endurance and navigation skills. It seems that they might shut down one half of their brain while flying. This means the other half can effectively “sleep” while the bird is on those marathon flights across oceans.

50 million migratory birds navigate from the Arctic to Australia and back again each year using the movement of the sun, moon and stars. Some are barely the size of a budgie.

A lucky few will call Alice Springs home for the summer, until the stars tell them the time is right, and they will head back northwards once more.

Sightings this week: 

-          Barn Owls everywhere. Lots of reports of these night birds out at night hunting rodents

-          8 Glossy Ibis, 4 Pelicans and 2 Nankeen Night-heron at Lake Mary Ann in Tennant Creek

-          Danny from Bush Bus spotted some Bustards and young Emus while negotiating floodwaters on the Lasseter Highway during the week

Birding Central Australia #5

birdingChris Watson

Australian Pratincole Stiltia isabella.

An elegant little bird and a long distance champ

The migrants have arrived!

A variety of the migratory birds that desert us during the colder months are arriving back in The Centre in good-sized flocks. Next week, I’ll take a closer look at our long-distance migratory champions, but the star of this week is a migratory bird, within Australia.

The magnificent Australian Pratincole spends the cooler months in the northern reaches of the continent and then makes its way southward for the summer months. This one was giving me some great views at the sewage ponds here in Alice. This bird is in full breeding plumage with bill and gape flushed bright red, and a rich, chestnut brown developing on the breast.

An elegant little bird, it has earned itself a swag of different names due to its distinctive foraging behaviour, including; Australian Roadrunner, Australian Courser, Arnhem Land Grouse, and Swallow-plover to name but a few.

Keep an eye out for more of these birds turning up along roads as we head into the summer months. The continuing fine weather has produced some great bird sightings this week, and here are just some of the highlights.

Sightings this week: 

-          80 Plumed Whistling-ducks at swamps 40kms along Tanami Rd

-          2 Australian Bustards near turn-off to M’bunghara community on the Gary Junction Highway

-          A single Flock Bronzewing 2kms past Kunoth Bore on the Tanami Rd

-          A Pacific Golden Plover in a mixed flock with lots of other waders including Sharp-tailed and Wood Sandpipers, at the sewage ponds

-          3 immature Banded Stilt have appeared at the sewage ponds, possibly from the historic breeding that has occurred this year at Lake Torrens in SA