Thursday, September 27, 2012

Jabiru at Newcastle Waters

I don't know how many places like Newcastle Waters you pass on Northern Territory's Stuart Highway unaware that only a few kilometres off the bitumen lies magnificent birding habitat. I hope there's not many because I'm really disappointed to have missed them! I doubt we would have stopped had it not been for my brother-in-law Richard's "heads-up" about the place.

In a tribute reminiscent of The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy's entry on Earth ("Harmless .... mostly") Wikipedia carries just three lines on Newcastle Waters including the sentence: "Newcastle is virtually uninhabited".

The Age Traveller supplement carries some more background here. It indicates that the water flows north from Lake Woods near Elliot (God knows how it gets there). I gather it is prone to drying out. On 25th July 2012 we visited en route from Banka Banka to Mataranka (gotta be a John Williamson song there!) and were thrilled to immediately spot jabiru from the car.

I have since learned that the female has the yellow eye! 
Having not seen any sort of stork before, I had only seen birds adopt these postures (above & below) in Northern Hemisphere story books! (& I'm not referring to the ibis here folks!)

Intermediate egret, stilts, jabiru .... heaven!
Setting the scene - the flavour is of a wetland which is drying out. It is easiest to park at the picnic area at Drover's Memorial Park.

White-necked heron just, well ... reflecting
Straw-necked ibis
Immature Whistling kite (gorgeously spotted)
Large flock of Little black cormorant
White-winged triller 
Black-fronted dotterel

Here's the Eremaea list of our little visit.

Bird On!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Birding Banka Banka, NT

Via this blog I continue to enjoy re-living the recent family road trip through the NT and Kimberley! This post relates to the stop-over at Banka Banka Station on the Stuart Highway, Northern Territory. This old cattle station also serves as a basic but friendly camping ground. There is the opportunity for walking a nature trail to nearby Cudjenbra Waterhole 2-3km north either via a small ridge or along the arid plains.
Views from the small ridge just west of the campground on the Stuart Highway

Cudjenbra Waterhole, Banka Banka Station
There is a creek crossing on the plains walk to the waterhole. This provided excellent habitat for honeyeaters, trillers, finch, dove (everything really!)
Pied honeyeater - crappy photo but a great sighting for me!
Grey-headed honeyeater - common I know but another lifer for me!
Below - Brown honeyeater 

The honeyeaters were all seen in the creek habitat pictured above. Also shot here were the trillers, dove and zebra finch just visible below.
White-winged triller (male eclipse)
Below - Peaceful dove, zebra finch

I also remember the morning's walk for twice being freaked by airborne surprises.

Firstly while alone about a kilometre from the campground in pre-sunrise gloom I was approached by a single black kite. This was followed by about 10 kites circling around me 5-10 metres up. The whole scene was in total silence and with the shock and tricky light I was totally unable to take any shots that could capture the moment!

Black kite #1 
The second experience was while on the ridge. Unaware of anything approaching I suddenly heard a strange wind rapidly approaching from behind. Heard for just a second before it was atop me the noise was the rush of 100 tiny wings from a flock of budgies again only 3-4 metres above and around me! My first budgie experience in the outback!

A small part of the buderigar flock now circling more distantly.
Pied butcherbird calling from this tree on the highest point of the ridge (you can see him at the left of the tree). He let me get quite close but wouldn't move that annoying twig out of the way! 
Pied butcherbird

It's a pretty short Eremaea list but all in all, quite a memorable 16 hours (arrived at 5pm, out at 9am!). Thank-you Banka Banka.

Bird On!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Alice Springs Ponds

Ahh yes, did I mention that the ponds are of the sewage stabilisation type?

I was thrilled to get the opportunity to have a quick birding visit to the Alice Springs poo ponds while in Alice recently - even more thrilled to be shown around by my good friend and brother-in-law Richard. It makes quite a difference when you know which section of saltbush may be worth hanging around! A few non-bird shots to set the scene ....

Looking south towards Ilparpa Rd.
Heavitree Gap from the poo ponds. Alice Springs proper is just through there!

Black-winged stilt 
I don't get to these guys a lot so enjoyed seeing them close and experimenting with some Central Australian colours! 
Confused pacific black duck 
Red-necked avocet
This whistling kite was probably keen to get started on it's feed because it knew it would be harassed by the local Torresian crows.

A pink-eared duck thought it all terribly amusing
Red-kneed dotterel demonstrating the knees that are its namesake
This Australasian pipit was just begging to have its photo taken!
There were many birding highlights. Some of these however were associated with photographic disappointment! I would have dearly loved these absolutely gorgeous white-winged fairy-wren to allow us a little closer (or at least jump into focus)! Just to see this very handsome bird (lifer!) was a thrill.

Similarly we had almost given up on orange chat but a few sprang into (distant) view as we wandered back towards the car.

I certainly added to my "year list" as well and just about all the birds pictured here today have not been seen on this Victorian birder's blog before! What fun! You can also check out the Eremaea list of species from the visit.

Bird on!