Continuing from last weeks Birding tour of the red centre around Ayers Rock (Uluru) in central Australia, my wife and I set out mid-morning in 35°C heat to do the popular Mala Walk (named after the Mala people its original inhabitants) along the western side of the The Rock. We were immediately alerted to the loud noisy chatter of huge flocks Zebra Finch in an alarm flurry moving from tree to tree. This made us curious as to why all the comotion. Our first thought as always is to look for a raptor in the sky, but none was seen, and then we spotted nearby in a tree what appeared to be the cause, a beautiful Collared Sparrowhawk (so we think after much checking of features). The reason being, this bird is easily mistaken for a Brown Goshawk. We saw several of these birds on the walk…
A more experienced birder on raptors may choose to differ. The questions to ask are is it a glare or a stare? Is the tail rounded or square? Is the middle toe greatly or mildly extended? etc etc. My wife and I laboured over this bird with various books and photos for over an hour and remain open to either name, whatever it be for us is another lifer. We even conceded that we may have seen both species of bird, as they are both found here. Click on photos to enlarge them.
Oh yes, back to those Zebra Finches, from left to right, female and male in the foreground. These tiny birds can exist in huge flocks and live well in the desert eating grass seed and flying insects. The lack of water here has possibly caused them to flock during Spring. Zebra Finch are being used all over the world in current research into bird intelligence, due to their easy breeding and learning skills. Here are some the shots we took of the flock, it was too difficult to catch movie clips of them.
A flock of finches is called a charm of Finches, and charm us they did! There excited call was quite loud as they passed by in flight, like little bullets shooting through the air.
Interesting as it is Finches, Budgerigars and some Parrots do very well in the hot arid desert regions. But some of the comoner birds seen on the south east coast of the continent are also here. This includes two subspecies (races) of Magpie, the Black-backed and White-backed, the latter being found mainly in Southern states of Australia.
The Pied Butcherbird, Magpie-lark (PeeWee), Crested Pigeon and of course, Willy Wagtail (which we see every where we go in Australia) were also found here.
It was lovely to see the male Mistletoebird in several locations around the resort and the rock. There was quite a lot of mistletoe growing in the desert gums. We did not see the female, so maybe she was nesting. We see this bird from time to time west of the coast.
The only parrot we saw was the Galah, which was in small flocks grazing at the resort grounds on grass seed. These are usually in large flocks in central as well as coastal regions, but more so inland.
As the morning heated up and became midday, we noticed this woodswallow alone in a tree, and on closer view realised we had sited another lifer, a Black-faced Woodswallow. .
Nearby we saw a pair of Dusky Woodswallow sitting on a dead branch in the heat. Woodswallows also survive well in arid regions of Australia, being mostly insectivorous. These birds are often seen huddled snuggly together in a row on dead branches.
Last week I showed a slide-show of the various colour changes of Uluru throughout the day. Here are some of the unusual rock formations found around the base of the rock. See how coarse the rock is. It is said that if a person falls off it, by the time they reach the ground below their skin is so stripped from them they are unidentifiable. These caves served as shelters for the traditional inhabitants. Climbing the rock (a very sacred site to its original inhabitants) is not appreciated by the indigenous community, and is only allowed under perfect still clear weather conditions. Climbing the rock will be banned from October 2019.
Early the next morning we drove some 52 km from the resort to Kata Tjuta (known as the Olgas) another beautiful vista of rock similar to Uluru, much of which lies beneath the desert. It is the arkose rock, course grained sandstone rich in feldspar that gives it is magical luminary properties. We were wanting to beat the rain storm and check out Walpa Gorge for birds. There is usually water in the gorge stream but it was dry. Here is some shots of Kata Tjuta…
Despite the dryness birds could be heard flying about mainly the Grey-headed and White-plumed Honeyeater I showcased last week. There were several nests in trees at the mouth of the gorge.
The wind blew relentlessly as we walked into the gorge at around 30 to 40 km/hr, we could barely stand up and walk forward. Finally in the gorge the wind passed over. We saw this desert wild flower growing up out of bare rock.
After much pursuit we finally tracked down our last lifer, a quite unexpected find, this Western Bowerbird. At first I saw the female hiding in a tree some distance in the gully. She eventually saw me and flew into the gorge to thicker inaccessible thich bush.
As we watched we saw a smaller flash of bright yellow follow beneath the same bush, which we thought to be a juvenile. Within seconds a larger bird flew and landed in view, with its back to us, watching us, just in front of the bush which may have housed the nest. I only managed to get these shots of him. Note the male below has a pink nuchal crest, which is smaller in females and not present in juveniles.
Recent research has shown that these bowerbirds are sensitive to the ultra violet end of the light spectrum, enabling them to greater visual appreciation than we have. Similar to the Great and Spotted Bowerbird it decorates its bower with white objects like shells, feathers and pebbles or anything it can steal from humans.
It was lovely seeing the floral emblem of the Northern Territory, the Sturt’s Desert Rose flowering while we were there. This flower appears on their state flag, as does the Southern Cross star formation peculiar to our southern skies. This can be seen well here and the huge white ribbon of the Milky Way on a dark desert night.
Lastly let me show a sunset during a desert storm over Kata Tjuta…
To finish our desert birding adventure, we ponder on the Sparrowhawk/Goshawk sitting quietly in the tree watching the Zebra Finches. We know that Finches are food for the raptor and that by flying in flock (as a charm) they are protecting themselves. They must listen carefully to the call of the flock, sometimes in frequencies outside our perception to know when to fly and perch, it could be a matter of life and death. They seek out water and food as a flock even as the streams and ponds are dry, they survive and flourish together. This confuses the raptor as he looks for a stray member or sick bird to pluck from the flock.
No one is ‘a rock or island’ in response to Simon and Garfunkel’s song I am a Rock. We are all vulnerable when alone, we need to have a charm or flock of good friends and people around us who encourage and help lead us into good places in life. I once heard a helpful hint which I share as a counselling help: Always make sure your Balcony friends or acquaintances outnumber your Basement ones. This means keep check that the people who you spend time with and speak into your life and share experiences with are more the encouraging, helpful sharing type than the selfish, needy. use and abuse negative type. If they are negative it may be you who needs to speak positivly into their life to help them correct their behaviour, as a true friend should.
“Wounds from a sincere friend are better than many kisses from an enemy.” – Proverbs 27:6
“The godly give good advice to their friends; the wicked lead them astray.” – Proverbs 12:26 (NLT)
“Love prospers when a fault is forgiven, but dwelling on it separates close friends.” – Proverbs 17:9
“There are “friends” who destroy each other, but a real friend sticks closer than a brother.” – Proverbs 18:24
“As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.” – Proverbs 27:17
Have a wonderful week my dear friends. Just to let you know I have been asked to stay on in my medical work for another month to assist in training staff, so I am waiting to see what God has for me at the end of the year. This has delayed both my transition to partial retirement and also the writing my second book, which will most likely be an ebook. The bird guiding proposition appears to have fallen by the way.
If this is your first visit to my blog please check out the rest of my website through my Homepage and menu.
I was greatly blessed to receive a very extensive review of my new book “What Birds Teach Us” in a post by Jen an American blogger who purchased my book here online recently: “Birds, Blooms and all things Beautiful”
You might like read it (click on link above) and also read more reviews and information and purchase your copy through the security of PayPal on my BirdBook page.
The book is also sold in One of these Places.
NOTE: All photos, videos and music used on this website are photographed, composed, performed by the site owner and remains his copyrighted property, unless otherwise stated. The use of any material that is not original material of the site owner is duly acknowledged as such. © W. A. Hewson 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018