Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Olive Pink Botanic Gardens, Alice Springs

Olive Pink Botanic Gardens (OPBG) is a must visit location in Alice for birders and anyone interested in inland native plants – see this link: http://opbg.com.au/history/
The gardens are an especially good place to reliably see Western Bowerbirds and possibly Grey-crowned Babblers. We found both species and had a very enjoyable time late one afternoon observing and photographing both at close range.
Male Western Bowerbird displaying at bower.
First, some photos of a pair of Western Bowerbirds at a bower.
The bower under a mulga tree. The large pile of sticks at both ends can be clearly seen including some choice white objects on display.
Inside the bower are a few more objects including a nearly circular flat stone and a green quandong fruit.
While watching them, the male first spent time collecting small sticks and leaves to build up the area around the actual bower. The large mound of sticks helps support the larger bower sticks in an upright position, it would be impossible for the bird to fix the bower sticks in the hard ground. The mound also provides an area on which the male displays to the female while she stands inside the bower and for the placement of collected objects.
Male stick collecting for the bower mound.

This was about a bill full.
He soon left off stick collecting and commenced a protracted display with the female standing inside the bower. This was punctuated by brief sessions of feeding by both birds near the bower.
The following photos show the male displaying, which entails a range of moves including harsh calls now and again and picking up food matter and a green Quandong (Santalum acuminatum) fruit while the female is standing in the bower to the right.

I could not see the female's reactions but assume the she was impressed, she stayed in the bower for the whole of the performance.
We also crossed paths several times in the gardens with a small band of Grey-crowned Babblers. They are very social birds, like Choughs and Apostlebirds.
Grey-crowned Babbler having a drink at a leaky pipe.

Searching for food under bark. They usually feed on the ground.
Searching for food on the ground where they often dig vigorously in the soil.
I caught this pair on a car looking at their own reflections in the windscreen.
A quick look at the photographer and they were off.
Finding birds in settings such as the OPBG’s or around camp and picnic grounds is often good for both bird observation and photos as the birds do not see humans as a threat and their FID (flight initiation distance) is accordingly much shorter than for locations where humans are uncommon. On the other hand the birds’ behavior may be somewhat unnatural in these settings.

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