Monday, 4 July 2016

Some birds of the Red Centre

We are on another winter trip north, this time to the Top End. Our plans to go north via the Birdsville Track, outback western Queensland and the Gulf Country to Darwin were thwarted by rain and closed roads in outback South Australia so a change of plans has taken us through Alice Springs and the Red Centre. This post covers some bird photos captured on this leg of the trip.

To me the Dusky Grasswren and the Rufous-crowned Emu-wren are both quintessential Red Centre birds. While they live in different habitats both have colouration that blends with the red earth and rocks of the Red Centre.

We searched long and hard for both these species and eventually found one Dusky Grasswren, but had no luck with the Emu-wren. I suspect both species have suffered large declines across the outback due to changed fire regimes since the time when Aboriginal people managed the land.

Double click on images to enlarge.

Dusky Grasswren on red quartzite rock. I assume this bird may be a female?
This screen shot from the Pizzey & Knight Birds of Australia App shows the Dusky Grasswren distribution map which covers a lot of the Red Centre.

Searching for the Dusky Grasswren in typical rocky country with spinifex.

While shy and hard to find Dusky Grasswrens can be inquisitive as this one was – this one has probably never seen a human before given the remote location. They scurry about the rough rocky terrain and dive into rock crevices if they need to hide.

This next photo shows why this area is named the Red Centre.

A morning tea break on a track in the Tanami Desert about 300km NW of Alice.

The following selection of photos shows species found, though not exclusively, in the Red Centre.

Black-breasted Buzzards are classic northern Australia and outback raptors. In flight the white patches at the base of the primary wing feathers makes this species easy to ID. When perched however they can look like Wedge-tailed Eagles – I have made this mistake in the past.
The beautiful Spotted Harrier is another common outback raptor.
A small party of Major Mitchell Cockatoos came in for a drink from a birdbath near our camp just before dusk most days.
Dingos are common in the Tanami where there is some surface water present and no persecution from cattle farmers. They are useful to our native fauna because they help keep cat and fox numbers down.
Black Honeyeaters, an arid land outback nomadic species, were plentiful due to the good conditions.
This Pied Honeyeater, another arid land outback honeyeater, is similar to the Black. Note the distinctive blue crescent under the eye.
A female Painted Finch, another Red Centre species.
I just had to include a photo of the Red-capped Robin, another outback arid land bird usually found in woodland, especially mulga woodland in the Red Centre.
The good conditions have triggered many birds to breed so it is not surprising that Pallid Cuckoos were plentiful.

To end with, a widespread and familiar species, the Grey Shrike-Thrush. In the Red Centre this species has a rusty/grey colour and their calls are a little different to the ones we see and hear in SE Australia - a good example of the variation within a species across a large geographic area such as Australia – giving rise to sub species or races. There are five races of Grey Shrike-Thrush across Australia including one in Tasmania.

Grey Shrike-Thrush - Central Australia.

The next leg of our trip will take us from the Red Centre approximately 1,500 km north to a completely different environment, the Top End wet season - dry season tropics and a very different range of bird species.

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