Further bird obs for northern SA

To: "" <>
Subject: Further bird obs for northern SA
From: "Baxter, Chris (DEH)" <>
Date: Thu, 4 Oct 2001 13:52:59 +0930
HI again

Forgot to mention a few things. Easy to see that I am on light duties, have
time on my side and am tied to a computer eh!  Black-tailed Native-hens have
been in their absolute thousands in the far north this year. Up and down the
Birdsville, Oodnadatta and Strzelecki Tracks and associated creeks, bores
etc. Many have moved south recently and in our neck of the woods they are
being reported from up and down the top of the Spencer Gulf by shack owners
who have not seen them for many years. This species, due to its nomadism and
habit of turning up in large numbers overnight, prompt people who otherwise
wouldn't bother to ring NPW SA, to contact us at Port Augusta to tell us
about their new arrivals. They mostly refer to them as "mallee fowl",
believe them to be quite rare and are not that convinced when I explain the
difference between the two!  Other species in large numbers coming down from
the north in waves over past few weeks are Budgies and to a lesser extent
Cockatiels. I would think that they will be turning up in southern areas now
or pretty soon. Quite fascinating to see flocks of them coming through Port
Augusta at the top of Spencer Gulf and then fly on in streams along its
western and eastern shorelines as they head southwards. 

The other interesting observation I must mention is the first sighting of
swifts for this season. 60+ Fork-tailed Swifts flew northwards up Spencer
Gulf the other day (1 Oct). They were low over Red Banks on the E side of
town and battling into a stiff NW wind. Conditions were a bit stormy, a
touch humid with thunder clouds blanketing out much of the western sky. Rain
had fallen overnight. We generally get our fair share of this species here
during spring and summer.

On the subject of birds being picked up and NPW SA at Port Augusta being
notified of their plight, I will mention briefly the Hoary-headed Grebe.
Over the past eight years I have had this species picked up in people's
backyards from places as far flung as Marla, Coober Pedy, Crystal Brook and
here at home at Port Augusta. It is always on nights when the moon is full
or close to it. Grebes and other waterbirds (such as crakes etc) seem to get
up and go when they have got some visual aid from the moon and make quite
long distance movements. They, I presume see tin rooves shining in the
moonlight and mistake it for a dam full of water. Much to their surprise and
detriment they crash into a house! They seem to be resilient little tikes as
most are sent to me in cardboard boxes on local stateliner coaches and are
generally none the worse for wear. I let them go on the local saline ponds
on the edge of the gulf here at Port Augusta where this species is quite
common. The Hoary-head I collected from near home the other night (full
moon) had been saved from a dog in a backyard. It was fascinating to look at
it up close. It was at once apparent to me how they are capable of long
flights. Upon stretching its wing out I was surprised at how long and narrow
it was-something like a waders wing! I expected it to be somewhat shorter
and rounder ie: a stubbier wing. So whenever people ring me with a "water
bird of some sort"? on or close to the time of the full moon, I first ask
them if it has it got lobed webs on each individual toe and they invariably
answer YES. Go the grebes!


Chris Baxter

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