All the falcons... Alice Springs just keeps on giving

Subject: All the falcons... Alice Springs just keeps on giving
From: Christopher Watson <>
Date: Sun, 19 Sep 2010 19:30:16 +0930
Ok this is just a gloat, so feel free to skip this and head straight to the
next posting if flagrant grandstanding might offend.

Just the other day I was absentmindedly musing to my birdwatching
partner-in-crime, that if one was set the arbitrary task of seeing all *
Falco* species in Australia in a single day, then Alice Springs would
probably be the place to do it... of course, you'd just wait 'til you
stumbled on a Grey Falcon and then spend the rest of the day racing around
to tick off the others.

Well, Bob, today was the day. I didn't expect it to arrive so soon, but I
still can't wipe the smile off my face...

An otherwise ordinary day dawned over The Alice, and an otherwise ordinary
man roused from slumber unaware of the enormous events the day held in

It was a frankly crappy morning that greeted me, and I battled through a
very dreary Sunday morning in Alice. A photographer friend suggested going
for a drive to see if we could find a break in the cloud cover anywhere - we
couldn't. All we found was more biting wind, and grey cloud to the horizon
in all directions. Scouting some big old red gums in a dry watercourse I
swore that this would have to be the only remaining dry riverbed in the
whole of Australia. More rain this week has seen the Finke come back up, the
Palmer is flowing well, as is the Hugh and the Todd River is back up for the
umpteenth time this year. Probably worth noting that the Finke River has now
been flowing constantly for almost nine months. A couple of Spotted Harriers
quartering an open plain on the other side of the dry riverbed provided a
rare break in an otherwise, windy and birdless morning.

I saw two falcons playing with a flock of budgies a few hundred metres along
the riverbed. They looked pale, but I lazily assumed them to be Brown
Falcons and left it at that, as they descended into the treeline and were
gone from sight. I'd had enough, so I started the trudge back to the car,
when something flapped in a red gum over my shoulder, and I looked up to see
two Grey Falcons studiously ignoring me - as is their regal right... what a
bird! I now understand the term crippling views, and this isn't even a lifer
for me. I could not move for about fifteen minutes and held up my clumsy big
binos until my arms burned with fatigue. I knew as soon as I moved, they
would be off, but I had to try for the camera - and sure enough as I reached
for the camera off they flew. But not far... about 150 metres away they sat
in a dead mulga tree happily preening and posing and I sat with those birds
for a good two hours before the idea asserted itself again - GO AND FIND THE

To be honest, after this great luck, it was a mere formality to find all the
other *Falcos*. A Hobby was further down the riverbed, as was a Nankeen
Kestrel. Brown Falcons are like chickens up here. The Black Falcon was very
obliging and still loitering at the back of the airport, and the Peregrine
was high, very high, but still clearly tickable at Simpson's Gap in the

So there you go Bob, all the *Falco* species in one day, any other requests.

Chris Watson
Alice Springs

(Takes an ostentatious little bow and wanders off mumbling incoherently to
no-one in particular, but looking very pleased with himself nonetheless.)

NB: No locations for Grey Falcon were identified in this email, as the Red
Centre Twitchathon is this week... you understand. Jonny the Grey Falcon man
has been contacted, fully briefed and sworn to secrecy. I did get those
photos in the end.

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