I spent some time recently in the Top End on fieldwork and with binoculars
always on hip got to see some incredible bird life while up there.
There was one sighting however which mystified me. I wonder if anyone on the
list can offer hints as to what it might have been.
The date was 8 Feb 2010, about 7pm. I would have written earlier, but have
only just now had regular email access again. I was on the Bullita Access
road in the south-west chunk of Gregory National Park, Northern Territory.
Weather was clear and warm, little wind. Habitat was a very open savannah
woodland, dense tall grass understorey.
I was watching a mixed flock of finches at a puddle on the dirt road from a
distance of approximately 50m. There were 2 double-bar finches, 2
chestnut-breasted mannikins and about 10 star finches drinking and bathing.
I also spotted 2 birds in the bunch which had pure white heads and breasts.
They were slightly larger and more robust than a star finch. They were
behaving like finches and my first thought was "Mannikin!". They had brown
wings, and the brown colouring of the wing and back made a sharp contrast or
demarcation against the white of the breast adjacent to the wing. Like a
saddle. The eye was dark, the bill was mannikin-shaped and a darker colour.
I didn't get a good look at the tail, was too focused on the easily
observable parts (and blown away by the very white head) and thought I would
get longer with them.
I only got to observe these through my 10x binocs for 3-4 minutes before a
car driving past disturbed the flock from the puddle. I spent some time
waiting for them to return. Some of the other finches did, they didn't. I
stalked some of the grasses looking for them and found the small bands of
star finches, but none of them included the pair of larger white-headed
finches I had seen earlier.
PS. I have been off-list for many years now. Please send replies direct to
this email address.
See my shots: www.flickr.com/photos/mwhitehead
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