Grey Falcon on Princess Parrot Twitch

Subject: Grey Falcon on Princess Parrot Twitch
From: Mark Carter <>
Date: Thu, 02 Dec 2010 08:47:02 +1030
Hi Birders!

My 2 day guided birding package to twitch the Princess Parrots which returned 
yesterday (1st Dec) was a roaring success- I thought perhaps people out there 
might like to read about the birding highlights:

After a brief stop at Alice Springs sewage ponds to pick up a spread of species 
such as Buff-banded Rails, Pink-eared Ducks and a very brief view of a Black 
Falcon, we proceeded south on the Stuart Highway. A roadside stop by woodland 
on Owen Springs Reserve turned up Black, Pied and White Fronted Honeyeaters. 
North of Erldunda  Chiming Wedgebill, many Crimson Chat and a couple of Spotted 
Harrier were found among verdant grasslands and shrubs. Three more roadside 
stops in good habitat on the way to Watarrka National Park (AKA Kings Canyon) 
got us Varied Sittela, Pallid and Horsefields Bronze Cuckoo, Red-capped Robin, 
Western Gerygone, White-browed Babbler, White-browed Treecreeper (a very rare 
bird out here) and mixed flocks of Inland and Slaty-backed Thornbill as well as 
a lone Major Mitchell Cockatoo and a roadkilled Barn Owl.
We overnighted at Kings Canyon Resort where Spinifex Pigeon were easily seen on 
the resort grounds. Dawn and dusk is a good time for dingo sightings in the 
surrounding country. Clearly pickings are good these days- these animals are 
looking fat!
A dawn start the next day for our rendezvous with the Land Council officers and 
Traditional Owners who led us to the area of previous Princess Parrot activity. 
Our first stop was an open area of grassland sprinkled with stately Marble Gums 
which was alive with curious Grey-fronted Honeyeaters. A quick flyby of a pair 
of Princess Parrots in the first 5 minutes raised everyone's excitement to 
fever pitch but searches of the surrounding area only turned up a Mulga Parrot 
nest and many White-fronted Honeyeater- none of the magic Parrots. We decided 
to proceed to the next site as we could already feel the landscape warming up 
there was no time to waste. We parked with the intention of walking in to a 
flagged site which had been the focus of recent activity but within a minute of 
getting out of the vehicle a pair of Princess Parrots were spotted skulking in 
a gum right beside us! Over the next hour we encountered several birds in small 
groups spread over about 1km2. Adults were observed feeding juvenile birds but 
there was no evidence of current nesting. As the morning proceeded and the 
temperatures started to rise the birds became subdued and dispersed around the 
wider site in preparation for roosting up for the day.
On the suggestion of Alison, the lead Traditional Owner, we headed 8km down the 
track to a site which was presumably a feeding ground previously. There were no 
Parrots present so it was decided to return to the prior site. On the drive 
back a Grey Falcon flew over our vehicle, buzzing the treetops and swooping on 
flushed budgies. We got a good view of the bird but it didn't hang around. It 
powered off in the general direction of the site we were heading back to so we 
proceeded slowly, eyes-to-the-skies style. One more stop for roadside 
White-winged Fairy Wren also turned up a small party of Banded Whiteface- a 
nice bonus. By now we had dropped a good 20 minutes behind the CLC vehicle so 
we caught them up again at the main Parrot location. The sky had clouded over 
and the temperatures had dropped enough that the Parrots became active again: 
one party of 6 birds were doing 'victory laps' around the site before landing 
together in a stately marble gum, chattering loudly all the while. By the time 
we departed the site it was 11am and the temperature was creeping up again.
We returned to Alice via the gravel road to Hermannsburg, further roadside 
birding stops producing Splendid Fairy Wrens, Western Gerygone, Little 
Buttonquail and close encounters with a Crested Bellbird.
All in all it was a very rewarding journey- everywhere in the Red Centre is 
bursting with life. From my point of view it has been great to finally get 
access for birders to this historic but ephemeral natural event. We had been 
hopeful of good encounters with the Princess Parrots and the birds certainly 
delivered- but we hadn't expected a Grey Falcon into the bargain!

The final date offered by the CLC for permits to the site is tomorrow (3rd Dec) 
but I am hopeful that more can be arranged. Get in touch if you would like more 


Mark Carter

DesertLife: Bird Guiding in Australia's Red Centre
T ++61 (0) 447358045

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