Monday, February 16, 2009

Bird boom in Australian desert

There's a bird boom in the dead heart.

Kangaroos, flies, dead grass and dust are the first things that usually spring to mind when contemplating the Australian desert.

But cooler weather, coupled with wet season rains, has turned the vast outback into a green wonderland. And that means the birds are booming.

Wildlife officers are urging visitors and locals alike to dust off the binoculars and hit the highway for a spot of birdwatching.

“Our parks and reserves have been inundated with exotic travellers,” said ranger Mark Carter. Nomadic birds such as rare honeyeaters and budgies are now scouring the desert country looking for the best conditions following recent summer rains.

Resident birds, including the Western bowerbirds and Spinifex pigeons, are also enjoying a bumper season. “The cooler and wetter weather has caused the vegetation growth and insect populations to boom and attract birds from all over Australia's vast arid zone,” said Mr Carter.

“The population of Rufous songlarks have exploded and while they may look unremarkable their rolling melody of sweet notes mixed with metallic bleeps and burbles sound sensational.”

Sites close to the desert town of Alice Springs have been singled out by the park ranger, including the Alice Springs Telegraph Station, Simpsons Gap, Emilie and Jessie Gaps.

“Birds are our noisiest and most easily spotted form of wildlife in the Red Centre but people often overlook them,” Mr Carter said.

“It doesn't matter whether you are a veteran birdwatcher or a novice, everyone can get a buzz out of birdwatching all you need are binoculars and a good identification guide.”

But, Mr Carter warned would-be birdspotters not to leave home without plenty of water and without informing someone of where they are going and for how long.

“Avoid being out during the hot afternoon,” he said.

“The best time to watch birds is dawn and dusk, which are also conveniently the coolest and most comfortable times of the day for people.”