RufCrownedEmu-wren270810  8289

A male Rufous-crowned Emu-wren defends his patch of spinifex.

I caught this pic of the enigmatic Rufous-crowned Emu-wren Stipiturus ruficeps just after dawn yesterday at a well-known spot on the road to the small community of Ltyentye Apurte, also known as Santa Teresa and Ltyentye Apurte, east of Alice Springs.

This was the first stop in yesterday’s long day of birding in and around Alice Springs in preparation for the 24 hour Twitchathon on  September 24 as part of the second annual Red Centre Bird Week in the last week of September.

I wouldn’t dare, or want, to call myself a “twitcher”. Twitchers are the real hard-core birders who will drive, fly, walk or crawl across the country, or the world, to get the briefest glimpse of a rare bird.

There have been more than a few twitchers that have rushed to the Centre following the recent irruption of the reclusive princess parrots (Polytelis alexandrae) on Aboriginal lands a few hundred kilometres west of Alice Springs. This irruption is most likely due to very favourable conditions arising from prolonged rains we’ve received since January.

The prospect of getting a “tick” for a princess parrot within half a day’s drive from the Alice is apparently very tempting, particularly as PPs are normally only found in small numbers across a vast area of the western deserts many hours from Alice Springs.

The full story of the princess parrots, and those who are frantically seeking them, will have to wait for another day. The recent influx of birders into the Centre, and the restrictions they face accessing the Aboriginal lands that the birds are currently on, prompted my mate Christopher Watson to spend a day travelling around Alice Springs trying to get as many birds as possible in a day’s drive close to town.

Chris’ main object was to show that many good birds could be found close to the Alice in places readily accessible to anyone, and to give those less familiar with the Centre an indication of the quality of birding they could expect close-up to Alice Springs without using a four-wheel-drive or accessing private land — Aboriginal or otherwise.

Chris published the results of his efforts a few days ago and that prompted me to ask him if I could tag along the next time he went out looking for birds.

the Emu-wren's protagonist, a male Variegated Fairy-wren

The Emu-wren’s protagonist, a male Variegated Fairy-wren.

That’s why I was up at 5am yesterday for an early start to what would be a long and fantastically rewarding day. We’d decided to slightly expand Chris’ original restrictions by opening up the geographical range and by travelling on unsealed roads.

We started off with a pre-dawn trip east along the road to Santa Teresa where we caught up with the beautiful Emu-wren (above) hassling with this beautifully plumaged male Fairy-wren over preferred breeding territory.

Read the rest of this post — and comment — over at the Northern Myth