Australian Hobby, Falco Longipennis. Alice Springs Desert Park
Australian Hobby, Falco longipennis. On the fist, Alice Springs Desert Park. Photo: Bob Gosford

This is a guest post by my birdwatching partner in crime, Christopher Watson.

Chris sent this out earlier today on the Birding-Aus web-log and it is used here with permission.

He is a far better birder than I and just yesterday spent the day wandering not very far from town on a cold, bleak day with a wind chill factor that made daytime weekend TV seem tempting.

And I was going to “pinch” a picture of a Grey Falcon from somewhere like Google Images…but thought better of it. So we’ll all have to wait until I, or Chris, get the chance to grab some photos of the local birds.

Me, I spent the day staring at a computer screen. Chris obviously had the better day of it…

Ok this is just a gloat…

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 store.

Frankly it was a 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.

Three Brown Falcons, one tree. Photo Bob Gosford
Three Brown Falcons, one tree. Photo: Bob Gosford

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.

Second year Spotted Harrier Circus assimilis
(not a Falcon) Second year Spotted Harrier Circus assimilis. Photo: Bob Gosford

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…


To be honest, after this great luck, it was a mere formality to find all the other Falcos.

Australian Kestrel Falco cenchroides. Photo: Bob Gosford
Australian Kestrel Falco cenchroides. Photo: Bob Gosford

An Australian Hobby was further down the riverbed, as was an Australian (Nankeen) Kestrel.

Brown falcon Falco berigora. Photo Bob Gosford
Brown Falcon Falco berigora. Photo: Bob Gosford

Brown Falcons are like chickens up here.

Black Falcon, Falco subniger. Leanyer, Darwin. Photo Bob Gosford
Black Falcon, Falco subniger. Leanyer, Darwin. Photo: Bob Gosford

The Black Falcon was very obliging and still loitering at the back of the airport, and the Peregrine Falcon was high, very high, but still clearly tickable at Simpson’s Gap in the afternoon.

Peregrine falcon, Falco peregrinus. Photo: Bob Gosford
Peregrine falcon, Falco peregrinus. Photo: Bob Gosford

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.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey