Australia Travel Diary - p 4Blue-faced Honeyeater (73886 bytes)

5 July 2002
My last bird at the Grevilleas is a jay-sized Blue-faced Honeyeater.  Honeyeaters are the most abundant and successful birds in Australia - 67 species are known.  As nectivores they occupy about the same niche as our hummingbirds in the Americas.  Most honeyeaters are large, however, with little of the color and iridescence of hummers.  In fact some of the dullest birds in Australia are honeyeaters.  Like hummers they are aggressive and fearless around a flowering tree or shrub, paying little attention to a birder.

7 July 2002
Today the Victoria Highway takes me west.   For 200 km (120 mi) between Katherine and the Victoria River there is little sign of civilization - not one house or roadside stop.  Dirt roads occasionally lead off to distant cattle stations; every 5-10 minutes I meet another car.   Man, this is boring.   

Striated Pardalote (43709 bytes)8 July 2002
Mornings along the Victoria River are cool and sunny, just perfect for birding.  As the day starts to warm one notices a pesky fly or two.   By noon they are an unbearable swarm, landing constantly on my hands and around my eyes and mouth.  Soon everyone is giving the "Aussie Salute," which consists of waving a hand in front of one's face to ward off the flies.  I often wear a mosquito net and rag gloves on late afternoon birding forays.
    One of the most charming birds here is the Striated Pardalote (rhymes with oat).  It is a true Aussie - the four species in its family evolved here, and are not closely related to any other bird in the world.  These wren-sized birds glean insects from trees, and are now nesting in holes dug out along the banks of the Victoria.  Their 3-note call, heard constantly, somehow sounds to me like "kiss my a--, kiss my a--."  Easy to remember, at least!

 

Star Finches (43626 bytes)
9 July 2002
The highlight of a second trip to the Victoria is a flock of about 75 Star Finches.  Unrelated to our northern finches, they are estrildids, a group that evolved first in Africa and has invaded Australia on 4 separate occasions.  The Stars are nervous as they come to drink at the river.  When one flies off, the rest assume that it knows something they don't, and likewise make a mad dash for cover.

 

 

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