Thursday, 9 May 2013


The Forest Wagtail is a very pretty little bird.  It breeds in southern China, then migrates to Asia.  Last week one turned up in a suburban back yard in Alice Springs.  Of course I had to go and see it.

Forest Wagtail, Alice Springs, May 2013

Yes, I know it's a lousy photo, but at least it proves I saw the bird!

This is the first time I've ever jumped on a plane to go to see a vagrant.  Yes, I drove to Paynesville for the Franklin's Gull last November, and I just happened to be near Sydney when the American Golden Plover was sighted at Kurnell in March 2009.  But I've never before flown interstate to twitch some hapless vagrant.  Now I can count myself a fully fledged twitcher.

I heard about the bird on Monday, but was busy indexing my next book and couldn't get away until Wednesday.  I arrived in The Alice just after 11 on Wednesday morning.  Within a couple of hours, I'd had great views of this dear little Asian bird and added another tick to my life total.  Mike Carter (Australia's best birder) and his charming wife, Patricia, were on the same plane from Melbourne and kindly gave me a lift to the b & b where the bird had been seen.  A small group of avid twitchers had arrived to witness this special little bird.  The Forest Wagtail obediently put on quite a show, walking around the garden, splashing in some water, eating an enormous caterpillar in rather spectacular fashion and living up to its name by wagging its tail, which in fact was more like moving all of its lower body, not just its tail.

I thought it was much prettier than the photos on the web had shown, and more colourful.  I'd expected a black and white bird, but it had a warm pale brown back and some pale lemon on its throat.  Of course I thought it was pretty.  It was a beautiful, unexpected tick.

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