Sniffing around at the shit-pits: watching birds at the Alice Springs Waste Stabilisation Ponds
Birds, and birders, love shit – or more particularly in Alice Springs, they both love the fact that in the driest part of the driest continent the average daily household use of water is about 1,500 litres a day.
As this graph below shows that’s over 500,000 litres a year – for each house!
And while much of that goes onto household gardens a lot of it ends up as “waste water” in what locals know as the shit-pits but that the NT Government’s Power and Water Authority more politely calls the Alice Springs Waste Stabilisation Ponds.
These large ponds are just to the south the town through The Gap and can be seen clearly from the air when flying into town – just look for the large ponds that some in the past have mistakenly identified as a local trout farm.
But then some people will believe anything.
Over the years I’ve spent many a happy hour at various sewage ponds around the NT and beyond and for good reasons – often they are the only large body of surface water for hundreds of kilometres around and they provide a valuable resource for local and and migratory birds.
And while I don’t have any empirical evidence (I’m sure someone will do the research one day soon – if they have not already) I’m pretty confident that that in arid Australia the local sewage ponds are a valuable stop-over, foraging and resting resource for the hundreds of thousands of shorebirds that cross the Australian continent as part of their annual migratory route – the East Asian – Australasian Flyway – from the far corners of a northern hemisphere winter to enjoy an Austraian summer.
Right now many of those birds are en-route and are already starting to make their first land-fall on the north of the country – in the next couple of weeks I’ll catch up with more than a few of them at the wonderful Broome Bird Observatory – one of a network of similar observatories dotted around the country and operated by Australia’s peak ornithological body, Birds Australia.
And more than a few of those birds will fly overhead here at Yuendumu – I’ll be keeping an eye (and ears – many cross the country by night) out for migrating waterbirds at our local shit pits over the coming months.
But anyway, I digress. Back to the Alice Springs facility – just this week the Power and Water Corporation and the very active and helpful Alice Springs Field Naturalists group have worked together to produce a birder-friendly guide that provides a map (see above) of the Alice Springs shit-pits and some guidance as to what birds you might see when you go there.
You can have a closer look at the Birdwatcher’s Map and Guide here.
Enjoy – and just keep a good nose out for where the wind is blowing from!