there were few ground-dwelling birds in my yard until a few months ago when I noticed a brief flash of feathered chestnut skulking in the ferns near the pool. I didn't think much of it at the time until a few days later I saw this most beautiful bird - a Buff-banded Rail Gallirallus philipensis - in full view. Over the next few weeks we got more and more familiar with each other's company. Now it is dead. eaten by neighbourhood cats.
One night King Solomon invited all the birds to sing to his noble guests. All came except the hoopoe. Angry, the king ordered a search, and when the hoopoe was found and rebuked, the bird explained that he was not guilty of disrespect. On the contrary, for the last three months he had hardly tasted any food or water, flying all over the world to discover if any place existed which was not yet subject to Solomon. Finally he found the land of Sheba, ruled by a beautiful and wise woman called Queen Balkys, where they have not heard the name of Solomon.
The first attack had occurred in the winter 3 years ago and the second attack was 4 days ago (22/07/2009). The first attack was on the wife who was walking with her husband and 2 dogs (one large and one small) at about 7.30 pm across the golf coarse fairways near Horseshoe Billabong in moonlit darkness. The bird had circled overhead before swooping three times and then stalked the 'intruders' for several hundred metres almost up to the golf course clubhouse where it perched in a tree giving the victim a good view of her attacker.
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...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!
The penalties for the unauthorised possession of wildlife in the NT are high - for an individual the maximum penalties range from $65,000 to $130,000 and are of course much higher for corporate offenders.
With the recent claims that the elusive Night Parrot has (again) been seen this 2010 summary of past sightings and Aboriginal knowledge of Australian ornithology's own 'holy grail' bird might help those struggling with the significance of those claims.
Australia is nowhere near as dangerous as some of the countries that my friend Mark Cocker writes about in his wonderful book "Birders: Tales of a Tribe" (2001, Jonathan Cape). Throughout the book Mark notes that the lengths that they birders will go to to see birds sometimes end in dreadful tragedy, including being pursued - and shot at - by armed Afghan tribesmen, being eaten by a Tiger in northern India and being shot and killed by Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) guerrillas in Peru.