ON THE ROAD — No need for a bird hide to get up close and personal with the Australian magpie (Cracticus tibicen, probably race telenocua). This glossy specimen came to greet us when we stopped the car near the walking track to the bird hide at the Arid Lands Botanic Gardens. “Over there”, he or she indicated with a gesture of the beak. Neither the Black-backed, nor White-backed, nor Western Magpies extend into the Top End of the Northern Territory, but with many races they cover most of the rest of the continent.

ON THE ROAD — surrounded by a large expanse of small desert shrubs, a small patch of greener and larger vegetation marks an artificial water point at the Arid Lands Botanic Gardens, Port Augusta. In the mornings and afternoons the water attracts many of the small birds that spend most of their lives very privately amongst the shrubbery. From a permanent bird hide about 15 metres away we saw the White-winged Fairy Wren (Malurus leucopterus, race leuconotus), Variegated Fairy Wren (Malurus lambertii), Crested Pigeon ( Ocyphaps lophotes) and Zebra Finches (Taeniopygia guttata).