ON THE ROAD — The highlight of a day’s rest from travelling was an encounter with two Western Bowerbirds (Ptilonorhyncus guttatus) at the Olive Pink Botanical Gardens in Alice Springs. Artist and keen bird photographer Siri Omberg told us where to find a bower that has been in use for some years. Two bowerbirds, resplendent with their purple crests were using the bower to display. Given that the breeding season is said to have finished in December it seems most likely that these two were young birds, probably siblings, just practicing the extraordinary mating performances of their people. But both birds were completely pumped up and focussing all their attention on perfecting their display technique. They paid no attention to me and my camera about 10 metres away. Later when I thought they had both left the nest I went up to get a picture of the incredible range of little treasures they had gathered to decorate their bower. But one of the birds was still inside the central part of the bower when I came up close. It paid me no attention as I continued shooting from two metres away (shot at the top). The bower is, of course, just for dancing and display of the male’s eclectic collection of interesting objects. They make a nest elsewhere as a shallow saucer of twigs. The inventory at this bower included: animal bones, ring pulls, bottle tops, bits of glass, animal dung leached to white lumps, pieces of plastic and the piece de resistance, a fresh and bright green round fruit from the Botanic Gardens. The piece of fruit was central to the act, the birds taking it in turn to posture with it and place it in the centre of the bower as a present to its “mate”.
I will post some more pictures of the birds displaying later. It was an extraordinary piece of theatre that kept me enthralled for over an hour. When I left they were still acting out their rituals.