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Adelaide Aliens & Listing, 2008

I strolled into the CBD via parklands by the River Torrens and started building my South Australia list. I’m like that: lists for sites, towns, counties, states, countries and of course the world; month lists, year lists, garden lists, feeder lists and the trip list. You’ve met this several times already and it officially commenced on touching down at Changi. By South Australia it had reached 118 and this walk added masked lapwing, eastern rosella, noisy miner, and the imposters of blackbird, starling and house sparrow. I encountered the central race of Australian magpie too.

It was easy to track all these numbers with Wildlife Recorder, which ran on my laptop. It wasn’t so easy to keep up with adjustments I had to make on account of misidentifying species, which was bound to happen.

There was no mistaking the European birds, of which only feral pigeons had blighted Western Australia. In the east it would be another matter with house sparrows and starlings being the most widespread. Since the mid-1970s shooters and trappers have had to stop the advance of our starling into the west with the killing of over 50,000 birds. Despite this multi-million dollar programme, a population has snuck through to Esperance.

Slaughtering birds, eh? That’s a tough one. It’s so obvious that the explosion of an alien species is a Bad Thing and the problem is out there, but our methods are so Stone Age. What’s the by-kill of this programme? And don’t tell me there isn’t one. Gunmen are gunmen and hardly know a hawk from a handsaw. Shooting can also mask the “culling” of other “pests”.

Trapping may be more selective but now there’s talk of poison. That’s been such a great success in history. Didn’t DDT work so well, for instance?

Perhaps we could just throw our hands up and admit we’ve turned the world into a great big melting pot. It’ll all settle down into a new pattern once we’re gone. Meanwhile those species that can tolerate us will be the forebears of a new world order.

One of the native birds on my Adelaide walk that has adapted to human occupation was the noisy miner. It was great to catch up with it again: it doesn’t seem to give a shit, to the point of cheekiness. Despite the name it’s a honeyeater but one with a wider diet than nectar. In fact most honeyeaters don’t subsist purely on nectar but the distinguishing characteristic of the family is a brush-tipped tongue to soak it up.

The walk also passed my 895th lifer when I spied a flock of musk lorikeets up a gum tree. I’ll try not to use that phrase too much; it’s a wonder I’ve resisted so far. These birds are basically green parrots but with what looks like a blue headscarf over a red bandanna, so they’re easy to identify.

All these species also contributed to the biggest twelve months of my birding life. That would end on November 18th, 2009 at 662 species with purple sandpipers at Sheringham, Norfolk. Small fry, I know, compared with the thousands that some have managed but I’m very humble.

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