Central Australian Bird Knowledge

All wildlife including birds play an integral part in Aboriginal culture from dreamtime stories to the present. Out here I identify a bird, go to the back of my Ngaanyatjarra dictionary where I can look up the scientific name and find the name in language. The dictionary may then have a brief description. I can then sit down with some of the elders and be told of its importance to their culture.

However we all can’t do that.

Bob Gosford over at The Northern Myth has just written about four terrific posters of central Australian bird knowledge. Each poster is from a different language group and has a picture of the bird, name and a brief story of it’s importance in both language and English to the Aboriginal group represented by the poster. Several of Bob’s pictures have made it into the posters.

The posters are from the Cultural Signs of Central Australia project being run at Charles Darwin University.

The project documents cultural signs in Central Australian Aboriginal languages. These are the social and environmental indicators used by Aboriginal people in Central Australia. For example there are signs that tell people when food is available, predict the weather, warn people of bad events and signal when certain kin are coming. Much of this knowledge is in danger of being lost as Aboriginal society rapidly changes. Many Aboriginal people are concerned that such knowledge should be documented and that resources should be created to assist in the teaching of this knowledge.

The Willie Wagtail pictured at the top of the post is from the bird poster “Birds that show people things” in the Kaytetye language which is spoken around Barrow Creek.

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Dalhousie Springs

G’day,

It’s another Pleasant Sunday Afternoon(PSA) here. How is it where you are?

Last week I put up a few photos of some bird life at Dalhousie Springs on the western edge of the Simpson Desert.

Bill Arnold, another pharmacist sent some pics he said I could use of his crossing in 2005.

Bill wrote:

We went through East West in 2005.
A magic place. Showers and dunnies. And birdlife.
We stopped for a cuppa the day before at a spring with millions of finches.
Camel tracks, no camels.
Aren’t you a bit lost ? Didn’t think your mob were in this area.

My pictures were from the archives. When I went through there where no facilities or wire barriers. Only wildlife. I think it was 2003.
And whilst I am never lost I have been geographically misplaced for various lengths of time which adds to the enjoyment of a trip! Well I never use a GPS. It’s all ready reckoning. However I might get one for here. Some of the elders can direct me cross country over sandunes to land directly on a waterhole miles away that they have not visited for ten years. It is amazing.
As my PSA posts continue I hope to have pictures and stories from all over rural and remote Australia.

Now to the Pictures.

Camping at Dalhousie Springs
Camping at Dalhousie Springs
Dalhousie Springs
Dalhousie Springs
Spinifex Pigeon (Katararrtji)
Spinifex Pigeon (Katararrtji)
Spinifex Pigeon (Katararrtji)
Spinifex Pigeon (Katararrtji)

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A Bird in the Hand…..

Welcome to another Pleasant Sunday Afternoon.

After you cross the Simpson Desert from East to West you get to Dalhousie Springs where even the hot spring fed waterhole feels cool…. for a time.

Being the only water for a bit it attracts a little bird life. After a swim I took out my camera and waited. The scan picked up a little dust (no – I am not always a film troglodyte. Go here for proof!) so I apologise for the few marks you see in the pictures. Click on the pictures for bigger images.

Spinifex Pigeon is called Katararrtji in the Ngaanyatjarra Language. Although the distribution of the Singing Honeyeater is supposedly through most of Australia (including here) I haven’t seen one here to get the local name. Singing in language is “yinkaku” for singing a song, and “wangkaku” means birds singing.

Spinifex Pigeon
Spinifex Pigeon
Spinifex Pigeon
Spinifex Pigeon
Singing Honeyeater
Singing Honeyeater

Bob Gosford from The Northern Myth in an email discussion pointed out the pigeon here is a crested and not a spinifex pigeon. And he is right. I have some Spinifex Pigeon shots from Palm Valley I will include here when I find them! Next time I will ensure I double check my wildlife. Bob has a good article on them you can read here

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