Alice Springs area 19-22/5/03

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Subject: Alice Springs area 19-22/5/03
From: "Alan Morris" <>
Date: Thu, 12 Jun 2003 10:03:08 +1000
Robin Benson and I travelled from Mt Isa to Alice Springs by way of Camooweel and Barkley Homestead making a detour up to Alroy Downs from the latter place to see if would find some Flock Bronzewings, arriving at the large wetland at dusk. But alas no Flock Bronzewings were seen anywhere around this stretch even though conditions looked good. We knew that they had been seen between Combo Waterhole and Julia Creek (Qld), but that was not a direction that we were taking. So enroute to Alce Springs we had to be content with good views of Black-breasted Buzzards at a number of places and plenty of Budgerigars, White-browed and Masked Woodswallows, White-winged Trillers, Spotted Harriers and Wedge-tailed Eagles. There was a Peregrine Falcon at a radio tower not far from Alroy Downs HSD.
At Alice Springs Rob's target species were Dusky Grasswren, Banded Whiteface, Grey Honeyeater, Slaty-backed Thornbill, Western Bowerbird and Chiming Wedgebill, only the Grey Honeyeater & Wedgebill would be new for me. So we spend one afternoon and one morning at Kurnoth Wells, along Hamiltion Downs Road and around the "Eremophila Patch" looking for Grey Honeyeaters. But alas the seasonal conditions had deteriorated from the better conditions northwards, the ground was pretty dry, the mistletoe in the mulga was basically not flowering or fruiting, and most of the Eremophila bushes looked pretty dry. Only about 1 in 20 Erempohila bushes (E.maculata?) had a few flowers starting to appear, but good rains could see the plants really blossom. The only birds in the Eremophilas were Singing Honeyeaters and Zebra Finches, but amongst the mulga we did find Slaty-backed Thornbills at a number of places along with Southern Whiteface, Yellow-rumped, Chestnut-rumped & Inland Thornbills, as well as great views of Crested Bellbirds and White-browed Babblers. Mulga and Ringneck Parrots were watering at the Bore, and Hooded Robins and a Grey Fantail were seen closeby.
We checked out the Telegraph Station where Grey Honeyeaters had recently been reported but no luck, and visited the Deseret Wildlife Park. The exhibitions here are great and not to be missed and the bird display with the Black-breasted Buzzard breaking the Emu egg and the other Kites was really good. In the grounds it was easy to find resident Western Bowerbirds, one particular group were displaying in the fruiting Desert Figs outside one of the buildings showing off their lilac patches, while Grey-crowned Babblers, Variegated & White-winged Fairy-wrens, Mistletoebirds and Honeyeaters were very much at home there. We spent a day looking for Dusky Grasswrens at Simpsons Gap, Stanley Chasm, Ellery Big Hole, Serpentine and Ormiston Gorges without success, finally running them to earth on the bitumen access road to Stanley Chasm at 1700 hrs in the afternoon. A group of 4 gave us great views as they fed along the road and in the grass verge, perhaps not where we had been looking for them. We had spent our time scouring the spinifex slopes and rock slides where I had previously seen them. However we did have a great days birding and saw plenty of Pink Cockatoos, several small groups of Red-tailed Black Cockatoos, Hooded Robin, Painted Firetails, Grey-headed, Brown & Spiny-cheeked Honeyeaters, Red-browed Pardalotes, Spinifex Pigeons as well as the more common species.
We made two visits to the Alice Springs STW and saw nothing special other than large groups of Pinkears making their beautiful whistling & chortling calls as they resettled on different ponds and a group of 6 Red-necked Stints and plenty of Black-fronted Plovers. We staked out the site 32 km N of Erldunda as mentioned in Thomas & Thomas as a site for Banded Whiteface, but saw nothing other than White-winged Fairy-wrens, Pipits and Singing Honeyeaters. Finally we made a rush visit to Yalarra/Uluru to see if we could located Chiming Wedge-bill, Banded Whiteface and Striated Grasswren, all of which have been reported there. We spent time in the appropriate habitats but were unsuccessful. We were not impressed withe Uluru, accomodation costs at Yalara are so much out of proportion to what you pay elsewhere for accomodation, it costs $16 per person to enter the park, plenty of signs telling you where you cannot go but few actual places where you can walk in the bush! It seems that all they want you to do there is pay your  money, take a few photos and bugger off! Not a bird-watcher friendly place. More interesting was a spot where there had been some isolated rain, about 20 km W of Erldunda where we stopped for morning tea and had Horsfield & Pallid Cuckoos, Red-backed Kingfisher, White-backed Swallow, Kestrel & Brown Falcon, among the more interesting birds.
Again we thank those people who provided information on sites and locations in the Alice Spings area.
Alan Morris & Robin Benson
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