Update on Grey Honeyeater & Alice Springs vicinity

Subject: Update on Grey Honeyeater & Alice Springs vicinity
From: Don Roberson <>
Date: Wed, 27 Aug 2008 18:20:23 -0700
My wife Rita Carratello and I visited the Alice Springs/Uluru vicinity as traveling birders from California between 16-20 August. We were fortunate to have the updated information posted on 11 August by Trevor & Hazel [last names unknown to us], detailing their mid-July visit, and details on access to the local sewage ponds provided by Jill Molan and others, all forwarded to us during our trip by Murray Lord (we apologize that it is now somewhat dated).

Like Trevor & Helen, we found the conditions around Alice to be very dry [locals say it hasn't rained since November] and the weather was cold and windy. We searched various areas from Thomas & Thomas and other sources for Dusky Grassren, Ruf-crown Emu-Wren, etc., but did not find these skulkers. We did the Ormiston Gorge & Pound hike (Spinifex Pigeons & Painted Firetails the only species of note), and visited Simpsons Gap daily. Western Bowerbirds were easily found at picnic tables at Ormiston and Simpsons. This report is focused on a few small successes:

GREY HONEYEATER: we had one Grey Honeyeater feeding on flowering bushes at the walk-in camping site at Serpentine Gorge. This is a little beyond the car park at the picnic area, along the walk to the gorge itself. Numerous bushes at the camping site were flowering. There were 15-20 Brown Honeyeaters present, and a half-dozen Spiny- cheeks, and both chased the Gray when it appeared. There were enough flowers about, though, so that it had multiple opportunities to get to flowers. Also present was a Rainbow Bee-eater, which I presume was a returning migrant. We had a female Painted Firetail at the waterhole in the gorge.

ALICE WASTEWATER PONDS: we had the access details from Jill Molan and by writing directly to the Water company. We picked up the key and signed waivers on Monday morning, 18 Aug, and returned it that afternoon. It was another cold and windy day, but the birding was good. Good numbers of Grey Teal, Aus. Black Duck, Maned Duck [Aus. Wood Duck], and Hardhead were present, along with 6 Straw-necked Ibis. Migrant waders included Wood & Common Sandpiper. We felt our best bird was a Black Falcon perched on the dikes at the NW corner [digiscoped]; a Brown Falcon was working the south side of the ponds, esp. around the burned area. We read in the birder's book there that Orange & Crimson Chats had been in the burned area in July; we spent a fair amount of time searching there, but found only 4 Red-capped Robin. A flock of Little Corella appeared on the dikes in the center of the ponds, and with them was one Long-billed. Two Fairy Martin were among hundreds of Tree Martin.

Road from ALICE TO ULURU: we tried the various sites 20 & 21 km N of Erlunda, and also 20.4 km W of Erlunda, but did not locate any chats, quail-thrush, or Banded Whiteface. The areas north of Erlunda are now enclosed by barbed wire fences, and the habitat seems less than pristine. We did have fair numbers of Southern Whiteface at all sites. A highlight at the 21 km N of Erlunda site was a flock of ~40 Chiming Wedgebills feeding on the ground right next to the road, and running like quail from bush to bush.

ULURU: the Striated Grasswren site from T&T (opposite the sunset viewing area for the Rock) was checked for hours in late afternoon and at dawn, without success. Again, we wonder if the dry conditions affect grasswren distribution?

A full trip report with photos from the Red Centre, and from southwestern Australia [where we basically followed Frank O'Connor's web site with good success] and one day in Tasmania [where Murray Lord showed us 11 of 12 endemics on the one rainy day] will appear on my web site in due course.

Many thanks to all who helped us in planning this interesting trip down under.

Don Roberson
Pacific Grove, California, USA


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