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
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
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
Pacific Grove, California, USA
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