Just back from a great trip to Alice and also to Yulara, Uluru, and Kata
Tjuta ( which I will post separately ) .
The purpose for the trip was actually a conference at Yulara for Lynn, and
we had 4 days in Alice Springs on the way, mostly for the scenery and to
swim , relax etc along the East and West MacDonnell Ranges. Apart from
wanting to see Rufous-crowned Emu-wren which would have been a tick, I
planned some relaxing birding and a chance to concentrate on taking some
good photos rather than tracking down as many species as possible.
The country is looking fantastic , the birds were plentiful in numbers,
though the rain intervened again making the going harder than I was hoping
for. I ended up with 75 species and some good photos of some of the more
difficult to see birds.
The first afternoon on arrival at lunch time I spent at the Olive Pink
Botanic Gardens and sat and watched a Western Bowerbird attend to his Bower
and took stacks of photos. There were not many species around the gardens,
the highlights being, several Grey-crowned Babblers, Diamond Doves ,
Budgerigars, Zebra Finches and Australian Ringnecks. There were thunder
I then ducked out for a late afternoon visit to Simpsons Gap where the
highlights were Little Woodswallow, Mulga Parrot, Southern Whiteface and the
first of several Rufous Songlarks.
The next day dawned as a beautiful day and I headed out on the Santa Teresa
Road . There were literally thousands of birds on the 32km drive out ,
particularly in the first 10kms or so from the airport. The most prolific by
far was Diamond Doves , a lot sitting on , and feeding or drinking off the
road. There were also Budgerigars, Zebra Finches , Rufous Songlarks and both
Masked and Black-faced Woodswallows everywhere ! I also saw a flock of
Cockatiels and two Brown Songlarks and several White-winged Trillers on the
Once at the Rufous-crowned Emu-wren site at the old tyre in the power pole I
then birded the area for the next 4 hours not seeing any sign of them !
However, I did see many other fantastic birds and managed a few good
There were heaps of Painted Finches, Spinifex Birds (4) all very obligingly
easy to see, Dusky Grasswren (1), Variegated Fairy-wren (4), Grey-headed
Honeyeater (2), Crested Bellbird (1), and Little Button-quail (2) .
I headed back to Alice and looked through the fence at the STP, managing to
see a few of the more common water birds, Whiskered Tern and a Black-tailed
I spoke to Chris Watson, a local birder, about my experience on Santa Teresa
Road and he said you need to be there at dawn for the Emu-wren to have the
best chance of seeing them , I had arrived at 7 A.M. .
Chris very kindly offered to take me out the next morning , confident we
would see them. He picked me up at 5.15 A.M. but unfortunately there had
been 30mm of rain overnight, was still raining heavily , and Santa Teresa
Road was far too wet to even attempt to drive out . Disappointed , but
resigned to the fact that perhaps we could do some birding on bitumen roads
closer around Alice. After another hour of fruitless driving around out to
Simpsons Gap and back via Honeymoon Gap we decided to call it quits with an
awesome total of 2 species, the ubiquitous Magpie-lark and a rain sodden
It will go down in history as the lowest ever total !
Chris had work to do so I did get back out again throughout showers during
the day and made the total a little more respectable.
On the drive into Simpson's Gap again I came across a single Major Mitchell
Cockatoo flying with a single Sulphur-crested Cockatoo which I think is
believed to be a local escapee ? There were also two Brown Quail feeding at
the side of the road, having to reach up to pluck off grass seeds. I again
drove back via Honeymoon Gap , stopping at the swampy area at the back of
the Treatment plant where I added Black-winged Stilt, Black-tailed Godwits
(4), Greenshank (1), Wood Sandpiper (1), Cattle Egret (1), and Australian
Hobby (1) to the list.
Something put up a whole heap of birds from the centre of the swamp which
had not been visible through all the tall grass , and whilst I scanned the
myriad of Grey Teal and Black Duck for a Garganey ( wishful thinking ) , my
eye was distracted by a tight flying group of 4-5 dark brown birds with
clean white rumps , my impression being Oriental Pratincoles, as the flight
and jizz looked right as well. They dropped back out of sight before I could
100% confirm the identification , so keep an eye out for them . With many
birds being recorded for the first or only a handful of times out there ,
anything is possible.
The next morning was fining up but we were flying off to Uluru. We managed a
trip out to Emily Gap on the way to the airport and added Yellow-rumped
There was a surprising lack of small birds , other than the two finch
species wrens etc, I saw no other Thornbills, Weebills, Gerygones , or
There was also a surprising lack of Raptors both in variety and in numbers
of common locals such as Black Kite and Whistling Kite.
I didn't go out to Kunoth Well and beyond. That would no doubt have added a
few more species, as would have a visit inside the STP. This was my fourth
trip to the area, so have experienced it all before, including in 2004 ( I
think it was ) after good rains as is the case now.
We have now seen the Todd River in flood twice, once more and we will be
So, if you haven't been out there yet , make the effort and you will be well
Uluru to continue.....
Lynn and Dick Jenkin
PO Box 92 Dungog NSW 2420
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