Alice Springs/Ayers Rock

Subject: Alice Springs/Ayers Rock
From: Nandini Kuehn <>
Date: Tue, 15 Sep 1998 22:02:14 +1000
I just returned from 8 days in Alice Springs and Ayers Rock.  Here are a few
suggestions for birders and updates on some of the sites in Thomas and
Thomas "Complete Guide to Finding the Birds of Australia"

First of all, an accommodation suggestion in Alice, Nthaba B&B Cottage
(08-8952-9003).  This is a very comfortable cottage behind the house of Anne
and William Cormack.  Not only is it very pleasant, but William is a avid
birder who has lived and birded in Alice for 12 years.  William took me out
my first afternoon and found Freckled Ducks (4) at the Alice Sewage Ponds
and showed me a very good area just beyond the Sewage Ponds where I saw
Red-browed Pardalote and Red-backed Kingfisher.

I went to Kunoth Well twice, but no Grey Honeyeater.  Did see Slaty-backed
Thornbill and Bourke's Parrots (they come to the water hole just west of the
windmill tanks at dusk).

William suggested Trephina Gorge (about 90k East of Alice) for Painted
Finch.  I arrived about midday and saw 20 repeatedly visiting the waterholes
in Trephina Gorge.  I did not see this bird anywhere else on this trip.

Visited Simpson's Gap early morning.  In spite of about 2 hours going back
and forth on the short trail in I did not see any Dusky Grasswrens on the
left slope or anywhere else.  I was there before the mobs of tourists, but
perhaps it was too chilly that morning.  The sun never did hit the slope.

Next went to Ormiston Gorge.  It is a fantastic place.  Spinifex Pigeons are
all over the campground/visitor centre.  In fact, as I walked towards the
men's toilet, 4 Spinifex Pigeons walked out!  Also got great looks at one
very cooperative Western Bowerbird while I was sitting at a table in the
campground.  The other birds were a little harder.  It took me a little
while to find the trailhead to go Counterclockwise on the Ormiston Gorge
Pound Walk.  You actually walk about 400 meters back out the road you enter
on and then see a small sign.  Don't head into the obvious Gorge itself.  I
spent many hours on the upper portions of this trail.  On the last half
kilometer before you get to the pass, I saw lots of Dusky Grasswrens.  This
made up for Simpson's Gap.  After hours of going through spinifex, I finally
got a good look at Spinifexbird.  Also lots of Grey-headed Honeyeaters.  No
Rufous-crowned Emuwren.  The view from the pass into Ormiston Pound is fabulous.

Next stop was Ellery Creek for a few more hours of trudging through
spinifex.  Finally got a very brief look at the Rufous-crowned Emuwren.

Then drove to the Banded Whiteface spot 21 k north of Erldunda.  This is
hard to pinpoint when you are coming from the north.  But I tramped around
for a couple hours one evening in what I thought was close to the right
spot.  No Banded Whiteface, but lots of Crimson Chats, several Orange Chats,
a few Southern Whiteface and an incredible Spotted Harrier that flew right
at me about 10 meters high.  The Desert Oaks Motel is a convenient
comfortable place to stay.  The next morning I went to exactly 21 k north,
found the two trees and spent a few hours wandering around.  Saw Cinamon
Quail-thrush, and several Pied Honeyeaters.  Went back to where I had seen
at least Southern Whiteface the previous evening.  After an hour of
frustration, finally saw one Banded Whiteface.  On the way back to the car,
when I was about 100 meters from the car, I saw 4 more!  This spot was 19.2
k north of the Shell Station at Erldunda.  On the west side of the road
there is a very large, heavy dark metal gate (very different from the miles
of barbed wire).  Cross the gate and go north about 100 meters and look in
the shrubby habitat (about 1 meter high).  Most of these shrubs looked dead.

Next I drove to Ayers Rock.  The whole Ayers Rock area is covered with
wildflowers right now.  They had 60mm of rain in July and one ranger said
now have the best flowers in 30 years.  Crimson Chats are everywhere.  Lots
of Pied and Black Honeyeaters.  Spent a few more hours of walking through
spinifex, this time looking for Striated Grasswren.  No luck at the site
across the road from the Sunset Viewing area or several other areas I tried.
Finally, after getting back to my car in the Sunset Viewing area, I heard
something unusual in front of the viewing area.  Sure enough, there were two
Striated Grasswrens.  Don't even think about this site at Sunset.  It is
very crowded.  But in the morning there is almost no one there.  

Finally saw a Black-eared Cuckoo.  It was 5 k down the road to the Olgas
(from the Uluru Highway).  It was in a flat area covered with 5 meter high
trees on the right as you go towards the Olgas.  

A great trip in a fabulous part of Australia.

Woody Kuehn

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