birding-aus Alice Springs Trip

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Subject: birding-aus Alice Springs Trip
Date: Thu, 18 Nov 1999 14:55:31 +1000
G'day all,
I had a flying visit to Alice Springs in the Northern Territory from the 27th
October to 31st October for a conference and I had a day and a half to have a
look around the area. Below are some of my highlights. The time I had was much
too short and I found that I was rushing through some areas, as I had to get the
hire car back by a certain time.

Kunoth Well, nw of Alice Springs, 27th October
I visited this site first. As I said I was rushed and only had an hour to look
around so I had next to no hope of seeing Grey Honeyeater, but I did manage to
ticks for me. The first was Red-backed Kingfisher about three klicks from the
turnoff to Hamilton Down Youth Camp and the second was a flock of about 50
Red-tailed Black-Cockatoos in trees at the bore itself.

Alice Springs Telegraph Station, 27th October
I visited this site mid afternoon and things were pretty quite. Highlights were
good views of another Red-backed Kingfisher, the antics of a couple of Rainbow
Beeeaters, and a flock of Galahs being disturbed from the grassed area by a
couple of Black Kites.

Alice Spring Sewage Works, 27th & 28th October
This is a great site for water birds and waders and it is great that the
organisation that runs the works encourages birdwatching. I had great views of
Sharp-tailed, Common & Wood Sandpipers, a Little Curlew on the 27th and a Marsh
Sandpiper on the 28th and a flock of a dozen Whiskered Terns on the 27th. One of
my trip highlights occurred here. I was watching some ducks on one of the ponds
when I heard a sound, like fabric being torn, from behind me. It was a Peregrine
Falcon that sped past me flying low over the pond and then flying back up high
and being joined by its partner. I don't know what speed it was doing but the
sound was amazing. 

Simpson's Gap, 16km west of Alice Springs, 27th October
I started by doing the Ghost Gum walk. I managed 2 ticks on this 15 minute walk.
First was excellent views of Grey-headed Honeyeater and the second was 5
White-backed Swallows flying overhead. I must admit White-backed swallows were
on my "must see" list and they are as gorgeous as I imagined. The walk into the
gap itself is amazing and definitely made up for missing out on Dusky Grasswren.
High up perched in a tree at the top of the right cliff was a lone Peregrine

Ormiston Gorge, ~140km west of Alice Springs, 28th October
After an early rise and an hour car trip to Ormiston Gorge I was rewarded with
another tick in the form of a pair of Mulga Parrots flushed from the roadside.
The day started murky and windy so I didn't hold out much hope of seeing Dusky
Grasswren and Rufous-crowned Emu-wren as I set out on the Pound walk. I started
with Western Bowerbird as I started the climb up the first hill and excellent
views of Grey-headed Honeyeaters feeding in some flowering eremophilas. Luckily
the rain only lasted half an hour and it was quite warm when I finished my walk.
Other highlights were 3 Spinifex Pigeons at the first river crossing Little
Woodswallow in the gorge and the sound of ripping air that announced another
Peregrine Falcon flying past, this time after a mid morning snack of Budgerigar.

The Ochre Pit, ~110km west of Alice Springs, 28th October
I had a quick stop at this location and saw 2 Variegated Wrens and a Spinifex
Pigeon under one of the picnic shelters out of the hot sun.  My trip highlight
came after turning on to Namatjira Drive, about one klick from the turn off to
The Ochre Pit, I saw a small bird cross the road in front of the car. The bird
had an obviously cocked tail. I immediately stopped and turned around to the
spot I saw the bird cross the road, got out of the car and listened. I
immediately heard the high, reeling call I had been hoping for and tracked down
the caller just over a bank beside the road. After searching at the "known"
locations for Dusky Grasswren and failing I had resigned myself to not seeing
them this trip, so it was with excitement that I feasted my eyes on three of the
beasties. I didn't get extremely good views as they were running around in some
undergrowth. They were interested in my pishing but not enough to come out the
open. After 5 minutes of watching they headed for some bushes further away and I
headed off.

Ellery Creek Big Hole, ~90km west of Alice Springs, 28th October
I only stopped briefly here as my time was starting to run out. It was great to
watch Beeeaters swooping over the swimming hole and quickly diving in to get a
drink. The hole also attracted White-plumed & Grey-headed Honeyeaters & Zebra
Finches for a midday drink.

Alice Springs Desert Park, 10km west of Alice Springs, 28th October
This is a great introduction to desert habitats and is well put together. There
are several aviaries with typical desert birdlife. It was interesting that in
one aviary a pair of Bush Stone-curlews had a chick and in another a pair of
Pied Honeyeaters were nesting about two meters from the glass wall. My last tick
of the trip was a wild female Crested Bellbird.

My trip list was 72 species, which I thought was great considering the limited
time I had. It is a great area to visit & I hope to revisit in the near future.
I would like to thank those people who have posted Alice Springs trip reports in
the past, that information was very valuable in planning my trip.

Pat Wyllie
Canberra ACT

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