Birding in the Centre in drought conditions

To: "Birding-Aus" <>, "ntbirds" <>
Subject: Birding in the Centre in drought conditions
From: "Barry Bucholtz" <>
Date: Mon, 6 Jun 2005 08:58:00 +0930

Recent postings on birding-aus have accurately reported on the very dry conditions in the Centre and the resultant effect on birding. This is certainly true, but the upside has been good birding in some locations.

The big flock of Painted Finches at Glen Helen Gorge first reported by Neville Pamment numbers some 200 birds, and is truly a spectacular sight. Julie and I went birding along the West MacDonnell ranges on Saturday. Other highlights were 4 Ground Cuckoo-shrikes 4 KM E of the Ellery Big Hole turnoff, and at the lookout W of Ellery 4 Golden-backed Honeyeaters, large numbers of Grey-headed Honeyeaters and, of course, Zebra Finches, as well as Grey-fronted HE and Hooded Robin. Dusky Grasswren had been reported the previous week at the Ormiston Gorge turnoff, but we were not successful with that species.

At Glen Helen itself the obvious highlight was the flock of Painted Finches. These are in the area between the lodge and the gorge, and are almost constantly drinking at two small waterholes in the creek bed during the middle of the day.  Additionally, in the gorge were Little Pied Cormorant, Grey Teal, Hardhead, Black Duck, White-faced Heron and Coot. Three Wedge-tailed Eagles and a Whistling Kite were soaring overhead. On the return journey a Major Mitchell and several Red-tailed Black Cockatoo were observed.

The area around Kunoth is equally dry, and there has been a marked decline in the number of birds seen it that area lately. I have not seen or heard of Grey Honeyeater there in the last couple of months, although the usual Thornbill species – Slaty-backed, Yellow-rumped, Chestnut-rumped and Inland are still usually seen there.

A Grey Honeyeater was still in the Olive Pink Botanic Gardens early Saturday morning. There were seven species of Honeyeater in the one Ironwood tree at the one time.

There were Grey, Grey-headed, Grey-fronted, Brown, Singing, Spiny-cheeked and White-plumed as well as the ubiquitous Yellow-throated Miner sharing the tree with Port Lincoln Parrot, Red-capped Robin, Western Gerygone and Inland Thornbill. Several species of acacia are in bloom, providing the food source.

That spot is certainly worth a trip for any birder visiting the Centre now, with up to 34 species being recorded regularly in the Garden at the moment, and the added bonus of mid-twenty degree temperatures during the day, as well as the great café with Elaine’s home made cakes, lunches and great coffee. I am not a shareholder in same, but it does make the birding all the more salubrious.


Barry Bucholtz

Alice Springs NT



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