Trip Report: Gemtree (Harts Range, near Alice Springs, NT)

Subject: Trip Report: Gemtree (Harts Range, near Alice Springs, NT)
From: "mat & cathy" <>
Date: Mon, 16 Apr 2012 10:39:20 +1000
Hello again,

Mum asked me to forward her report from a recent trip.



*                                    *
Mat & Cathy Gilfedder
Wildlife photography

Plenty of birds at Gemtree   24-25  March 2012

by Barb Gilfedder, President. Alice Springs Field Naturalists Club

Carmel and Cameron Chalmers invited the Alice Springs Field Naturalists out
to Gemtree to look at the birds. This is a tourist spot/caravan and camp
ground that I have always thought of as just for gem enthusiasts – a
jump-off point to the Harts Range gem fields. It proved to be a lot more
than that, and for me the highlight was definitely the three and a half
kilometer nature walk.

Six of us left Alice early and were impressed with the number of raptors
along the way – Brown Falcon, Whistling Kite, Wedge-tailed Eagle and
Black-breasted Buzzard were all identified by their underwing patterns.
Magpies, Black-faced Woodswallows, Zebra Finches and small flocks of
Budgerigars were also seen.

At the 63Km mark from Alice Springs we pulled off to view Yambah Waterhole,
the other side of the railway line. It was full of brown water, ruffled by
a surprisingly cool breeze. A dark-coloured Bearded Dragon was on the edge
not looking very happy, but I think it was probably still trying to warm up
for the day. A few Hardheads, Grey Teal and Australasian Grebes floated
near the opposite bank. A beautifully patterned Spotted Harrier delighted
us by flying through at tree-top level (the trees aren’t very big). In the
patch of Mulga where we parked the cars, Brown Honeyeater, Rufous Whistlers
and a Willie Wagtail attracted us with their calls. Then we spotted a Grey
Fantail twisting its way through the lower branches.

We stopped for lunch at a small roadside clearing. Flocks of Masked Wood
swallows filled the air. Pied Butcherbird, Australian Ringnecks, and
Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater were added to the list. And more raptors – Nankeen
Kestrel and Black-shouldered Kite put in an appearance.

Gemtree boasts a pretty dam opposite the reception building. This water
attracts a range of birds coming in for drinks as well as the Farmyard
Ducks. Carmel told us that a Nankeen Night-Heron and a Black Swan had both
been temporary residents there recently. While we were there Cameron was
concerned about the handsome Darter who was diving for his fish, but nice
to see the Darter.

The dam is also the start of the Nature Walk. This winds around the
property out of sight of the camp ground but never very far away from it,
and has several escape routes back to the camp for walkers who become
tired. The office lends out full-colour printed guides for the walk,
brimming with photos and descriptions of different habitats and particular
numbered plants, views and bird information. We were advised that if we
kept walking, it would take about an hour to complete, but being Field
Nats, it took us 2 ½ hours. There were certainly lots of things to see and
hear as we wandered through a variety of habitats. Although there were
areas that introduced Buffel Grass had invaded, there were also areas where
native grasses and shrubs dominated. I particularly liked the Mulga forest
where Splendid Fairy-wrens, Thornbills, Whistlers, Robins and Bellbirds
kept us searching. Towards the end of the walk the track goes through a
small creek. The birds in this area were amazing – lots of White-winged
Trillers, Hooded Robins, Crimson Chats, Horsfield’s Bronze Cuckoo and I had
great views of a Crested Bellbird, a bird which I so often hear but rarely
see. There is a choice of paths near the end of the walk and we chose the
low road along the sandy river bed. Flocks of Budgies were keeping busy
high in the stately River Red Gums, while a Common Bronzewing fossicked in
the sand.

As we came out of the creek, a pile of old logs in the shade made a welcome
sitting point as we watched Cockatiels, Ringnecks, Mulga Parrots, Galahs
and even a group of Red-tailed Black Cockatoos.

After dark the Boobook Owl was making his comforting call and we woke in
the morning to the distinctive Spotted Nightjar’s call.

Jim and I moved on before lunch, heading east and then north to have a look
at the new Mac and Rose Reserve on MacDonald Downs Station – destination
for a future Field Naturalists trip. Later we went home via the Pinnacles
Track, a very pretty alternative to the bitumen.

Many thanks to our fellow campers and to Carmel and Cameron Chalmers for
making us feel so welcome.

63 bird species for the trip, 51 of these were at Gemtree, marked with +.

Carmel keeps a list of birds seen at Gemtree, over 100 of them, and is keen
to add new sightings to it.

Birdlist for the trip

Australasian Darter +

Australasian Grebe

Grey Teal


Little Button-quail +

Brown Quail +

Black-shouldered Kite

Spotted Harrier +

Black Kite +

Black-breasted Buzzard

Whistling Kite

Wedge-tailed Eagle

Nankeen Kestrel

Brown Falcon +


Southern Boobook (heard) +

Spotted Nightjar (heard) +

Diamond Dove +

Crested Pigeon +

Common Bronzewing +

Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo +

Galah +

Australian Ringneck +

Mulga Parrot +

Cockatiel +

Budgerigar +

Horsfield’s Bronze-Cuckoo +

Rainbow Bee-eater +

Masked Woodswallow  +

Black-faced Woodswallow +

Western Bowerbird +

Spendid Fairy-wren +

Chestnut-rumped Thornbill +

Yellow-rumped Thornbill +

Inland Thornbill +

Striated Pardalote +

Red-browed Pardalote +

Singing Honeyeater +

White-plumed Honeyeater +

Grey-fronted Honeyeater

Grey-headed Honeyeater

Yellow-throated Miner +

Crimson Chat +

Pied Honeyeater +

Brown Honeyeater +

Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater +

White-browed Babbler +

Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike +

White-winged Triller +

Rufous Whistler +

Grey Shrike-thrush +

Crested Bellbird +

Pied Butcherbird +

Australian Magpie +

Torresian Crow +

Little Crow +

Willie Wagtail +

Magpie Lark +

Grey Fantail

Hooded Robin +

Australasian Pipit +

Mistletoebird +

Zebra Finch

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