This was my first trip to Central Australia, and my first to the Northern Territory. It was a general holiday with my partner Matt, but naturally there was quite a bit of specific birding, as well as incidental birding along many of the walks and places of interest. Because I hadn’t been here before, I did concentrate more on seeing some spectacular places, rather than to go birding in some other areas such as the Alice Springs WWTP (not that this isn’t spectacular anyway considering the birds that turn up there). We flew to Yulara, picked up a 2WD hire car, spent three nights there, then drove to Kings Canyon for one night, then a long drive to Alice Springs where we spent four nights. I visited quite a few places along the way, some of which were more productive for birds than others. I ended up seeing 73 species, including 8 lifers (underlined in the text below) and heard a further 3 more.
Thanks to everyone who gave me advice on places to visit. In particular I’d like to thank Alan McBride, Chris Sanderson, Bob Cook, Paul Johnstone, Alan Morris, Dave Stowe, Clive Meadows, Susan Kozianski, Carol Probets, Murray Lord and all others who responded from birding-aus. I’d also like to thanks Tim Rogers of Yulara for his local advice, and to Gary Fry for his input. And thanks to Gary, Libby and Tom for their hospitality.
Spotted Nightjar (I did have a recommended area at Yulara, but frankly if a nightjar can catch insects in near zero weather, then good luck, I’m not going after it at that temperature);
Spinifexbird (was going to try Santa Teresa Rd for this and previous sp., but was warned against driving along it for safety reasons by local friends. The road had been recently graded, and then dried out, so covered with large patches of bulldust. Have to try this spot another time);
Striated Grasswren (despite many suggesting that the site at the Uluru sunset viewing carpark was pointless, on the advice of one birder who has seen them IN FRONT OF rather than behind the carpark 18 months ago, gave it a go when I finally worked up the rebelliousness to cross the fence which was covered with signs telling you to keep off. No luck, and most people say that the spinifex is way too young, however I was not really sure of my ability to age spinifex hummocks, and in favour of this site, the spinifex in front of the car park is much older than the stuff on the hill behind, where T&T recommend looking for this bird (but it may still only be a few years old?). Oh, and I didn’t use playback either. Let’s face it, if you can’t see a bird when it’s hiding in a spinifex hummock in an aviary in front of you, what chance do you have in the wild?;
Banded Whiteface(no luck despite trying at several sites, including the [in]famous Thomas & Thomas site north of Erldunda where a few Zebra Finches were all I saw in about 20minutes of scouring the bleak landscape, also missed it at a couple of other spots);
Chiming Wedgebill (tried sites/area recommended by two people with no luck, couldn’t hear them either);
Grey-fronted Honeyeater evidently this is a fairly rare visitor in the area
Heard but failed to see both Ground Cuckoo-shrike & Red-browed Pardalote. I managed to see Black-breasted Buzzard, Spinifex Pigeon, Dusky Grasswren, Redthroat, Slaty-backed Thornbill, Grey-headed Honeyeater, Western Bowerbird and Painted Finch.
Corvids – a special note
I have observed all Australian species of corvids (unless one splits the southern and northern populations of Forest Raven, in which case I have seen Relict Raven but not Forest Raven) with varying degrees of familiarity. The species with which I am least familiar is Little Crow, and those places where I have observed this well usually only have this species, or also Australian Raven in which case it was not difficult to distinguish between the two. On this trip I paid little attention initially to the crows thinking that they were all Little before realising my mistake a few days later. I can say that Little Crow was present at the Yulara wastewater treatment plant and corvids at Mt Ebenezer roadhouse were almost certainly this species, and that I definitely observed Torresian Crows in a number of places in the West MacDonnells including Palm Valley. I initially recorded a number of crows as Little Crows in Uluru-Kata Tjuta NP, but in retrospect cannot be a hundred percent certain about these, and roadside sightings were, for the most part, unidentifiable. The one roadside corvid of which I was certain was the single Australian Raven for the trip showed a large well-hackled throat pouch. Alas I should have been aware earlier
We dropped in to the Cultural Centre on the way to have a look at Uluru on afternoon of arrival, hoped to see at least a Black-breasted Buzzard. I asked one of the staff in the shop about this bird, which had been nesting near the buildings, but he barely recognized what I was talking about, and then said he had heard that but didn’t really know anything about where they were. We drove on around the rock, and did a quick walk along the Mala track, including the walk to the waterhole. This proved to be quite productive, in spite of the large crowds present. We had nice views of Tawny Frogmouth on side of track near waterhole, the only Grey Fantail of the trip nearby and our first views of Black-breasted Buzzard soaring high up in the sky against the rock. We also saw a pair of Redthroats (had to say we since Matt pointed them out first), in a thicket of Acacia olgana (Olga or Kata Tjuta Wattle) growing in a patch of bloodwood woodland near the track – I had to look towards the sun for these and it was only when a male flew into the tree showing the chestnut coloured patch on the throat that I realised what it was.
I returned the next morning after sunrise thinking that I’d beat crowds and noise, and already there were groups of people on the track (sigh). Additionally, it was howling a gale and bitterly cold, barely above zero degrees, so I saw nothing that time other than a Mistletoebird and the near ever-present Pied Butcherbird. I also walked a few km of the Liru Track before heading back to have my breakfast before the hotel closed the kitchen. The only White-browed Babbler of the trip was here, and first Red-capped Robins and Inland Thornbill, but it was still bitterly cold although less windy, probably colder because it was still in the shade of the rock. As I made it back to the Hotel, I discovered that this was the best time of the day for the birds (between about 8:30 to 10:30am)
We returned after breakfast to do the base walk, which took in the walk we had already done (twice for me). It was great to walk around the rock, nice vegetation, and surprisingly peaceful, since we didn’t see that many people on the base walk – I had seen quite a few doing it at 8am. This gave more views of Black-breasted Buzzard and superb views of Brown Falcons.
We stopped in to view the sunset the first afternoon at the designated carpark, once noted for its Striated Grasswrens. Saw lots of people and little else, although did get views of a single White-backed Swallow, and the first of many Black-faced Woodswallows. I returned the next morning at dawn, but even with less people I was less inclined to hop the fence to search for the grasswrens because I heard NOTHING, and it was bitterly cold (I had forgotten my gloves). Returned to this spot after doing the base walk, and did see Variegated Fairy-wrens near the car park. Eventually, I hopped the fence, feeling guilty of the impact I was having on the soil. Yes I know those signs were probably there to stop all the people who go to see the sunset climbing further so their pics don’t have other people in the foreground, and I’m sure that they weren’t going that far like birders would, nonetheless I felt bad, considering that the signs are every 10m or so along the fence. I saw no Striated Grasswrens.
We drove out to Kata Tjuta on 19/6, and stopped in at the lookout, which is about halfway out on the road to there from the park entrance. Saw little other than Crested Pigeons hanging near the carpark, but there was nice Desert Oak woodland with spinifex understorey; heard little over the voice of a loud child. We pushed on to the Valley of the Winds Walk. If you haven’t done this walk before, then I’d recommend it, birds aside. The scenery and views really are spectacular. There were quite a few birds around. Zebra Finches may be common, but the sheer numbers of them at one point early in the walk in a valley near the track just blew my mind away. And they were so tame they were feeding on seeds on the ground at my feet. Great views of Ringneck Parrots at a nest hole too, first spot I saw Western Bowerbird, and also the only spot where I saw Rufous Songlark. At one point on the track, a large corkwood (Hakea sp.) was in flower on the track and variously had Grey-headed, Spiny-cheeked & Singing Honeyeaters feeding only cm away from people’s faces and cameras.
We also did the Walpa Gorge walk – this was the one recommended as the easier alternative to Valley of the Winds, and when we first arrived, there were a lot of people on the track, but by the time we got to the end, we realised that quite a few must have gone only halfway before turning around - pity for them, because it was very cool and serene at the end. Saw no more new species, but still quite a few birds around, especially near the carpark.
We stopped in again at the lookout on the way back, and it was quite hot, probably the hottest day we were out there at perhaps 22 deg C. By the time I had walked up to the lookout platform, I hear a call which I recognised as Ground Cuckoo-shrike, near the track closer to the car park. When I got near that area, the sounds were coming from some distance away for the track and receding. They were probably moving along the ground, and as such were impossible to see through the spinifex hummocks. I also did do an illegal stop on the road between the lookout and the park entrance to look through some mallee woodland with spinifex understorey on sand dunes, but saw nothing (other than camel footprints, the closest I came to seeing a camel). Yes you are not supposed to stop along this road at any part, except for the car parks at the end, at any time, but people did, and obviously I lost my aversion for going off the track, but it’s a bit easier to do this when you don’t have a fence and all the signs in front of you guilting you up.
I know others have been less than happy with Uluru-Kata Tjuta NP as far as birding goes in that there are only limited tracks, you are not supposed to go off the track, can’t stop along the road system for much of it’s length, etc (perhaps not just because of possibility of blundering into sacred sites, but also to stop people just wandering off and disappearing in the desert). Nevertheless, it really was a great place, even aside from the birds, and I’d recommend it. And yes the entry fee is expensive, but the $25 is for 3 days, and considering that the other parks we visited were free, this certainly outweighed it, plus it’s nice to know that some of the money is going back into the local Mutitjulu community.
I actually saw my first new lifer of the trip in the hotel grounds as I was heading to get something to eat for lunch on the first day (17/6) – a Grey-headed Honeyeater. In addition to the gardens around the resort, the place is quite spread out, and has a lot of natural vegetation in the main part, and there are tracks going out into peripheral areas owned as Yulara land. I had had a few sites recommended, one of which was the Yulara Waste Water Treatment Plant. This was actually across the main road from the complex’s entrance, about 600m across a swale and over a dune. A large flock of Little Crows was hanging around the pond. I saw surprisingly few water birds on the small pond but did see Coot, Australasian Grebe and Grey Teal, also nice views of a flock of White-backed Swallows and Variegated Fairy-wrens. I also saw immatures & females of White-winged fairy-wrens here, but saw a male on the sand dune on the way back to the resort, and another on the resort side of the road. Unfortunately I didn’t see Banded Whiteface around here as I had hoped but that’s life. Another site, the rubbish tip road, had been recommended as mulga where you could find Redthroat, but being pushed for time and having seen this sp, albeit not particularly well, I didn’t end up making it. I saw my first Common Bronzewings of the trip as they flew through sand dunes as we were gathered for our lavish Sounds of Silence dinner – dinner under the stars. Nice but perhaps not the best time of year for it but if you rug up with enough layers it wasn’t that cold. This took us out on a track east of the main complex, and I could see that there were quite a few access roads around. These may have been banned for driving, but not sure if you had been walking along them in the day if that would have been ok. I could have explored around Yulara easily for a further day or more. Nobody stopped me or asked where I was going/what I though I was doing etc as I roamed clearly off the main roads and down some service tracks.
We stopped off along the highway so that I could check out sand dunes with mulga between Curtin Springs and the Luritja Drive intersection, in the hope of seeing Chiming Wedgebill, but didn’t see particularly much at all. From the car the first Hooded Robins appeared, and the drive offered quite a few common raptors. On the way back from Kings Canyon, driving along the next stretch of road through to Erldunda, saw first Wedge-tailed Eagles, one even on the road which didn’t move until we were almost on top of it, so we had great views as it was taking off next to the car. At the intersection with the Stuart Hwy at Erldunda, I saw the only Welcome Swallow of the trip.
Checked out a few places off the road but saw nothing more than Inland and Chestnut-rumped Thornbills.
Kings Canyon, Watarka NP
We did the Kings Canyon rim walk on the afternoon of 20/6. The track branches off from the Kings Creek walk which follows the canyon after about 150m or so form the carpark, and climbs steeply before reaching the plateau. Once on the plateau, I kept my ears and eyes out for many birds but at first there were none to be seen, probably because it was at the warmest time of the day. I saw my first Spinifex Pigeon up there, before descending down to near the creek in a gorge, and managed to approach to within a metre before leaving the bird which didn’t fly. The track dropped down and crossed the creek which was below in a gorge and accessed via a side track. Quite a few birds were down here, and it was a very peaceful spot. We were quickly joined by three Spinifex Pigeons which had been very well camouflaged until they moved. Overall, this was a stunning walk and worth it aside from the birds. By the time we returned to the carpark, I decided to head back and go a little way further along the King’s Creek track beyond the junction in hope of Dusky Grasswrens. I was not disappointed, and found a group of four in a dry creek bed before the junction (a spot we had passed earlier but evidently the birds were resting at the time). After travelling further and crossing the bed of King’s Creek I returned after seeing no more, and saw more again, this time further along the track just beyond the junction, picking their way over boulders at the base of the slope.
We walked along Kings Creek track the next morning (21/6) which travels up the canyon floor to a lookout platform. Another very serene spot, or would have been if it weren’t for the tourists discussing dementia in their elderly parents, past and present, at the top of their voice, and clearly not in any hurry to move on or shut up. Oh well, eventually the serenity returned. I did see a group of Dusky Grasswrens in the same area as first day, also saw one about 150m before the end of the track, picking it’s way through the rocks at the base of the slope and on the track – best views of this sp. for the trip. Also more of same species as previous day, including a flock of a dozen Spinifex Pigeons drinking from a puddle at the base of a tap near the carpark, accompanied by Zebra Finches.
Kings Canyon Resort
There is a nice short track which skirts through Witchetty Bush (Acacia kempeana) shrubland, which circles behind the resort over a low ridge. I really only had the last twenty minutes or so before sunset to do this I was presented with a flighty group of thornbills which definitely had some Chestnut-rumped, but also some dark eyed individuals which may have been Slaty-backed but I was uncertain. The dying light of the day cast a golden glow and made them all look much browner than in other light. There was another boardwalk track which is on the other side of the road and leads up to a ridge – I checked this out briefly the next morning at dawn but it was freezing and so if birds were present that I didn’t note which they were. Interestingly, Google Earth shows what looks like a waste water treatment plant some distance down a track which runs off form behind the camping area, and this could have been good to check out but I hadn’t even been able to find the resort before the trip on GE so will leave this til next time.
Most of the bird action here was near the carpark and in the early part of the walk. I’m not sure if this represented a sudden ‘dying-off’ of bird activity as the day warmed up, or just chance that this was where many of the birds were grouped at the time. I had a nice view of a Crested Bellbird in mulga near the beginning of the walk, and also saw a flock of Chestnut-rumped Thornbills, predictably with at least one dark-eyed individual whose identity I was uncertain (poor views, may have been Slaty-backed, but probably was a juvenile Chestnut-rumped). These were accompanied by a group of Splendid Fairy-wrens and a pair of Red-capped Robins. Otherwise, the birds were a selection of more of the commonly encountered species, but a major highlight was a Brown Goshawk in vegetation fringing the waterhole at the end of the track. Possibly if we had been earlier we may have seen more, and the birds did seem to quieten off in the hour or so that we were here. Masking this was the noise of people; it was a fairly popular track, at least when we arrived. To compound anthropogenic noise, this is a wheelchair accessible tracks which was surfaced with pebblecrete. Much of the looser surface material has worn off, so the effect is one of crunching though gravel for the entire walk, and everyone doing this does make it hard to hear birds. A definite get-there-earlier spot.
Thomas and Thomas’ Erldunda site
Sorry to those who have had success here, but this was a corker of a waste of time, perhaps the biggest waste in the entire trip. Unfortunately I was there at the hottest time, but remember that hottest equated to temperatures of barely 20deg, so it was hardly scalding. A single small group of zebra finches was the only sign of avian life in an area of approximately 300m radius. By the way, thinking of this, the 2 trees at this site are stated in the book to be 50m off the road, but at least 100m is more likely. I had hoped for Banded Whiteface, but alas not so. I am in no way “bagging out” gibber or saltbush country either, since I have had successful birding in this habitat in NSW before, it was probably just bad timing over a range of time scales from diurnal upwards. I know others have had luck here, and others haven’t, I fell into the latter, more popular division. Moving on…
After such an impressive flop of a spot north of Erldunda, and being the last stretch of a fairly long drive, I was not keen to stop along the Stuart Hwy. Only bird of note seen was an Australian Raven, approximately 30min before arriving in Alice. This bird was perched in low shrubs and calling, showing well developed throat hackles as it called (I presume from its posture that it was calling, because the throat was very well pushed out). It took some time to twig on this since it was a sight that I am used to seeing at home, so didn’t think it was unusual at the time.
We arrived in Alice Springs on the afternoon of 21/6 and stayed til 25/6. On arrival, we crossed the river as we drove out to our hotel on the southern outskirts of town and a Black-breasted Buzzard flew overhead, the first for some time. Around Alice I managed to tick Spotted Turtledove (hardly a trip highlight), and had great views from the restaurant at breakfast of a group of Grey-crowned Babblers outside the window. We visited the Olive Pink Botanic Gardens on 23/6 but didn’t note any birds since there were almost none. Once again this was a midday visit, but hardly hot.
West MacDonnell Ranges
Original intentions of visiting the East MacDonnell Ranges in addition to the West were shelved as we slowed towards the end of the trip and prioritised our remaining time. We drove out to the West MacDonnells on 22/6 looking in at the following five places along the way:
Ormiston Gorge & Pound
The Pound Walk at Ormiston started well, with quite a few birds near the carpark, including the only Brown Honeyeaters of the trip. As we ascended up the hill, I heard a Red-browed Pardalote down in the valley below, and had great views of a group of Black-footed Rock Wallabies sunning themselves. The early part of the walk through the hills before descending into the pound was a bit quiet, other than a Peregrine Falcon cruising overhead. Much of this area appears to be fairly recently burnt, as did plain which the track then crosses towards the first crossing of Ormiston Creek; only a few Spinifex Pigeons, Zebra Finches and the usual Pied Butcherbird broke the silence here. The track crossed the creek again, and in this latter part, much of the Spinifex appeared to be older, but I saw no Spinifexbirds or Emu-wrens. The trail eventually started to follow the creek as it wended its way through the gorge, and the first Painted Finches appeared, high up on the slopes. I scrambled some distance to get halfway decent views, but needn’t have bothered. As it turned out, we saw either several groups of these along the gorge, or we were trailed by the same flock following the length of the gorge, and had superb views towards the end of the gorge. A single Dusky Grasswren appeared in the gorge too. The carpark was a great spot for tame Western Bowerbirds (a pair), and also produced the first Peaceful Doves of the trip. The scenery was of course impressive and spectacular, perhaps one of the most spectacular parts of the walk.
Perhaps one of the nicest of gorges we visited, and helped along by the fact that hardly anyone was here. Since we were here in the middle of the day, it was quiet and I only recorded 8 species. White-browed Treecreepers are apparently found here, according to a sign in the carpark.
Ellery Creek Big Hole
A popular waterhole for humans, although the water is apparently very cold, the only waterbird present was a single Dusky Moorhen, apparently not a common bird in this part of the country. I walked along the Dolomite track, and saw a selection of the usuals but nothing new. Once again I heard a Red-browed Pardalote whilst on the walk, which sounded as if it was down in the River Red Gums on the creek bed some distance away. Obviously I was just not supposed to see this bird.
Nice and cool by the time we arrived, I had hoped for a few more birds but only saw White-plumed and Grey-headed honeyeaters and Torresian Crow. On the plus side I did get to see more Black-footed Rock Wallabies.
We didn’t get time to visit Simpsons Gap as well that afternoon, so we went back the next day but it was so windy I didn’t record any birds (although we did see more Rock Wallabies). There were a number of tracks at the base of the hills before reaching the gap which looked promising if time had allowed.
Kunoth Bore & Hamilton Downs Youth Camp Rd
Having driven the dirt access track to Serpentine Gorge in our hired 2wd and thus already broken the no dirt road rule, I was buoyed with enthusiasm for checking this site. I needn’t have bothered worrying about having a clean car. The Tanami Rd used to access these sites is sealed, although only in the classic old-Australian narrow middle-of-the-road sense, so overtaking another car meant driving part onto the dirt verge. Fine, done it stacks of times before. However, roadworks, specifically grading of the dirt verges, stretched for 16km, thus overtaking in the finished portion resulted in the car being covered in much dust. Far more spectacular was the need to overtake a tanker on the return journey, necessitating pulling over entirely onto the verge in an area where the soil appeared to have been ripped and wet, but not flattened, so by the time I got back thick red mud 15cm deep covered large portions of the car’s undersurface. I have yet to hear back form the hire company.
I stopped in at Kunoth Bore itself, and saw Galahs and Common Bronzewings near the windmill, a pair of Spotted Harriers flying off, and a Crimson Chat when driving form here to Hamilton Downs Youth Camp Road. The only tanks next to the windmill appeared to be above-ground, one with a great growth of reeds I it, and I mistook T&T’s dam adjacent to the well as being a now-barren, empty depression in the ground. There did appear to be some earth-walls some distance away but I was pressed for time so didn’t check was this T7T’s dam “nest” to the windmill? Subsequent investigations of Google Earth indicated that I had missed a decent sized dam. Damn.
I stopped at a number of spots from 3.5 to 6.5 km (from the turn off) on HDYC Rd and investigated the mulga on either side. First stop produced nothing which was quite depressing. Second stop did produce a flock of Varied Sitellas, of the northern white-winged race leucoptera. At the same stop on the other side of the road, I did see thornbills, but once again I managed to get a good view of one bird in a flock which turned out to be Chestnut rumped before the other shyer birds moved off so quickly I lost them. I stopped at what I took to be the famous ‘Eremophila patch’ which was a large patch indeed. I had had hopes of there being at least some flowers since I had seen an Eremophila sp. out at the first stop, but this had turned out to be a different sp. to that which dominated the Eremophila patch, and none of these were out. Nothing here at all, but in walking through mulga on the other side of the road, I came across Thornbills again, and I did finally get to see one Slaty-backed Thornbill quite well, and poorer views of others with it that looked like this sp. Typically there were a couple of groups of thornbills moving through each other, and I also did see both Chestnut-rumped and Inland Thornbills here too.
I stopped at the beginning of an area of bare ground on the left hand side of the road, approximately 7km down the road from the turnoff. This was probably only the start of this area because subsequent viewing of Google earth indicated that I had only reached the edge (love Google Earth) and reports of others may have been for further along. As soon as I got out from the car my attention was diverted to the other side of the road which was scattered mulga, and an old square wooden stock enclosure. This was my last chance for Banded Whiteface, so of course the first bird I was in this lightly wooded countryside was Southern Whiteface. I then saw movement out of the corner of my eye and realised that there were a group of Bourke Parrots sitting on the fence of the enclosure. As I approach more and more flew up from the long grasses where they were feeding, but a few remained on the fence and I had excellent views. This was definitely the birding highlight of the trip. I crossed the road and hoped for Banded Whiteface but saw the almost ever-present Black-faced Woodswallows, a couple of Australian Pipits, and a pair of red-tailed Black Cockatoos crossing the road. Perhaps if I had had more time and walked through this bare plain I would have seen more…perhaps.
Alice Springs Desert Park
As everybody who has been before whom I have spoken with has said, this is a great place. There is less emphasis on caged exhibits, and it’s not just about the animals, but about whole ecosystems. Three ecosystems are re-created in the park, and having supplementary watering, I saw a whole lot more plants here than I did at the Botanic Gardens. I have to admit that the whole park experience was enhanced by having a running commentary from the park manager, Gary Fry, a friend of friends of ours from Sydney.
The raptor show was great even if it didn’t have a Wedge-tailed Eagle as others had seen. Having an Australian Hobby fly so close past at high speed can take your breath away even though you can see it coming. The show also included Brown Falcons and Barn Owl, and two wild bird species joined in. The first was the almost ever-present Black Kite, but the second was a spectacular Black Falcon. The Black Falcon’s appearance drove the others away as it took up a perch approximately 150m away form the outdoor arena, but the Hobby wasn’t content to stay away and headed over to take on the much larger intruder. The Hobby managed to harass the Black Falcon into flight and then drive it away from the area; the sight of the small Hobby having a go at the larger falcon was one I won’t expect to see again in a hurry.
There were a number of aviaries, and perhaps the most impressive sight was that of the Princess Parrots, which took a while to find. Matt was so impressed by these beautiful birds I am already using this as a wedge to try to convince him that a trip up the Canning Stock Route should be on the cards for us. Despite looking for some time, I could not see the Striated Grasswrens in one of the aviaries; if I couldn’t see them there I probably had buckley’s of seeing them in the field.
I saw a number of species here in the park as free flying wild birds, including a single Bush Stone-curlew which hangs around on the other side of the wire from his captive congeners.
We drove out with Gary, his partner Libby and their young son Tom, to Palm Valley on 24/6 but saw 4 spp. of birds. It was very, very windy at times, and even at the “warmest” time of the day it was cool. I did get great views of a group of Variegated Fairy-wrens. The palm lined valley is very beautiful here, but it really is 4wd access only. Not sure of what species others may have seen here since I hadn’t heard from anyone who had visited.
Old Telegraph Station, Alice Springs
A great historic site, and a visit to the buildings is a must. It is a sizeable reserve and we didn’t have time to walk for more than 20min or so after we had seen the buildings so we wandered along the river. I had hoped to see Red-browed Pardalote here but no such luck, although I did hear Striated Pardalote. A nice group of Galahs were drinking from the pan evaporation device, and a group of Grey-crowned Babblers was not far away on the other side of the fence. This was also a site which could have been given more time.
(h) indicates that the species was heard but not seen.
1) Australasian Grebe: 1 at Yulara WWTP (18/6);
2) Grey Teal: 2 at Yulara WWTP (18/6);
3) Black Kite: Yulara resort grounds (17-20/6); several roadside between Yulara and Kings Canyon (20/6); roadside nearby Kathleen Springs (21/6); roadside Lasseter Hwy between Luritja Dv and Mt Ebenezer (21/6); 1 wild bird became part of raptor show, Alice Springs Desert Park (23/6); several over Old Telegraph Station, Alice Springs (25/6).
4) Whistling Kite: Yulara WWTP (18/6); Yulara resort (18/6); several roadside between Yulara and Kings Canyon (20/6); roadside Lasseter Hwy between Luritja Dv and Mt Ebenezer (21/6); Ormiston Pound walk (22/6); Old Telegraph Station, Alice Springs (25/6).
5) Black-breasted Buzzard: soaring above Uluru, seen from Mala Walk, Uluru (17/6); 3 sightings (same bird?) on Uluru base walk (18/6); Yulara resort (18/6); Walpa Gorge walk, Kata Tjuta (19/6); roadside nearby Kathleen Springs (21/6); Alice Springs, over Todd River in southern part of town (21/6) & over town, last bird for the trip (25/6).
6) Brown Goshawk: waterhole at Kathleen Springs (21/6);
7) Wedge-tailed Eagle: quite a few roadside Lasseter Hwy between Luritja drive and Mt Ebenezer, also on Stuart Hwy (21/6); Stuart Hwy N of Alice Springs (23/6)
8) Spotted Harrier: 2 at Kunoth Bore (23/6)
9) Black Falcon: 1 free roaming wild bird had interesting interactions with Aust Hobby which was part of raptor show at Alice Springs Desert Park – had scared Hobby away and then drifted off to sit on a distant vantage point and watch the proceedings. Hobby then returned, and chased the Black Falcon away, very game for a bird so much smaller in size. Apparently the Black Falcon is an unusual extra in the show, only ever been 6 times (23/6)
10) Brown Falcon: Yulara resort grounds (17/6); Uluru base walk (18/6); quite a few roadside on drive through West MacDonnell Ranges (22/6);
11) Nankeen Kestrel: Mala Walk, Uluru (17/6); Valley of the Winds walk, Kata Tjuta (19/6); Ormiston Pound walk (22/6);
12) Australian Hobby: 1 bird near houses at Alice Springs Desert Park (23/6).
13) Peregrine Falcon: single bird, Ormiston Pound walk (22/6);
14) Dusky Moorhen: one on Ellery Creek Big Hole (22/6);
15) Eurasian Coot: Yulara WWTP (18/6);
16) Bush Stone-Curlew: 1 bird, outside cage where same sp. inside, at Alice Springs Desert Park (23/6).
17) Spotted Turtle-Dove: Alice Springs, first seen near hotel 22/6, but well spread throughout town all days (21-25/6);
18) Peaceful Dove: 2 near carpark, Ormiston Pound walk (22/6); Ellery Creek Big Hole (22/6);
19) Common Bronzewing: 3 flew over sand dunes on Yulara land c. 1km E of main complex as we were awaiting our lavish dinner under the cold but beautiful stars (19/6); a few at Kunoth Bore (23/6).
20) Crested Pigeon: Mala Walk, Uluru (17/6); Kata Tjuta lookout, halfway to KT (19/6); Valley of the Winds walk, Kata Tjuta (19/6); Kings Canyon rim walk (20/6); Kunoth Bore (23/6);
21) Spinifex Pigeon: one on plateau, three flew down to waterhole on Garden of Eden side track, Kings Canyon rim walk (20/6), also 12 drinking at tap near carpark (21/6); several, groups and individuals, various points along Ormiston Pound walk (22/6);
22) Red-tailed Black Cockatoo: four birds flying over on approach to Kings Canyon Resort (20/6); pair flying over Larapinta Drive c 3km E of Simpson’s Gap turnoff (22/6); 2, Stuart Hwy N of Alice Springs (23/6);
23) Major Mitchell Cockatoo: single bird roadside Namatjira Drive feeding in low shrub on creekline, c. 10km W of turnoff from Larapinta Drive.
24) Galah: Yulara WWTP (18/6); Yulara resort (19/6); Kunoth Bore (23/6); Old Telegraph Station, Alice Springs (25/6).
25) Ringneck Parrot: Valley of the Winds walk, Kata Tjuta (19/6); Kings Canyon Resort (21/6); roadside from Luritja Drive (21/6); in gums on stream bed, end of Ormiston Pound walk (22/6); Alice Springs Desert Park (23/6); Old Telegraph Station, Alice Springs (25/6).
26) Bourke Parrot: Hamilton Downs Youth Camp Rd c. 7km from Tanami Rd, flock of c.30 in and around old stock enclosure, across road from bare gibber (23/6).
27) Tawny Frogmouth: pair roosting on low branch on side of track, Mala Walk, Uluru (17/6, 18/6)
28) Red-backed kingfisher: Valley of the Winds walk, Kata Tjuta (19/6);
29) Splendid Fairy-wren: Mala Walk, Uluru (17/6, 18/6); Kathleen Springs (21/6); some birds seen briefly & poorly at Alice Springs Desert Park (23/6) were possibly this sp;
30) Variegated Fairy-wren: sunset viewing area, Uluru (18/6); Yulara WWTP (18/6); Valley of the Winds walk, Kata Tjuta (19/6); Palm Valley (24/6).
31) White-winged Fairy-wren: heard in grounds of Yulara resort, near room (18/6); Yulara WWTP (18/6); Walpa Gorge walk, Kata Tjuta (19/6);
32) Dusky Grasswren: Kings Canyon rim walk (20/6) – 4 birds off to the left of the track just before the rim walk diverges from the canyon floor walk, I vicinity of small dry stream bed, another 3 birds (same group?) further along canyon floor walk between junction of tracks and where this track crosses the main creek. Another group in same vicinity as first spot (21/6) and a single bird at side of track, canyon floor walk, c. 150m before end of track; single bird at Ormiston Gorge (22/6);
Red-browed Pardalote (h): heard on Ormiston Pound walk (22/6) – heard from slope above road, being a fair way down below; also heard on Dolomite Walk, Ellery Creek Big Hole (22/6);
Striated Pardalote (h): heard but not seen at several locations, in River red Gums on stream beds, Ormiston Pound walk (22/6), Serpentine Gorge (22/6), Ellery Creek Big Hole (22/6) & Old Telegraph Station, Alice Springs (25/6).
33) Redthroat: pair in Acacia sp. thicket understorey with Desert Bloodwood (Corymbia sp.) on Mala Walk, Uluru (17/6);
34) Inland Thornbill: Liru Walk, Uluru (18/6); Uluru base walk (18/6); roadside Spinifex under Eucalyptus gamophylla mallee on sand dunes c. 20km N of Lasseter Hwy off Luritja Dv (21/6); in mulga off Hamilton Downs Youth Camp Rd (23/6).
35) Slaty-backed Thornbill: dark eyed briefly viewed birds which accompanied Chestnut-rumped Thornbills may have been this sp behind Kings Canyon Resort in Wicthetty Bush & Mulga (20/6) and also at Kathleen Springs in Mulga (21/6) but can’t really be certain, possibly immatures of the other sp.; possibly several, at least 1 ID’d in mulga off Hamilton Downs Youth Camp Rd (23/6) – mixing with Inland & Chestnut-rumped TB’s
36) Chestnut-rumped Thornbill: behind Kings Canyon Resort (20/6); Kathleen Springs (21/6); in mulga off Luritja Dv, c. 25 km N of Lasseter Hwy (21/6); in mulga off Hamilton Downs Youth Camp Rd (23/6); Alice Springs Desert Park (23/6).
37) Yellow-rumped Thornbill: Valley of the Winds walk, Kata Tjuta (19/6); Walpa Gorge walk, Kata Tjuta (19/6); Kings Canyon rim /gorge walk, near toilets (20/6, 21/6); Alice Springs Desert Park (23/6)
38) Weebill: Kings Canyon rim walk (20/6); Ormiston Pound walk (22/6); Serpentine Gorge (22/6); Alice Springs Desert Park (23/6); Old Telegraph Station, Alice Springs (25/6).
39) Southern Whiteface: Valley of the Winds walk, Kata Tjuta (19/6); Walpa Gorge walk, Kata Tjuta (19/6); in open mulga, Hamilton Downs Youth Camp Rd c. 7km from Tanami Rd, near old stock enclosure, across road form bare gibber (23/6).
40) Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater: Uluru base walk (18/6); Yulara resort (19/6); Valley of the Winds walk, Kata Tjuta (19/6); Walpa Gorge walk, Kata Tjuta (19/6); Kings Canyon rim walk (20/6); Kings Canyon Resort (20/6, 21/6); Ormiston Pound walk (22/6); Serpentine Gorge (22/6); Ellery Creek Big Hole (22/6); in mulga off Hamilton Downs Youth Camp Rd (23/6); Alice Springs Desert Park (23/6); Palm Valley (24/6).
41) Yellow-throated Miner: Yulara resort grounds (17/6); Uluru Cultural Centre (17/6); Valley of the Winds walk, Kata Tjuta (19/6); Kings Canyon rim walk (20/6); Kings Canyon Resort (20/6, 21/6); Ormiston Pound walk (22/6); Ellery Creek Big Hole (22/6); Alice Springs Desert Park (23/6).
42) Singing Honeyeater: Yulara resort grounds (17/6); sunset viewing area, Uluru (17/6); Liru Walk, Uluru (18/6); Uluru base walk (18/6); Valley of the Winds walk, Kata Tjuta (19/6); Walpa Gorge walk, Kata Tjuta (19/6); Kings Canyon rim walk (20/6); Kings Canyon Resort (21/6); Serpentine Gorge (22/6); Ellery Creek Big Hole (22/6); in mulga off Hamilton Downs Youth Camp Rd (23/6); Alice Springs Desert Park (23/6).
43) Grey-headed Honeyeater: Yulara resort grounds (17/6); Mala Walk, Uluru (17/6); Valley of the Winds walk, Kata Tjuta (19/6) – one corkwood (Hakea sp.) was thick in flower and growing on the trackside, and at times had this sp, SIHE & SCHE all feeding cm away from my face!; Kings Canyon rim walk (20/6); Kings Canyon Resort (21/6); Ormiston Pound walk (22/6); Ellery Creek Big Hole (22/6); Stanley Chasm (22/6);
44) White-plumed Honeyeater: Yulara resort grounds (17/6); Mala Walk, Uluru (17/6); Kings Canyon rim walk (20/6); Kings Canyon Resort (21/6); Ormiston Pound walk (22/6); Ellery Creek Big Hole (22/6); Stanley Chasm (22/6); Alice Springs Desert Park (23/6); Palm Valley (24/6).
45) Brown Honeyeater: a few near carpark, Ormiston Pound walk (22/6);
46) Crimson Chat: single bird flew across road near Kunoth Bore (23/6);
47) Red-capped Robin: Liru Walk, Uluru (18/6); Kathleen Springs (21/6); Ormiston pound walk, near carpark (22/6); in mulga off Hamilton Downs Youth Camp Rd (23/6); Alice Springs Desert Park (23/6).
48) Hooded Robin: several roadside as we were driving between Yulara and Kings Canyon (20/6); Kings Canyon rim walk/gorge walk, beginning of track near carpark (20/6, 21/6); in mulga off Hamilton Downs Youth Camp Rd (23/6);
49) Grey-crowned Babbler: Alice Springs, several seen from hotel window at breakfast (22/6); Alice Springs Desert Park (23/6); Old Telegraph Station, Alice Springs (25/6).
50) White-browed Babbler: Liru Walk, Uluru (18/6);
51) Varied Sitella: (white winged race): flock in mulga off Hamilton Downs Youth Camp Rd (23/6).
52) Crested Bellbird: roadside before sunset viewing area near Uluru (17/6); Kathleen Springs (21/6); in mulga off Hamilton Downs Youth Camp Rd (23/6).
53) Rufous Whistler: Mala Walk, Uluru (17/6); Valley of the Winds walk, Kata Tjuta (19/6); lookout to Mt Connor, Yulara to Kings Canyon (20/6); Kings Canyon rim walk (20/6); behind Kings Canyon Resort (20/6); Kathleen Springs (21/6); Ormiston Pound walk (22/6); in mulga off Hamilton Downs Youth Camp Rd (23/6).; Alice Springs Desert Park (23/6)
54) Grey Shrike-thrush: Mala Walk, Uluru (17/6); Valley of the Winds walk, Kata Tjuta (19/6); Kings Canyon rim walk (20/6); Kathleen Springs (21/6); Ormiston Pound walk (22/6); Serpentine Gorge (22/6); Alice Springs Desert Park (23/6)
55) Willie Wagtail: Yulara resort grounds (17/6); Uluru base walk (18/6); Yulara resort (19/6); Serpentine Gorge (22/6);
56) Grey Fantail: one bird, Mala Walk, Uluru (17/6);
57) Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike: Uluru base walk (18/6); Serpentine Gorge (22/6);
Ground Cuckoo-shrike (h): heard at Kata Tjuta lookout, halfway to KT (19/6) – was at lookout platform when I heard the weird sounding calls behind me, but by the time I was near where they were, they were obviously some distance away, moving on the ground invisible through thick Spinifex. Sigh…waited this long to hear them, probably have to wait twice as long to see them.
58) Black-faced Woodswallow: sunset viewing area, Uluru (17/6); Uluru base walk (18/6); Yulara WWTP (18/6); Walpa Gorge walk, Kata Tjuta (19/6); numerous on drive along Lasseter Hwy and Luritja Drive; Ormiston Pound walk (22/6); Serpentine Gorge (22/6); Kunoth Bore (23/6); in open mulga, Hamilton Downs Youth Camp Rd c. 7km from Tanami Rd, near old stock enclosure, across road from bare gibber (23/6).
59) Pied Butcherbird: Yulara resort grounds (17/6); Uluru Cultural Centre (17/6); Mala Walk, Uluru (17/6); roadside between Yulara and Kings Canyon (20/6); Ormiston Pound walk (22/6);
60) Magpie-lark: Yulara resort grounds (17/6); Kings Canyon Resort (20/6, 21/6); Kings Canyon canyon floor walk (21/6); Alice Springs Desert Park (23/6).
61) Australian Magpie: Uluru Cultural Centre (17/6); Uluru base walk (18/6); Yulara WWTP (18/6); Kings Canyon rim walk (20/6);
62) Torresian Crow: Ormiston Pound walk (22/6); ?possibly this sp. at Serpentine Gorge (22/6); Stanley Chasm (22/6); Palm Valley (24/6).
63) Little Crow: I put down a number of corvid sightings at Uluru and Kata Tjuta as this sp, but that was before I realised that both were present in the area, so may have also been Torresian Crows. Definitely a large flock at Yulara WWTP (18/6); Mt Ebenezer (21/6);
64) Australian Raven: roadside off Stuart Hwy, about 30min S of Alice Springs, calling from perch with obvious extended throat hackles (21/6);
65) Western Bowerbird: Valley of the Winds walk, Kata Tjuta (19/6); Walpa Gorge walk, Kata Tjuta, both near the car park and far up the gorge (19/6); Kings Canyon rim walk (20/6); behind Kings Canyon Resort (20/6); Kings Canyon Resort (21/6); Kings Canyon canyon floor walk (21/6); Kathleen Springs (21/6); 2 at Ormiston Gorge carpark – great views (22/6); Ellery Creek Big Hole (22/6);
66) Richard’s Pipit: 2, in open mulga, Hamilton Downs Youth Camp Rd c. 7km from Tanami Rd, near old stock enclosure and across road in gibber (23/6).
67) Zebra Finch: Uluru base walk (18/6); Yulara WWTP (18/6); Valley of the Winds walk, Kata Tjuta (19/6); Kings Canyon rim /gorge walk, near toilets (20/6, 21/6); Thomas & Thomas site 32km N of Erldunda – only birds there (21/6); Ormiston Pound walk (22/6); Alice Springs Desert Park (23/6).
68) Painted Finch: small flock(s?) at various points along Ormiston Gorge, Ormiston Pound walk (22/6) – initially the first seen were quite high up and I scrambled some distance up a slope to see them but either we encountered other groups as we walked along, or the same group followed us from one end to the other, and much easier to see and lower down at other end of gorge – stunning birds;
69) Mistletoebird: Yulara resort grounds (17/6); Mala Walk, Uluru (18/6); Kings Canyon rim walk (20/6); Kings Canyon canyon floor walk (21/6);
70) Welcome Swallow: single bird near intersection at Erldunda (21/6);
71) Tree Martin: Yulara WWTP (18/6); Alice Springs, especially over Todd River (21-25/6); Old Telegraph Station, Alice Springs (25/6).
72) White-backed Swallow: one distant, seen from sunset viewing area, Uluru (17/6); 7 at Yulara WWTP (18/6);
73) Rufous Songlark: Valley of the Winds walk, Kata Tjuta (19/6);