This report has been delayed for the reasons noted at the end of my fourth Australia segment, Darwin. My guide at Alice Springs, Mark Carter, took pictures along the way and agreed that I could use them in my blog. However, his equipment and the pictures were later damaged by the great Alice Springs flood, and although he indicated that he expected to be able to recover them, I haven’t heard from him yet and assume they could not be restored. I know most of you like pictures better than the words. As this report will be without pictures, I will try to keep the words to a minimum; just enough to record the highlights at Alice Springs.
I landed at the Alice Springs Airport around 9:00 a.m. on October 27th. Mark met me and we tried to do some birding but the outrageous winds kept most of the birds under cover and wore us down. We quit before we saw much that morning. I spent most of the day at my hotel, the Hilton Doubletree, where I did some window birding, caught up on my notes and enjoyed a couple of good meals. The list for the day, including the few we saw while we tried to combat the wind, was as follows: an Eastern (or bearded) Dragon (not a bird), Australian Wood Ducks, a tame Peacock in the Hotel garden, a couple of Black Kites, some Masked Lapwings, Crested Pigeons, lots of Galahs, an Australian (Pt. Lincoln) Ringneck (a parrot), a pair of Western Bowerbirds at their bower, many Yellow-throated Miners, a Grey-crowned Babbler, Australian Magpies, Magpie-larks, and a few Little Crows.
The most interesting “bird” event of the day was a raid by two Magpies on the tree-top nest of a pair of Yellow-throated Miners just outside my hotel window. The Miners had babies, but they only watched without confrontation as the Magpies consumed them. Not such a fuzzy spectacle.
The next morning a couple from England joined us for a very productive day of birding. Part of the day was spent in the country-side outside Alice Springs and part of the day was spent at the Alice Springs Sewage Ponds. The Sewage Ponds are extensive and held numerous birds, probably because it is one of the few reliable water sources in the area. Among my New Life Birds for the day were: Black-breasted Buzzard, Red-necked Avocet, Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Red-backed Kingfisher, Mulga Parrots, Budgerigars, Bourke’s Parrots, White-browed Treecreepers, Splendid Fairy Wrens, White-winged Fairy Wrens, Rufous-crowned Emu Wrens, Dusky Grasswrens, Grey-headed Honeyeaters, Grey-fronted Honeyeaters, a Crimson Chat, Orange Chats, Chestnut-rumped Thornbill, Southern Whitefaces, Banded Whitefaces, Little Woodswallows, Hooded Robins, and, at the cost of a lot of sharp little seeds stuck in my socks, Spinifex Birds. All in all, a really good day for new species. Not only that, but the beautiful morning hiking in the country-side outside Alice Springs was most agreeable.
We went out again the next morning and drove quite a long way south of Alice Springs to a unique geophysical area with many small rocks on the surface of the rolling landscape. Mark had a name for it, something like “grapple”, but I cannot now recall it. We spent most of the morning wandering about the rather barren landscape.
A flock of Cockatiels flew over. Not a good look, but another life bird for me. White-winged Fairy Wrens showed well. But the three prize birds of the day were well seen Cinnamon Quail-thrushes, a Chiming Wedgebill and Crested Bellbirds. All three were on my “hope to-see birds of special interest” list. By the way, if any of you would like to see what any of these birds looks like, just Google the name and images will come up.
Mark delivered me to the airport in time to make my noon flight. The few days of birding around Alice Springs produced 82 total species, of which 29 were new life birds. As this was the last of my five birding destinations in Australia, I had not expected so much. From Alice Springs, I flew at noon to Sydney and onward for the long trip home.
This was my third trip to Australia, and the only one dedicated largely to birding. The land with its vast open spaces of varied characteristics, and the people there, make it one of the most interesting and pleasant destinations in the world. This was probably my last trip to Australia, but I can imagine that if I were to have a good opportunity and the stamina, I would go back again. It is a birder’s dream. Thank you Australia.