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Alice Springs and Ayers Rock Bird Watching

Author: Carl from Pahrump
Email: carlball@yahoo.com (More Trip Reviews by Carl from Pahrump)
Date of Trip: October 2006

We forged a trail up the dry riverbed that was full of beautifully colored granite and polished rocks and boulders. We stumbled onto nesting Gray-crowned Babblers. They raised a loud ruckus and put on a visual display of flashing red wings to scare us off. We got pictures of the Mom and the little chick just out of the nest.

Further up river we scared up what we thought was a large gray dove. It landed again on a high limb with great light. It turned out to be a Collared Sparrowhawk.

We found ourselves up a dry creek with cattails and no path back to the Visitors Center. We decide to press on up-stream and eventually found a rough track that took us to the main road to the park. We were glad to get back to the car and eat lunch in air-conditioned surroundings.

avocet australiaAt 4pm we headed off to The Ponds with Will. Today we found the Yellow-billed Spoonbill, which has a bone gray bill, not yellow like it shows in the bird books. We also found the Little Grassbird after many attempts to entice it out of the brush with birdcalls. My favorite bird here was the Red-neck Avocets with their long turned-up bill. A close second is the Pink-eared Duck with zebra striping on the sides and a digging shovel for a bill (but it doesn't have pink ears).

On Oct 15 we went back to Konuth Well with Will. A couple from Maryland was there with their guide. Apparently they didn't notice that from where they were sitting they would soon be looking into the sun. We invited them to joint us at the other end of the pond for the bird beauty pageant.

First up were the Mulga Parrots dressed in shining green with yellow wing patches. Green and yellow Ringneck Parrots accompanied them with yellow necklaces around the back of their necks. Things heated up when the pair of Bourke's Parrot dressed in blue and pink, trimmed in black, landed beside the pond. Finally, Crimson and Orange Chats landed close to us.

brown goshawk australiaA raptor landed on the opposite end of the pond. The Maryland contingent thought it was a Collared Sparrowhawk. Will thought it was a Brown Goshawk. We decided it was a Brown Goshawk since we had seen a Sparrowhawk yesterday and this one was bigger.

We went for a Bush walk and saw a few small birds, but the best part was the Paper Flowers. They looked like miniature straw flowers and blanketed the ground -- a pretty amazing feat with so little rain.

We returned to the pond in time to catch Horsfield's Bronze-Cuckoo coming for a drink. We needed to eat and drink, so we headed to Long John Silver's back in town. It isn't part of the US chain, but they had good freshly prepared fish dinners.

We spent the rest of the afternoon at The Ponds trying to identify an unusual Peep someone had been seen earlier in the morning. Will found it with no trouble. We spent 2 hours studying the Peep, but still couldn't ID it.

It was a cold, windy and rainy on Oct 16 as we left Alice Springs heading south on the Stuart Highway. About an hour out of town we saw a flock of Major Mitchell Cockatoos.

We turned west on the Lasseter Highway toward Ayers Rock. Some places out here are as bare as Arizona, but most places have some vegetation, even if it is brown or charred, like California. We stopped to view Mt Connor -- we thought it was Ayers Rock at first. It looks like a flat top mesa similar to the ones you see in Arizona.

We stopped to see birds along the way including a pair of Wedge-tailed Eagles eating off the road. We saw a dead horse, cow, pig, and camel during the drive, and innumerable dead Kangaroos.

We arrived at Curtin Springs Cattle Station & Wayside Inn (RV Park) around11am. We had reserved a park model trailer here for 3 nights. In the afternoon, we drove 87 Km's to Ayers Rock. It cost $25A per person to get into the parks ($40US for 2 people). This is the first time it has cost to get into any of the national parks we visited.

It was stinking hot at Ayers Rock. We watched a young couple struggling on the "easy" part of the trail before they reached the wire rope you can hold onto for the steep ascent to the top of the Rock. We drove on.

There is a 10 Km trail and road around the Rock. We decided we could see enough from the car and just drove around. We did stop for a short walk to a permanent spring where we saw some Woodswallows and Hot-pink Lipstick Birds (a.k.a. Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater). Zebra Finches seem to be omnipresent.

ogles australiaWe drove 50 Km west to the Ogles (25.300S 130.698E). We stopped at a viewing area and saw people running back to their cars swatting flies. We put on our fly nets for the walk. We drove to some other viewing areas but didn't take any walks because of the flies and the mobs of tour bus people already on the trails scaring off the birds.

We drove back to Ayers Rock to watch the sunset. Most of the 4500 people a day that come here stay for the sunset. There are separate parking areas for cars and buses. It was definitely a tailgate party atmosphere. It's a misnomer to say people watch the sunset. What people actually watch is The Rock getting brighter before sunset and then getting darker. At its brightest it looked Ochre tinted with purple through my rose colored sunglasses. Without the sunglasses, it was just a dark rock.

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