Alice Springs Trip report
11 — 15 July 2010


It was great to see Alice Springs’ Todd River flowing in July. The area had received good summer rain and it had rained in the weeks prior to our arrival. Indeed, during the tour, the skies opened on a number of occasions.  A torrent was also coming down the Finke River, south of Alice. What a contrast to the 2009 tour when drought rendered the area bone dry. Last year’s drought had us working hard for our target species. This year we worked hard to find our target birds among hundreds of zebra finches, diamond doves and budgerigars. This was particularly true on the Tanani Road where zebbies and diamond doves were in good numbers.

Also in good numbers were
rufous songlark, white-winged trillers, crimson chat and little buttonquail. There were plagues of large grasshoppers about the district, which along with the bird numbers boosted the raptor population. I‘ve rarely seen more spotted harriers and Australian hobbies anywhere. Other raptors recorded were black-breasted buzzard, black-shouldered kite, brown goshawk, collared sparrowhawk, little eagle and all the more common species.

While many of the migrating and nomadic species were in significant numbers, most of the resident species were still in low numbers. For instance, grey honeyeater was scarce with only one adult male seen (last year we saw two or three). Possibly the female was on a nest as the male was quite territorial.  With much of the mulga dead in this area, it will take some time for this species' numbers to recover. Conversely, slaty-backed thornbills were in much better numbers than last year; possibly they had retreated to the ranges last year and had returned to the plains with the good rain. Dusky grasswrens were scarce but were at least breeding with one of the two pairs seen with a couple of recently fledged young in tow. Rufous-crowned emu-wren and spinifexbird were easier to find this year than last and have probably bred. The nomadic painted finches were in better numbers than in 2009.

Surprisingly, we dipped on
spinifex pigeon — perhaps they had dispersed to the ranges. Budgerigars were still breeding along the redgum-lined creeks. Young budgies, currently calling from hollows, and will take to the sky in tremendous numbers in the coming months. Major Mitchell's cockatoos were seen for the first time in the ranges west of Alice; I’ve only seen them south of Alice previously.

The daily checklist of all species seen
Some tour photos

Some highlights: 
Brown quail
: a covey of about ten flushed on the Tamani Road in mulga country while we were doing reconnaissance just prior to the start of the tour — my first sighting recorded for the Alice Springs district.

Australian wood duck
: one at Alice Springs STW.

White-faced heron: a few about the ranges and at Alice Springs STW.

Black-shouldered kite: a few pairs seen northwest, west and south of Alice Springs.

Black-breasted buzzard: pairs seen northwest, west and south of Alice Springs; one pale immature bird seen south of Alice — six birds in total.

Spotted harrier: about fifteen birds seen northwest, south and west; highest numbers (about eight) along the Tanami Road where little button-quail and grasshoppers were plentiful.

Brown goshawk
: three in the ranges west of Alice; one Tanami Road.

Collared sparrowhawk
: less numerous than brown goshawk, only one seen Tanami Road.

Little eagle
: three birds seen west and south of Alice.

Australian hobby
: collectively good numbers (eleven birds) northwest, south and west.

Peregrine falcon
: one bird Glen Helen Gorge.

Baillon’s crake
: one bird seen Alice Springs STW.

Spotless crake
: at least one bird calling Alice Springs STW.

Australian spotted crake: several birds calling Alice Springs STW.

Buff-banded rail
: one bird seen Alice Springs STW.

Black-tailed native-hen
: about ten birds seen Alice Springs STW

Little buttonquail: Big numbers in the mulga country northwest of Alice and lesser numbers seen west and south of Alice.

Black-tailed godwit
: three seen Alice Springs STW

Red-necked avocet
: about ten birds at Alice Springs STW, which was surprising given the amount of water around the district.

Inland dotterel
: pair and three immatures on the stony plains north of Erldunda.

Red-kneed dotterel
: two at Alice Springs STW.

Banded lapwing
: a couple of adults and immatures on the Tamani Road and with inland dotterel north of Erldunda. 

Diamond dove
: hundreds along the Tamani Road; lesser numbers west and to about 50 km south of Alice.

Red-tailed black-cockatoo: small flocks around Alice.

Galah
: few mainly around town.

Little corella
: few mainly around town.

Major Mitchell’s cockatoo
: two pairs along the creek lines west of Alice.

Cockatiel
: small flocks northwest, south, east and west of Alice.

Mulga parrot
: a few pairs northwest, south, east and west of Alice.

Budgerigar: flocks of up to two hundred birds seen northwest, south and west of Alice; breeding along the creek lines west of Alice. 

Bourke’s parrot
: unconfirmed sightings of two possible pairs along the Tamani Road.

Pallid cuckoo: about ten birds seen or heard northwest, south and west of Alice.

Horsfield’s bronze-cuckoo
: about three birds west of Alice.

Barn owl
: one road kill south of Alice.

Red-backed kingfisher
: over twenty birds seen all around Alice. Only one bird seen on our 2009 trip.

Sacred kingfisher
: a few about the gorges.

Rufous-crowned emu-wren: one male seen well between rain showers west of Glen Helen. About five groups seen or heard Santa Teresa Road on the pre-tour reconnaissance (we were not able to get back out that road due to wet conditions during the tour).

Dusky grasswren
: pair and two recently fledged young near Ochre Pits; pair Santa Teresa Road, pre-tour.

Red-browed pardalote
: moderately common west of Alice; a few heard elsewhere.

Redthroat
: pair in the ranges near Glen Helen.

Western gerygone
: one pair in mulga country along Tamani Road, pre-tour.

Slaty-backed thornbill
: several groups in mulga country along Tamani Road.

Yellow-rumped thornbill: surprisingly scarce, just a couple of pairs along Tamani Road.

Southern whiteface
: also scarce, one call heard along Tamani Road.

Banded whiteface
: pair in stony bluebush country north of Erldunda.

Grey-headed honeyeater
: a few pairs about the ranges.

White-fronted honeyeater
: two birds in flowering mistletoe on mallees west of Glen Helen.

Pied honeyeater
: two or three birds, including an adult male in stony country west of Glen Helen.

Grey honeyeater:
one bird seen in mulga along theTamani Road on the pre-tour reconnaissance, 9 July, and the same bird seen on the tour on 14 July.

Crimson chat
:  small flocks all about the Alice, mostly immatures or birds in eclipse. Some males in full colour and calling — probably about the nest, west and south of Alice.

Chiming wedgebill
: one pair in acacia woodland north of Erldunda.

Grey fantail
: several birds in mulga country in the ranges, presumedly of the central Australian subspecies with almost all white under tail feathers.

Ground cuckoo-shrike
: pair with an immature along Tamani Road.

White-winged triller
: good numbers all about Alice.

Masked woodswallow
: good numbers out the Tamani Road and west of Glen Helen.

White-browed woodswallow
: one with masked woodswallows west of Glen Helen and one pair with assorted species south of Alice.

Western bowerbird
: just a few birds about the gorges and in Alice Springs; lovely bower seen in Alice.

Zebra finch
: hundreds on the Tamani Road and many elsewhere.

Painted finch
: about forty pairs and quite localised; mainly in the Ochre Pits area.

White-backed swallow
: a few about the Alice STW.

Rufous songlark
: many singing males all around Alice.

Brown songlark
:a few northwest and south of Alice.

Spinifexbird
: six birds seen in spinifex country about the ranges west of Alice Springs; pair pre-tour in the same bush as dusky grasswren, Santa Teresa Road.