Journey to the Red Centre
Updated: Jul 12, 2021
After a few delays, we hit the road on June 1, 2021. Our first destination was Yeo Lake Nature Reserve, situated to the west of the Great Victoria Desert. The reserve, with its claypans and ephemeral drainage areas, is listed on the 'Directory of Important Wetlands in Australia'.
Entry was via the White-Cliffs Yamarna Road and the Anne Beadell Highway - dirt roads, accessible via four-wheel-drive. Most of the track had been recently graded, and is, presumably, maintained by the local mining tenement.
We arrived mid-afternoon and set up camp for the night. The old homestead still stands along with an outback shower, well, fire pit and a long drop. That evening we enjoyed hot showers under the stars and soup by the fire.
Birdlife in the area was relatively quiet with small numbers of insectivorous species - Hooded Robin, Inland and Chestnut-rumped Thornbills and Crested Bellbirds. We continued east towards Neale Junction Nature Reserve, stopping to search for Scarlet-chested and Princess Parrots.
The Marble Gum Woodland to the west of Neale Junction is truly spectacular and the density of Pied Butcherbirds and Crested Bellbirds was remarkable! If you plan to visit, allow time to explore the ~50 km of woodland before the junction, particularly if you're not heading back in the same direction. We enjoyed some great birding over a couple of days but the only parrots to be seen were Mulga Parrots and Australian Ringnecks. The habitat to the east and north was burned relatively recently and we didn't explore much to the south.
Finally, it was time to head north, along the Connie Sue Highway. This track was much rougher and slower than the Anne Beadell and a high clearance four-wheel drive is essential. Grevillea, Eremophila, Acacia spp. and an array of other wildflowers were in bloom from 50 km north of the junction, attracting White-fronted and Grey-fronted Honeyeaters. Further to the north were some very nice patches of dense, seeding Triodia covering red dunes. Unfortunately, no Sandhill Grasswrens were found so we continued our journey north, stopping at Ryan's Bluff for the night.
The desert lights were stunning so I tried my hand at some astrophotography. Definitely need more practice!
After some morning birding, we continued north and stopped over at a little bush camp just south of Warburton, where we found remains of stick-nest rats. In the morning we continued on and just before arriving at Warburton, came across a Dingo, who mistook our squeaky brake for a wounded animal and ran alongside the car for a while, even posing for a photo or two.
The next day, we continued on to the Northern Territory (NT) along the Great Central Road. The road conditions were good up until the NT border, at which point it became considerably more corrugated.
We stopped at Lasseter's Cave picnic area for a bite to eat and watched as the Pink Cockatoos came in to drink from a leaking water tank. We then continued on to Yulara, arriving well after dark having stopped to help an adventure bike rider with a damaged wheel rim.
Brett was keen to see the Finke Desert Race, so we continued on to Alice Springs for the weekend and returned to Yulara a few days later, to continue our journey.
On Tuesday morning we were treated to a sunrise chopper tour over Uluru and Kata Tjuta. The vast landscape was truly breathtaking. Photos don't do this special place justice but here are a couple more shots from the air.
No new birds for me up until that point but stay tuned for the next instalment. There's been some great birding since leaving Yulara! Happy days.