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Yulara to Alice: a Budgie bonanza!

Recent rains in the Red Centre have replenished waterholes and stimulated the growth of seasonally abundant seeding grasses. It's created ideal breeding conditions for the highly nomadic Budgerigar and birds have flocked to the area in their thousands. Pairs compete for space, where they lay ~4 to 8 eggs. Every hollow, nook and cranny is occupied and the Red River Gums that line watercourses are great habitat trees for the parrots.

A highlight of this leg was watching flocks of several thousand coming in to drink at Redbank Waterhole - what a treat! The sound of their beating wings was breathtaking. In the morning, huge flocks would cautiously come in, landing for just a few moments before taking flight. And while there is safety in numbers, this budgie boom is attracting many predators.

A pair of Australian Hobbies were nesting directly opposite our camp and budgies were on the breakfast menu. We watched in awe as a White-necked Heron swooped into grasses and caught a feeding budgie. Unfortunately for the heron, it lost its catch while repositioning the bird in its bill. Spotted Harrier, Brown Falcon, Whistling Kite and Nankeen Kestrel were seen courting/ nest-building in the area, too.

After lunch, we crossed the mostly dry riverbed and sat on a log by a pool of water. After a short time, a Grey Falcon passed overhead. Unfortunately, the bird didn't hang around for long and we lost sight of it as it passed over the treeline. Wowee, this spot really had the goods (but still no Princess Parrots). We celebrated a great day of birding with a drink, listening as the Red-tailed Black Cockatoos came into roost and watched as the sun went down through the trees. That evening we heard Australian Owlet-nightjars and Barn Owls calling, and spotlighted the owl above our camp during the night with a red-light.

Kings Canyon was quite the spectacle and we found a huge roost of Cockatiels in the area, who were feeding young. Rainbow Valley, renowned for its sandstone bluffs and ochre cliffs, was a great stopover on the way to Alice.

In Alice Springs, I searched for Dusky Grasswrens at Heavitree Gap (Ntaripe). It was an overcast and windy day but after three hours and a climb to the top of the range, I found a pair on a rocky outcrop. They hung around for a few seconds then disappeared. As rain droplets were starting to fall, I made my way down and headed back to camp.

It seems as though these grasswrens are everywhere - we sighted them at five other locations in the East- and West- MacDonnell Ranges. Just listen for their contact calls while walking around red rocky rangelands covered with spinifex.

Trephina Gorge and Ruby Gorge were spectacular, with Ruby offering some of the best bush camping in Central Australia. A high clearance four-wheel drive is essential to access this site but if you have the time, it's not to be missed. There was still plenty of water in June when we visited. In the West MacDonnell Ranges, Palm Valley is a must-see.

Black-fronted Dotterels have been a common sight in the area. Given my camera has barely seen the light of day, I thought I'd put the bins (binoculars) down for five minutes and take a photo or two, especially given the gorgeous light at Ruby Gorge.

Central Australia and its birdlife have been amazing but we've headed for warmer climes. Stay tuned for the next update, coming soon.

Side note: Driving between sites can be harrowing with hundreds of birds flying over the road. The Stuart Highway has a speed limit of 130 km/h and it can be a death trap for many birds. Slow down and enjoy the journey.

Thanks for reading.


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