Birds flock to the Red Centre after rains

By John Pickrell 7 November 2013
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After heavy rains early in the season, birds and other wildlife are returning to the desert in droves.

AG’s Deputy Editor takes a trip to Central Australia and reports back on the remarkable scenes playing out following this year’s heavy rains. Read more blogs in this series here.

WITH THE VAST AMOUNTS of rain that have fallen in Australia’s central deserts this year, birds are flocking in their droves to take advantage of the good times. Last year was the driest year on record for Alice Springs, but within just the first two months of this year, the town had been inundated with 400 mm of rain – more than it typically gets in an entire year.

Puddles of water, fresh green shoots and blooms, and a proliferation of small birds darting about are not what you expect to find at Uluru – Australia’s flagship icon of the desert – but this is exactly what greeted me when I arrived here from Sydney last week.

“The bright yellow honey grevilleas are flowering, succulents like parakeelyas are purple, sweet smelling cassias are erupting in yellow flowers and many wattle are blooming such as the witchetty bush and mulga trees,” says the web site of Uluru- Kata Tjuta National Park.

More than a quarter of Australia’s bird species are found in the Red Centre. Estelle Marshall of the NT Government’s Alice Springs Desert Park says that right now a variety of species can be found hiding in spinifex, dancing around waterholes or soaring over rocky ranges.

Anthony Molyneux, senior keeper at the park says that birds that you are likely to encounter include bee-eaters from New Guinea, rufous song larks, crimson chats, cockatiels, budgies and button quails. Black-, white- and pied honeyeaters are out in force feeding on flowers such as desert grevilleas. Migrating water birds such as wood sandpipers and black-tailed godwits are also in abundance, as are some bird of prey including black falcons and little eagles.
“There’s a swag of birds with the good conditions at the moment – just about everything is breeding,” says Anthony.

From 25 September to 3 October the park is celebrating Red Centre Bird Week, with a range of activities that will help you take advantage of the booming numbers of birds such as dawn birdwatching tours and a introduction to birdwatching course.

See the full schedule of events.