Simpson Desert Birds and Rodents

July 25, 2011

A brief trip to a remote desert area in search of rare desert birds and rodents.


An all too brief trip to a remote desert site turned up a multitude of rare rodents, a coupe of Letterwing Kites and a single solitary Grass Owl.

On the western edge of the Simpson Desert some 250km from Alice Springs there is a small nature reserve set up to protect some of the last surviving mature 'Waddywood' Trees, aka. Acacia peuce. This reserve is renouned as the top location in Central Australia for the rare and normally elusive Plains Mouse. These mice are hard to see in any normal outback year but in boom times such as we are experiencing now their numbers explode and they spread to far flung sites such as this. Letterwing Kites reached the site from their distant strongholds in the wake of an eruption of the chunky Long Haired Rat. The LHR reached this reserve sometime in summer and rumour has it that it was then while the roads to this region were closed due to flooding the Kites nested and fledged young here.

I travelled to the area in the company of a NTPWS Ranger and assisted with the patrol of the area and the gathering of biological records. Many notable rodents of many species were encountered and photographed. A pair of late-staying Letterwings briefly graced us with their presence and during one of our spotlighting forays a single Grass Owl was spotted- a significant record for the Red Centre.

Everything at the site was focussed on harvesting the rodent windfall: scores of raptors circled endlessly, after dark many barn owls quartered the land and even a fat dingo was seen hunting mice. A really spectacular event.

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Written by

Mark Carter


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