Desert critters

The desert at sunrise, the red sand, the spinifex golden in the early morning light… it speaks to my soul. I think I was born 20,000 years too late. I’m just home from an amazing trip to the Great Victoria Desert, 800km southwest of Alice Springs, and the Red Centre of Australia.


The Great Victoria Desert


Deserts are typically described as flat and lifeless but this area, north of Warakurna in Western Australia, is bordered by the ancestral mountains of the Rawlinson Ranges and is teeming with life – if you know where to look. We visited the area with the fauna and flora experts associated with Desert Discovery and their knowledge and advice was brilliant.

Glenn, Rachel and I walked a couple of kilometres from camp to a dry creek bed where we saw several bird species.

 Pied Butcherbird (Cracticus nigrogularis)


Pied Butcherbirds were confident around the camp despite the rare influx of people. These birds have a melodious voice which I find in complete contrast to their aggressive predation of small birds, mammals, reptiles and large insects. I find a similar contrast with the soft, snow-crystal look of its underparts compared with its large hooked bill.


Red-backed Kingfisher (Todiramphus pyrrhopygius)


Red-backed Kingfisher


Black-faced Woodswallow (Artamus cinereus)


This pair of woodswallows kept an eye on me while I was photographing the Red-backed Kingfisher. I took so many shots of the kingfisher only to find that the ones that were in focus weren’t perfect poses and the ones that were perfect poses weren’t in focus: such is bird photography, for me anyway. The second image shows a hint of the red on the kingfisher’s back.


As we walked along the red sandy track Rachel noticed some tiny tracks which eventually led to this large weevil.


Many thanks to the traditional owners of the Ngaanyatjarra Lands for allowing us to visit their beautiful country.

After leaving Desert Discovery we travelled back to Alice Springs via Uluru, Kata Tjuta, Kings Canyon, Ormiston Gorge, Ellery Creek Big Hole, Standley Chasm and Simpson’s Gap. Hopefully amongst the many reject images I’ll have a few gems worth posting.

Happy birding, Kim





10 comments to Desert critters

  • Rachel White

    Hopefully it’ll be the year after next 🙂 well I had to make myself useful somehow! :-))

    • lirralirra

      You were extremely useful, can you begin to imagine the bird call muddle without you! In four weeks it’ll be next year you’re coming over 🙂

  • Rachel White

    I want to go back! Everyone needs to get the chance to do such an amazing trip as Desert Discovery! It’s cold and horrible here at the moment so no birds would want to be out except the robins and pigeons! I loved looking for the birds with you even though it got very tiring at the best of time! What a brilliantly awesome experience! Wanna come home!

    • lirralirra

      You were amazing with the bird ID in the desert, you’re a natural born scientist (lawyer, pilot …). We’ll do something neat for your next visit too, I can’t wait!

  • Frank Wormald

    Wonderfully sharp photos Kim! and from members of the animal world that are seldom still for more than a few seconds unless your a raptor looking for a meal:) You have a great site here and I will pop into it more often now that I have the RSS feed bookmarked.

    • lirralirra

      Thank you Frank! I’m on a steep learning curve but am loving the challenge of it and especially loving being outside with the birds more often. If you get the chance can you let me know if the RSS feed works okay?

  • Carole King

    Hello Kim, What an amazing country we live in…I love the Kingfisher photos and that Weevil, looks like he is going to walk across the screen. I have noticed that the Woodswallows could do with a little bit of front light…a speedlight flash could probably help with that or check the direction of the sun and take the photo when the birds are facing the sun, I have been using this method when taking Flyball photos lately, I can really notice the difference when the dogs face into the sun, I can see the catch light in their eyes and the photo is so much sharper…also the correct shutter speed is important.
    I didn’t see this entry last week, don’t know how I missed it…but today I have enjoyed two entries…bonus.
    *The word described is misssing the ‘c’.
    Looking forward to your next escapade…

    • lirralirra

      Thank you for being my proof reader! I agree about the woodswallows. I took the kingfisher and woodswallow photos while they were sitting on the same tree. It’s weird how the kingfisher has catch light and the woodswallows don’t, it’s as if their black faces absorbed the light. I wish I could have gone back earlier or later in the day. I did think it made them look quite funny though, kind of disapproving, as if they were thinking ‘what on earth is she doing now?’ I look forward to seeing your Flyball photos.

  • Wow, what an amazing trip this must have been. I love the Pied Butcherbird, reminds me a little of our Loggerhead Shrike, they also have the hooked bill and sing songs but I think they are raptor wannabes! They are ferocious!

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