It's late afternoon and I sit by Birthday waterhole with my binoculars at the ready. I've been keeping an eye on the resident birds - there are three Australian hobbies hanging around. Surely the budgerigars are nervous nesting in adjacent trees. Every now and then there is a chattering from the hobbies and if I'm quick I'll spot one chasing something - the favourite quarry seems to be bronzewings though the latter are certainly swift enough to give the hobbies a breathtaking run and I didn't spot any being taken.
Only a couple of trees down the creekline is a pair of Brown goshawks nesting too. And a squeaking that I originally attributed to branches sliding over one another in the breeze turned out to be a pair of Major Mitchell Cockatoos feeding quietly in the same tree. A wallaroo casually hops over the rocky ridge behind the waterhole.
The River red-gums (Eucalyptus camalduensis) dominate this sandy riverbed like so many others. Immense and valuable trees, contorted and buffeted by flooding river flows, they form plenty of hollows.
After dark I go walking, first around the waterhole where a solitary Spencer's burrowing frog (Platyplectrum spenceri) sits at the chilly water's edge. Then up the ridge. The eyes of flat-rock spiders shine out from impossibly thin cracks in the quartzite. One slightly larger crack houses a handsome marbled velvet gecko (Oedura marmorata) tucked well away. The rocks are littered with rock wallaby scats though none made an appearance.
Descending again, I follow the gravelly riverbed upstream. It's a cold evening and these nocturnal walks haven't been yielding much but they're a good way to warm up before bed and there's sometimes something of note. On a separate rocky outcrop I come across the beautiful Centralian treefrog (Litoria gilleni), only the second one I've seen and a real stunner to top off the all-round great day.
Dawn had found me drinking tea and watching the sunrise atop Brinkley's Bluff, a towering peak of the Chewings Range in the West McDonnell Ranges. It was day seven of an eighteen day walk. The Larapinta trail. Starting at Alice Springs, the trail stretches 223 km through the West MacDonnell ranges to finish at the peak of Mt Sonder near Redbank Gorge. The trail passes or penetrates the numerous gaps, gorges and chasms cut through the Chewings and Heavitree tranges; it climbs to peaks and bluffs with panoramic views; it encounters riverbeds of the oldest rivers in the world. It crosses the exposed strata of ancient mountains past, it crosses the plains left by aeons of deposition.