Photos & text © Don Roberson

For tourists like us, the "Red Centre" of Australia is the deserts around Alice Springs to Uluru [Ayers Rock], some 285 miles southwest of Alice by road. Our five-day visit in August was in the austral winter, and the weather was cold and very windy. We saw very few birds or mammals, but we did have Red Kangaroo Macropus rufus in the early morning during the drive to Uluru. A few large males were at roadside (one is above in the title shot), and we came upon a female and joey while walking through some desert habitat (right).

The mammal we hoped to see was Black-footed Rock Wallaby Petrogale lateralis, which are said to sun themselves in the rocky talus at Simpsons Gap in the late afternoon. We actually stopped by Simpsons Gap daily, but I saw only one wallaby late one afternoon (below left) while Rita missed it entirely. She must have been looking the other way (below right). [Okay, okay . . . so that is a statue at the entrance station to Simpsons Gap.]

As it turned out, there is a spot in Alice Springs where you can feed Black-footed Rock Wallabies out of your hand (right). It happens at 4 p.m. at Heavitree Gap Lodge, up against the rocky gap on the south side of town. Here you pay $1 for a bag of rabbit pellets, and you may even get three wallabies to share (see below).

Being right among the wallaby colony also may permit a glimpse into their family life, including wallaby sex and the results thereof — a mother and joey at the waterhole.


Our final stop during the 2008 trip was one day/two nights in Tasmania. It is a beautiful island with rugged mountains, rainforests, quaint old towns, and road signs you'll find nowhere else — like this one (above) featuring an Eastern Barred Bandicoot! We were hosted by my friend Murray Lord and his parents, Bruce & Gillian, whose lovely home overlooks Hobart's harbor. We saw a couple of mammals during the day, like this Tasmanian Pademelon Thylogale billardierii (right) and a Red-necked (Bennett's) Wallaby Macropus rufogriseus, but most mammals observations were at night. Among those we succeeded in seeing: Eastern Barred Bandicoot Perameles gunnii (below).

During our first night's walk with spotlights, in a little park at the local Hobart waterworks, we tallied not only the bandicoot — which is now endangered on mainland Australia and common only on Tasmania — but spotted Common Brushtailed Possum Trichasurus vulpecula in the trees (below left) and Tasmanian Pademelon on the lawns (below right). We also saw one Tasmanian Bettong Bettongia gaimardii, now restricted to eastern Tasmania with mainland populations extinct, but I didn't get a photo.

On our second night we spent several hours driving on back roads like this one (above) through the Wielangta Forest and surrounding farmland, hoping to see the Devil. The Tasmanian Devil Sarcophilus harrisii, that is. It was a cold, rainy night and we did not see any. Murray tells me, however, that a friend of his found one dead on the road in this area the next weekend. So although the world population has crashed with the spread of a facial-canker virus, there are still some present in these woods. So we did a night drive with spotlights that produced a nice tally of other marsupials: 38 Tasmanian Pademelons, 2 Tasmanian Bettongs, 2 Common Brushtailed Possums, and four Eastern Quoll Dasyurus viverrinus — the latter a much-wanted coup!

At the Lords' home in Hobart, an unexpected variety of mammals visits their backyard at night. These include Tasmanian Pademelon and Long-nosed Potoroo, a rabbit-sized hopping marsupial (above).

Perhaps most unusual was a midnight visit from the very rare golden morph of Brushtailed Possum. The Lords have kept track of the genealogy of these possums over the years. The one we saw (right & below) was brought to their window by its golden mother several years ago. That mother had been documented to bring babies born to matches with normal-colored males and a golden male. The "golden child" does not visit nightly, so we were very lucky to see it during our very short visit.

Perth to Albany, W.A.
Alice Springs to Uluru
One day in
page created 30 Aug-15 Sep 2008
© Don Roberson 2008