During our first morning in the park it took us just an hour to find our first Black Grasswren. First spotted by Alexander, a co-operative pair were easy for us to follow during their morning feeding foray in rocky woodland a short distance south of Little Mertens Falls. Thanks to Frank O'Çonnor, Phil Maher and Don Hadden for their advice about sites to search. Not everyone is so fortunate; another birder who had been in the park for three days failed to find the species.
This is classic Black Grasswren habitat. We found our first pair at the site in the image above, then a second pair about 300 metres to the west. The birds favoured areas of large black boulders at the base of small sandstone escarpments, which fringe both sides of Mertens Creek. Spinifex and other native grasses were plentiful among the boulders, but the birds appeared to be very much associated with the rocks. We did not see them attempting to shelter in vegetation, as other grasswren species often do.
The birds generally kept to shady, sheltered areas between the rocks but sometimes their lovely chesnut upperparts could be appreciated in bright sunlight.
The grasswrens were occupied for much of the time searching for insects, especially among tangles of dead vegetation around the rock fringes. Often they associated loosely with Red-backed Fairy-wrens or Variegated Fairy-wrens.
The black-bellied male was much bolder but the rufous-bellied female (above) occasionally offered good views.
We found Black Grasswrens at a third site, this one some distance away along the newly contructed River View Track. A total of four birds, perhaps a family party, appeared to be resident in the area.
This is the view from the top of River View Track, overlooking the national park with seemingly plenty of suitable habitat for Black Grasswrens.