16 October 2017
Flying from Melbourne to Western Australia resulted in the addition of three extra hours of daylight and several time zone changes. We caught an early morning flight to Perth and was met by Lisa’s friend Andrew. Andrew and his wife Merilyn have graciously offered to show us around parts of Western Australia (Perth and points south) for the next ten days. Sweet.
After settling in at Andrew and Merilyn’s lovely home we went to nearby Herdsman Lake Regional Park. With skies threatening rain, and wind gusts over 25 mph., we forged on. Despite that, there were a fair number of birds present in the park. We were rewarded with lots of Purple Swamphens seen feeding on the grass in the park. An Australian Raven was being harassed by a Red Wattlebird and, funny thing, the Red Wattlebirds were being harassed by smaller birds.
We saw four Long-necked Turtles. After a good rain, which Perth recently had, the turtles come out of the water to lay their eggs. Andrew said they usually go to neighborhood gardens for egg-laying as the soil there is softer than in the park. Of course the poor turtles have to negotiate crossing the busy roads. Not all of them make it.
We also got to see some young hatch birds: Swamphens, Moorhens, Ducklings, Grebes, and Coots. I realized that while we’ve seen a fair number of young/baby birds over the years, I don’t think I’ve ever seen baby herons or egrets. I hope someday to see them. Guess I am never in the right place at the right time.
After Herdsman’s we came back for afternoon tea (coffee/tea and a sweet treat), then went out again to Bold Park, a forested park near Andrew and Merilyn’s home. Not much was moving due to the wind and it seemed as thought any bird landing on a tree was soon blown away. We were fortunate to briefly see a White-cheeked Honeyeater, which is a new bird for us. It was also good to just get out and walk.
17 October 2017
Today we went to King’s Park in Perth, spending the morning birding the grounds. Surprisingly we didn’t see any new birds, but lots of beautiful flowers and great views of the city center. From there we went to Alfred Cove to check out the waders. Here we saw the usual suspects (ducks, herons, egrets, cormorants), plus several Fairy Terns (a new species for us). We were hoping to see some shorebirds, but the water was too high. We ended out the day with a short trip to Freemantle, a nearby town with some old historic buildings. The town was hopping with tourists.
I plan to do a separate blog on the flowers of Australia, so many of the photos I took of the flowers in King’s Park will appear in that blog post.
18 October 2017
Off to Denmark, with an overnight stay at Narrogin. Although Denmark is only a 5.5-hour drive from Perth, we were booked at Barnia Mia to see some animals that only come out at night. Our first stop of the day was at Bungendore Park. We didn’t see or hear much, but as we were leaving Lisa saw a small bird that didn’t look familiar. It turned out to be a female Western Spinebill. A new bird for us. We got some decent looks of the bird, but hope to see a male later.
From Bungendore Park we drove to the Dryandra Woodlands, which recently became a National Park. This is a small area of woodlands in Western Australia. Most of what we’ve passed through on our way to the woodlands was farmlands. We checked out several places hoping to see the Numbat, a small marsupial with a very long tongue. This marsupial is diurnal so we were hoping to see it crossing the road or eating alongside. No such luck.
A big problem in Australia is the introduction of Red Fox, which prey on native animals. The population of marsupials have declined considerable as a result of the Red Fox and feral cats. The government of Australia has an active program to rid the country of these two nuisance species, including the use of poisons.
We did get several new birds in the Dryandra Woodlands, including the Rufous Treecreeper – a pretty little treecreeper. There were lots of them present. We also got to see and hear the Western Gerygone, which has a beautiful song. Hard to miss this bird’s song – very melodic.
We stopped for dinner at Old Mill Dam (dams here are essentially ponds) to eat dinner. When we got there we saw several Short-billed Black Cockatoos (aka Carnaby’s Black Cockatoos). They come to the dam to drink before roosting for the evening. We got good views of two on a dead tree limb, but too far away for decent photos. There were at least three other cars in the parking lot, and several people walking around with large-lens cameras.
After dinner we drove to Barna Mia, which is a predator-proof sanctuary located approximately 170 kilometers southeast of Perth. For $20 Aussie dollars you can experience up to six possible nocturnal creatures eating food put out by staff. We got to see four of the six animals: Bilby, Boodie, Mala, and Woylie. I didn’t take any photos and later wish I had. Fun to watch these animals eat and look right at you as they are doing so. Sometimes they would run right past your feet. If you are ever in the area, stop and partake of this experience. Well worth the money, which goes to the conservation of these animals.
19 October 2017
We spent last night in a hotel in the town of Narriogin. After an early morning breakfast it was off to Denmark with several stops along the way to check out birds (Lisa and I) and flowers (Andrew and Merilyn – well Lisa and I checked out the flowers too, and Andrew the birds).
At our first stop – the Foxes Laire – near town we were rewarded with a great sighting of a Red-capped Parrot – a new species for us. We also saw a fair number of Brown-headed, White-naped, and White-cheeked Honeyeaters. These birds were busy feeding on the flowering trees and shrubs. At one point, four juvenile birds flew to the shrubs within five feet of Andrew and I. Busy little birds, feeding away.
At our third stop, where we had lunch, Lisa and I were walking around checking out the birds when I spotted a Western Yellow Robin. We had been hoping to see this bird, and after several days of trying we were finally rewarded. As Jack would say – timing is everything.
We arrived in the town of Denmark around 2:30 pm, and stopped for mandatory afternoon tea before heading out to check the ocean and nearby beaches for waders (shorebirds to us in America). We did see several Pied Oystercatchers and a single Sooty Oystercatcher. Otherwise, no shorebirds. Andrew thinks the water was too high, and maybe a tad bit too early for waders. We did see two juvenile Pacific Gulls. Pacific Gulls have huge bills for a gull. Hard to miss.
20 October 2017
In the morning I walked Andrew and Merilyn’s property in search of birds, finding a Western Rosella (parrot) on the telephone wires and a Red-winged Fairywren flitting amongst the ferns – two new birds. There were a number of Baudin’s Black-Cockatoos flying over, along with lots of Red Wattlebirds and New Holland Honeyeaters. After breakfast, Lisa and I birded the neighborhood. There were lots of birds in the dense vegetation, including a female and male Western Spinebill. Glad we got a good look at these birds. We had seen the female Spinebill briefly the day before.
We then went to several beach locations with Merilyn and Andrew looking for the elusive Hooded Plover, which remained elusive. Considering there are only 600 Hooded Plovers left in the world, it isn’t surprising we didn’t see the bird. I was so hoping to see this species, but maybe next visit to Australia. We did get some really good views of the Baudin’s Black Cockatoo. No flyovers here, although they did fly in and land on vegetation a short 50-feet from us. It was easy to see their long bill, plus the red eye ring and black bills on the male, and the black/gray ring and light colored bill on the female. Yes, that close. Well not that we could see these features with the naked eye, but we could see them very well with our binoculars.
The beaches we visited were beautiful. Lots of impressive large rocks, and at Green Pools the beach was very inviting. I could have gone swimming in the ocean if I had brought my swimsuit. The weather was sunny and in the 70s. Lots of people out enjoying the beautiful weather. At Elephant Rock we had a Sooty Oystercatcher on the beach sticking its long red bill into the sand for worms. Every once in awhile the oystercatcher pulled out a long worm, consuming it. The bird didn’t seem to mind people walking the narrow stretch of beach.
Baudin’s Black Cockatoos
The fairywrens are my Australian favorite bird species. These birds were photographed in Merilyn and Andrew’s yard at Denmark. What a fantastic yard bird.
21 October 2017
Our goal today was to find three birds: Noisy Scrubbird, Western Bristlebird, and Western Whipbird. When I say find, I mean hear the birds. All three birds are very elusive and hard to see. The favored habitat is thick coastal heath. And guess what? We didn’t see them. I don’t think many people do as there aren’t very many photos out there of the birds.
Our first stop was Cheyne Beach where a friend of Andrew’s had given him some advice at where we might find the Noisy Scrubbird. No luck. These birds breed during the Australian winter months, so that is when they are most noisy. They get their name for a reason we were told. I just wish we could have heard the bird calling. We did find the White-breasted Robin, which we have been trying to find for the past two days. This is a small gray and white bird, and he showed himself nicely at the parking lot where we had lunch.
After lunch we went to Two Peoples Beach to look for the Western Bristlebird and Noisy Scrubbird. We were checking out the coastal heath shrubs when we heard the Western Bristlebird. The sound was very close. We looked and looked, but didn’t see the bird. We waited until the bird called again and then walked into the shrub. At one point I must have been awfully close to the bird because it stopped calling mid song. But try as I might, I could not see the bird or even movement within the shrubs. When we next heard it, the bird had moved off a short distance. We probably spent a good 30-45 minutes looking for the bird and seeing absolutely nothing. The vegetation is quite dense and the birds use the tunnels through the vegetation created by small nocturnal animals. Thus, it is very easy for these birds to move through the dense vegetation undetected.
The day was quite windy, which didn’t help any in our search for the birds. We left the area empty handed except for hearing the Western Bristlebird. We felt fortunate enough to have had that opportunity.
More Splendid Fairywrens …my favorite…
22 October 2017
Today we drove to West Cape Howe National Park in search of the Western Thornbill. This bird likes forested areas and we stopped at two different areas to search for the bird. As you can probably guess we didn’t find it during the first stop. We heard a lot of birds, but didn’t see much.
Our next stop was Shelley Beach. Here we got really good looks of the White-breasted Robin. Funny how you look and look for a species and then once you finally find it, they show up everywhere. The bird was hawking, although Lisa did see it drop to the ground and grab a worm. The bird was found adjacent to the parking lot and the restrooms, and rarely flushed when someone walked by to use the facilities.
In a grassy area near the parking lot were four Red-backed Fairywrens – two males and two females. I had seen one briefly two days ago, but today I got excellent looks and some fairly decent photos. It was fun to sit and watch them search for food, always flitting about. They don’t hold still for long.
We then proceeded to our second forested area to search for the Western Thornbill. This time we did get the bird, and we didn’t have to walk far into the forest. We didn’t get the best looks, but enough to identify and enjoy the bird. We also saw two Grey Fantails flying about – fun to watch them fan their tales – with one of them going to a nest. It looked as though they were “feathering” their nest. The nest was a small, round cup high in a tree.
Our final stop of the day was Monkey Rock near Denmark. We did a short hike to the rock and got great views of the surround area. On the rocks, we saw several skinks – Mourning and Common Southwest Ctenonus.
Tomorrow we leave Denmark and head back to Perth. Our time here has been great. This part of Western Australia is beautiful with its sandy beaches and rocky coastline. And Andrew and Merilyn made it special.
23 October 2017
Left Denmark today. We really enjoyed our time here with Merilyn and Andrew. What great hosts.
We did make several stops along the way to bird and for Merilyn and Andrew to note what plants were in bloom. They do this whenever they go to Denmark and back. They have set places they stop on the way to and from Denmark.
At one stop we had a Fan-tailed Cuckoo calling. At first we weren’t sure what it was, with Andrew thinking it might just be the cuckoo. So we played the call and sure enough the bird came swooping in to check out the competition. We had some great views of the Cuckoo, but not very good photos. As we were driving out there was a Stubble Tail, which we’ve seen in other parts of Australia. Here the coloring was not as black or dark as in New South Wales or Queensland. When you get too close to these reptiles they stick out their black tongue.
At another stop – Sullivan Rock – we got to see an Echidna (aka Spiny Anteater, although not related to the South America anteaters). This is a small solitary, egg-laying mammal with course spines and hair. When approached it will try and burrow into the ground or vegetation, which tried to do when we came close. In a way, its spines remind me of porcupine quills. At this same location we also saw a Rock Dragon. We’ve seen more lizards in Western Australia than any other location to date.
24 October 2017
We arrived back in Perth yesterday. This morning Lisa and I went back to Bold Park in the morning and birded. We had some great views of the surrounding area, a beautiful walk in the park, and enjoyed lots of various parrot species flying about, including the Rainbow Lorikeet.
We headed back to Andrew and Merilyn’s house for lunch, stopping at Perry Lake Reserve – across the street from Bold Park – to check out one of the lakes. At first it didn’t look like there were any birds on the water, but when we got a closer look we found all kinds of birds. There was a pair of Dusky Moorhens with a chick. The chick had already developed its bill like mom and dad, but otherwise was a little fuzzball. The European Coots had four youngsters that looked as though they had hatched only a couple days ago, except for one young bird that looked much older. Then, not to be left out, the Grey Teals had one duckling. The presence of a Brown Goshawk in Bold Park might be why there was only one duckling remaining. Finally there was an Australasian Grebe with two chicks, also quite small. So a pond full of chicks.
We also found White-necked and White-faced Herons, two Nankeen Night-herons, a Little Pied Cormorant, Purple Swamphen, and the surprise and delight of the day – a Buff-banded Rail, of which I almost got a photo. Those birds can sure move fast.
We spent a leisurely afternoon at Andrew and Merilyn’s home, with me being able to catch up on my blogging. Tomorrow is our last full day in Western Australia. I have really enjoyed this part of Australia, but I am sure it is because of our gracious and generous hosts: Andrew and Merilyn Burbidge. Thank you for everything. You are always welcome in Homer, Alaska, or wherever we may live.
25 October 2017
Today we headed south to check out some possible waders (shorebirds) at Peel Inlet. And indeed we did find some: Bar-tailed Godwit, Great Knot, Curlew Sandpiper, and some smaller shorebirds that were just a little bit to far away to identify even with my spotting scope, and the wind and rain. In addition to the shorebirds there were a fair number of Australian Shelduck. These are really beautiful ducks, but in the few times we have seen them they’ve been too far away to get decent photos. Dang. Also at this area we had some really nice views of the Red-capped Parrot – a colorful parrot species.
Our next stop was the Creery Wetland Preserve, but not much activity here with respect to shorebirds – except for the Common Greenshank. We checked out two other spots before settling in at Cafe 158 for lunch. They serve breakfast all day long, and since I like breakfast I ordered the French Toast. Haven’t seen french toast on the menu at any of the places we’ve eaten breakfast on this trip so this was a real treat. We then hit the road again to check out the Lake McLarty Nature Reserve, a Ramsar site. Ramsar sites are internationally significant wetlands. I concur that this is a great wetland site.
At McLarty we had our best bird sightings for the day. The lake had over 50 Black Swans, with many taking care of cygnets (baby swans). There was also a fair number of Shelducks present. At the parking area we heard a raucous call and found a young Galah high in a tree screaming for its meal. Galahs nest in tree holes and the youngster had its head sticking out the hole and one of the parents was busy feeding the youngster, jamming food into its demanding mouth.
We took a short walk down a dirt road and saw six or more Regent Parrots fly into the trees. Two sat nicely on a branch for us. Took us a while to identify the birds because in Western Australia they are more green than yellow, like in other parts of the country. We think there was a nesting pair nearby as there was at least one adult who stayed and kept watch over us as we watched.
Walking further down the road we were treated to four different raptor species: Osprey (sitting in a tree near a very large nest – we couldn’t tell if there was a bird on the nest), Whistling Kite (also sitting near a large nest – and again we couldn’t tell if there was a bird on the nest), a Nankeen (aka Australian) Kestrel (got good views of this bird in flight, when it was hovering), and two (Woohoo!!!) Swamp Harriers. We think the Swamp Harriers had a nest in the reeds along the lake and a Whistling Kite was harassing the harrier pair – probably trying to steal eggs or chicks to feed its mate or own young.
Alas it was time to head back to Perth.
Tomorrow we say goodbye to Andrew and Merilyn (they have been great hosts), and head to Sydney for the final part of our Australian journey. Until then …
IT’S A GREAT DAY TO BIRD