Two birders based in Brisbane (southern Qld) birding in Western Australia (Stuart Pickering and author Colin Reid) – Stu had been in WA before several years previously. We started in Perth and spent most of our time in the south-west corner, including two pelagic trips out of Albany. We also travelled north east to Mt Magnet (approx. 600 kms inland on about a level with Geraldton) and returned to Perth via the coast. A third birder – Dave Mitford from Sydney - accompanied us for the first four days.
Getting there and getting around:
We flew with Virgin Blue from Brisbane to Perth ($400+ return). We had hired a car from Redspot and I had picked the cheapest at $388 for the 10 days. I planned to ask for an upgrade but, unfortunately, there were none available and we were stuck with a blue Nissan Micra – very economical, but a little tiny at times….
Driving in WA was easy – the roads were in excellent condition and relatively empty. On the north east section there were huge road trains of 4 trailers apiece however the roads were wide and sealed and we had no issues – apart from the possibility of being blown away in our tiny vehicle…
Petrol varied in price from $1.48 to $1.88 (!) per litre. We drove 3,000 kms in the 10 days and spent approx. $300 - $350 on fuel.
We had gone prepared to camp, unfortunately the weather prevented us most of the time. We had, however, pre-booked a motel in Albany (Emu Pt Motel www.emupointmotel.com.au) for the Friday and Saturday nights – cost $50 each per night. This was a great choice, only 5 mins from the boat ramp, giving us somewhere to relax after a long day on the ocean on Saturday and a good night’s sleep before Sunday’s trip.
We enjoyed the comfort of an onsite cabin at Cheyne’s Beach www.cheynesbeachcaravanpark.com.au ($90 per night per cabin) on Sunday and Monday – mainly due to the inclement weather.
We camped in the Stirling Ranges on Tuesday but stayed in a motel on Wednesday night in Armadale ($140), while a storm blew itself out.
We stayed in shearers quarters on Kirkalocka Station www.kirkalocka.com 60 kms south of Mt Magnet on Thursday and Friday ($25 per night each – great value!) and camped in Lancelin on the coast north of Perth on our last night.($25)
Plenty of caravan parks and small motels in all areas – but spaces were very limited in the Armadale area, one caravan park told us they had nothing to offer at all. Most had cabins available for rent and some had cooking facilities for campers – but not all. Prices varied but camping was generally priced at less than $20 a night per person.
I am an Optus customer and had almost no mobile phone coverage. Stu was with Telstra and enjoyed nearly continuous coverage throughout. We both lost signal north of Perth until close to Mt Magnet (Stu only).
We did have wi-fi at the Emu Pt Motel and in Armadale, however, it was so slow in the latter it was inoperable and we didn’t try it in Albany. It’s probable that MacDonald’s would offer free wi-fi but we didn’t try and their stores were not widespread – at least in our area of travel.
Note: we did not travel through the Margaret River area or down the south western coast at all, sticking well inland until we reached Albany.
We had both prepared wish lists – as you do - for our trip. Stu, having been in WA before had seen some of the endemics, but was keen to re-visit them. We had made enquiries on recent sightings and continued to do so as we went. There are a number of sought after endemics in WA that are well known and specific sites that are regularly visited and reported on, the locals are well aware of their value to the local economy and help can be expected at Cheyne’s Beach at least!
We reviewed Frank O’Connor’s website, which, although dated, is accurate when directions and general information is required - birdingwa.iinet.net.au and Leeuwin Current Blog - wabirdingblog.blogspot.com.au where we got a of site info and directions as well.
Another excellent site which provides current up to date records is Western Australia Bird sightings - birdswa.org.au/sightings.htm
We took Pizzey & Knight’s Field Guide, had a copy of Onley & Scofield’s Albatrosses, Petrels & Shearwaters and Stu had the Morecambe Birds of Australia app on his mobile. We also had an updated copy of Thomas & Thomas Where to find Birds in Australia.
Trip Summary – birds.
As this report could be seen as very self indulgent I thought a brief overview of where we found the endemics and other personal lifers would cut to the chase for some readers – more detail can be found in the body of the text:
Black Cockatoo: There are two endemic Black Cockatoo species in south-western WA – Carnaby’s and Baudin’s or Short-billed and Long-billed. We saw one flock in Cheyne’s Beach but otherwise only in the Armadale area of Perth – the hills to the south of the city. Clear views of the bill is required to separate the species and a scope or good quality telephoto camera lens (or both!) are a necessity. Luckily the birds are big and very obliging – in that they are easy to spot in large flocks and perch up quite readily exposed for both viewing and photography. They move in mixed flocks, we understand, so individual identification is required. We didn’t see them anywhere else. We believe we did not see Carnaby’s or Short-billed anywhere – maybe the flock at Cheynes Beach ? but we didn’t get anywhere near them. We believe all the birds we saw around Perth were Baudin’s or Long-billed.
Western Rosella: first seen at Dryandra, then on several occasions on the road side south of Perth.
Red-capped Parrot: disappointing views in reality. A female first at Victoria dam just outside Perth and the odd bird along the road. No good views of a male – we heard they are in the minority.
Western Ringneck: easy to see and a smart bird. Numbers flying off the road side and recorded at almost every site we visited.
The three great skulkers: Western Bristlebird (WBB), Western Whipbird (WWB) and Noisy Scrub-bird (NSB). The best site for all three birds is well known – Cheyne’s Beach, 60 kms east of Albany. The only place to stay (literally) is the caravan park, with all the usual amenities for camping, cabins, caravans etc. The slopes behind the park and the scrub around the entrance road is the place to be. We saw the WWB & the NSB here. The whipbird was seen by another birder while we were there, but we got it at Betty’s Beach as will be described below. (Thanks JW!) Talk to the caravan park owner/managers for up to date information and a mud map. There is, of course, a fourth skulker – Western Ground Parrot. We didn’t expect to have any chance with this bird and didn’t try too hard for it. It is possible in WA but not on our trip.
Red-winged Fairy-wren: Most of the fairy-wrens we saw were in eclipse and caused some consternation in the beginning, however, it all became clear the more we saw. First a pair on the track above the dam at Victoria Dam – a brief glimpse of a fully coloured male here - followed by several eclipse type birds at the base of the dam wall, along with Splendid Fairy-wrens was initially challenging. Porongurup NP car park – heaps.
Blue-breasted Fairy-wrens: much more difficult. We tried for them in several viable locations with no success, finally raising a pair in Dryandra SF on Guar Rd, just past the Lion’s village.
White-breasted Robin: was one of those birds you worry about and think you’re never going to get and then later you’re pushing them aside to see something else! Another smart bird despite it’s bland look in the field guide. We had it first in Albany behind the motel, then several every day at Cheyne’s Beach and again at Porongurup. Admittedly we didn’t see any more but it was easy at those locations.
Western Spinebill: We didn’t see a lot of these. The first was a pair showing well at Victoria Dam as well as several fleeting individual glimpses of this highly active bird. Similar views at Cheyne’s Beach totalled our experience.
Western Thornbill: Dryandra going south and returning north - in the dry scrub around the dam. In the Stirling Ranges caravan park. On both occasions seen with mixed flocks including fairy-wrens and Inland Thornbills.
Red-eared Firetail: a gorgeous little finch, the only place we encountered it was in the Cheyne’s Beach Caravan park – close to the where the residents park their boats - and also briefly on the track near the public toilet, outside the caravan park entrance, close to the beach.
Western or Brush Wattlebird: race lumulta. Not considered a separate species by everyone, however, for the purposes of this report we will treat it as such. We were surprised just how difficult this was to find considering the number of Red Wattlebirds which seemed to be in all habitats. Local info provided by a couple of birders we met in Cheyne’s Beach had us stopping on the way to the main road approx. 10 kms from the caravan park where we came across 4-6 birds. This was the only place we saw this species.
Swan River Honeyeater: the western equivalent of the eastern White-naped Honeyeater. This is recognised as a separate species, but not labelled as such in all publications. We had numbers of them at Porongurup NP and the Stirling Ranges camp ground.
Western Yellow Robin: We did think we’d get this one easily – but we only saw it on the entry road to Porongurup NP and in the Stirling Ranges camp ground. Very responsive to playback and a very smart looking bird.
Western Shrike Tit: race leucogaster. Again not recognised as a separate species, but its only a matter of time! Shrike-tits are never easy birds being, I believe, very thinly scattered even where the habitat is perfect. We were lucky enough to have a pair showing beautifully in Porongurup NP car park.
Western Bowerbird: We hadn’t initially listed this as a possible as we were concentrating on the southwest area, however, things went well and we spent the latter part of our trip north east of Perth near Mt Magnet. We stayed at Kirkalocka station and were directed to a bower and a single bird.
Western Corella: We had thought this would be difficult – not necessarily to see, but try to pick one out of a flock of several hundred Little Corellas? As it happened we got lucky in a way – we had a flock of 300-500 Little Corellas in a field north of Northam but Stu spotted three birds in a nearby tree that proved to be the real deal. We also had several more on the road near Perenjori where we got excellent views and photos.
There were other birds of special interest to us as individuals, but not necessarily endemic to WA. These included Elegant Parrot, Slaty-backed Thornbill, Black-eared Cuckoo, Roseate Tern, Rufous Treecreeper and Purple-crowned Lorikeet. We also ticked Mute Swan at one of the few accepted wild colonies of this introduced species. These will be detailed through the report.
Dips and misses:
We actually didn’t ‘dip’ on anything except the introduced Laughing Turtle Dove which had the last laugh on me, as we were unable to find one in our last morning in Perth despite searching several suburbs and inspecting every bird sitting on the wires! We did, conversely, find Spotted Turtle Dove which we thought would be less numerous – go figure!
These are run on demand, on an annual basis only, at this time. This is due mainly to the remoteness of the location – i.e. the small number of birders in the immediate area and the cost and distance required to travel for eastern seaboard birders. Hopefully in the future these trips will increase in number as the potential for new species off the south-west corner of the continent is enormous – and the boat currently in use very comfortable.
Regular species off Albany include Soft-plumaged Petrel and Little Shearwater, Yellow-nosed, Black-browed, Shy and Wandering Albatross, Wilson’s Storm-petrel and Flesh-footed Shearwater. Other species that showed up on our 2 trips, and are likely to re-occur, included South Polar and Brown Skua, Black-bellied Storm-petrel and Artic Tern. We also had a Fairy Prion and two other unidentified Prions. We had hoped for Sooty Albatross but were, unfortunately, disappointed
We used minimal playback throughout the trip – given time restraints and the difficulty of some of these species we make no apology for that use.
Common, every day, birds not included: An abundance of Red Wattlebirds all over and, in most places, White-cheeked and New Holland Honeyeaters, means these birds are not always mentioned at every location – but they were very common in suitable habitat. We had three possible members of the Crow family – Australian Ravens throughout our area of travel, Little Crow north of Perth and at Mt Magnet Toressian Crow was a possibility. We didn’t go out of our way to identify these species individually. We did note Ravens everywhere, a few flocks of birds north of Perth may have been Little Crows and we believe we had at least one Toressian at Kirkalocka station.
Thursday 1.5.14 Our Virgin flight was delayed at takeoff by 30 minutes and so we arrived in Perth at 22.00. Stu grabbed our bags while I negotiated for an upgrade to our booked Nissan Micra. Unfortunately there was no upgrade available and so we loaded up the boot, wound up the rubber band and headed for Terminal 1. Our friend Dave M was coming from Sydney on a different flight and, after some investigation, we believed it would be via Tiger Airlines landing at T1. This destination turned out to be 8 kms away – I think Perth airport is bigger than Perth itself – and required negotiation across miles of unlit road, still under construction, across barren wastelands and roadwork barriers to finally come to a brand new terminal lit up like a spaceport. On enquiry we found that, yes, a Tiger airlines flight was landing at about 23.30. We were ravenous by this time so took off to find an all night MacDonald’s where we inhaled a couple of burgers, frys and coffee/coke before once again journeying back to T1 – thank God the car was economical…..
The boot was already overfull with our suitcases and when I saw Dave’s trundling behind him like an escaped motorhome I was worried……but we managed to squeeze him and his trunk into the backseat and headed off to a friend’s place where we had been kindly invited to stay overnight, despite the fact that he himself was in PNG, his flatmate would let us in…
We finally arrived at 1.00am and visited each of the three floors and basement in the elevator before discovering the apartment was actually on the ground floor…..long suffering Adam patiently pointed out the rooms, beds, bathroom and returned to bed.
Friday 2.5.14 We got up and left as quietly as possible and headed directly for Victoria Dam. (Birding on the street outside the unit block produced Red Wattlebird, White-cheeked and Brown Honeyeater and Rainbow Lorikeets and Australian Ravens were seen on the cross town trip).
Took us about 45 minutes and we were able to park in the second car park. Note: At weekends the boom gate is down and you have to park at the first car park – this will entail an extra kilometre walk along the bitumen.)
Almost the first bird we saw on exiting the car was a female Red-capped Parrot perched up on a dead tree. The view didn’t last long, but a good start to the trip with Dave and I both getting a lifer.
We walked down the track towards the dam seeing several species as we went – White-browed Scrub-wren, Golden and Rufous Whistlers, Grey Shrike Thrush, Grey Fantail, Weebills were common along with White-cheeked and New Holland Honeyeaters in the low scrub bordering the track at the start. Once among the trees we found a pair of Western Spinebills that showed well and our second lifer.
Just before the top of the steps leading down to the dam wall a pair of Fairy-wrens attracted our attention and I had a glimpse of a male in full plumage. This was to be a rare event on our trip as almost all the wrens were in eclipse plumage – it was just a fleeting glimpse of both birds and we remained unsure as to exact ID but believed we were seeing Red-winged. On the dam wall we had a pair of Western Ringnecks (third lifer), a Peregrine Falcon flew overhead and a Great Crested Grebe and a perched Little Pied Cormorant were the only water birds on what appeared to be a reservoir in dire need of rain.
As we walked down to the base of the wall in search of the Firetail we found a pair of Inland Thornbills in a bush and on the grass at the base of the wall a mixture of eclipsed Red-winged and Splendid Fairy-wrens bounced around. Both had blue in the tail but the latter were very pale overall while the Red-winged had clear definition on the wings and head and was a much darker bird. No sign of the Firetail though.
Back up the steps and a Western Gerygone showed interest, we repeated some of the previously seen birds, had some debate over the ID of a couple of Whistlers and found a pair of Scarlet Robins.
We headed south to Armadale and stopped for another Mackers meal. Not long after leaving the eatery, as we went uphill on a divided double lane, a cry of Black Cockatoos came from the back seat and I quickly executed a u-turn, parked up and we ran across the road and back up the hill. The birds did perch up in clear view and I struggled to get the scope set up. Unfortunately by the time I did, they had decided to move and we didn’t get another as clear a view of them. We drove on.
Our next destination was Dryandra State Forest. We reached the ‘Lion’s village’ in this relatively small patch of woodland in the middle of agriculture and barren land just after lunch time. Walking through the trees around the dam we had a mixed flock of Yellow-rumped Thornbills, Red-capped Robin, Silvereyes, Inland Thornbills and our fifth lifer for the day – Western Thornbill. A few minutes after and Dave called me over for my sixth –and one of the birds of the trip for me – Rufous Treecreeper, completing my Australian treecreeper family.
We gathered on the road and met up with a local birder – Wayne. He drove on and we started to walk back to the car when a cry of ‘Rosella’ started some of us running. Speed wasn’t essential as the pair of Western Rosellas were feeding quite contentedly under some low trees and although partially obscured, provided adequate viewing. A Jacky Winter popped up for a few minutes and a Yellow-plumed Honeyeater put in a brief visit. We also had Singing Honeyeater, Scarlet Robin, Striated and Spotted Pardalote, Western Spinebill and some very confiding Magpies with the classic white back of the southern race.
On then to Albany and we arrived in the dark to find a much bigger town than we had expected after coming down through the tiny villages in the interior. We found our pre booked motel – Emu Point Motel at www.emupointmotel.com.au and checked in. Unpacked and into town for a takeaway. We surveyed the options….and chose the Italian place for takeaway pizzas. Very disappointing – undercooked and doughy – maybe somewhere different tomorrow night? We visited the IGA and picked up some snacks and lunch for the pelagics, then retired for the night.
Saturday 3.5.14. Up to a cloudy, wet looking morning following an obviously wet night. Down to the dock and, eventually, onto the boat. The seas were predicted at 2.5 – 3 meter swell, with the wind as 10-15 knots. I thought the swell size a bit big for the wind, but it was accurate and we had a bit of a wild ride out through the heads.
I include the official report provided by the trip organiser John Graff:
This trip was another excellent trip, continuing the recent success of early May trips from Albany – at least18 tubenose species were seen, a record for Albany pelagics, highlighted by several prions, including a Fairy Prion (a rarity in WA). A South Polar Skua (and probably a second) were also seen, strengthening suspicions that the species is a regular passage migrant off the WA coast in April-May – unfortunately views were frustratingly brief and distant. Although we saw a good variety of species, total albatross numbers were notably low.
We left Emu Point a little after 0700, and picked up the first Flesh-footed Shearwaters as we crossed King George Sound. A few people also had brief views of three Little Penguins, and we stopped briefly for a close pass from a Humpback Whale. We passed through the heads, but there was little activity initially. We did eventually hit some activity, with a Hutton’s Shearwater and the first White-faced Storm-Petrel making an appearance. A Little Shearwater was seen briefly off the bow but as is frustratingly often the case with this species, it quickly disappeared amongst the waves. The major excitement came when two skuas were seen ahead. The nearer of these was a nice pale intermediate South Polar Skua. The second was probably another one, but no-one was able to get IDable views. Unfortunately, they both continued purposefully east. The first Wilson’s Storm-Petrel was seen soon after, but things quietened down for a period until we approached the shelf edge. Albatross were almost non-existent, with two Shy Albatross the only ones seen on the entire outbound journey. As we approached the shelf break, we picked up the first Great-winged and Soft-plumaged Petrels, and a giant-petrel was seen briefly – views were insufficient to confirm the species with certainty, though it appeared to be a Southern.
We stopped the boat in 800m of water and started to chum. The Flesh-footed Shearwaters and Wilson’s Storm-Petrel started to gather immediately, and were joined by an immature Black-browed Albatross. The numbers of storm-petrels grew quickly, and within minutes the call went out for Black-bellied Storm-Petrel, which made a pass across the back of the boat allowing excellent views. This proved to be the first of many, as up to five individuals were ever present in the slick for the rest of the day, making many close passes of the boat. Great-winged and Soft-plumaged Petrels made regular passes, along with Shy Albatross and the first Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross of the day. After an hour and a half or so, we moved back up the slick as far as the skipper was able to follow it. The numbers of Wilson’s Storm-Petrel in the slick continued to grow, with Black-bellied and White-faced Storm-Petrels joining them in smaller numbers. Then the call went out for a Wandering Albatross, which made a circuit of the boat before disappearing. The plumage characteristics of this bird made taxon identification uncertain, with any of exulans, gibsoni or dabbenena possible. Two sharks were seen near the boat in the area, the first was considered to be a Blue Shark and the second a whaler sp. (possibly a Bronze Whaler, but there are at least two similar species that would be inseparable on the views obtained).
We made our final move of the day at midday, travelling out to 1000m of water and setting out a new slick. Not long after stopping, an adult Campbell Albatross made a pass, but otherwise it remained quiet until a container ship passed in the mid-distance off the stern. The call went out for a Wandering Albatross (most likely gibsoni), which was rapidly followed by an old immature or sub-adult Campbell Albatross, and then a third Wandering Albatross for the day. This Wanderer landed at the back of the boat, the first time one has come into the boat for several trips – the extensive white in the plumage suggested this bird was most likely exulans. The major excitement came shortly afterwards, when a prion was called in the slick. Widely varying opinions were voiced on the identification; this may be explained by the two-bird theory as photos suggested there may have been two birds present; a Slender-billed Prion and a Fairy Prion. The Fairy Prion showed reasonably well in the slick, and a number of photos were obtained. Unfortunately, no conclusive photos of the possible Slender-billed Prion have been obtained, so it remains unconfirmed. Fairy Prion is a particularly good record; the species is considered rare in WA waters and this is the first record for a WA pelagic trip.
We had to head for home at about 1400, but within minutes of commencing the return journey another Prion was seen off the stern and we stopped the boat. Unfortunately the bird did not hang around, but photos indicate it was an Antarctic/Salvin’s type, with the size and shape of the head suggesting Salvin’s Prion. However, after discussion, it was concluded that conclusive identification was not possible on the available evidence. A shark was also seen briefly while we were stopped. The rest of the return trip was relatively uneventful aside from a couple of Black-browed Albatross, although it was interesting to see both Wilson’s and White-faced Storm-Petrel within King George Sound. We docked relatively late, a little short of 1700. As always, many thanks to all the participants, and to Tony and Fred from Spinners Charters.
Species List [Total Count (Maximum no. seen at one time)]
Little Penguin 3 (3)
Wandering Albatross [sp] 3 (1) – 1+ exulans, 1 gibsoni
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross 6 (2)
Black-browed Albatross 4 (2)
Campbell Albatross 2 (1)
Shy Albatross 12 (2)
Giant-Petrel sp. [probably Southern] 1 (1)
Great-winged Petrel 35 (6)
Soft-plumaged Petrel 25 (3)
Antarctic/Salvin’s Prion [probable Salvin’s] 1 (1)
Slender-billed Prion 1 possible (1)
FAIRY PRION 1 (1)
Flesh-footed Shearwater 150 (30)
Hutton’s Shearwater 3 (2)
Little Shearwater 1 (1)
Wilson's Storm-Petrel 500 (85)
Black-bellied Storm-Petrel 30 (5)
White-faced Storm-Petrel 12 (1)
South Polar Skua 1 (1) – second skua seen travelling
Looking for dinner we again voyaged into the town and this time Stu and I plumped for fish and chips from the Greek place….(well the real fish and chips place was shut….on a Saturday night?). We ordered the standard ‘fish and chips’ and then while waiting I asked what the fish was? Basa was the answer…hmmmm Basa? Never heard of that one, must be something local?
When it arrived we took it back to the motel and started in – it was awful. The fish dissolved in your mouth and the chips were chewy…..(next day I asked the skipper on the pelagic if he’d heard about Basa and he informed me it was a catfish found in the Mekong River……)
Sunday 4.5.14: The morning looked better – brighter and calmer so away again and, again, I include the official report from John G…..
Conditions: Conditions were forecast to be flatter than the Saturday trip, with seas of 1m, and a swell of 2-3m, easing further during the day. Variable light winds (5-10knts) were forecast. Conditions were reasonably close to the forecast, making for a relatively flat ride throughout the trip.
This trip was another excellent trip, following on from the Saturday trip. 13 tubenose species were recorded, highlighted by more excellent views of Black-bellied Storm-Petrels, a dark morph Soft-plumaged Petrel, and large numbers of Little Shearwaters. Two South Polar Skuas were also seen on the return journey, unfortunately views were again rather brief and distant, and several Arctic Terns were seen at the shelf. As on the Saturday trip, albatross numbers were notably low.
We left Emu Point a little after 0700. The journey across King George Sound was quiet, with the first Flesh-footed Shearwaters not appearing until quite close to the heads. Two Brown Skuas were also seen, causing some brief excitement in the hope of South Polars. We passed through the heads, but as with the previous day there was little activity initially. Both Wilson’s and White-faced Storm-Petrel were seen, along with a single Hutton’s Shearwater, another Brown Skua and a Soft-plumaged Petrel (shallower than usual). The only albatross seen were singles each of Black-browed, Shy and Indian Yellow-nosed, as activity remained low until just before the shelf edge. Here, a distant tern was called off the port side; this was probably a ‘Commic’ type but before it could come closer, attention was drawn to several Little Shearwaters flying along with the boat, allowing better than normal views. Several more were seen over the next few minutes, along with a number of Hutton’s Shearwater.
We stopped the boat in 600m of water and started to chum. The light winds meant birds were slow to arrive, but the Flesh-footed Shearwaters and Wilson’s Storm-Petrels started to trickle in. The first major interest came when the first Black-bellied Storm-Petrel put in an appearance – though numbers appeared to be down compared to Saturday, the species was again almost ever present in the chum slick. A dark or dark intermediate morph Soft-plumaged Petrel followed shortly afterwards. Typical pale Soft-plumaged Petrels, Great-winged Petrels, and Shy and Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross all made appearances, but the action was slower than on Saturday in the lighter winds. We drifted into 100m of water, so followed the slick out again; however, the depth had only reached 150m by the time we reached the deep end of the slick. Nonetheless, a short stop here proved worthwhile as an Arctic Tern made an appearance. Several more Little Shearwater were also seen, with more good views.
At about 1145, we repositioned to the deep edge of a sharp drop-off, in about 600m of water, and set up a slick. Once again, bird numbers were slow to build, but an Arctic Tern reappeared, followed by a second, then later a third. They continued to remain in the slick for an extended period, and made several close passes. A few Black-bellied and White-faced Storm-Petrels continued to share the slick with numerous Wilson’s Storm-Petrels. A shark, thought to be another whaler sp., was also seen around the boat for an extended period, but it kept away from the surface. An immature Black-browed Albatross added to the tally, and then the call went up for a Wandering Albatross. The presence of numerous vermiculations in the plumage, and little white in the wings suggested gibsoni or dabbenena.
Occasional Little Shearwaters continued to pass, and the final interest came when the first Cape Petrel of the weekend appeared.
We headed for home at about 1345, and for most of the journey bird activity was quiet. A few Little Shearwaters were the main birds of interest. As we approached the heads, activity increased again. An Arctic Jaeger passed across the bow, and some people also saw a skua at the same time.
Closer to the heads, two Black-browed Albatross were seen, including an adult. We decided to stop briefly to use the last of our chum. We waited for 15 minutes, but only a young Black-browed Albatross showed any interest, so we motored on. However within minutes of setting off, two skuas passed behind the boat, heading west. Views were frustratingly distant, but prominent white wing flashes and relatively pale body colouration on both birds indicated two South Polar Skuas. This was confirmed by some distant photographs. This was the last major excitement of the trip, though another Brown Skua and (interestingly) two Hutton’s Shearwaters were seen in King George Sound. We finally docked at approximately 1645. As always, many thanks go to all the participants, and to Tony and Fred from Spinners Charters.
Species List [Total Count (Maximum no. seen at one time)]
Wandering Albatross [sp] 1 (1) – prob gibsoni/dabbenena
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross 13 (4)
Black-browed Albatross 7 (2)
Shy Albatross 10 (3)
Cape Petrel 1 (1)
Great-winged Petrel 30 (4)
Soft-plumaged Petrel 15 (3) – including 1 dark morph
Flesh-footed Shearwater 100 (20)
Hutton’s Shearwater 20 (10)
Little Shearwater 35 (8)
Wilson's Storm-Petrel 500 (95)
Black-bellied Storm-Petrel 20 (3)
White-faced Storm-Petrel 45 (3)
Brown Skua 5 (2)
South Polar Skua 2 (2) – second skua seen travelling with this bird also likely a South Polar
Arctic Jaeger 1 (1)
Arctic Tern 3 (3)
Australasian Gannet 12 (5)
Common Bottlenose Dolphin 2 (2)
Shark [Whaler sp.] 1 (1)
We packed up quickly – the motel had been good enough to allow us to leave our gear in the room while we were at sea – and headed out. Tonight we decided enough was enough and we’d fall back on Hungry Jack’s – Albany was proving a culinary desert and judging by the queues for HJ’s and KFC the local population had learned early….
We set off in the late afternoon for Cheyne’s Beach 60 kms east. Arriving in the dark we saw and almost ran over a couple of Southern Bandicoots in the road and a Tawny Frogmouth perched up on the entrance sign was a positive welcome.
We had decided to book a cabin for the night as Dave had no tent and split three ways it was almost as economical. The $90 cabin had a queen sized bed and 4 bunks so we could spread ourselves around - so to speak – plus a stove and all its utensils and a fridge - it was a home away from home.
Monday 5.5.14. This was the Skulker Day. The day we would seek out three of the hardest birds in Australia – Western Bristlebird (WBB), Noisy Scrub-bird (NSB) and Western Whipbird (WWB) and it didn’t start well.
6.00 And it’s raining, dark, cold and wet.
6.30 We drag ourselves out into the murk and wander miserably down the road to the entrance to the park. It’s not supposed to rain in WA?
7.00 I go back and get the car – so we have something in which to shelter. When I return the other two tell me they have heard NSB calls so we huddle in the car with the windows open and listen.
7.30 The rain eases and we get out and walk down to the ‘main’ road (a narrow 2 car wide bitumen strip with only the occasional passing vehicle), and inspect the ‘culvert’ where, we have been advised, the bird crosses the road regularly. We stand and watch the culvert for a while - mustn’t be its regular time.
8.00 Becoming a little disheartened and chilled Stu and I return to the cabin – me to enquire at the park counter if we have the right culvert, him to get a fleece.
8.10 We arrived back to see Dave waving madly a few meters past the culvert facing a sandy track to the beach.” It was here’, he cried, “it crossed the road, I got the bins on it!”
8.11 Now comes the dilemma – you feel happy for the guy. You feel happy that at least one of you saw it, so its not a complete failure.
8.12 However, you want it to have been you, not him,! Why did I have to leave? What did I do to deserve this? How am I going to live with this disaster?
8.15 We tried to work out where the bird may be now and headed back to the culvert expecting it to appear. Again we stand and wait and watch a non-moving, inanimate cement object at the side of the road hoping….. what? That the bird will magically stick its head out and wave? I don’t know – you just do it!
8.30 The culvert had lost its appeal, but on the good side the rain had stopped, insects were swarming and the White-breasted Robins and Red-winged Fairy-wrens are competing with the Welcome Swallows for their share. Oh well, might as well take some photos of the Robins…
8.33 We are standing a little apart and I notice a movement at the edge of the road – just as Stu did too….but before either of us could say anything a NSB scuttled across the narrow track leading into the public toilet area!Happy Days! We congratulate each other – Dave has the grace to look relieved – how relieved he is he has no idea as it’s a long walk back to Albany with a 400 mm camera lens protruding from a vital part of your anatomy…….
8.35 We are still revelling in the brief but very satisfactory view when once again the bird crosses the road about 20 meters further down and again we all happen to be looking in the right direction! This time it was a longer view, but still didn’t get bins on it. This is normal for Scrub-birds though so we’re not disappointed.
Right - one down, two to go….next on the now drying out list as the rain really has eased….the Bristlebird. Up the sandy 4WD Only track across the heath and this time we take the left fork. We walk a fair distance, occasionally trying some playback with no luck – apart from parties of Southern Emu-wrens who stick their heads up briefly then manage to disappear completely in a tuft of herbage to re-appear out of camera range…..frustrating little buggers, but cute to boot.
We decide we’ve gone far enough as most of the previous records seem to be in the lower half of the track so we slowly return until halfway along the divided track Dave & Stu hear a WBB singing. I have appalling hearing and just have to trust theirs. Stu suddenly calls ‘There it is, in the lower half of that bush’ – somehow in this landscape of bushes it is clear exactly where it is and we all get onto a bird sitting still but singing its heart out. Dave and I immediately get what we can on film and then enjoy the view before it stops and drops out of sight. Wow! Brilliant! Once again we congratulate each other. Two of the hardest skulkers and its not even 11.00!
We decide to get something to eat and walk back towards the cabin. Dave wanders off to take some photos. Stu and I buy a couple of coffees and then stalk a couple of Brush Bronzewings near the cabin. Dave returns, a big smile on his face, what now? He turns his camera back towards us and we see a brilliant photo of a Red-eared Firetail…a major target bird for us all…… thoughts of 400 mm lens and camera and walking to Albany surface, but he assures us the birds are just down the track and he left them feeding happily.
We quickly grab our gear and go to where the boats are parked, more or less straight in from the entrance…and find 3 birds feeding on the ground with 4 Western Rosellas between us and them. That’s cool, we get relatively brief views of the finches before the Rosellas flush and take them with them. It’s started raining again so we retreat to shelter and bathe in the happy glow of successful twitching!
We decide that, as we have to drive to Albany to drop Dave to the airport, we may as well see if there are any seawatching opportunities - we are all seawatching fanatics and any opportunity is a good opportunity.
We set off, stopping only to check for Brush Wattlebird along the way – approx. 10-15 kms from the caravan park,- where the bottlebrushes increase in height – we had been told the birds were common.
We saw a few Red Wattlebirds and Grey Butcherbirds, but no Brush WBs. Along the road to Albany a few flocks of Western Ringnecks and a smaller number of Western Rosellas flew up as we hurtled past on the blue rubber band.
We headed for The Gap on the other (western) side of the bay and scrambled over the sharply divided rocks to a high vantage point. Setting up we scanned the distance and some shearwaters, Gannets and an Albatross did appear – but they were a long, long way away. It started to rain heavily and even Dave conceded that we were unlikely to see anything we hadn’t seen better on the boat. Maybe Rock Parrots? We returned to another headland carpark at Bald Head facing into the bay and climbed down to the beach. The back of the other end of the beach looked good so we trudged the length to find….nothing, apart from a few more Common Bronzewings and a couple of distant Pacific Gulls. Back to the car and a short drive later, an early dinner in….Hungry Jacks again.
Dave’s flight didn’t leave till 9.00pm but we really had nothing else to do but go to the airport. Stu and I were facing an hour’s return drive to the caravan park and planning an early start in the morning so we had to leave Dave with two hours to wait in a completely deserted airport lounge area.
We got some fuel, got back to the cabin (which we decided to keep a second night) and settled in to do the log. We had just started when calls of ‘Drug Enforcement Agent “came from outside and another birder appeared at the door – John Weigel, on his second Big Year, and already well advanced, dropped in to share the news.
Tuesday 6.5.14 Up and out to a grey, but dry morning at 6.00am. Meeting John, the three of us headed up the 4WD track again and this time up the right fork. We walked a longer distance up the track to just below the summit and listened to a NSB call from below some trees. Eventually it, too, crossed the track - about 30 meters below us – and we all caught fleeting glimpses of it. It moved on over a ridge line and Stu and I headed back down. John, meanwhile, had headed back and up the left fork and later recounted finding a WWB and a WBB in the same bush!
We went back to the tracks between the bitumen road and the beach – the scene of our NSB sightings yesterday – but today all was calm, no calls, no action, even the Robins and Fairy-wrens were subdued. However Stu located a single Red-eared Firetail right on the back of the beach and we got fleeting views of it perched up high in the surrounding trees. We went back to the boat parking area again and, after a few minutes searching located another 2 Firetails on the ground and managed to get some improved photos. More Brush Bronzewings and the very streaky WA version of the White-browed Scrub-wren – potential split? Why not!
We packed up and left the park heading for the road north. On the way we stopped again when we saw a few birds fly across the road 10-15 kms from the beach and this time identified several Western or Brush Wattlebirds. Plumage differences quite significant this is another split-in-waiting!
John W had described an experience with a WWB near Betty’s Beach so we turned off (about 20 kms back towards Albany, the turn off is well signposted) and headed down the unsealed road arriving at a couple of beautiful, deserted beaches, rock formations and clear blue water. We found the spot John had described – about 150 meters before the main beach a rough turnoff to the left partially locked with logs. We walked in, scrambled up onto a large boulder and watched patiently, but nothing moved except a couple of Tawny-crowned Honeyeaters.
Heading back towards the main road we noticed another scrubby track leading right (inland) and decided to try in here. Before we had taken any proactive action we heard a Whipbird calling! We stood for some time as two birds moved through the scrub – invisible but traceable by their calling to each other. Eventually they broke cover and flew low across the track! Skulker number three in the bag! They were still calling nearby so Stu hurried back to his car to get his camera while I climbed a small rock and watched over the area. Just as he arrived back a Whipbird jumped up into a low tree 50 meters away, bounced from one branch to another and dropped away out of sight again – unfortunately Stu didn’t get onto it. I was glad I didn’t have a 400 mm lens…..but at least he had seen the bird.
We got back in the car and drove happily on into the western outskirts of Albany to Woolworths where we stocked up on groceries and then headed north towards the Stirling Ranges. We had heard good things about Porongurup National Park – specifically the car park so turned off there. Driving in the access road a bird flew across our path and I called a Yellow Robin – and it was but Western Yellow Robin specifically and a really smart bird. We had 4 birds in total respond to minimal playback and got some very satisfactory photos.
On to the car park and we immediately recognised Purple-crowned Lorikeets in large numbers screaming around the canopy. Several low down provided excellent views and I was happy to check another lifer. Although not a WA endemic this bird had proved tricky for me in SA a couple of years previously.
Next bird to notice was the Red-winged Fairy-wrens bouncing around the edge of the car park, then a Rufous Treecreeper put in an appearance and we were almost shoving the White-breasted Robins aside (I told you) to see everything else! Our target here was Blue-breasted Fairy-wrens but unfortunately despite the very large number of eclipse birds around they all appeared to be Red-winged. It’s a tough world….
While we had lunch several Honeyeaters became obvious in the mid canopy above and we identified another lifer – Swan River Honeyeater. Very similar to the eastern state’s White-naped. We finished lunch and spent time getting photos and checking the wrens. We thought we’d try for Western Crested Shrike-tit and played its call. When our effort stopped a call seemed to be a response. We tried again and a few minutes later Stu excitedly called a pair high in the canopy. Eventually they were in the lower shrubs and within arm’s length - without much encouragement I might add. We got crippling views and some stunning photos and I even managed 5 seconds of video.
Well pleased we left the car park and headed north – the Stirling Ranges emerging dramatically from the otherwise flat landscape. On the way we noted several more raptors than we had had to date – 2 Brown Falcons, 2 Australian Kestrels and an Australian Hobby. The Falcons were catching insects on the wing above the canopy – an interesting behaviour showing their flying skills. Heaps of Common Bronzewings, Western Ringnecks, Western Rosellas, a few Red-capped Parrots and small numbers of Crested Pigeon and Grey Currawongs left the roadside as we rocketed through in the blue hummer.
We reached the camp site on the far edge of the national park in the late afternoon, booked in, chose a campsite and erected our tents for the first time of the trip. Above us Yellow-plumed Honeyeaters and Dusky Woodswallows haunted the trees, Swan River Honeyeaters, Purple-crowned Lorikeets and several Restless Flycatchers were also immediately in evidence and a flock of Regent Parrots flashed through the campsite. Our targets here? Again – Blue-breasted Fairy-wrens and, for me, Elegant Parrot.
We went for a short walk in the descending dusk and found Inland and Western Thornbills, the Scrub-wrens again, but no Fairy-wrens. Maybe tomorrow? We cooked pasta for dinner and charged our equipment on the one available power point in the camping kitchen area and ‘borrowed’ the power point from the fridge for a while too. After we hit the sack in the tents we both heard and simultaneously called ‘Owlet Nightjar’ but didn’t try looking for it.
Wednesday 7.5.14 I woke to the sound of a distant Southern Boobook sometime during the night, but again didn’t pursue it. We were up at dawn and went for a walk around the campsite and across the road. We saw plenty of Honeyeaters - Yellow-plumed, White-cheeked and New Holland, a few Tawny-crowned which was a bit weird to us – so far from the coast – about 10 Swan River and 2 Brown-headed. Western & Inland Thornbills and, along the edge of the national park, we called up 4 Western Yellow Robins in the early morning light. Purple-crowned Lorikeets appeared as the light strengthened and a flock of Regent Parrots – possibly the same group as the previous night? – flew past.
We decided to have a look at Mt Trios, 7 kilometres up the road, so drove up there disturbing a few small flocks of Western Ringnecks off the roadside. There was a heavy mist lying across the face of the mountain. We drove up to the car park (approx. 1 km on a well graded unsealed track), parked up and stood in the damp, drifting mist listening to various calls – more White-cheeked and Tawny-crowned Honeyeaters, White-browed Scrub-wren and then…….Western Whipbird!, and a completely different call from yesterday’s bird. This one was of the Mallee Whipbird race and was calling from deep in the head high Mallee scrub. We took a short walk along a narrow track around a big boulder but realised it was going to be almost impossible to see this particular bird in these conditions in the time we had available so headed back down to the camp site.
Still no sign of Blue-breasted Fairy-wren or, despite repeated reports, no Elegant Parrots magically materialised, while we had breakfast and packed up. However as we drove south again prior to turning off north, a pair of parrots flew up off the road showing the distinct green wings and blue wing tips of Elegant. Unfortunately we were unable to find them again in the road side trees so I had to content myself with this very brief encounter.
It turns out that this road from the Stirling Ranges to Albany at least, is the truck route for the grain transport and, as a result a substantial number of species find easy pickings long the roadside – a line of green shoots on each side of the road also shows where seed has fallen. This did not exist once we had turned off this main highway.
It took us most of the rest of the morning to get to Dryandra and a long relatively boring drive it was too with only a distant party of Emus just outside Stirling Ranges NP and a single Wedge-tailed Eagle beside the road to break the monotony.
We first tried the scrub opposite the dam finding very few birds, but coming across an Echidna pottering along through the leaves.
We re-read Thomas and Thomas and following the directions drove past the Lion’s village along Gaur Rd and stopped as soon as the habitat looked good – and good it was. A short burst of playback and two eclipse Blue-breasted Fairy-wrens popped up. For the next 15 minutes it was hide and seek as they appeared and disappeared in the thick waist high vegetation distracted only by a second Echidna, given short shrift in preference to the two elusive wrens.
Job done, they’re on the list – continue heading north….
Approaching Armadale on the main southern highway we came across two flocks of Black Cockatoos – totalling approx. 90 birds. Some perched up and we got scope views of their bills – they all appeared to be Baudin’s or Long-billed.
Coming into Armadale itself it started to rain in earnest and the wind picked up and it was clear the predicted storm front had arrived. Camping was out of the question so we were looking for a cabin or room for the night. We tried a couple of places without a lot of luck. One got a bit shirty when Stu questioned the two hours she worked per day and commented that they were good hours if you could get them, another caravan park owner told us they had ‘nothing’ - not even a camp site?
We ended up in a motel at $140 for the night and settled in with 2 minute Noodles and a bit of TV to find out what had been happening in the world – not much had changed so we settled down early, hoping the Blue Bomber would still be in the car park and not blown or washed away over night as the wind howled and the rain lashed.
Thursday 8.5.14 We woke to more rain, turned over and went to sleep again, finally rising late and making moves to get on the road. Before heading north we wanted to check out more Black Cockatoos so headed up to Wygong Dam. There wasn’t much there, but at Bungendore Park we ran into a flock of Red-tailed Black Cockatoos first and got some stunning views. (Another potential split in the making? – definitely a different race).Just outside the Park and down the road a bit and another flock of ‘White’ tailed birds had us screaming to a stop and running after them scopes and tripods in the air. We scoped these birds for some time and witnessed their eating habits – picking the seed out of the centre of the husk with the long point of their bills ………looked like more Baudin’s/Long-billed to us.
After a while they moved on and so did we ….. heading north towards Northam under clear skies and drying streets. Our targets around the Northam area were Western Corella and the introduced Mute Swan in a colony well established enough for the species to be accepted onto the Australian list.
We found the Corella easily enough, in fact, despite our concerns of looking through hundreds of Little and Long-billed Corellas to find the odd Western. We found a flock of approximately 300 Corellas and started the apparently impossible task of identifying a Western by its bill length and crest size, until, that is, Stu scoped three birds sitting in a tree separately from the rest and closer to our position. Their bill length was clearly longer, their crests clearly higher and they had no red on their upper breast – they were obviously Western Corellas.
We moved on satisfied and found the Swan just as easily – if not more obviously - on the river bank at the weir just outside the main town centre. We also had a pair of confiding Yellow-billed Spoonbills, Coots, Australian Grebes and a few Black-winged Stilts along the river.
Coffee and cake and a bit of grocery shopping and we were on our way again heading northeast into semi-desert. The road grew straighter, there were less cars and more huge trucks appeared, the mulga stretched to the horizon.
Interestingly pools of rain water from the previous day’s storm lay in shallow depressions along the roadside and, in at least two places, shallow flows crossed the road from one flooded side to another.
We stopped briefly at Wubin and I sprung for a couple of Cokes - $3.60 a can! I told Stu to drink it slowly and savour every drop. An outrageous price when one can buy carton for 50 – 60 cents per can. But we did see our first Yellow-throated Miners for the trip in the service station.
Petrol at Paynes Find was $1.88 per litre (it had been $1.55 per litre in Northam when we filled up). Luckily we didn’t need any fuel and headed on towards Mt Magnet on half a tank. We reached the entrance to Kirkalocka Station without much incidence and drove gingerly onto the muddy driveway that led to the buildings, thankfully for us in our mini Blue 2WD, only a matter of 100 meters or so. We met the owner who showed us the shearer’s quarter’s accommodation, basic kitchen and toilets and offered to light the donkey boiler to heat water for the showers.
We picked a bedroom each, dumped our gear and headed out to the flowing river a hundred meters across the muddy paddock. It was clear that the creek had well overflowed its banks the night before but there were a few birds knocking around the tangled vegetation and uprooted trees along the creek edge.
A Whistling Kite flew leisurely to its perch in a dead tree on the other side of the creek. Splendid and, as it turned out later, Variegated Fairy-wrens popped up and down and Yellow-rumped Thornbills flew ahead of us. Singing Honeyeaters were common and a couple of Little Wood Swallows searched the evening sky for the last insects of the day. We met the owner’s wife who promised to guide us to a Western Bowerbird’s bower the following morning. We made dinner, showered and crashed.
Friday 9.5.14. After a brief cup of coffee we retraced our steps to the creek and following it upstream across the open paddock to the farm buildings. Along the way we had much the same as last night plus a small group of 5 Mulga Parrots and a couple of Red-capped Robins. We were looking carefully around the homestead for any signs of the Bowerbird when we bumped into the lady again and she told us she would flag the entrance to the bower with blue ribbon. We went back to the quarters, packed up in preparation for departure then went looking for the blue ribbon.
We found it and the Western Bowerbird male easily enough and the bower itself decorated with mainly white and pale blue bits and pieces. Another bird we were keen to find was Slaty-backed Thornbill so we wandered through the Mulga looking for any traces of this species. Over the next couple of hours we found several pairs of Chestnut-rumped and Inland Thornbills, Southern Whitefaces with the Western buffy flanks, Western Gerygones, a pair of Redthroats, a Crested Bellbird and a single calling Banded Lapwing passed by overhead.
Eventually we uncovered a pair of Slaty-backed Thornbills – challenging to identify but once we had the dark eye, less obvious rump and ‘greyer’ colour on the upperparts we were content we had successfully seen the species. It wasn’t as momentous an occasion as we had expected, but a success none the less.
We thought we’d give the Fairy-wrens along the creek another go so walked out that way before finalising our stay. We reached the creek bank and stood listening for calls – Stu said ‘That sounds like a Black-eared Cuckoo?’ and reached for his phone. Within seconds we had a single bird in our immediate vicinity, much to Stu’s delight, where it performed beautifully for 5-10 minutes. This is a bird a lot of birders find difficult – it would appear to be generally thinly distributed, but in the right habitat will respond very well to playback if anywhere within hearing, as do most cuckoos. I believe it is possibly overlooked in a lot of areas as it just isn’t looked for proactively. In dry/semi desert/mulga type country it’s always worth giving it a whirl.
Happy as a pig in the proverbial we left and headed north in the Blue Magoo. Our plan? Investigate a couple of locations north of Mt Magnet, then head west to the coast at Geraldton via Yalgoo. Just before Mt M we pulled over to check some Wood swallows - turned out to be Black-faced - and a small flock of Zebra Finches flew in.
However, while refuelling the car in Mt Magnet ($1.66/litre) we discovered that the road from Yalgoo to Geraldton was only open to 4WDs and trucks due to flooding after the rain so we had to re-think our plans.
A quick discussion and we decided to continue north of MM, then return south to Kirkalocka again and spend a second night there before heading further south and, hopefully cutting across to the coast somewhere south of Paynes Find.
Lake Austin and The Granites proved to be bird-challenged with virtually nothing showing at either location – White-winged Fairy-wrens at Lake Austin, Chestnut-rumped Thornbills and a Crested Bellbird at The Granites. Mind you it was late in the morning and ‘warm’ if not blazing hot. So we completed our expedition, picked up a half dozen beers in MM and welcomed ourselves back to Kirkalocka for another night in the Shearer’s quarters.
Saturday 10.5.14 Up early and we hit the road – a big day ahead as we drove south to Paynes Find, then further south to the turnoff near Mt Gibson onto the Wanarra East Road (all bitumen) towards the coast via Perenjori, Carnamah and Eneabba.
We reached the coast road at lunch time having had only the briefest of stops and seeing along the way several Whistling Kites, a single Black-shouldered Kite, a couple of Australian Kestrels and a Wedge-tailed Eagle. We also spotted a couple of Australian Shelduck and a number of Western Corellas near Perenjori getting even closer views and photographs. Along the Wanarra East Road stretch we had the only Major Mitchell or Pink Cockatoos of the trip – a pair beside the road - and a short stop along there offered up Rufous Treecreeper, a Crested Bellbird and a couple of Black-faced Woodswallows. Other than that the trip was largely through pastoral farmland and relatively bare of birds.
The first stop as we headed south down the coast was at Green Head. A cup of coffee was required and scoping from the car park produced Pied Cormorants, Ruddy Turnstone, Pacific Gull and a couple of Osprey perched up on light posts down the road….
Next stop – Jurien Bay and a few Pied Oystercatchers and a single Black-winged Stilt, but no Fairy Tern. On then to Cervantes and the afternoon is getting on – a Black-shouldered Kite and a very obliging pair of Banded Lapwings provided some photographs for home….but no Terns.
We decided that Lancelin would be our last stop – and we would stay in a caravan park there. We found one at the north end of town, conveniently located beside a hotel that provided evening meals, and set up camp. Heading out again for another cup of coffee we ended up at the south end of the bay and noted some terns above the breakers 150 meters off the shore. They turned out to be Roseate Terns and made Stu very happy as it was an Australian first for him.
We had dinner in the hotel outside overlooking the ocean – very pleasant – a couple of drinks and crashed.
Sunday 11.5.14 Up early, break camp and down to the beach again to have another look at the Roseates and we spotted an Eastern Reef Egret on the island while a flock of 19 Sanderling chased the waves on the beach. Then breakfast at a nearby café – The Offshore - which we would recommend!
Onto the main road and south to Perth. The ‘coast’ road actually runs a few kilometres inland so the ocean is not visible. Along the way – Black-shouldered Kite, Australian Kestrel and a single Eurasian Spotted Dove.
Our first site in Perth was Lake Monger – 3-400 Blue-billed Duck, large numbers of Australian Shoveler, a smaller number of Pink-eared and a few Musk Duck, Australian & Hoary-headed Grebes and a single Australian Reed Warbler – all easily spotted from the car park.
Next – Herdsman Lake. Not as many ducks – but a bigger selection of birds. Rufous Night Heron, Yellow-billed Spoonbill, White-faced Heron, 1 Great Crested Grebe looking slightly the worst for wear. Grey and Chestnut Teal, Swamphens, Moorhens, Coots and, finally, about 30 Freckled Duck. Just before we left, following our short (45 mins) visit, a small flock of Glossy Ibis flew in and joined others at the far end of the lake – about 20 birds perched up in a reed bed. Then it was time to head for the airport and, despite our continued vigilance we failed to see any Laughing Turtle Doves in the parks or along the streets.
Our flight boarded and left on time and we settled in for the 4.5 hour trip home.
Bird List (not including the pelagic trips or the birds already listed at the beginning of the report)
Emu – near Mt Trios
Australian Grebe – Northam & Lake Monger
Hoary-headed Grebe – Lake Monger
Great-crested Grebe – Victoria Dam & Herdsman Lake
Little Pied Cormorant - Coastal areas
Pied Cormorant – Albany & coast north of Perth
Little Black Cormorant – Coast and lakes in Perth
Great Cormorant – Cheyne Beach & Lancelin
Australian Darter – one at Herdsman Lake.
Australian Pelican – Albany area
White-faced Heron – Albany & Cheyne Beach areas & Herdsman Lake
Eastern Reef Egret – Lancelin
Great Egret – Herdsman Lake
Rufous Night Heron – Herdsman Lake
Glossy Ibis – Herdsman Lake
Australian White Ibis – Albany & Cheyne Beach areas and Herdsman Lake
Straw-necked Ibis – Cheyne Beach and coast north of Perth
Yellow-billed Spoonbill – Northam and Herdsman Lake
Blue-billed Duck – Lake Monger & a smaller number at Herdsman Lake.
Musk Duck – Lake Monger & again at Herdsman.
Freckled Duck – Herdsman Lake
Black Swan – Albany area and the lakes in Perth
Mute Swan (introduced) – Northam weir.
Australian Shelduck – in flight near Armadale and again near Northam and finally at Perenjoi.
Grey Teal – in flood waters well north of Perth and at the lakes in Perth.
Chestnut Teal – one only at Herdsman Lake
Northern Mallard (introduced) – Northam weir.
Pacific Black Duck – freshwater locations such as farm dams and at Northam weir, Perth lakes etc
Australasian Shoveler – Perth lakes
Pink-eared Duck – Lake Monger
Wood Duck – both ‘on the road’ – near Albany & north of coast on farm dams.
Black-shouldered Kite – Cheyne Beach and ‘on the road’ coastal locations north of Perth.
Whistling Kite - mostly ‘on the road’ north of Perth and one at Kirkalocka Station.
White-bellied Sea Eagle – one only ‘on the road’ between Perth and Albany – not very helpful!
Wedge-tailed Eagle – several, mostly, again, ‘on the road’ some feeding on road kill carcasses, other seen soaring distantly.
Eastern Osprey – Albany harbour, Cheyne’s Beach and along the coastal strip north of Perth.
Brown Falcon – 4 birds, all ‘on the road’, 2 as we entered Stirling Ranges from the south and 2 north of Northam.
Australian Kestrel – Mostly ‘on the road’ perched up on power poles or hovering over open fields.
Australian Hobby – 1 at Cheynes Beach, 3 other single birds ‘on the road’.
Peregrine Falcon – One only over Victoria Dam.
Note: Although 9 species of raptor may appear reasonable there were large tracts of land in which we saw none at all – especially in the southern section of our journey.
Purple Swamphen – only at Lake Herdsman in Perth.
Dusky Moorhen – noticed on a farm dam in passing on the first day and at Lakes Monger & Herdsman in Perth on the last day.
Common Coot – Ditto Moorhen with the addition of the weir at Northam.
Pied Oystercatcher – common in small numbers along the coast.
Sooty Oystercatcher – a couple of pairs on the rocky headlands around Albany – especially on the pelagic trips and one in a group of Pied on the beach at Lancelin.
Black-winged Stilt – Northam weir, one at Jurien Bay and a few at Lake Herdsman.
Note: our wader/duck/waterfowl records are limited as we didn’t visit many wetland areas on our trip so probably not representative of the true potential.
Banded Lapwing – one at Kirkalocka Stn south of Mt Magnet and a pair at Cervantes on the coast.
Ruddy Turnstone – one at Green Head and a flock of about 40 at Lancelin’s Edward Island.
Sanderling – a flock of 19 birds on the beach at Lancelin.
Pacific Gull – not uncommon in coastal areas – Albany harbour, Cheynes Beach, north of Perth.
Silver Gull – common in coastal areas.
Caspian Tern – one in Albany harbour and 3 at Lancelin
Crested Tern – coastal areas.
Roseate Tern – only at Lancelin.
Eurasian Spotted Dove – occasional along the north coast - 3 single birds and a couple in the suburbs in Perth.
Common Bronzewing – common along the road side – especially around the Stirling Ranges.
Brush Bronzewing – only in the Cheynes Beach area – especially in the caravan park.
Crested Pigeon – started showing along the road north of the Stirling Ranges and increasing in number north of Perth along the coastal strip.
Regent Parrot – a small flock seen a couple of times in the camp site at the Stirling Ranges.
Mulga Parrot – at Kirkalocka Stn south of Mt Magnet
Elegant Parrot – 2 only seen on roadside a few ks west of Stirling Ranges camp site.
Red-tailed Black Cockatoo - seen very well in Bungendore Park – as mentioned in the text another potential split in the making?
Galah – birds seen in small numbers across the region in most rural habitats.
Pink Cockatoo – only two seen along the Warana East road near Perenjori.
Little Corella – large flocks near Northam and Perenjori.
Rainbow Lorikeet – in the suburbs of Perth in small numbers.
Purple-crowned Lorikeet – large numbers in Porongurup NP carpark and Stirling Ranges camp site – not seen elsewhere.
Fan-tailed Cuckoo – several seen around Cheynes Beach only.
Black-eared Cuckoo – one only at Kirkalocka Stn.
Southern Boobook – one heard at Stirling ranges camp site.
Tawny Frogmouth – one only at Cheynes Beach.
Australian Owlet-nightjar – one heard at Stirling Ranges.
Laughing Kookaburra - amazingly only one recorded – at Porongurup NP.
Rufous Treecreeper – first seen at Dryandra, then at Porongurup and one on a brief stop along the Warana East Road.
White-winged Fairy-wren – a couple of small flocks on the low hills around Lake Austin north of Mt Magnet.
Splendid Fairy-wren – Victoria Dam & Kirkalocka Stn.
Variegated Fairy-wren – Kirkalocka stn – the southern end of its range – 3 birds.
Southern Emu Wren – small parties seen in the heath at Cheynes Beach.
Spotted Pardalote – Victoria Dam & Dryandra only.
Striated Pardalote – Victoria Dam, Dryandra and Stirling Ranges.
White-browed Scrub-wren – most locations, although particularly common in the Stirling Ranges & Dryandra regions.
Redthroat – only at Kirkalocka Stn
Southern Whiteface - only at Kirkalocka Stn.
Inland Thornbill – fairly common – Victoria Dam, Dryandra, Stirling Ranges, Kirkalocka Stn
Slaty-backed Thornbill – Kirkalocka only
Yellow-rumped Thornbill – Dryandra, Betty’s Beach, Porongurup, Stirling Ranges, Kirkalocka Stn.
Chestnut-rumped Thornbill – Kirkalocka and The Granites (near Mt Magnet)
Weebill – several seen at Victoria Dam was our only record, but possibly overlooked elsewhere.
Western Gerygone – Victoria dam and Kirkalocka Stn.
Brown Honeyeater – only on the first and last days of the trip – Victoria Dam and Dryandra and Lake Herdsman
Singing Honeyeater – first seen at Dryandra and then found to be relatively common north of Perth, especially in the mulga, but right in to the northern Perth suburbs.
Yellow-plumed Honeyeater – one only at Dryandra but large numbers in the Stirling Ranges camp site and surrounds.
Brown-headed Honeyeater – a pair at Stirling Ranges and a second pair at Dryandra.
New Holland Honeyeater – ubiquitous – to the point of distraction in some areas, but none north of Perth – at least where we travelled.
White-cheeked Honeyeater - ubiquitous – to the point of distraction in some areas, but none north of Perth – at least where we travelled.
Tawny-crowned Honeyeater – a pair at Betty’s Beach and several birds at the Stirling Ranges camp site and Mt Trios.
Western Spinebill – first seen at Victoria Dam and then at Cheynes Beach and Betty’s Beach – none seen after that.
Yellow-throated Miner – only north of Perth, mainly at stops along the road, service stations and the like.
Red Wattlebird – most habitats, possibly the commonest bird seen south of Perth, less common to the north.
Jacky Winter – only 1 at Dryandra.
Scarlet Robin – only two birds at Victoria Dam and 4 at Dryandra.
Red-capped Robin – also at two locations – Dryandra and Kirkalocka Stn
Varied Sitella – only at Dryandra.
Crested Bellbird – Kirkalocka Stn and The Granites north of Mt Magnet.
Golden Whistler – Victoria Dam, Cheynes Beach, Porongurup, Stirling Ranges
Rufous Whistler – Victoria Dam, Cheyens Beach & Kiralocka.
Note: we had some debate regarding the identity of various ‘female’ type Whistlers. Some that resembled Golden appeared to have rufous lower belly yet no streaking on the breast at all. Having taken photos of several individuals we are seeking assistance identifying the species conclusively. Update: Most popular opinion has it they were Golden, despite the rufous appearance.
Grey Shrike Thrush – Victoria Dam, Porongurup, Stirling Ranges & Kirkalocka – a bird for all habitats it would appear!
Welcome Swallow – numbers noted almost every day.
Tree Martin – only a couple of birds at Kirkalocka Stn.
Australian Pipit – Cheynes Beach & Kirkalocka Stn.
Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike – Cheynes Beach
Australian Reed Warbler – only 1 – at Lake Monger, Perth.
Willie Wagtail – recorded every day.
Grey Fantail – any site with trees! Vic Dam, Porongurup, Dryandra, Cheynes Beach etc
Restless Flycatcher – only at Stirling Ranges camp site – but several birds quite easily found.
Mistletoebird – one only, at Kirkalocka.
Silvereye – all sites with bush and tree cover.
Toressian Crow – only comfortable with one specimen at Kirkalocka. Ref note above P3 re crows in general.
Australian Raven – everywhere.
Black-faced Woodswallow – 3 just south of Mt Magnet ‘on the road’ and 2 also ‘OTR’ on the Wannara East Road
Dusky Woodswallow – a small party of (approx.) 10 birds at the Stirling Ranges camp site was our only encounter with this species.
Little Woodswallow – Kirkalocka Stn, at the homestead, very confiding.
Grey Butcherbird – a couple seen most days ‘on the road’ especially.
Pied Butcherbird – much less common, only ‘on the road’ between Wannara East rd and the coast.
Australian Magpie – common.
Grey Currawong – most days south of Perth while driving.
Magpie Lark – common.
Zebra Finch – only one small flock just south of Mt Magnet.