Re: Pt Cloates - Gnaraloo

Subject: Re: Pt Cloates - Gnaraloo
From: Andrew Taylor <>
Date: Sat, 26 Jul 1997 02:47:43 +1000 (EST)
On Wed, 23 Jul 1997, Shane Raidal wrote:
> I managed to sneak in some bird watching last week on a recent diving trip
> to Gnaraloo Bay ...

We made a similar trip to Exmouth and Coral Bay at Easter.  For those
who don't know WA, Exmouth is easy to locate because it lies on North-West
Cape the most north-westerly point on mainland Australia.  Exmouth started
off as a support town for a nearby joint US-Australian communications
base.   Othwerwise the area is failry empty and quite arid.
Cape Range National Park occupies half of North-West Cape and the northern
end of Ningaloo reef come right to the shore in places.

The opportunity to swim with Whale Sharks around April every year is
making Exmouth an international tourist destination.  is the only place in
the world they can be seen reliably and this with the diving attracted us
tto Exmouth.  I did manage to squeeze in some birding.

A Western Bowerbird perched on powerlines in Exmouth was a lifer. 
Mangrove Creek in Cape Range National Park provided excellent views
(binoculars not needed) of White-Breasted Whistler, Yellow White-Eye,
Mangrove Fantail, Dusky Warbler and Collared Kingisher.  None of these
were new to me but much better views than the few times I'd seen these
birds before.  More industrious searching might have turned up more
mangrove species.  There were also a pile of waders on the mudflats but I
didn't have a scope and we wanted to move on.

Yardie Creek also in Cape Range National Park produced Red-Necked Avocet
seemingly a good find for that part of WA.  The tourist booat trip up the
gorge was well worth it for of Black-footed Rock Wallaby on the gorge
walls, nesting Reef Egrets and Osprey.  A flock of Spinifex Pigeon flushed
from a freshwater pool at the end of the gorge.  This pool is apparently
in dry times one of  few water sources on the cape so could be an
interesting birding spot.

Thomas & Thomas's excellent book recmomended a location south of Exmouth
on Shothole Canyon road.  Flowering Eucalypts contained large numbers of
Grey-Headed Honeyeaters with some Brown and Spiny-Cheeked Honeyeaters
mixed in.  A creek crossing provided distant views of a pair of Painted
Firetails.  The highlight was brief but close views of a Spinifexbird (a
lifer).  Little Woodswallows were very cooperative but otherwise the
birding here was a little frustrating.  Even White-winged Fairy-Wrens were
elusive.  Several times I followed glimpsed Fairy-wrens hoping they were
Emu-Wrens.  I only had 2 hours there but I suspect more luck or more skill
might have turned up some more good birds here.

The last 2 days of our trip were at Coral Bay 200kms or so  south
of Exmouth.  I didn't like Coral  Bay itself much but the  snorkelling
in the bay is some of the best on-shore snorkelling I've seen.
An early morning walk along the road back towards the highway
produced very pleasant birding.  A sandy track paralleling the bitumen
road gave excellent views of  Rufous Fieldwren,  Chiming Wedgebill,
Redthroat and White-Winged Fairy-Wren.

The Wedgebill call was striking.  I had no idea it was so beautiful.
The textual descriptions of this call are strong argument (to me)
for inclusion of sonagrams in field guides.  The first time I
heard the call I couldn't locate the bird but reading Simpson & Day
and Slater I rejected Wedgebill as a posssible  source of the call.

Diving and snorkelling produced large numbers of fish species but only
about 6 were new to me. This was disappointing because I hadn't
snorkelled/dived within 2000km of Exmouth before.  However many of the
coral reef fish range to either the other side of the Indian Ocean or to
the Pacific or both. Two massive Queensland Groper, Whale Shark and 5
other shark species was certainly good.

I'd really recommend Exmouth and Cape Range as a destination as long you
not after a huge bird list.  Although you can certainly turn up more than
the ~50 species I saw. 

Andrew Taylor

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