W.A. Cape Range National Park, Easter 2001
1400 road kms north of Perth, Northwest Cape juts out into the
Indian Ocean, the limestone Cape Range forms its backbone and the Cape
Range National Park embraces about 50km of the northern part of the range
and adjacent narrow sandplain down to low dunes and beaches on the ocean
side. Ningaloo Reef Marine Reserve lies just off the beaches.
A long way from anywhere, it all looks very dry, bleak and
ornithologically unpromising, but we picked up a few delectables in our two
days of reconnaisance, added three new spp. to the incomplete CALM list of
170, will definitely return.
Most people go for the fishing, diving or sea-monsters; one can
snorkel with the Whale-sharks when they're about, and with the Giant Manta
Rays. This was on our agenda but it was no-show by the sharks folks; we
saved the $300 a head (no guarantees) for next time.
Much to our surprise, the ranger at an excellent new Visitors Centre
inside the Park produced a birdlist, very incomplete he said, as there has
never been a proper survey. A quarter of the list is seabirds and waders,
outside the scope of this trip although a Grey-tailed Tattler at the
Mangrove Bay Bird Hide and Pacific Gull at Turquoise Beach kept us
SHOTHOLE CANYON is 13 km up a road to the left off the main highway as
you approach Exmouth town from the south. The winding road going up crosses
a winding creek coming down, many times, with thick healthy spinifex,
scattered low acacias
and eucalypts along the creek. 3km back down from the top of the road, a
tributary from the north side joins the main creek. Apart from being a
beautiful spot, here we found the three unlisted spp., Grey Honeyeater,
Western Gerygone and Striated
Pardalote, as well as Rufous-crowned Emu-wren (2 families), Variegated
Fairy-wren, Spinifex-bird, Grey-headed , Brown & White-plumed
Honeyeaters, Mistletoebird, Rufous Calamanthus, Grey Fantail, Rufous
Whistler, Chiming Wedgebill, Crested Bellbird, Australian Ringneck,
Black-faced Cuckoo-Shrike, Little Woodswallow and Western Bower-bird.
Opposite the PARK ENTRY GATE which is about 90km away, through Exmouth,
around the top of the Cape and back down the other side of the Range, is a
Rangers house next to a gully and near some dunes. Behind the house in
scattered spinifex, where four more families of Rufous-crowned Emu-wrens
came to "air-kissing" in response to their very high-pitched squeaks,
sitting up in low shrubs, and even hopping right up to Penny's feet. More
Variegated Fairy-wrens as well, and Rufous Calamanthus, Zebra
Finches, Pied Butcherbirds.
There were several Western Bowerbirds, a distinct local form which
is smaller and more richly coloured than the inland ones. The haunt low very
green clumps of native figs, Ficus platypoda, which survive and flourish by
sending their roots down through sinkholes in the limestone to groundwater
A Brown Songlark was singing its head off on top of a tree in the
dunes, A Hobby allowed close scrutiny. Pipits were scattered along the
roadside as we drove south to Yardie Creek 50km further south.
MANGROVE BIRD HIDE overlooks a small bay surrounded by mangroves. Saw
Yellow White-eyes, Grey-tailed Tattler, Masked Woodswallow at the
carpark . White-breasted Whistler and Dusky Gerygone are there too, unseen
YARDIE CREEK is a short tidal estuary crossable at low tide by 4wd. It
comes out of Yardie Gorge, and is navigable for a few hundred metres up to a
short freshwater section, above which is a rugged canyon, accessable by a
rough track along the top which detours around and across side gullies. It
was spectacularly beautiful when we were there with the multicoloured
limestone walls lighting up in the rising sun, unconcerned rockwallabies
and kangaroos always in sight, the honey scent of a heavily flowering
eucalypt sp.filling the narrow valley, red flowers of batswing coral trees
with striking pale trunks, and the echoing of a Pied Butcherbirds fluting
Only Grey-headed Honey-eaters in the upper part, a Sacred
Kingfisher at the freshwater, Osprey, Tree Martins, Welcome Swallows
over the Estuary.
The track over the top had Zebra finches and probable Painted Firetails,
Singing Honeyeaters, with a pair of Little Button-quail , Western Bowerbird
and Spinifexbirds in the bushes and spinifex on the slope and sand closest
to the carpark.
In the TURQUOISE BAY carpark a bright blue White-winged Fairy-wren flew
out of a shrub next to the van as we parked, his family flew in the opposite
direction. A search for the black form of this wren, the only form on nearby
Barrow and Dirk Hartog Islands, found only five territories of blue birds
and their families in and next to the dunes, the blues always flying in the
opposite direction to the browns. A Rufous Calamanthus popped up right next
to the beach.
Wedge-tailed eagles, Kestrel, Whistling Kite and Black-faced
Woodswallows were in the air on the way back, and numerous Spotted Nightjars
on the road after dark.
We barely scratched the surface, the places we went were just the most
accessable in the time. Given a week in the spring a hundred and fifty birds
would be reasonable.
Exmouth town has an Emu problem; overseas tourists, there for the
diving, feed Emus from their cars, so that they wander onto and stand in the
middle of the road. OK unless you come around a corner at 110kph and either
an Emu, or a line of cars looking at an Emu, is blocking the road!
50km west of Sydney Harbour Bridge
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