Trip report (late) South-west WA

Subject: Trip report (late) South-west WA
From: Frank Hemmings <>
Date: Tue, 25 Jan 2005 11:15:17 +1100
Hello All,

Went to WA for two weeks after Christmas with my partner for a holiday and did a bit of birding whilst over there. Visited a number of places.

Went to Carrine Open Space (28/12) looking for Blue-billed Ducks. Saw huge flocks of mixed Little and Long-billed Corellas but dipped on the duck. Went on to Pinaroo Valley Memorial Park. Great spot for a number of birds including Spendid Wren, Rainbow-Bee-eater, Sitella, Western Gerygone, Weebill, White-browed Scrub-wren. Good place for birding in Perth.

Had two days (29-30/12) on Rottnest Island. Very nice but very busy (between Christmas and New Year). Bicycled around the western end of the island, including around the lakes. I could only find Peafowl around the buildings in the Settlement- literally lounging on the concrete in front of a building in one case. They seemed a bit too feral to be tickable, but apparently they were released originally away from the Settlement and made their way there! Also saw Ringneck Pheasants near the Settlement, and especially in the Golf Course. A large group (23) of Banded Lapwings were present on the Cricket ground on both days. Lots of Banded Stilts present on most lakes, with a few Black-winged Stilt and a lone Avocet at Garden Lake. Tried Frank O'Connor's Rock Parrot site near the Tennis Courts twice with little success although a number of other birds were present including a large (150-200) flock of Tree Martins nearby. Also tried Bickley Swamp for Rock Parrot (recommended also by Birds WA). Dipped the first time, but on the second visit, two flew past about 30m away as I was leaving. Bridled terns were easily seen from the lighthouse at Bathurst Point on the nearby rock stacks. Fairy Terns were breeding at Lake Baghdad and Crested Terns were breeding on Herschel Lake. Great views of a pair of Ospreys near Salmon Bay. Also saw Red-capped Robin at the Golf Course.

After returning to Perth, we headed off for the Stirling Ranges the next day (31/12). Stayed at the Stirling Ranges Retreat (31/12 & 1/1). Spent the first afternoon and a little time the next morning and afternoon birding around the retreat grounds on the many small tracks. This was a great place for birds. Elegant Parrot, Ringneck, Red-capped Parrot, Western Rosella, Regent Parrot, Purple-crowned Lorikeet were all present. Some of the Wandoo trees were heavily in flower and supporting feeding Yellow-plumed Honeyeaters and a few Purple-gaped Honeyeaters amongst others. A flock Brown headed Honeyeaters stopped by briefly to feed the on the second day. Wrens which actually appeared more like Red-winged were present the first afternoon, but I'm certain that I saw Blue-breasted Wrens the next day. A group of up to 15 Striated Pardalotes were present near our earth cabin. A flock of around 30 Short-billed Black Cockatoos flew past at times, and I flushed a Common Bronzewing which was to be the first of more seen on this trip than I've ever seen before. Western Yellow Robins were also present near the pool the second morning, and near the paddocks the second afternoon.

We walked up Bluff Knoll on New Years Day morning. Views were great, but the area looked to be quite recently burnt, and there were few birds present. A couple of Grey Currawongs were conspicuous at the summit. After returning from the mountain early the temperature was soaring, so we went for a drive. Saw Square-tailed Kite on the Stirling Range Drive. Walked both the Kanga Ck and Ongarrup Creek trails, but was somewhat disappointed, since the weather seemed to be against me on both days. The Kanga trail walk (afternoon, 1/1) started off hot and ended up very windy. Saw little new except for a Tawny-crowned Honeyeater in Wandoo woodland. The Ongrrup Creek walk the next day started well after storms through the night, but again wind picked up early. Nevertheles here I was able to see Emus, beautiful Regent Parrots perched in a dead tree strongly sunlit against a dark stormy sky, Western Thornbills, and Southern Emu Wrens. Scarlet Robins were prominent at a number of points along this trail. Got back just in the thunder just before the rain hit.

Drove on through to Albany (2/1) and saw quite a few Common Bronzewings alongside the road. Arrived in Albany in torrential squally rain and gales. Was greeted by a Common Bronzewing in the carpark at the Information Centre. "Common" is certainly the right word applied to these birds around Albany. I saw these in town, at Middleton Beach where we stayed and the suburban areas nearby, and along the road to Two-People's Bay. Lake Seppings has a walk which encircles the lake, and starts near the northern end on the road behind the beach. Saw Red-winged Wren, White-breasted Robin and Red-eared Firetail were all present nearby, and Blue-billed Ducks and Musk Ducks were on the lake.

I went to Two Peoples Bay on two morning visits, on 3/1 & 4/1. Went to Little Beach twice. The first morning I parked in the 'spot' and waited for the Western Bristlebird to cross the track. Gave up after about an hour and walked along the trail. Great views of Rock Parrots feeding in some low shrubs (MYRTACEAE but unsure of genus) near the toilet. Frustratingly close to a pair of Western Whipbird but couldn't see them (of course). Waited at the Noisy Scrubbird site but had to leave after about forty minutes, and heard a Scrubbird nearby but it didn't cross the track. Went to the Sinker Reef trail, and followed this as it became a narrow foot trail, and surprised a Western Whipbird as it crossed the track. Also saw Rock Parrots flying over near the beginning of this track.

I returned the second morning to Little Beach, which was to prove more productive, but the torrential driving rain after I had left the carpark was a bit of a dampener. I wandered in the carpark between the toilets and the car, and eventually saw a Bristlebird cross the track in the lower part of the car park. The Rock Parrots were once again feeding close to the track just below the carpark. I also saw a Rufous Fieldwren singing from a low branch in heath near where the trail heads back from the rocks across the heath to the Scrubbird site. The Scrubbird was singing closer to the track and I tried to stalk it (knowing this was futile!!!). I did actually get a glimpse of its tail as it headed across a small open patch but it was heading away from the track. Standing in intermittently heavy (and quite cool) rain , I pondered as to why I should make such an effort to actually see such a bird, when it was much easier to hear it, and it certainly was more spectacular in voice than appearance. It eventually headed back up the gully towards the track and then, as I was poised for it to cross, it headed back down the gully again, parallel to the track. As I turned to leave the bird finally obliged by crossing the track (in the other direction to where I had expected). I thanked the elusive bird and headed back.

We drove on to Dunsborough and spent a few days relaxing here with family. In this time we drove down to Hammelin (5/1) and I checked the beach out, but didn't have the time to scan more than the area near the carpark (other spots and wineries were on the menu on this day). Bridled terns were breeding on a nearby rock island and easily visible. Most bizarre site of all goes to the Emu standing in the middle of the road in tall Karri forest on Caves Rd north of Hammelin. A morning visit to Gracetown (6/1) produced a suite of birds with another addition to the list in Brush Bronzewing. I stopped off on Caves Rd a few km north of the Gracetown turnoff and walked along a few 4wd tracks in some Jarrah/Marri open forest in an area with a national park sign. Finally saw Rufous Tree-creeper, a pair flying from tree to tree and some nearby stumps, both of them almost glowing in the early morning light. Also a small group (5) Long-billed Black Cockatoo feeding on the large Marri capsules. Visited Sugarloaf Rock three times at various times between noon and 5pm (Frank O Connor recommends middle of day or afternoon for this site). Failed to see any Tropicbirds in any visit, and I wouldn't advise visiting for too long in the afternoon since the glare from the sun into which you are staring can be very harsh and obscure your vision.

On our way back to Perth in the last days we popped in to Busselton (7/1), and was surprised by a flock of what looked like Western Corellas. Although the general distribution maps seem to put this in the south west corner, the nearest race is mostly sedentary and some distance away (from what I understood). They certainly weren't Long-billed Corellas, but sitting up in a Moreton Bay Fig in a flock of about 20 birds in a park they sure behaved like them. There is a picture of Western Corella on ABID taken at Busselton on 1/1 which is probably one from the same flock.

In terms of other species seen, Western Grey Kangaroos were everywhere, even in Pinaroo (Perth), both mornings at Two Peoples Bay produced Yellow-footed Antechinus, and a Western Ring-tailed Possum was near the hotel at Albany. I went snorkelling on Rottnest a few times, but the water was too cold for my liking so I didn't stay long. Overall a great holiday, fantastic scenery, beautiful beaches and great food and wine. And not forgetting 149 birds (not all listed here), 23 of these being new to me.



Frank Hemmings
John T. Waterhouse Herbarium
School of Biological, Environmental and Earth Sciences
University of New South Wales

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