WA Trip Report

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Subject: WA Trip Report
From: Frank O'Connor <>
Date: Thu, 20 Oct 2011 19:40:41 +0800

Just been down to Albany, and up to Cue. with three American friends Lots of great birds, especially in the north, although most expected.

Friday 7th October

Picked two up from the airport (the first arrived two days earlier). After breakfast we headed to ALCOA Wellard Wetlands where we found a Stubble Quail (and heard two others). The down to Coodanup and Nairns at the north end of the Harvey Peel Estuary. Great views of Buff-banded Rail. A good variety of waders at Nairns. Then to Hall's Head but no Wedge-tailed Shearwaters seen. Then up to the Ocean Reef boat ramp where we found White-backed Swallow (2), White-winged Fairy-wren (male) and Variegated Fairy-wren (male). Also a hobby flew over. We finished off at Herdsman Lake. A good variety of waterbirds.

Saturday 8th October

Left early. Stopped quickly at Admiral Road near Armadale off the Albany Highway for Western Wattlebird. Then headed to Dryandra State Forest. Painted Button-quail at the Ochre Trail. Bush Stone-curlew at the far side of the paddock. Carnaby's Black-Cockatoo at Congelin Dam. Most of the expected birds but missed Crested (Western) Shrike-tit and Hooded Robin. Also missed most of the mammals. No Echidna, Numbat, Tammar Wallaby, Woylie, etc.

Sunday 9th October

Left Narrogin early (after Carnaby's flew past our motel). Stopped at the sewage ponds just south of Wagin (thanks to David Secomb for showing me this site). One Black-tailed Native-hen and three Australian Spotted Crakes. Stopped at Lake Parkeyerring without seeing much and then headed for the Stirling Range. Rufous Songlark along the route. Travelled along Salt River Road and saw four Hooded Plovers at the Camel Lake NR. No fieldwren. Checked in at the Stirling Range Retreat. We missed the Austraian Owlet-nightjar. But we were told by Andrew Hobbs where a Tawny Frogmouth was roosting, and saw three Southern Boobooks just after dark with two Common Brushtail Possums.

Monday 10th October

A walk around the retreat. Crested Shrike-tit near the sewage pond area. Went to Mt Trio. No whipbird. Square-tailed Kite. Brief view by one of the Rufous (Western) Fieldwren. Went to Toolbrunnup where whipbird had been reported. Southern Emu-wren. Then down to Albany. Red-eared Firetail at the car park of Lake Seppings. Headed out to Cheyne Beach by 5pm. Checked in and walked down to look for the Noisy Scrub-bird. Looking down the track that leads down to the beach, a NSB walked across the track at 18:01, returned at 18:03, cross again at 18:05, returned at 18:07 and then the male called to the left and a bird crossed again at 18:09 soon followed by a male and the male called from the right. Presumably the first bird crossing was a female.

Tuesday 11th October

Walked up to the top right of the caravan park to look for the Western Bristlebird. Very frustrating. Called many times, but I was the only one to see it very briefly. Finally gave up and went looking for Western Whipbird. No luck near the point. We went back up the road to where the 50/80 kph speed limit sign is. This was to look for Western Bristlebird but a Western Whipbird called as soon as we got there. Again very frustrating with only two of us getting very brief views in the hakea thicket. Then the bristlebird over the road was also very frustrating. We walked into the heath but it called all around us without anyone seeing it. After lunch we stopped here again and bingo! A Western Whipbird in full view singing its head off on top of the hakea opposite the track up to the property. We then went to Betty's Bay. Not much. Some poor views of Flesh-footed Shearwater offshore.

Wednesday 12th October

Headed up to the mallee near Boxwood Hill. We birded Monjebup Road. This was excellent a week earlier when I was there with another group, but disappointing this time. Conditions were excellent. Don't know why things were harder. We had had two Western (Mallee) Whipbirds and a Shy Heathwren the previous week. Nothing, not even a call. Quite a few White-browed Babblers. Did get Shy Heathwren on Norman Road where it has been for a long time. The old Malleefowl mound had some recent scratchings around the base and some nearby areas were clear of leaf litter, but I could not see any footprints so I don't think the mound is active. Lunch in Jerramungup then we went to Bremer Bay for Rovk Parrot. This proved to be a great decision with 10 feeding on the ground in the marked off area. Then back to Cheyne Beach. Went up for the Western Bristlebird behind the caravan park. Heard a bird calling to the left of the area for the target bird. We walked in and a bird quickly ran across a sandy area, and then another bird called nearby. We got close to this third bird but it eluded us.

Thursday 13th October

We went up to the back of the caravan park and the first bird called. We stood in the heath and it ran around us giving us a few brief but good views. We then decided to return to the Stirling Range and Mt Trio. But conditions deteriorated with strong winds. No luck on Mt Trio. No luck on Salt River Road. Lunch at Mt Barker between showers. Only one person saw the Little Grassbird near the museum in the strong winds. We then went to Denmark and down to Ocean Beach. Quite a few seabirds including Yellow-nosed Albatross and Black-browed Albatross but they were quite a way out. A good number of Fairy Terns in Wilson Inlet. A couple of Bar-tailed Godwits but hardly any other waders. We then went to The Gap near Albany. It was a howling gale, but there were good numbers of Flesh-footed Shearwaters and a few Yellow-nosed Albatross. Then back to Cheyne Beach. The conditions had improved greatly. We went down to look at the scrubbird again. At 17:05 one bird crossed the road. A few minutes later a second bird crossed. Then a third bird crossed a few minutes later. So it looks like they had a successful breeding season this year. This is the first time I have seen three birds there.

Friday 14th October

A long day heading back to Perth. At Rocky Gully we saw Western Corella as usual but not fantastic views. But there were more birds along the road to Frankland River, plus three Emus. On the road from Frankland River to Kojonup we again saw several Ostriches. I see these birds every time I travel along this road. It could be worth finding out the history of these birds. The fence is an ordinary fence. It is a very large paddock, and I have seen them in different paddocks. They could very well be birds that have been left there and might now be classed as feral? Following on from the birds in Victoria.

Saturday 15th October

Left early and drove to Payne's Find, finding a Thorny Devil and a Black-breasted Buzzard on the way. We headed down the road south to the Grey Honeyeater site that David Stewart and Lloyd Nielsen told me about many years ago. I failed here in early August and we failed again, but in the intervening period two people had had success. We picked up some good birds for the trip but nothing special. We then headed to Mt Magnet and had a quick walk in the heat of the afternoon at a site Chestnut-breasted Quail-thrush had been recently reported by Dave Torr. No success. We headed towards Cue. We stopped at the 40km mark north of Mt Magnet where we saw Grey Honeyeater in early August but nothing. We stopped at a few places. Little Button-quail was common. The flies were very annoying, and I should have brought my gaiters as the area is in great conditions with lots of Ptilotus flowering and lots of prickles and grass seeds. We stopped briefly at Lake Austin. It is now dry. We continued on to Cue and then to Nallan Station. Accommodation is not currently available at Nallan (but they gave us permission to use the cottage as I have stayed there a number of times over the years). There is a good chance that accommodation will be available again from next year. Western Bowerbirds were common around the homestead. We went east along the road past Jackson's Well and as it got dark we headed back. No Spotted Nightjars that I had seen in March. But in the dark at Jackson's Well there were about 20 Bourke's Parrots.

Sunday 16th October

We walked across the airstrip and along the track. Pied Honeyeater, White-fronted Honeyeater and Black Honeyeater. We heard Chiming Wedgebill but could not get close to it. But we had great luck in finding a couple of Slaty-backed Thornbills. We went down the track to Easter Well. We found Redthroat easily. Then we heard Chestnut-breasted Quail-thrush. We tried to get close but didn't seem to be getting anywhere. I played the call. No success. But we took a few steps and the male flushed from under the bush. We heard it call a few more times but never got close. We returned to the station for lunch. We went to Nallan Lake after lunch. Lots of water. Nothing extra special but 50+ Black-tailed Native-hen, 10+ Red-kneed Dotterel, 10+ Black-fronted Dotterel, 8 Australian Wood Duck, an Australian Shelduck, a Wood Sandpiper, etc. As we approached Cue I saw a Red-backed Kingfisher on the wire and then we noticed some White-backed Swallows over a little hill. We then went east of Cue to my site where I have seen Banded Whiteface almost every time since January 1996. Success again with three probably four birds. We headed a little further west and easily found a Chiming Wedgebill. We went across to my site for Chestnut-breasted Quail-thrush off the Sandstone Road. The Ptilotus is stunning with large areas being covered. There was quite a bit of Eremophila flowering with Pied and Black Honeyeaters. But no CBQTs. Lots more Little Button-quail, a pair of Hooded Plover and a Pallid Cuckoo. We returned to the station, then back down towards Easter Well. I heard another CBQT along the track but could not find it. We then returned to where we had seen it that morning but although it called we had no success. After dark we went 18+km east to where we were told there were Spotted Nightjars and sure enough there were two that gave us excellent views.

Monday 17th October

We stopped at Lake Austin and quickly found three Orange Chats and a brief view of Rufous Fieldwren. A bit further south at the best area of samphire we tried again. Two groups of Orange Chat (a pair and three), and good views of Rufous Fieldwren. But no Slender-billed Thornbill although we had a false alarm with three very young Crimson Chats. An unusual sighting were several Black Honeyeaters out in the samphire. Not the sort of habitat that I would expect this species to spend time in. We then went back to the CBQT site near Mt Magnet reported by Dave Torr. This is along the road to Yalgoo opposite the 10km marker for Mt Magnet. It took us an hour but we had success. We heard it a couple of times until one of finally got onto a pair. We had good looks as the female as it walked, then flew across the track along the fence. But the male was elusive. It walked up the hill with some people getting good but brief views while the rest of us couldn't get onto it. We finally gave up and headed west. At the 11km mark there was a pool of water on the north side of the road surrounded on three sides by scrub. Very good numbers of Diamond Doves and Zebra Finches. A got the scope. A Bourke's Parrot. We were about to go when one of them said they saw a finch with a red rump. Extremely unlikely I said. But we looked and we located a pair of Painted Finch. This is a long way out of range. They were initially in the scrub, but they did come down to the water four times for good looks. We returned to Mt Magnet for lunch and then to Cue. There was a pair of the Asian migratory race affinis of Gull-billed Terns at a small lake just north of Lake Austin. We had a siesta and then headed out along the track towards Peters Well. We stopped for some babblers (White-browed) and then I saw a CBQT fly across. We followed it up but there was no sight nor sound of it. We returned to the station and went into town for dinner.

Tuesday 18th October

A long day returning to Perth. Some Banded Stilt on the lake just north of Lake Austin. Also two first year Pacific Golden Plovers. We checked a historical site for White-browed Treecreeper about 50km south of Mt Magnet. No luck. But there was some water near the road and a flock of 200+ Budgerigars were coming in and flying around. Near Payne's Find we headed east on the road towards Sandstone to go to the Warne River crossing. A White-browed Treecreeper had been reported 7km along the road at the grid. I thought this was by John Graff? If reported by someone else then I apologise for forgetting. Incredibly, there it was working its way up the branches of a dead tree. It was there a couple of hours later when we returned. We continued to the Warne River crossing. The target was Gilbert's Whistler. I had seen it there in early August. We walked north along the eastern side. About 200 metres up I thought I could hear a call (although it didn't quite sound right and was similar to the White-fronted Honeyeaters that were fairly common). I tried the call and one bird flew past. We had trouble trying to get a good look. We got glimpses of a male in full plumage. But the bird we finally saw well was a young bird. It had a mark for the gorgette on the throat but no colour, and the call seemed like it was half hearted. Maybe a young male learning the ropes. There was a large (500+) flock of Masked Woodswallows with some very young juveniles. Also Black and Pied Honeyeaters. Also a juvenile Banded Lapwing with at least one adult. And a few White-backed Swallows. We headed to Payne's Find and then west. It started to rain but we managed lunch at a new rest stop between showers. The last target was Little Corella!!! We stopped several times between Wubin and New Norcia before we finally found some. The others were the northern race of Western Corella. Normally the bird people are looking for.

All up, just over 200 species. The mulga is in excellent condition. Diamond Doves everywhere. Little Button-quail very common. Pied, Black and White-fronted Honeyeaters fairly widespread. Rufous Songlark very common. But we had no Mulga Parrots or Australian Ringnecks north of Payne's Find. Very few thornbills north of Payne's Find. A good range of raptors but small numbers. It looks like it will still take some time for species to recover to the levels I found there in late 1996, after the decade long drought that broke last December.

Frank O'Connor           Birding WA
Phone : (08) 9386 5694 Email :

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