I recommend this is read on our blog with associated
), but I am pasting the text report here for the archives, which were very
helpful in planning this trip! Lifers are in capital letters.
Max turned 18 on the
14th of April. When asked by his mum whether he would like to go get
drunk with his friends, he replied something along the lines of “nah, I’d
prefer to go looking for birds (the feathered kind of course)”. Good choice!
Max subsequently asked if I would like to join him and his
mum Sarah on a 7 day whirlwind trip to South-West Western Australia. The
planning done, and the first set of Year 12 exams over, we found ourselves
landing at Perth airport. Taxi to the hire car place, and we picked up our car.
It had a slogan written on the side doors:
Bad omen? We’ll see. Off we went to find a supermarket to
stock up. We got lost, and Sarah pulled over so we could get out the GPS. In a
shrub right next to the car was a pair of LAUGHING DOVES. Excellent start!
We headed off to Dryandra Woodlands, attentively watching
the roadsides en route hoping to get a few early ticks. Max called out Black
Cockies! whilst we were traversing the Perth hills – luckily they were
Red-tailed Blacks as they didn’t land and ID would have been impossible
otherwise! While passing through Wandering only a few kms out of
Dryandra, Max yelled out STOP! Right next to the road in a dead tree were 14
CARNABY BLACK COCKATOOS! The first endemic had fallen.
We arrived at Dryandra Village to be greeted by John, whom
on learning that we were birders, handed us a map complete with annotations on
every species we asked about - these
annotations proved to be almost 100% accurate and helped us a lot. In the
birdbath next to reception, we had WESTERN ROSELLA, many Brown and New Holland
Honeyeaters. The trees held both pardalotes and a number of thornbill species
(not Western), Brown-headed Honeyeaters, etc. After a quick unpack, we headed
straight to Old Mill dam where we had been guaranteed dead cert RUFOUS
TREECREEPER. We were not disappointed! Also WESTERN THORNBILL, Western
Gerygone, and a Kings Skink. We drove up the road about a km, and stopped
because I had accidentally turned a dead stump into a Numbat… however, it was a
good mistake to make, as the surrounding area was fantastic, with Jacky Winter,
Scarlet and Red-capped Robins, SWAN RIVER HONEYEATERS, Yellow-plumped
and the beautiful spotted White-browed Scrubwren (why is this not a full
species?!) We continued on to the start of the Ochre Trail where we had been
told to look for Shrike Tit. When we stopped, there were no birds, and the
habitat looked pretty terrible. We decided to walk up the road a bit and
realised we had stopped in the wrong place! We got to the Ochre Trail parking
area, and the birds fell quickly – a party of BLUE-BREASTED FAIRY WREN (no
breeding males unfortunately), Elegant Parrots flying over (which was a tick
for me but I refused to tick them from that view), Tawny-crowned Honeyeater,
Dusky Woodswallow, a group of the supposedly rare White-browed Babbler, and
best of all, an obliging female “WESTERN” CRESTED SHRIKE TIT. The rest of the
afternoon was fairly unproductive. After dinner, we headed off spotlighting. We
could not get close to the Bush Stone Curlews and unfortunately missed seeing
them. A pair of Barn Owls were heard (I did try to turn them into Masked
originally, but Max put me in my place), an Owlet Nightjar was heard, a Tawny
Frogmouth seen briefly and a few Brushtail Possums. Unfortunately no Bilby or
Wyolie or anything else of particular interest. A Southern Boobook was heard
later that night.
The next morning we attempted to find those curlews again.
The best bird to be seen up behind the village was WESTERN YELLOW ROBIN! Bird
#499 for me – what would be #500? By this stage, we had seen every bird we had
hoped for in Dryandra minus some unpredictable parrots, Western Spinebill, and
Western Wattlebird. We decided to try up at Lol Gray, which was meant to be
good for the two honeyeaters. On arrival, there wasn’t much about. We had a
walk around, a few more Western Thornbills, a few honeyeaters (neither of the
two we wanted), and then we saw two parrots fly into a tree. And they weren’t
28-Parrots! We slowly approached the tree and the two parrots flew out to
landed in a bush.
Juvenile RED-CAPPED PARROTS - #500! Wohoo! High-fives were exchanged, and I
marvelled at how these juveniles were actually surprisingly colourful – we
weren’t to see an adult male for 4 more days. We drove back through Dryandra to
the south-western exit. Just before getting onto the highway where stopping
would be impossible, Max spotted some parrots, and we jumped out to get Max his
tick, a pair of REGENT PARROTS. The biggest dip here was… Well… We saw all the
birds we needed to get here plus more. The biggest dip was probably Numbat! So
far, the slogan on the car door had proven completely incorrect.
On to that little, yet well-known patch of heath known as
Cheynes Beach. We were handed the birding folder on arrival complete with maps
and annotations from various people over the last 3 years. We decided to head
straight to the “Scrubbird Loop”, ticking off a lovely male WESTERN SPINEBILL
on the way. On arrival we heard one scrubbird calling. Literally 1m from the
road where we were standing. Did we see it? Nope! In frustration, we headed
further up the road and walked around the rocky shoreline. Osprey and Pacific
Gull were nice finds. Back near the beach, a white bird flew onto a branch –
It was approaching dusk, so we headed back to the scrubbird
loop (not before again trying to see the bird calling from right next to the
road) and sat down looking toward the boat ramp. We waited. Suddenly a
ran across the road. Max and I looked at each other quizzically. Well that was
sh!t. It was calling again, so we walked down and again got within 1m of it.
Then it must have crossed the road without us noticing because it started
calling from the other side! We gave up and went for dinner.
The next morning we got up early and walked back down and
sat in the same spot. As we sat down, we could hear the scrubbird calling from
only a metre in from the dirt track. We waited. It called. We waited. It called
some more. We waited some more. It stopped calling. We tensed, binoculars
pre-focused at the correct distance. Movement. The NOISY SCRUBBIRD hopped out
of the bush, looked at us, ran back in. Came out, ran back in. Came out.
Stopped. Ran across the road. Stopped. Ran into the scrub. The highest of fives
Our spirits high, we walked up past the caravan park to the
track leading east. We heard a Western Whipbird calling from right next to the
track. We were 10m away when a bristlebird started calling from 5m behind us.
We chose the bristlebird, and within a few minutes had fantastic views of a
WESTERN BRISTLEBIRD calling right in front of us on a low bush before running
away like a mouse into the scrub. The Whipbird had stopped calling, and not a
single whipbird would call in an accessible location again for the next 3 days.
Heading further along the track whilst trying to relocate a possible heathwren,
we heard the mournful whistle of a firetail. Max whistled back, and soon two
RED-EARED FIRETAILS flew in and landed on a dead tree. We walked all the way to
the beach and back seeing almost nothing else. We did hear one whipbird, but
after walking through 100m of heath it had stopped calling… Honeyeaters were in
abundance, but we couldn’t find any Western Wattlebirds, only Red… After
breakfast, we walked up the beach to try and find a lagoon mentioned in a few
of the bird notes. We found it, and there was not a single bird there except
for a Caspian Tern roosting with the gulls at the lagoons’ mouth. We headed
back towards the caravan park and decided to bird the beach scrub. We finally
found a flock of RED-WINGED FAIRY-WRENS, which was very exciting as unlike the
Blue-breasts at Dryandra, this flock contained two breeding males!
During the middle of the day, we headed over to the Waychinicup
NP camping area, which was a fantastic place. Not many more birds except a
Peregrine Falcon, but the scenery and large numbers of King’s Skink was
The afternoon was spent traversing large areas of heath in search of Whipbirds.
Just before dinner, I chose instead to head out for spotlighting. Back down
near the scrubbird loop, I spotted a Quokka feeding right next to the road. As
I was walking back to the caravan park, I passed the scrubbird road, and
realised there was a bird calling a little off to the right. I sat down and
waited. It ran across. I waited a bit more. A female ran across. Not as good as
the views from the morning, but still an impressive(ly difficult) bird.
Day 3 was dedicated to whipbird hunting. The previous day we
had walked at least 12kms after that bristlebird and had not pinned down a
single whipbird. On day 3 after successfully re-staking out the Noisy
Scrubbird, we walked all morning and didn’t even hear a single peep out of
anything remotely similar to a Whipbird. Max’s mum was heading to Albany, and
we decided to join her out of sheer frustration, and hoping to see a Western
Wattlebird which we were still missing! Over the day, we added a number of
birds the trip list and saw the SW Purple Swamphen – much more vibrant than
their eastern counterparts. When we returned to Cheynes, the wind had picked
up. In Albany, Max had re-read Grants trip report from 2010, and we decided to
try his route up the hill which he so bitterly despised. By the end of it, we
also bitterly despised that hill.
Max skipped spotlighting again, and I headed out in search of Honey Possum. An
hour later, I learnt that Sod’s law also applies when looking for mammals. I
was 50m from walking back into the caravan park when I heard a rustling in a
bush just off the track. I stood at the side of the track and waited. I could
see the bushes moving, and the creature zig-zagged through the scrub for a few
seconds and then ran straight towards my foot where it stopped. A lovely Honey
Possum. It crawled around in the vegetation next to me then moved a metre away.
I decided pishing would be a good idea, and surprisingly it was – the Honey
Possum ran right back up to my foot and sniffed it, then stopped. I took a step
back, and it stayed put. I got the camera out and took two photos with it just
sitting there. I then poked my finger at it, which it sniffed, then after a few
seconds turned around and headed back into the heath. That for me made up for
the lack of whipbird!
Day 4 – the wind had picked up even more overnight. We
trekked up the hill. There was nothing. We came back down and left Cheynes
Beach (not without checking out a few more Whipbird spots on the road out to no
avail). Our Cheynes bird list stood at 60 species – on the bottom of our bird
notes to be added to the birding folder, we wrote a note. “If only Western
Wattlebird were as easy as Noisy Scrubbird”. We still hadn’t found one.
On the drive to Stirling Ranges, we spotted some ELEGANT PARROTS on the side of
the road which I was able to tick. We got to Mt Trio. It was windy. We heard a
whipbird 200m away. We left. We got to Salt River Road. It was windy. We heard
a possible fieldwren. We left. Fairly annoying. We did have a good look at a
The afternoon was spent relaxing at Stirling Range Retreat, which had some
excellent birds, but nothing new (Max and I both had our best ever views of
Elegant Parrot). The wind eventually died down in the evening. The next
morning, we packed up and left for Mt Trio. The wind had stopped! But as we
pulled into the road to Mt Trio, we realised that at this high elevation, the
wind was actually stronger than it had been yesterday!!! Despite our despair,
we forced ourselves to go looking for Western Fieldwren and Western Whipbird.
While attempting to tape out a Whipbird, we heard a chattering trill right
behind us. We turned around, played the fieldwren call, and a wren-like bird
ran across the road. The bird was calling, but we couldn’t see it. I eventually
said to Max “I’m going to try and get eyes on it”, so I stood up from our
crouched position and right in front of us was the WESTERN FIELDWREN sitting on
top of a bush singing its heart out! Soon after, we gave up on the Whipbird
front and accepted our first dip for the trip. We finally found a male
Red-capped Parrot drinking from a puddle on the drive out.
We headed west, where we eventually reached Rocky Gully.
Just outside of town, I spotted a huge flock of white birds on the side of the
road - WESTERN CORELLAS. Funny to think that we pretty much saw the whole
southern “Muirs” subspecies on one flock! Max and I decided that they were
probably just about the most endangered birds that either of us had seen.
We headed further west and eventually reached Augusta (after
a rather depressing lunch when we realised that we left our whole bag of tuna
in a cupboard at Stirling). Whilst Sarah was checking into the hotel, Max and I
spotted a flock of black cockatoos land in a tree just across the road. We
headed over, and yes indeed they did have very long bills! BAUDIN’S BLACK
COCKATOO! We were very happy with this, as this flock was only the 4th
in the whole trip which we had had the opportunity to scrutinise. Now could
spend the rest of the trip not worrying about the SWWA endemics...
I turned to Max – “You know what this means?”
“We’ve seen ever endemic except Western Wattlebird”
We had consistently failed to find this damn bird and we
were starting to get worried.
Over to the lighthouse at Cape Leeuwin we headed, but on Rock Parrot we were to
dip, despite spending the better half of the afternoon checking out the
waterwheel and lighthouse grounds. Apparently the grass had just been mown, and
hence the Rock Parrots didn’t really have anything to feed on. Back to Augusta
where we decided to check out the beach after some fish and chips at “The Last
Eathouse Before Antarctica”. There were a number of people and dogs on the
beach, so we weren’t really expecting much, until we realised that the beach
contained the most Red-capped Plovers either of us had ever seen in our life!
Every 10 metres there were another 3 plovers! While walking along, I spotted a
different bird. “Double-banded Plover over there Max”. We had a look, then Max
commented “wait, isn’t that a rare bird over here?” When we got back to the
hotel, we checked, and found out that only one other Double-banded Plover has
ever been reported to the atlas west of the Eyre Bird Observatory! We had just
found a WA vagrant on par with birds such as Hudsonian Godwit or Little Stint,
but it wasn’t even a lifer for us – haha! Also on the beach were 28 Sanderling,
an Aus tick for Max (and my first sandpiper for the year, before Red-necked
The next morning, we tried again in vain for Rock Parrots at the lighthouse and
in the dunes behind the beach. This was to be dip number two after Western
Whipbird. We headed north towards Perth, windows down in case we heard a
Wattlebird…. En-route we stopped at the northern end of Lake Clifton to see if
we could find the Grey Plover reported a few days ago. Max and I were impressed
when we got out of the car that we had accidentally found the viewing platform
for a colony of Stromatolites – the most prehistoric organisms in existence
which we had been learning about in biology for months. No Grey (or Hooded)
Eremaea had told us one of the best sites in WA for Western
Wattlebird was the nearby Marina Bay Drive. This was where we headed next. It
seemed promising, and the suburb was excellent for birds including Red-capped
Parrot, Night Heron, Yellow-billed Spoonbill… and mosquitoes. I have never
hated a birding site so much in my life. The whole back of my neck was one big
itchy lump. No Wattlebird. Now we were very worried. The words on the side of
the car door mocked us.
Point Peron was next, just in case there were any late
Bridled or Roseate Terns. Nothing was seen here. There was now only a few hours
of daylight left, and it was starting to really look like we would not see
Western Wattlebird. We headed to Herdsman Lake, which we guess should be a good
site for this damn bird, and we might even re-find a Purple Heron in the
process! We found neither, but we did find fellow birder Sean, who told us to
try a spot 10 minutes up the road for the wattlebird – Lake Gwelup. We thanked
him and hopped back into the car. The sun was setting and we were getting every
red light… We arrived at Lake Gwelup and found the flowering Banksias Sean had
Wattlebirds everywhere. Red. Red. Red. Red. Red. Red. Red. Red. Red.
Red. Western? Nope, Red. Red. Red. Red. Red. Red.
Max: “I’m getting seriously close to using callback”
But if we used callback for a wattlebird we’d never hear the end of it, so we
WESTERN WATTLEBIRD!!! Two birds feeding in a Banksia. Yessss!
We took a victory photo of ourselves and headed back to the car. It was at that
point getting very dark.
And so, the next morning we found ourselves returning the
hire car. Its slogan couldn’t taunt us anymore! Honestly, this trip could
hardly have gone better. We saw every main target except Western Whipbird and
Rock Parrot (which aren’t endemic anyway), and a few random subspecies which we
had been hoping for. To have an idea of how well we went, here is our target
list with the birds we saw highlighted green
Oh, and of course we missed my damn bogey bird –
Anyway, Happy 18th to Max, and thank you
immensely to Sarah for letting me come along and doing all the driving and
birding stops and cooking! Also to Sean for the wattlebird site, and all the
birders on the WA mailing list who replied to our RFI! Time to get back to the
PS: We have since learned from the
BirdsWA mailing list that Western Wattlebird can be a difficult species as it
is generally quite site specific unlike its eastern counterpart. Make sure to
have backup sites planned if you’re heading over this way in case you’re at
Cheynes Beach during the time of year when the wattlebirds are not ! ;)
Bird List: 145 species
Pacific Black Duck
Australian White Ibis
White-bellied Sea Eagle
Australian Pied Oystercatcher
Eastern Barn Owl
Swan River Honeyeater
New Holland Honeyeater
Western Yellow Robin
Australian Reed Warbler
Cheers, Joshua Bergmark (and Max Breckenridge)
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