Trip Report - SW Western Australia March 2010 - Part 2

To: birding aus <>
Subject: Trip Report - SW Western Australia March 2010 - Part 2
From: David Stowe <>
Date: Thu, 18 Mar 2010 21:16:53 +1100
of a trip to the South-West corner of Western Australia by David Stowe and Grant Brosie from 27th Feb - 4th March 2010

Day 3 continued...
Driving along the road to Cheynes Beach we were pretty excited and filled with anticipation. We had come a long way from home and Perth just to go to this famous birding location. We had 2 nights here which we realised as soon as we arrived wasn't going to be enough. Actually everywhere we went on this trip we wished we had more time at, such is the beauty of this part of the country, but Cheynes to us was another step up. Quiet and isolated, gorgeous scenery with granite studded heath, we didn't even get all the way into the driveway of the caravan park without having to get out and check out the birds! Once into the caravan park we checked into the office and said we were birders. They then handed us a map of the area where we were to note our bird sightings. Even better was the green folder they handed us to study while we were there which was full of all the previous birders maps and sightings! WOW -what a wealth of information that was and will continue to be. Poring over it that night it was great reading the who's who of aus birding and getting a handle on where we should focus our time. Lifer #12 for both of us was Western Spinebill - a nice addition to the list in the heath next to the caravan park as the sun faded.
Getting 4 new birds per day was awesome!

Day 4 - Cheynes Beach
Continuing the theme, we got up before the sun and headed down the road (100m from the caravan park if that) to the most reliable spot for the Noisy Scrub-bird. After reading through The Green Folder it became apparent that pretty much everyone gets the scrub-bird and mostly as it crossed the road while patrolling its territory. We sat on the side of the road and waited where we could also look down one of the tracks that leads to the beach. It wasn't long before i was distracted by a Brush Bronzewing that was walking up the road. Naturally it was at that exact moment as i looked right that the NSB ran across the beach track seen only by Grant! :( We heard it call as it moved through the scrub parallel to the road and at one point moved into the bush and had it callling only a few metres away but no chance of seeing it. We then moved up to the next beach access track to see if it would cross that too. While waiting at the junction of the main road trying to look both ways i had the feeling that it might cross further down the beach track so i started to walk a bit further down. Of course as soon as i did this the bird ran back across the main road behind me!
....Grant: 2 - Dave: 0.....
We headed back to the caravan park to do some birding there. A great spot with the tallest stand of trees around. Plenty of Brush and Common Bronzewings, New Holland HE (of course), plus Red-Winged FW, White-breasted Robin, Western Spinebill, and our next new bird - Red- eared Firetail! The first few of these we saw were all juvenile which was interesting. The next few hours were spent chasing the calls of Western Whipbirds high into the hills through thick heath carrying alot of camera gear and with both of us helpfully forgetting water or sunscreen! We well and truly hated these birds and once we got back to our cabin downed 2 consecutive gatorades each in record time! But once hydrated we were back out into the heath. The dominant feature of the heath here is the beautiful banksias that are everywhere and have these amazing big yellow flowers. So often we found ourselves photographing the flowers rather than birds! Perhaps another symbol of a bit too much sun was when we stopped and realised that we had been photographing a Grey Fantail for 10 minutes!!...time to move on to something more Bristlebirds! It really is an amazing place. Although the Bristlebird was proving as difficult as the Whipbird. Other birds of interest were Spotted Harrier, Carnaby's BC, Western Wattlebird (which proved frustratingly hard to see and photograph actually), heaps of Southern Emu-Wrens (almost as common as New Hollands LOL!), Tawny-crowned and White- cheeked HE, plus Grey Currawong (LOVE their call!) But as the sun went down again we realised it would be a tough ask to get the 3 skulkers in the few hours left the next morning.

Day 4
Cheyne's Beach
Our last morning and our last chance for me to see the Noisy Scrub- bird! So naturally we got up pretty early again! We decided to wait further down the first beach access track where Grant had first seen the NSB the previous morning at that time. We began to stand quietly and wait. Within a minute we heard a soft single note contact call of something. Grant wondered if that was the scrub-bird but i dismissed it as i was intently focussed on watching the track. I wasn't going to be distracted this time! Then from that side of the track just 3m from us out came the Noisy Scrub-bird! He tentatively moved to the edge of the track and checked us out, then hopped to the centre of the track, pausing briefly again then hopped into the bush! YAY - i finally saw it - and amazing views for sure. I even managed a crap photo but i was more focussed on seeing it properly plus it was before 6am so still pretty dark. Interestingly even though the time was similar to the previous mornings sighting, the bird was going in the opposite direction! Elated, we moved back to the heath near the caravan park and the sandy 4wd track where we had spent so much of our time the day before in search of the Western Bristlebird. We decided to give up on the Whipbird as we kept hearing the Bristlebird calling. Closer it came but it only called every 15-20 minutes so it wasn't a quick process. In the end we were unsuccessful and added another dip to our list. One consolation was our best view of a gorgeous adult Red-eared Firetail as close as 3-4m. Grant did his best firetail whistle impersonation while we were waiting for the bristlebird to call and in it came! What a stunning bird! We then heard a loud call from about 50m up the track and ran for was the Whipbird! We got to where we thought the call had come from and stood for a minute scanning the thicker banksia scrub for movement. To Grant's amazement a Western Whipbird flushed from the island between the two tracks where he was standing and flew a couple of times between thickets allowing us brief but satisfactory views of a bird we had thought we had no chance with! So my morning was getting alot better - going from 0 to 2 out of 3 for the skulkers! Elated again we called it time out for Cheynes Beach as we still had to get to Dryandra with enough time to seek out our last five targets!

We decided on a short cut north west turning off the highway at Fish Trap Rd with the aim of stopping in at Porongurup NP as noted in T&T. Not far along this road we had our first encounter with the third black cockatoo of the trip and another subspecies tick - Red-tailed Black Cockatoo. The carpark at Porongurup NP wasn't far off the main road and turned out to be the best decision we could have made. Driving into the carpark the air was filled with the calls of Purple-crowned Lorikeets which had still eluded us. Grabbing our bins we soon got great views of a bird feeding above us. 15 minutes later and they had all gone! Interestingly there was heaps of flowering gums EVERYWHERE we went on our journey through the south west. Our next target to fall was an obliging Western Yellow Robin which we saw from the same standing position as the lorikeet! And behind it in the binocular view was a White-breasted Robin. Also in the carpark were a pair of equally obliging Scarlet Robins. Interestingly T&T mentions Rufous Treecreeper and Blue-breasted Fairy- Wren to be common here. We saw neither although Red-winged FW were common. (Grant did think he saw a treecreeper but it was really high against a cloudy sky and it disappeared quickly without enough of a view to tick)

Next stop - Dryandra!
We had 3 hours of daylight and still needed 3 more birds to complete our target list and make it 20 lifers each! We checked into the Lions Village where we were going to stay the night and chatted to the delightful caretakers Lisa and John. John guaranteed Rufous Treecreeper behind the Old Mill Dam so wholeheartedly that our spirits sank a bit - who hasn't dipped on a dead cert!?!? But much to our relief and joy one of the first birds we saw there was indeed the Treecreeper! And they were indeed common there. We kept walking out in the bush behind the dam seeking out likely wren habitat. It wasn't too long before we came across a couple of groups of Blue-breasted Fairy-Wrens! We heard Regent Parrots calling but didn't see them much to Grant's dismay. We did however have a small flock of Elegant Parrots fly in near us which was great. Interestingly I played the call on my phone to double check what we were hearing and they all flew straight in to the tree near us! I hadn't thought of any parrots coming into a call? So we then got great views of half a dozen of these stunning little guys. Yet another highlight! Then at 5pm on our last full day in WA we saw our 20th and final tick - Western Thornbill! Yay! We spent the last minutes of sunlight watching ringnecks and rosellas come into John & Lisa's birdbath and our last night in WA in a great cottage listening to Bush Stone-Curlews.

Day 5 - An even earlier start than normal as we had to get the hire car back by 9:30am and a taxi to the airport. Nothing special to report except flying home on a new QANTAS plane that had the cool personal entertainment screens...and an hour and a half sitting on the tarmac while they fixed a fan...:)

So thanks again to those that helped out and I would thoroughly recommend this part of the country to anyone. I know I'll be back with the family for sure.

David Stowe

PS - i have started to put a few images together (but more to follow) on my pbase site in the Visual Trip Report section


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