[Birding-Aus] Western Australia trip report Part 1 – Rottnest Island

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Subject: [Birding-Aus] Western Australia trip report Part 1 – Rottnest Island
From: Craig Doolan <>
Date: Tue, 24 Nov 2015 00:52:11 +0000
I recently put out a call for an RFI for the south-west so I think it’s
only right that I repay all the good advice I got by providing a trip
report. The opportunity to go to a conference on Rottnest Island provided
the chance to do some birding. Having never visited Western Australia
before, there was a range of new species to find and a diversion to
Christmas Island presented more opportunity to see more.

After having flown from Norfolk Island to Brisbane, I flew to Perth the
next day and headed straight down to Fremantle. Given that I was
overnighting in Fremantle I spent a bit of time wandering around the middle
of the city and the harbour area. This is not a spot for the WA endemics
and the only local ‘special’ I encountered were my first Laughing Doves on
an afternoon walk. Brown and Singing Honeyeaters were common in denser
bushes and Rainbow Lorikeets are well established along the esplanade area.
I also encountered a flock of Long-billed Corella on the Monument Hill
area. I twice thought I might have seen Red-capped Parrots fly past but
couldn’t confirm either time, so I departed for Rottnest still without any

That didn’t change while on Rottnest Island. The weather was generally
excellent when I was there and I really quite enjoyed the place, I must
return one day with my kids. Time for birding was minimal but generally I
squeezed in a bit of time in the afternoons. On the first day I headed down
to the closest lakes and walked as far as the causeway between Government
Lake and Lake Herschel. Bush birds included Singing Honeyeater, Red-capped
Robin, Western Gerygone, Spotted Pardalote and Australian Ravens, while
Rainbow Bee-eaters were also conspicuous. The lakes had a few ducks, all
Grey Teal and Australian Shelduck, as well as a few pairs of Pied
Oystercatchers. The causeway itself was a terrific location with a couple
of sandbars full of birds nearby. Over about half an hour, 3 flocks of
Banded Stilt flew overhead, each more than 100 birds. There was a sitting
group of about 400 Crested Tern and a nesting colony of about 40 Fairy
Tern. The waders were abundant but without a scope I struggled. The
majority were clearly Red-necked Stint, which numbered several hundred
while there also moderate amounts of Ruddy Turnstone. There were almost
certainly a few more species that I missed.

I saw one Common Pheasant on my first afternoon and didn’t see another,
though I didn’t make any effort at the usual locations on the golf course.
Several peacocks were calling loudly the whole time I was there. I think
it’s already well documented that there is no longer a breeding population
of Common Peafowl on Rottnest, all the peahens have been removed so I would
suggest it is no longer ‘tickable’. I’d assumed this was to eradicate the
birds from the island and they were squeamish about culling, but a
population of peacocks will remain on the island and even be supplemented
when necessary, as they are seen as a ‘heritage’ aspect to the island.

Following a birding-aus recommendation as a potential site for Roseate
Tern, I twice headed down to the spit and the eastern end of Thompson Bay.
On both occasions there were a few Crested, Caspian and Fairy Terns there.
A hundred metres or so offshore was an island with about 50 Pied Cormorant
and, more surprisingly, good numbers of Bridled Tern, both perched on the
island and flying about. On the second visit there were two full breeding
plumage Roseate Terns on the ocean end of the spit. In the afternoon light,
the pinkish hue to the plumage was really obvious.

I got on the bike and headed out to Lake Bagdad in the hope of better looks
at the Banded Stilts (a new species for me). There were at least 2000 of
them on the lake, it was unusal for me to see stilts swimming, not a common
look of White-headed Stilts, of which there were also many around the
edges. Without a scope I was unable to discern any waders or spot a
Red-necked Phalarope, but saw more Fairy Terns around the lake. A short
walk over the dune towards the beach flushed three quail, Brown Quail
perhaps, I couldn’t get a good look. While a small island off the coast
again had Bridled Tern. I looked for Rock Parrots along here without luck,
and along the coast back towards the lighthouse. A short stop at the golf
course had plenty of White-fronted Chat, Rainbow Bee-eater, Western
Gerygone, Banded Lapwing and a new endemic, Western Whistler – not one of
the more interesting local endemics I was still waiting to catch up with
back on the mainland. When walking back to my accommodation later in the
afternoon, I saw a grey-phase Pacific Reef Heron fly past just offshore.

On my last afternoon on the island I again tried the tennis
courts/lighthouse location for Rock Parrot, this time with more success,
seeing 5 or 6 birds fly past over about half an hour. Getting a closer look
proved troublesome with them hard to spot in the eucalypts near the tennis
courts where at least two had roosted. I’d suggest a good method for Rock
Parrots at this location would be to go up to the lighthouse boardwalk and
face back towards the tennis court. From here you can see most of the
roosting trees and a moderate amount of feeding area – a good spot to see
where they land.
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