[Birding-Aus] Western Australia trip report Part 2 – the south-west

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Subject: [Birding-Aus] Western Australia trip report Part 2 – the south-west
From: Craig Doolan <>
Date: Tue, 24 Nov 2015 01:09:34 +0000
After the conference at Rottnest I had managed to organise three and a half
full days birding to try and see as many of the south-west specials as I
could. I got off the Rottnest ferry in the late morning, grabbed a hire car
and headed straight down to Cheynes Beach. My plan was to get the bulk of
the driving out of the way on the first day and then more slowly work my
way back. It would also give me a little extra time at Cheynes if I wanted

I tried to resist the temptation to stop on the way down, largely to give
myself a couple of hours in the late afternoon at Cheynes but also to ‘save
myself’ until I got to a good location. I had to stop about an hour south
of Perth to grab something out of the boot and got distracted by a
wattlebird flying past (just a Red) and thought ‘well I guess I could spent
five minutes’. 45 minutes later I returned to the car with my first three
new species of the south west, Western Spinebill, Western Thornbill (as it
turns out, the only ones I would see on the trip) and Red-capped Parrot, as
well as interesting local subspecies such as twenty-eight parrot and
black-caped sittella. I continued to see the Red-capped Parrot and
Australian Ringneck on the sides of the road for a good part of the trip.

I ended up arriving at Cheynes a little later than planned but still in
time to spend a little time birding and getting my bearings. I’d booked
into the caravan park for two nights. The reception was very friendly and
they are well used to catering for birdwatchers. I was provided with the
latest advice on where to find key species and was provided with ‘the
book’, notes from other birdwatchers on their successes and bird lists. I
had a bit of an explore in the heathland area, getting sidetracked by the
wildflowers and coming across two calling Noisy Scrubbirds. On one occasion
a bird was clearly only 1-2 metres, and calling, but completely invisible.
This was particularly surprising because the heath was so low, they were
calling in heath that was barely knee high. The beach is beautiful, home to
Silver and Pacific Gulls as well as Sooty Oystercatchers.

I woke up the nest morning and headed out at about 5am on what was planned
to be my only full day at Cheynes. I’d heard black-cockatoos while I was
getting ready, but didn’t see them, or any others, for the rest of the day.
For the whole day I saw a total of five individual fairy-wrens, but
thankfully this included breeding plumage males of Splendid, Red-winged and
Blue-breasted Fairy-wrens. The first two were in scrub near the public
toilet between the caravan park and the beach. The Blue-breasted
Fairy-wren, which I hadn’t actually expected to get here, was up on the
ridge south of the park. This was also where I had some great views of
Red-eared Firetail.

I wandered through the heath for about 4 hours, enjoying the wildflowers,
though the birdlife wasn’t prolific. New Holland Honeyeaters were
everywhere but I only saw 2 or 3 White-cheeked, one Western Spinebill and I
dipped on the Tawny-crowned altogether. I caught up with a dozen or so
Southern Emu-wren in the low heath and had Osprey, Sea-eagles and Brown
Goshawk flying over. I only heard two Western Bristlebirds for the morning
but that was enough, with cracking views of one bird perched on a low
branch being bothered by emu-wrens. This was in the most common location,
on the sandy track that runs parallel with the road. I again waited on some
Noisy Scrubbird, getting the briefest of glimpses (half a second at best)
as it shot across the track.

After a break during the warmest hours I hit the heath one more time, but
still did not hear or see a Western Whipbird. I caught up with
White-breasted Robin in the taller scrub just behind the beach and I
meandered around the caravan park hoping the black-cockatoos came in to
roost but it wasn’t to be. The last bird for the day was just about at my
cabin, a Gilbert’s Honeyeater.

Up at about 5am again the next morning I staked out the ‘regular’ Noisy
Scrubbird spot, on the way down to the beach, across from the caravan park.
While I could hear the male calling, I sat there for about an hour with no
luck. In the end, people started walking through the spot, so I called it a
day here. In the end I left Cheynes Beach with tickable views of only one
of the three skulkers, but gives me an excuse to come back again to this
beautiful place.

After leaving Cheynes and turning back onto the highway, the roadsides were
very productive for parrots. Perhaps it’s spillage from grain tracks, but
for the 30km or so along the edges of the highway from the Cheynes turn-off
back towards Albany, there was a steady stream of parrots feeding on the
ground. I would have seen about 30 Red-capped Parrots, 20 Ringnecks and
Galahs, about a dozen Elegant Parrots and two pairs of Western Rosella, the
latter two being new species for me.

Next stop was a short break at Porogurup. This would be the only tall karri
forest I’d visit during my stay so picked up a few different species. The
car park was easy for White-breasted Robin while dozens of Purple-crowned
Lorikeets were high up in the trees around the same area. It was also the
first time I was able to identify some black-cockatoos. There were over 10
flying around and making constant noise but the only clear look I got were
at Baudin’s. The middle of the day was spent driving up to Dryandra and
when I arrived, it was very dry, very hot (38 degrees) and pretty windy.
Even at 5pm when I ventured out to do a bit of briding, it was still
stifling hot.

Given the heat, I started at the Old Mill Dam. Rufous Treecreeper were the
most obvious and easily found species there and there were a couple of Grey
Currawongs around the dam. A small stream of honeyeaters were coming down
to drink on the edge, including Yellow-plumed, New Holland and Gilbert’s,
as well as Ringnecks and Western Rosella. I caught up with my first Scarlet
Robin’s of the trip and saw a few Elegant Parrots before heading back to
the accommodation. On dusk, a flock of about 12 Carnaby’s Black-cockatoo
came in to drink at the small dam there and after dusk, Boobook and Bush
Stone-curlew made their presence known.

I woke up the next morning with two clear targets, Western Yellow Robin and
Western Wattlebird, two species that had eluded me so far. I tried the
Ochre trail for the robin but without luck, but there were heaps more
treecreepers. I finally caught up with the robin at the Lol Grey Lookout
and then checked the couple of areas of heath along Kawana Rd for the
wattlebird. Not much was in flower and again the wattlebird eluded me but I
did hear and see a Horsfield’s Bronze-cuckoo ,as well as Varied Sitella,
Blue-breasted Fairy-wren and Collared Sparrowhawk. Before leaving Dryandra
I stopped at the Kawana Rd Dam. I think this is a better waterhole than the
Old Mill as there is some scrubby vegetation right down to the water’s
edge, providing better cover for small birds. As a result, it was buzzing
with small honeyeaters in the morning, with Brown, Brown-headed, Gilbert’s,
New Holland, White-eared, Yellow-plumed and Western Spinebill.

The next stop was the rather odd twitch of the Mute Swan at Northam. The
birds are semi-enclosed but are breeding and currently have three chicks.
By now I was pretty exhausted and while I was tempted to head to north side
lakes Herdsman and Joondalup, I was flying out the next day and needed to
be south-side. As a result I headed down to Victoria Dam, finally picking
up Western Wattlebird in the banskias on the road to the car park. Overall,
a great few days in the south-west. Apart from the two skulkers I picked up
all the endemics bar the Western Corella. By the time I realised this was
to be the last one remaining, I’d moved out of its range. With so many new
birds to look for I knew I’d end up missing something, I just wasn’t sure
which it would be. I’d seen 120 species in my time in the south-west and
will have a lot fewer targets next time I visit. Next – off to Christmas
Island ...
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