South West Western Australia Trip Report
The FTB inaugural trip to South-west Western Australia was a winner in many ways and provided the participants with some outstanding birding and wildflower experiences. Overall the weather was good and prior to our arrival, above average rains was received for June and July with below average rains in August. This meant that everything was very green and there was abundant plant life and the wildflowers were exceptional. During the trip the only time when rain seriously interrupted the programme was during our visit to Two Peoples Bay near Albany, so that some expected birding highlights never eventuated! At other times our walks may have been delayed by showers but we were still able to get about regardless. The tour started on the evening of Tuesday 26 August which meant that the early arrivals were able to visit Kings Park, Perth across the road from our motel for a glimpse of the birds and wildflowers to come.
Queen of Sheba by Participant Robin Murray
Day 2 Wednesday 27 August Perth to Narrogin
Rock Parrot by Participant Robin Murray
Our one hour 7am walk got off to a good start enabling us to familiarise ourselves with all the introduced species like Spotted & Laughing Doves, Rainbow Lorikeets and Laughing Kookaburras, before tackling the native species like Ringneck Parrots (the beautiful, locally named Twenty-eight Parrot), Grey Butcherbird and Western Gerygone (much more common than it is in the east) and Brown Honeyeaters, two birds that we saw every day. Mangle's Kangaroo Paw and the Swan Plain Myrtle were the two wildflower highlights! Then we were off first to Forestdale Lake to check out the locally endemic Western Wattlebird, and to see Singing Honeyeater and many Black Swans on nests, and then onto Bungendore NP, for a walk in the forest. Three species of Hibbertias and a Leupogon carpeted the ground with yellow and white wildflowers, interspersed with the blue of the Blue Leschenaultias, the scarlet of the Hairy Jug Flowers and Scarlet Runner, the reds of the Beaufortias and the yellow Cowslip Orchids and yellow-brown Common Donkey Orchids. Amongst the bird highlights here were Western Thornbills, and a pair of Red-tailed Black Cockatoos. We took morning tea down at Wungong Dam and were delighted to find Yellow-rumped Thornbills and Splendid Fairy-wrens amongst the birds there. Then we headed to Dryandra Reserve, seeing the Grey Currawongs as we travelled through the forests along the Albany Highway and Regent Parrots in the more open areas. We arrived at Dryandra mid-afternoon, checked out the Wandoo woodland and found Rufous Treecreepers, Yellow-plumed Honeyeaters and Western Yellow & Red-capped Robins. On the ground were more Donkey and Cowslip Orchids but also Yellow Spider Orchid, Sugar Orchid, Pink and Blue Fairy Orchids. Late in the afternoon we had prolonged views of a Numbat up close as it eventually crossed the road and went into its burrow after giving us many photo-opportunities. That night we took part in a 2 hour spotlight walk in the special enclosure where we saw Boodies and Woylies (Bettongs), Marlas (Hare Wallaby), Bilbys and Brush-tailed Possum. A great experience and Bookook Owls called throughout out time there. We finished the day with a great steak dinner and went to bed exhausted but exhilarated!!
Day 3 Thursday Narrogin to Stirling Ranges Retreat
Numbat by Participant Robin Murray
Our early morning walk took us into the Foxes Lair Reserve where we found Carnaby's Black Cockatoo, Red-capped Parrots and White-cheeked Honeyeaters feeding in the flowering Dryandras Off then through Highbury and Wagin where White-browed Babblers, Brown Falcons and Kestrels and more Regent Parrots were found. In the Tambellup area we had great views of Western Rosellas & Elegant Parrots, Pallid Cuckoos and more Regent Parrots, with Purple-crowned Lorikeets being common at our lunch stop in Cranbook. Onto the Stirling Ranges and the Stirling Retreat where our guide Ayleen Sands, took us on a "Hidden Treasures Orchid Tour". And what a walk it was! The sun was still shining and so we saw the famous Queen of Sheba Sun Orchid, many Leaping Spider Orchids, Jug Orchid, Common Donkey and Cowslip Orchids. On the slopes of Mt Trio we were treated to wonderful views of Mountain Bells, Mountain Pea, and the tiny Bee Orchid on some rocky outcrops. While back in the grounds of the Retreat, we saw the Orange Hybrid Orchids, Pink & Blue Fairy Orchids, Common Spider Orchid and Snail Orchids! What a place!
Day 4 Friday Stirling Ranges to Two Peoples Bay and Albany
Today our early morning walk was around the grounds of Stirling Retreat, and we had plenty to see, the commonest bird being the Purple-crowned Lorikeets but there were also Carnaby's Cockatoos, Elegant, Regent and Red-capped Parrots, Western Rosellas & Ringnecks, Restless Flycatchers and Common Bronzewings, Tree Martins and Yellow-plumed Honeyeaters. After breakfast we headed down the Albany Road, but while still in the Park in some very low heath, Tawny-crowned Honeyeaters & Pallid Cuckoos were a find; around South Stirling, Grey Currawongs and Splendid Fairy-wrens were found and at Chillingup Lake NR, Grey Teal and Brown Falcons were a good find. Alas it poured rain in Two Peoples Bay NR famous for its Noisy Scrub-birds, Western Whip and Bristlebirds but they were not to be seen or heard. During the break in the rain we got Sooty Oystercatchers in Two People Bay with Caspian Terns and Pacific Gulls and around the visitor centre, some splendid views of a male Blue-breasted Fairy-wren. Plenty of Scarlet Banksias here with New Holland and Brown Honeyeaters, and Carnaby's Cockatoos busy feeding in them! Also present were Albany Daisies, Southern Cross flowers and Lambertias. At Sebbings Lake, Musk and Blue-billed Ducks were located while a Swamp Harrier & Whistling Kite were seen around the Inlet.
Day 5 Saturday Stirling Ranges to Pemberton
Common Bird Orchid by Participant Robin Murray
Again an early morning walk around Stirling Retreat, this time getting great views of Western Yellow Robins, Little Eagle and all the parrots and cockatoos of yesterday. Then on through the pastoral lands down to Denmark where there was great birding at the Wilson Inlet and at the Ocean Beach. Highlights were Red-winged Fairy-wrens and White-breasted Robins in some tall coastal heath, Red-capped Plovers and Pied Oystercatchers on the beaches, while in the freshwater wetlands there were Shelducks with young and Yellow-billed Spoonbills. We checked out a number of walking tracks in the Shannon NP and around Normalup, marveling at the great Tingle and Jarrah trees, and finding White-naped and Golden Whistlers, Western & Inland Thornbills and White-breasted Robins. Lovely deep purple stands of Tree Hoveas were a feature of the area and our first Bird Orchid was located!
Day 6 Sunday Pemberton to Margaret River
Our mornings walk took in the Tingle and Jarrah Forests at the edge of town where Spotted Pardalote, White-browed Scrub-wren and White-breasted Robins dominated the under storey and White-naped Honeyeaters and Red Wattlebirds the upper storey. On the front lawns of the houses nearby Western Rosellas and Splendid Fairy-wrens were easily seen. We marveled at the Gloucester Tree and the tall forest that surround it and as we were leaving town 14 Baudin's Cockatoos flew close by. We headed south, onto the Brockman Highway where Red-tailed Black Cockatoos, Wedge-tailed Eagles and some Emus were sighted, and straight through to Cape Leeuwin. It was blowing a gale at the Cape but we eventually found our target bird, 11 Rock Parrots feeding on a lawn in the lee of a light keeperšs cottage great photos were obtained! Some Gannets, Kestrel, Pacific Gull and Sooty Oystercatcher were also sighted. Albatrosses were seen offshore but the strong winds made sea-bird watching impossible. We then headed north to Margaret River, stopping at likely places for Red-eared Firetails but without success although we added to our tally of Orchids including Jug Orchid and a tall Multi-flowered Greenhood.
Day 7 Mon Margaret River, Cape Naturalist and Ludlow Tuart Forest
Donkey Orchid by Participant Robin Murray
Our morning walk in the drizzle led us along the banks of the Margaret River where Fantailed Cuckoos were heard and seen and fleeting views of more Red-winged Fairy-wrens obtained. Then we were off to Gracetown, with its famous surf beaches and where the heath flowers were ablaze! The red peas of the Templetonias and the Southern Rose Darwinias were wonderful, while close to the shore were seen Black-browed Albatross, Giant Petrel, possible Shy Albatross and Hutton's Shearwaters, Sooty and Pied Oystercatchers and many Gannets. At Cape Naturaliste again the heath flowers were amazing, all yellows, pinks, reds and whites while Shining Bronze-Cuckoos and Fantailed Cuckoos were keeping the Splendid Fairy-wrens and Scrub-wrens on edge. Fur Seals were seen from the whale watching platform, 33 Baudin's Cockatoos were feeding in nearby trees, 2 Rock Parrots on the heath and a Little Eagle flew over. In a dry forest near Yallingup many Jug and Snail Orchids and the Mulit-flowered Greenhood were found and Scarlet Robins and Golden Whistlers were present. Our final stop for the day was the Ludlow Tuart Forest near Busselton. Here amongst the big tall, broad trees more Scarlet Robins & Grey Fantails seen while Whistling Kite and Little Eagle circled overhead.
Day 8 Margaret River to Perth Airport
Southern Cross by Participant Robin Murray
There was no early walk this day instead we took and early breakfast and headed for Perth, passing through the pastoral areas and seeing many White and Straw-necked Ibis, a flock of Little Corellas, Wood Ducks and Australian Shelducks, arriving about midday and ready for our departures to the East. During the 8 days we saw 15 species of ground orchids, a wonderful array of wildflowers and 115 species of birds, including many of the endemics of the South West. Many thanks to Robin, Helen, Rita and Belinda for their enthusiasm and keen interest in all things natural and for Janene's driving and supervision skills.
By Alan Morris guiding for FTB