Wednesday, November 14, 2012

RC does the SW

Well I just got back from six days of solo touring around the SW corner of Western Australia. To go along with the general theme, it was a very enjoyable voyage and nice to get away alone for a bit and see the country from a more touristy point of view. The two main goals of the trip:

#1 Explore the impressive and unappreciated/unknown (outside Australia anyway) karri and tingle forests of the SW corner of the state, as well as the adjacent scenic coastlines.

#2 Do some scouting around the Albany area for an upcoming "twitchathon" event (aka "Big Day" or "birdathon")--essentially an annual competition held in Western Aus (and elsewhere), to see what team can record the most bird species in a 24-hour span. I've been invited to join the Ecologia team so I thought I'd better make up for my lack of experience by staking out some of the tougher species hanging out near the south end of our route.

Like the last post, this will be mostly photos with captions to describe roughly what's going on. I'm busy people okay!
It just so happened that the first day of my solo trip coincided with the largest sporting event in Australasia. Well at least the largest gambling event. Anyway, it was Melbourne Cup day. Not quite a national holiday but frankly I doubt a scrap of work gets done in Australia or New Zealand on this day. No it's not rugby, or cricket--it's horse-racing! I figured I better check out the scene, and more importantly, I had planned to meet up with Tom Bearss--Delta Naturalists Club President (from back in BC)--who just happens to be spending a week near Mandurah, a coastal town just south of Perth. So, there we were--myself, Tom, his brother-in-law Frank, and his nephew Craig (I hope I didn't mess that up Tom?). As you can see from the photo, it's pretty busy in this pub for Wednesday at 11am. With all the television-screens displaying odds etc., and papers pinned up on the wall everywhere--it felt more like a stock exchange (not that I've ever been to one). Certainly enough yelling anyway. And then the race happened, lasted maybe 2 minutes. Then to everyone's dismay a horse by the name of "Green Moon" won followed by 2 other no-name horses. Therefore hardly anyone won anything, except the bookies of course. Then I suppose a lot of drunk people went back to work in sullen moods. How exciting! Just kidding around, always interesting to see how some get their kicks.
To celebrate the fact that none of us had any pressing work commitments, Craig took us to the local  pie-shop which claims, as you can see on the sign, to be "WA's Most Awarded Bakery." You'll see terms like "Best," "World Famous," and "Australia's Favourite" thrown around a lot when it comes to local pie shops, but it did seem that this one had a lot of actual plaques etc., with awards such as "World's Best Sausage-roll" etc. To me the pies seemed about the same as anywhere, only that there was a great variety (though they didn't have any of the first 3 I asked for). So here is Craig (left), Frank, and Tom (who was embarrassed to be photographed without a beer in hand). Come on Tom, everyone knows real men drink chocolate milk!
After the buzz of the Melbourne Cup, it was a big relief to leave the built-up world and arrive at Cape Naturaliste on the SW coast. It's a nice seawatching spot, and just all-around pleasant for a drive and walk. On the way in, I passed about 15 Bible camps--each one for a different sect: Catholic, Baptist, Lutheran, Evangelical, etc, etc. Seemed odd having them all lined up beside eachother... must be some heated inter-camp footie matches.
I continued south along a scenic backroad known as Caves Road. This is a fantastic drive and gave me my first taste of Karri eucalpypt forest. Some of the taller ones grow to a height of 90 m! That puts them right up there with the redwoods for biggest in the world. Because they're a hardwood, they're arguably more impressive looking when you see them up close or as a whole forest. I stopped occasionally along the route and marveled at the rich plant and bird life. New ones for me included Pallid Cuckoo, Rufous Treecreeper, and White-breasted Robin. High above in the canopy, hordes of Purple-crowned Lorikeets chattered away as they fed on (presumably) the karri gum nuts.
That night I slept in the car at Cape Leeuwin. This shot was taken the next morning. I fell asleep to rain, so it was lovely to wake up to a brisk sunny day. A quick scan with the bins revealed a fair bit of activity offshore and sure enough, when I got out my scope, I got onto some good numbers of seabirds including hundreds of Flesh-footed Shearwaters, a good number of Shy Albatross, and at least one Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross. Since the lighthouse facility didn't open until 9 (it was 5:30 am) I opted to continue along on my journey, eastward now following the curves of the southern coast. Not before nabbing a lifer parrot of course! There on the grass surrounding the lighthouse buildings--just as others had suggested--were 2 Rock Parrots! Sweet.
And here's another new parrot. The Baudin's (White-tailed) Black-Cockatoo. The number of other names for this bird (and the closely related Carnaby's) makes it pretty confusing to know which one you're actually looking at--not helped by the fact that their calls sound pretty similar and they look virtually identical but for the shape of their bill. So anyway, I originally thought this might be a Carnaby's but Nigel informs me that there are only Baudin's in this neck of the woods (Augusta area)....... moving on.
Ah, finally-- a Spotted Pardalote not obscured by leaves! Looks like she's building a nest.
One of the highlights of this trip is visiting the "Valley of the Giants" where the Dep of Conservation has built a canopy walk to take tourists like me up into... the canopy... of these massive forests. In this case--Tingle Trees. 
I believe this section of the canopy-walk is 40m above the ground. So pretty solid height.
Not surprisingly, when you get up this high, the birds come to you. Here a pair of Baudin's were doing some pair-bonding on a nearby snag.
Back down on the ground: Look a big lightning-scorched tree!
Oh and another one?
This Western Rosella landed right beside me, but before I could get a good photo, a  Kiwi-lady shouted, "OH MY GOD! DAVE! LOOK AT THIS BIRD!!!!" And it flew away.... tourists...
Regular followers of the blog will recall my masterpiece entitled "Spotted Pardalote obscured by leaves." Well here's the much anticipated sequel: "Striated Pardalote obscured by leaves." When you see my photography, you're getting the real deal--- how real people see birds in the field!
Good to see DC is cracking down on those "don't have to pee but still go into the washroom and flush the toilet" pranksters. 
Started to skip ahead a bit here. This is somewhere out near Albany. I realized I hadn't posted any kangaroo shots yet. So here's one. Bunch-o Western Greys hanging out in a field. Not too unusual to see ~100 roos in a large paddock grazing among the cattle.
The dawn song of the Western Bristlebird, a member of "The Big Three." Along with the Noisy Scrub-bird and Western Whipbird, these dudes are very tough to see, and extremely local. So I suppose I was lucky to achieve this subpar photograph. This is out at Two People's Bay Nature Reserve, one of only 2 places where all three can be see/heard together. I heard several of the other two species but could not get a solid visual.
Better views of this guy--a massive King Skink! (About 0.5m from nose to tail-tip). Basking against a tree at first light.

Another poor photo, but hey--it's a Southern Emu-Wren! Another one you rarely get open-views at.
After Albany I headed east to Cheyne's Beach (the other Big 3 location). Here's a nice limestone outcropping nearby--gotta chuck in some scenery right?
Moving along now (not really a riveting story-line I know). I spent a day in the hot/dry interior town of Lake King. Population: ~50... just a guess. This is a Regent Parrot. I suppose he's at the appropriate lake. Not much to say about this day other than I probably ate more icecream than any other day in my life, and was invited to join the Lake King men's basketball team as they were playing their southern rivals in Ravensthorpe. The opportunity for some non-bird-related activity that involves other people was quite tempting, but as there were no running shoes my size (all I had were flip-flops), and they wouldn't be getting back to Lake King until midnight, I decided to eat more icecream and sleep in my car instead.
Another sequel photograph, this time in the "Lorikeet in nice blooms" department. This is a cute little Purple-crowned Lorikeet I found (along with another hundred of his/her kin) that were taking advantage of some productive eucalypt bloomage (new word) on the Lake King golf course. Unlike the Silver Lake Gold Course (from the Great Western Woodlands post), these fairways actually had grass... but when I say grass I mean, "vacant lot somewhere near Death Valley." When you live out in rural Australia though, you make it work.
Otherwise you're just another bloke eating ice cream.
This is an Elegant Parrot... looking rather elegant I dare say
One of my top 5 sunsets I'd say. Not much diversity in colour, but because of the flat landscape, this orange glow just seemed to stretch on forever, and last much longer than I would have thought. One of those times when you just stand and stare... 
Another fast-forward. Now I'm at Dryandra Woodland Conservation Area (just SW of Perth on the interior side of the Darling Range). This dry open Wandoo forest is home to many endangered plants and animals--most famously for at one time having the last wild Numbats in Australia. As you can see, it's a dry "open-concept" kind of forest. Birds are abundant and several were new for me.
Here's a neat one. Convergent evolution at work! This is a Varied Sitella. Looks like a nuthatch, acts like a nuthatch, but is from a totally different family!
Another lifer. The Rufous Treecreeper (abundant at Dryandra). It appears this juvenile bird is considering a career in the honeyeating business.
Daddy's not impressed. "Get back on the tree and start creeping!"
Let's play a game. Find the Bush Stone-curlew
Here's a picture of my favourite eucalyptus: Eucalyptus rhodantha. This bush type eucy grows to about 3 or 4  meters in height. The pink flowers are about 10cm in diameter and are a favourite of honeyeaters. 
And here's my final morning of the trip. I camped out near the coast on Lake McLarty---a freshwater lake that abounds with waterfowl and all that jazz. According to an interpretive sign, there were 30,000 birds on this lake in June, 1997.
The more you know.
A common bird in Australia--but a cool one. (Crested Pigeon)
And finally--here are some Little Corellas taking a lil nap at Lake Gwellup in Perth

G'by for now---relaxing around Perth for a few days, then it's off into the bush again for some real work!

1 comment:

  1. A great read, warms the toes of us back in cold and snowy B.C!