Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Epic Aussie Roadie Part 1: Western Australia

Similar to how I've done things in the past, I'll probably let the photos do most of the talking. Yes there are some funny and sad stories along the way, but I'm afraid I simply don't have time to write a book at the moment. Plus most of you just skim the photos anyway.

So here's a brief summary of the Western Australia leg of the journey:

Picked up the rental vehicle in Perth on the morning of December 3rd. Also met Jukka and his Dad there (both had arrived 2 days earlier and stayed with friends while I did the birdathon and they got over jetlag by doing some casual birding). We headed into the Darling Range for a bit of hot mid-day birding, then continued south to Dryandra where we camped.

After a great morning of birding at Dryandra (see below), we continued south to Albany via Rocky Gully. Things were pretty windy in Albany so we had a heck of a time trying to locate "The Big Three" among other things. Instead of continuing east to Fitzgerald River, we camped at Two Peoples Bay then hit it hard in the morning, this time with more success. Onto Fitzgerald River National Park, then Esperance for the night. From Esperance we drove straight to the border with South Australia.

Jukka and I catching up after TWO long years apart.
I don't know why we're doing it in the Hertz parking lot... there are birds to see!
A little blindsnake I found while setting up the tent near Dryandra Forest Reserve
Our first "technically illegal" campsite of the trip. This would become the norm
I mentioned earlier that Dryandra was fun. Here's why! Finally after three visits, my first WESTERN Crested Shrike-tit. This male was singing off and on, then was later joined by a female and 2 juveniles.
A rare treat to see 4 of these in one spot! [Photo: Jukka Jantunen]
Another nice capture by Jukka. This is the (presumed) male feeding one of the juvies [Photo: Jukka Jantunen]
This bird gave us some difficulties and is still probably not 100% identified. So far the two WA experts we've talked to have been unsure, and eventually leaned in two different directions. We identified it in the field as Baudin's based on call, habitat, and upper-mandible impression; but at the time I was not totally confident. This would be the only Baudin's we got for the trip so that could certainly provide for some bias. Comments welcome! This is near Rocky Gully, where Baudin's overlap with their Carnaby cousins. [Jukka Jantunen]
Whataya know? It's a decent photo of a bird taken by ME! This, one of the trickier SW endemics, is the Western Corella. Many tourists apparently tick any ol' corella they see around Perth as the "Western" but in fact these social birds are very local and can only be reliably found near Rocky Gully, and north of Northam. Plus, many don't realize how common Little and Long-billed Corellas are in the Perth area. Having no clue where in Rocky Gully to look, we pulled over on the side of the road to assess our options and realized there were four sleeping in the tree above us!
Seawatching at "The Gap" near Albany. Very slow-- we didn't even see a Flesh-foot! Only highlight was a  reef-heron, spotted by Pertti.
Birded Two Peoples Bay in the wind until dark. Managed to briefly hear a scrub-bird but not a lot else. Luckily this baby Carpet Python made up for it on the drive back. We also flushed a family of four boobooks off the road.
Jukka's reaction to getting point-blank looks at the "Mallee Whipbird" (a possible split from the Western Whipper). This is Fitzgerald River National Park.
Still early on the trip here, Jukka was just firing away at anything that moved. "Russell, I've got something  that streaky with a cocked tail and rufous rump." And here it is, the sneaky Shy Heathwren, also at Fitzy [Photo: JJ] 
Another Common Scaly-foot (pygopus). I've photographed 3 or 4 others but none as nicely patterned as this one
(Fitz R NP)
Echidnas are not seen very often in Western Australia, but they're seen even less in Canada and Finland...
so we were stoked! This is near Esperance I think.
We camped near Lake Warden where it rained all night. Things cleared in the morning and we were treated to great looks at the endangered Hooded Plovers that nest here. Also good numbers of Western Wattlebirds, and at least one Red-eared Firetail. [Photo: JJ]
Nankeen Night-heron [Jukka Jantunen]
Another nice shot by Jukka, this time of a Pallid Cuckoo near Esperance
Leaving the civilized SW behind (along with affordable fuel and water); it's time to head for the Nullarbor...
of course it's pouring rain. #ClassicDesertAction
And so we left Western Australia with a respectable trip list of 175. The birding had been relatively efficient since I knew all the spots. From this point onward Jukka and I would be on the same page.
Onto a new state!


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