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SW Western Australia Bird Watching

Author: Carl from Pahrump
Date of Trip: March 2007

In 2006 and 2007 we spent 255 Days driving around Australia. We started in Darwin, drove south to Alice Springs, backtracked to Cairns, went down the East Coast to Rockhampton, cut over to Melbourne, went across the Nullarbor Plain to Perth, drove up the West Coast to Broome, and finished by crossing the Kimberely Region on our way back to Darwin — 24,000 miles & 6 rental cars. Along the way we stayed in 56 cities and saw 693 bird species/subspecies.
This Trip Report covers the 21-days we spent bird watching in SW Western Australia during March 2007.

We saw 123 bird species at 17 parks. The parks where we saw the most bird species were: Coraki Cottage = 52, Vasse-Wonnerup Wetland = 44, Fernwood Gully Cottages = 35, Lake Seppings Nature Trail = 33, St John Brook Cons. Area = 30, Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse = 26, Two People’s Bay N R = 24, Wyadup Brook Cottages = 24, Waychinicup NP = 23, Stirling Range NP = 21, William Bay = 19, Four Aces Karri Forest = 18, Busselton Jetty = 18, Luke Pen Walk (Kalgan River) = 15, Leschenaunlt Pen. Cons. Park = 11, Cape Naturaliste = 10, & Canal Rocks NP = 8.

The cities where we saw the most bird species were: 7 days in Albany = 86, 7 days in Nannup = 67, 7 days in Yallingup = 60.

Lodging

Albany — We stayed at the Coraki Cottage (http://www.corakicottages.com.au 34.944S 117.952E) 7Km outside Albany on Oyster Harbor. The area around the cottage was our most productive birding spot in the region.

If you put these coordinates into Google Earth, you can see the locations I am discussing. Typically, there will be lots of pictures as well.

Nannup – We stayed at the Fern Gulley Cottages (http://www.ferngulley.com.au/ 33.888S 115.843E) 14 Km outside Nannup on the Blackwood River. There were lots of resident birds at the cottage.

Yallingup – We stayed at the Wyadup Brook Cottages (http://www.wyadupbrookcottages.west-oz.com/> 33.695S 115.023E) 6 Km from Yallingup. The 2 bedroom cottages are on a 250-acre cattle farm.

Highlights of the Region:

Seeing a Western Spinebill with a gorgeous orange throat patch and 20 Long-billed Black-cockatoos in the Stirling Range NP despite the evidence of massive forest fires

Learning the history behind Two People’s Bay becoming a Nature Reserve. We were there at the wrong tie of year to see the rare birds, but we did see an Inland Thornbill, Spotted Scrubwren and Little Grassbird.

Seeing a Wedge-tailed Eagle carrying a dead Kangaroo with one talon near Denmark.

Eating Marron (freshwater Lobster) for Lunch at the Tathra Winery & Restaurant near our cottage on the Blackwood River. Deliciously Beautiful!!!

Meeting Bertie the SW Western Corella and his one-eyed Western Magpie girlfriend on our patio at the Fern Gulley Cottages. Seeing a thousand Short-billed Black-cockatoos fly down the Blackwood River and over our cottage in swalking waves.

Seeing a flaming Scarlet Robin, a couple dozen Western Rosellas, and a Shining Bronze-Cuckoo at the St John Broom Conservation Area.

Seeing giant Kerri trees near Manjimup and Taurt trees near Busselton.

Hearing a Barking Owl at Yallingup. Visiting the Cape Lavender Farm – the entrance road was lined with lavender, the circular parking lot had a lavender hedge, and there were lavender beds along the sidewalk. In the distance we could see fields of lavender.

If we were planning the trip again, I would:

Stay 2 weeks to a month in Albany.

Skip Yallingup — it is mostly a surfing spot. We could get to this area from Nannup.

Spend some time at Wave Rock (32.445S 118.894E) near Hyden.

Birding Summary

Of the 123 bird species we saw in SW WA, 48 were endemic to Australia. Most of the 75 non-Australian Endemic bird species were new for us.

18 bird species were never seen again during the 255-day trip around Australia; that is: Brush Bronzewing, Rock Parrot, Fain-tailed Pigeon, Scarlet Robin, Golden Whistler, Shining Bronze-Cuckoo, Hooded Robin, Yellow-rumped Pardalote, Little Grassbird, Western Bristlebird, Long-billed Black-cockatoo, Muir’s Corella, Muscovie Duck, Western Shrike-tit, Red-winged Fairywren, Western Thornbill, Rock Dove, & Western Yellow Robin.

Special Comments:

On March 10 we were off by 8:30am. We took the inland route from Jerramungup to Albany thru the Sterling Range NP (34.346S 118.125E). We didn’t know this area had recently been severely burned. We managed to see a Western Spinebill — it has a gorgeous orange throat patch. We stopped at a picnic grounds and found 20 Long-billed Black-cockatoos eating seeds out of the Eucalyptus trees.

We arrived at the Coraki Cottage (http://www.corakicottages.com.au/) in Albany (pronounced Al-ba-Knee) at 2pm. While we were unpacking, a male Scarlet Robin flew onto the porch. They are so tiny — and so BEAUTIFUL, we couldn’t stop looking at it.

In the late afternoon we went for a walk along Oyster Bay by our cottage. Butterfly plants and Passion Plants were growing along the path. We saw a sign warning about Quicksand — that will keep you on the paved path!

All afternoon we watched scores of Yellow-rumped Thornbills feed on a concrete pad by our cottage. I can’t imagine what they found to eat there. Later we saw 3 Western Rosellas feeding on the grass.

On March 11 we did some casual birding from the porch. The tide was out this morning on Oyster Bay. Yellow-billed Spoonbills were working the mudflats along with Ibises. We walked around the cottage grounds and found our best birds of the day; i.e., a White-breasted Robin and a Western Thornbill.

On March 12 we drove around the low tide mud flats to observe waders such as Whimbrels, Spoonbills and Ibis. Later we drove out to Two People’s Bay Nature Reserve (34.973S 118.194E). This area was once scheduled to become a housing area until a Gilbert’s Potoroo was fortuitously discovered here in 1994. The Potoroo was thought to be extinct, so finding one was a big deal. Upon closer study, several other rare marsupials and birds were discovered — some very rare like the Southern Brown Bandicoot and Quokka, and Noisy Scrub-bird, Southern Emu-wren, Western Bristlebird, Rufous Fieldwren, and Western Whipbird

It turns out we are here at the wrong time of year to have a good chance of see the Noisy-scrubbird. They call during mating season – May thru Sept. The rest of the year they hide in the bush and are practically invisible — unless you come too close and flush one out. However, someone saw one at a nearby park recently, so we’ll go there.

We went to Little Beach to look for the Bristlebird. We met some French birders there, but hadn’t seen any birds. It started raining, so we headed home.

Back at the cottages we had the Scarlet Robin on our patio again, until the White-breasted Robin came along and chased it off. Later, we saw the Blue-breasted Fairywren.

On March 13 we were off before dawn for Two People’s Bay NR. We drove slowly to avoid the stealthy Kangaroos that sit along side the road. We got to Little Beach at Dawn, but the Bristlebirds didn’t come out to play this morning — nor did anything else.

We spent the late morning watching Splendid Fairywrens around the cottage. After lunch we drove to Lake Seppings (35.011S 117.917E). We saw several water birds here including the Musk and Blue-bill Ducks. I got a great picture of a Red-eared Firetail. We also saw a Red-winged Fairywren.

We talked to some city employees who were at the lake to spray Pompous Grass. They said it gets out of control here and takes over. We have a difficult time keeping it alive in Ohio.

On March 14 we stopped by the mud flats near our cottage at low tide. There were several Whimbrels and Sandpipers.

We drove out to the Kalgan River (34.922S 117.980E) for the nature walk. We encountered several flocks of Red-winged Fairywrens, and a mob of White-tailed Black-cockatoos eating seeds in the trees.

About 6pm we returned to Two People’s Bay. We saw White-browed Scrubwrens and Welcome Swallows, but no Bristlebird.

On March 15 we were off early to Waychinicup NP (pronounced Y-chin-I-Cup 34.885S 118.408E), 30 miles east of the cottage. It looked stormy in the dawn light as we started walking down the sand track. Right off we saw two quails 150-feet down the trail. As they moved closer to us, their numbers increased to five. They did their best to get in a line as I photographed them. When they were only 30-feet away, they noticed us and vanished into the Mellee.

One hundred meters down the trail my wife heard a promising bird call. While I was looking in the bird book, my wife saw a Western Bristlebird land close by her. Soon there was a drenching mist, so we headed back to the car.

In an hour there was a double rainbow and the sun was out. The Rangers had told us that the Noisy Scrubbird had been seen here recently near the beach. There was no map, so we headed off down the 4WD sand road looking for the beach and bird. We found heaps of Banksia bushes in full bloom with stacks and mobs of New Holland Honeyeaters, Western Spinebills, and Wattlebirds — with the odd White-cheeked Honeyeater. After walking for an hour with no end in sight, we decided to turn back. Back at the car, we tried another sand track. Soon we saw a Western Bristlebird run across the track in front of us. We followed this track to an overlook of the beach. It was getting hot and late, so we skipped walking down to the beach.

On March 16 the Laughing Kookaburras were howling like monkeys outside our window at sun-up. Some days you go birdwatching — sometimes the birds come to you. This afternoon as we were having tea on the patio when a Western Red-Tailed Black-cockatoo flew over the cottage. They are only found in this region of WA. We took that as a sign to go for a look-about.

First we went to Middleton Beach (35.026S 117.919E). The area was scenic, but there didn’t seem to be any life in the area.

On the way home, we saw a Rail on the side of the road at Lake Seppings. We turned-around. Even though heaps of cars were flying down the road, the Buff-banded Rail was still there going about its business.

We decided to stop at the Lake Seppings Nature Trail to see if more Rails were about. We found Nasturtiums and Sweet Peas growing along the path — with Purple Morning glories for good measure. The Red and Yellow Nasturtiums had mixed in a profusion of colors. There were heaps of Butterflies including the small Blotched Dusky-blue. At the bird hide we found a Spotless Crake and a Little Grassbird. There were 25 Black-fronted Dotterels on the mud flat 40 feet from us that were almost invisible in their breeding colors. As we were walking out we spotted a form of the Western Yellow Robin that is only found in the Albany area.

On March 17 we were off at 7am heading west toward Denmark. There are so many National Parks in Australia that not all of them are shown on the maps. William Bay NP (35.025S 117.236E) between Albany and Denmark, was an unexpected good find today. It had scenery, paved roads, beach, swimming areas, birds, and a trail — everything except a bathroom.

We stopped along the road to watch and photograph a Wedge-tailed Eagle eating a Kangaroo that was lying in the eastbound lane. A car came along and the Eagle tried to carry the Kangaroo off with one foot. He dropped the Kangaroo, but landed on a fence post to guard it till the coast was clear.

We arrived at the Fern Gulley Cottages outside Nannup at 4pm. We met out hosts Ian and Bonnie. Right off we had mobs of White-naped Honeyeaters and Red Wattlebirds on the back porch. Later Ringnecked Parrots dropped in as well.

About 6:30pm we went for a wander around the grounds. My wife spotted a Western Shrike-tit high in a tree. It was really flashy. On March 18 we went for an early 2-hour walk along the Blackwood River. The Red Wattlebirds were bathing in the stranded pools. Waves of Parrots were moving thru the tall trees along the banks.

My wife found a Yellow-rumped Pardalote in the bushes. It has a yellow belly when it is perched, and covered in black spots.

The river is reduced to standing pools since it hasn’t rained in months.

When the Wattlebirds are away the Honeyeaters will feed from the honey-water on the porch. The Wattlebirds are afraid of us, but chase the other birds away from the feeders on the porch. We decided to sit on the porch so the little birds could eat.

Pretty soon Magpies showed up at the porch. We threw rocks at them to chase them away from the feeders. They thought we were feeding them. One Magpie was so stupid it flew down to the ground and found our rocks and ate them.

For Lunch we went to the Tathra Winery & Restaurant near our cottage. We started with baked Pumpkin Soup with swirled cream & Herbs, and a pinwheel roll. For the main course, my wife had baked Ricotta Cheese with veggie & fruit salad and chutney. I had Marron (freshwater Lobster) with veggie & fruit salad. The salad dressing was homemade-spiced Balsamic Vinegar. Deliciously Beautiful!!!

After lunch we took a power nap. When we woke-up, I noticed a Corella sitting in the tree by our porch. This turned out to be the rare SW Western Corella — I got one picture that showed the faint red spot on the chest. The Corella seemed to be traveling with an Australian Magpie (this was strange since Corellas usually travel in flocks of thousands). They sat together for a long time on a limb and flew off together.

It turns out from talking to Ian that the Corella has been here since they bought the resort property in 1995. His name is Bertie. He has a one-eyed Magpie girlfriend that is always by his side — even though he regularly snaps at her (like every 30 seconds, as if by clock-work). When Ian and Bonnie first came to the property, Bertie flew down and landed on Ian’s shoulder.

On March 19 we had some hydrotherapy this morning in our hot tub on the patio. We saw several beautiful birds including the Yellow-rumped Pardalote. The Red Wattlebird drew my wife’s ire by trying to guard the honey-water feeders and chase off the other Honeyeaters. He’ll probably have a stress-anxiety attack soon and have to see a Shrink.

It’s amazing how fast the birds can sense a change in the balance of power. As soon as my wife started harassing the Red Wattlebird and chasing it off, the little Honeyeaters came in droves to the feeders. The Twenty-Eight Parrots also came in for the seeds we put out.

We have heard the Twenty-Eight Parrots a lot, and they never make a sound like “Twenty-Eight” — more like a car alarm going off

About 10am we went for a drive east on the Blackwood River Valley. We stopped briefly at the Golden Valley Tree Farm. On the short walk my wife got ants in her birding pants. She did a great impersonation of Cedric trying to get rid of them!

About 2:30pm there was a mighty disturbance in the natural balance of quietness as a thousand Short-billed Black-cockatoos flew by the resort in swalking waves. The first batch flew down the river in view of our patio. Pretty soon every tall tree was sitting full of them. They are nomadic and moved on down the river after a brief rest.

On March 20 we were off to the SW tip of Australia. The Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse near Augusta is as far SW as you can go in Australia (34.368S 115.135E). The lighthouse forms the dividing line between the cold South Ocean and the warm Indian Ocean.

On the drive over we made a U-turn to go back and see three Red-tailed Black-cockatoos in a tree. As we were driving into Augusta we saw a field of Pink Naked Ladies. We went for several beach walks looking for Rock Parrots. The best time to see them is Jy thru early Spring. We managed to see a flock flying off.

On the beach we saw a spectacular Sooty Oystercatcher. The SW species is bigger, with bolder orange colors, than we have seen before.

You have to pay $8US to get into the lighthouse, so we just took a photo and left. Most of the lighthouses have an admission fee.

We stopped for lunch at the Colourpatch Fish and Chips: “Last Eating House Before the Antarctic (5439Km). We got the fish and chips, which was actually a seafood basket. In two words, the food was Not Beautiful! It didn’t taste so bad, but it was greasy. The greasy taste lingered even after we ate a Mound bar. The only good thing about the restaurant was that we could watch Dolphins swim in the bay from our table.

On March 21 we lit the gas fireplace and lounged around the spa and cottage till 9am orchestrating the cacophony of birds trying to feed on the porch — including seven “28 Parrots”

It had warmed up to 56F at 9:20am when we left the cottage to go birding. We drove into town and took the dirt road to St John Broom Conservation Area. Right off we saw a couple dozen Western Rosellas.

We stopped at Workers Pool and took the forest trail down to Barrabup Pool along the St John Brook. We came on a SW Brush Bronzewing that let us follow him down the trail till we were only 10 feet away. Back at our car we saw a flaming Scarlet Robin — Beautiful!!!!! On the way out of the park we saw our best bird of the day — a Shining Bronze-Cuckoo.

Back at the cottage we continued to harass the Red Wattlebird — he’ll have a lot of gray feathers when we leave.

On March 22 we were off to the St John Brook Conservation Area (33.945S 115.691E early. When we came into the park we spotted a pair of Common Bronzewing, then another pair, then more. When they started flying off there must have been two dozen. One stayed in front of the car for a long time as we drove thru the park.

We headed off north on the Old Timberline RR Trail. We walked north for 2 hours. The woods were very tranquil. We didn’t see anyone all day. We saw some beautiful birds including the Western Yellow Robin. We also saw the Crested Bellbird, Golden Whistler male, and Black-capped Sittella — all very striking.

About 10:30am it looked like a storm was brewing so we headed back. The return walk only took 40 minutes.

Back at the cottage the Red Wattlebird still hadn’t learned to share with the other birds — so we continued to show him who was The Boss. The small Honeyeaters and Ringneck Parrots flocked in for a feed.

On March 23 we left for the Kerri Forest near Manjimup early (I was told that if a word ends in “up”, it means “near water”). Kerri trees are the tallest of the 500 Eucalyptus tree species in Australia. A mature tree can grow to 285 feet and produce 200 tons of lumber. This is highly valued for construction, which resulted in most of the Kerri trees being cut down years ago. What is left is protected in parks. Harvesting Kerri Trees on private land is highly regulated.

We first stopped at the Four Aces (34.212S 115.931E) — 4 Kerri Trees about the same size naturally lined up in a row. We walked down to “One Tree Bridge” — a wooden bridge originally built out of one tree. The original bridge used the tree trunk as the beam to span the narrow river with a small superstructure bolted on top. The bridge was replaced in the 1960’s. The new bridge has wooden columns and massive beams, but the superstructure is concrete and iron.

We could hear a lot of birds, but they mostly hid in the tops of the trees. Our best sightings were of a pair of Western Shrike-tits, a pair of White-browed Babblers, and a Rufous Treecreeper. Our best plant was several Rose-hip bushes.

We had dinner with Ian, Bonnie, and Dorothy (Bonnie’s 91 year old Mum). Bertie the Corella flew in from time to time for a snack. We had grilled Lamb and gravy with mint jelly, served with potatoes, carrots, pumpkin, onions, peas, and Garlic Bread. For dessert we had Trifle (fresh whipped cream, gelatin fruit, Carmel ice cream, Pavlova chips). Beautiful!!!

We sat on the porch and talked after dinner. Ian said they have big problem during mushroom season with people coming in to get Magic Mushrooms. The problem is they look like some of the local poison mushrooms.

Ian also told us that Herbert Hoover was Manager of a Gold Mine in Kalgoulia in the 1870’s. Hoover was involved in rescuing a miner that was trapped underground for 9 days. How do you get from WA to the White House??

Ian said they ship sheep and cows to Arabia by Cattle Cruise Ship — some with 25 decks (with pins instead of cabins). It is controversial, so they do it mostly under the cover of darkness. The animals go thru a religious process on arrival before being slaughtered.

On March 24 we headed North to the Vasse-Wonnerup Wetland (33.622S 115.426E) near Busselton. The wetlands were mostly dry since we are pretty far removed from the May-Jy Wet season. It doesn’t help that they are draining the wetland and building houses as fast as possible.

We went for a walk in the Taurt Forest NP (33.527S 115.525E) and later on the Busselton Beach. We ended up seeing 45 bird species, mostly water and shore birds.

We drove into town and stopped at a small cafe for lunch. My wife got a ham, cheese, and pineapple sandwich with fresh iced coffee. I got a steak sandwich with chips and beetroot, and a very thick chocolate shake.

We loaded up with tucker for a few days and headed off to the Wyadup Brook Cottages in Yallingup(pronounced Yal-Lyn-Gup).

On March 25 we had our usual Br — Toast with honey and peanut butter, and a Cuppa. The Jarrah Honey is like eating candy. The jar says it comes from wild beehives.

We went for a walk around the 250-acre cattle farm. There were 14 new calves in the field. A small spring fed creek runs the farm, which insures a strip of green.

At one stage we heard a dog barking, then we realized it was a Barking Owl. We saw dozens of Ringnecks and Rosellas, Thornbills and Silvereyes, and White-breast and Scarlet Robins.

Midmorning we drove down to Wyadup Beach Park. It was too hot for much walking. We went rock-hopping and found a horizontal blowhole powered by big waves.

We finished the morning at Injidup Beach, where we watched kids sand boarding using their Boogie Boards.

Midafternoon we went for a drive and ended up at Canal Rocks (33.680S 114.994E). We watched as three Dolphins rounded up a school of fish — the fish lathered the surface of the water. Silver Gulls came in to clean up the leftovers.

On March 27 we drove to the Busselton Jetty Ocean Observatory (33.644S 115.344E) in the morning. The Jetty is a mile & a football field long — the second longest jetty in the world. We put on our jackets, got tickets ($18 each) and walked out to the end of the jetty.

The Observatory is a 25-foot cylinder that extends 9m to the ocean floor. A spiral staircase winds thru three floors and finally reaches the bottom. We were surprised at the array of tropical fish swimming around the 4-inch thick Plexiglas windows. The warm Leeuwin current from Indonesia is responsible for bringing the tropical fish and coral to waters that would normally be too cold to support them. Three hundred fishes species have been recorded here plus many soft corals.

We spent 45 minutes below the water. There was a massive school of Yellow Tails (small silver fish with a yellow tail). Altogether we saw 30 fish types, and heaps of corals and sponges.

On the walk back the wind was howling at 30mph, then it started to rain. After a few minutes we got to a shelter on the jetty and waited till the rain stopped.

Back on land, we went for Lunch at the Equinox Cafe on the beach. My wife ordered a fancy Barramundi dish, but the fish tasted “fishy”, so all their hard work was in vain. I got a steak in mushroom sauce over mashed potatoes with an onion glaze topped with fried sweet potato peel. Half beautiful.

On March 28 we drove over to Cape Naturaliste (33.537S 115.009E). From Sept thru Nov this area is frequented by Blue Whales, Humpbacks, and Wright Whales returning to Antarctica from the tropics. We went on a 4K walk thru the heath. It was overcast and cool, which made for good bush walking. We saw a few good birds like the White-tailed Fantail, New Holland Honeyeater, Splendid Fairywren and Spotted Scrubwren.

On March 29 we drove south to check out the beaches in the Margaret River area. Our first stop was at Grunters Beach where we could see the Pro surfing venue. We moved on south to Redgate Beach. It was sunnier here and the wind had died down. Heaps of surfers here.

Down the track we stopped at the Boranup Forest State Forest for a drive in the Kerri Trees. After a few K’s, we decided the road was getting too rough and backtracked to the main road.

Our final stop was at Hamelin Bay. We found a nice pond, but not many water birds. A climb across the sand dune brought us to an expansive beach park. The sun was so brightly reflecting off the sand we couldn’t stay long.

We talked to our host Judy Fisher this afternoon. She said the best time to come here for the wildflowers is late Sept and October. She said people that come too early in Sept could be disappointed if they are looking for wildflowers.

On March 30 we went for an early morning walk around the 250-acre farm where we were staying. Late morning we went to the Woody Nook for lunch. We got the platter for two with Venison sausage, Brie cheese, feta cheese, fresh bread, crackers, olives and sun-dried tomatoes.

Next we went to the Cape Lavender Farm in Wilyabrup (33.786S 115.09E). The entrance road was lined with lavender, the circular parking lot had a lavender hedge, and there were lavender beds along the sidewalk. In the distance we could see fields of lavender. Inside they had dozens of lavender products. We got some lip balm, soap, and incense sticks.

I saw this plaque at the Woody Nook.

I Believe

I believe in the supreme worth of the individual and in his right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

I believe that every right implies a responsibility; every opportunity an obligation; every possession a duty.

I believe that the law was made for man and not man for the law; that government is the servant of the people and not their master.

I believe in the dignity of labor whether with head or hand; that the world owes no man a living but that it owes every man an opportunity to make a living.

I believe that thrift is essential to well-ordered living and that economy is the prime requisite of a sound financial structure, whether in government, business or personal life.

I believe that truth and justice are fundamental to an enduring social order.

I believe in the sacredness of a promise, that a man’s word should be as good as his bond; that character — not wealth or power or position — is of supreme worth.

I believe that the rendering of useful service is the common duty of mankind and that only in the purifying fire of sacrifice is the dross of selfishness consumed and the greatness of the human soul set free.

I believe in a Wise and Loving God, and that the individual’s highest fulfillment, greatest happiness and widest usefulness are to be found in living in harmony with His Will.

I believe that love is the greatest thing in the world; that it alone can overcome hate; that right can and will triumph over might.

John D. Rockefeller Jr.

E-mail if you would like a file with the specific birds we saw each day.

Carl & Wilma Ball carlball@yahoo.com

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