Sunshine Coast Birds

Birding and other wildlife experiences from the Sunshine Coast and elsewhere in Australia - and from overseas - with scribblings about travel, environmental issues, kayaking, hiking and camping.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Around Oz Part 28 - Cape Leeuwin to Walpole-Nornalup and Giant Trees: Western Shrike-tit, Rock Parrot, Red-eared Firetail

Rock Parrot
Following our visit to Margaret River (see following post) we continued southwards along the scenic Caves Road to Cape Leeuwin, the south-western most point of the Australian mainland, where the Great Southern Ocean meets the Indian Ocean. It was here that, in 1801, Matthew Flinders began charting the continent of Australia.

Cape Leeuwin
Of more immediate interest was a party of 8 Rock Parrots on the lawns of the Cape Leeuwin lighthouse. A visit to the nearby historic waterwheel was also interesting.

Rock Parrot
We turned eastwards for the first time in our around-Oz journey, driving through extensive areas of jarrah-marri forest, with plenty of shrubs in flower.

Jarrah-Marri forest near Pemberton
Our destination was the Walpole Nornalup National Park; we camped in the nicely bushy setting of the Coalmine Beach Caravan Park. The views of Nornalup Inlet from the caravan park and a nearby circuit track-road were stunning.

Nornalup Inlet

Nornalup Inlet
In thick vegetation near the camping ground, plenty of Red-winged Fairy-wrens were about.  More Baudin’s Cockatoo and Western White-naped Honeyeater were seen. I had a brief roadside view of a Quokka; we had seen earlier a road-killed Quokka.

Red-winged Fairy-wren
We had a full day driving around the Walpole-Nornalup National Park area, visiting the Valley of the Giants - with its monstrous red tingle and karri trees. 

Karri and Tingle trees - Valley of the Giants
I was surprised to find good numbers of Red-eared Firetails feeding roadside in the early morning - I saw at least 20 - and at the carpark for the Tree Top Walk. This was an impressive canopy walk through the tree tops, 40m above the ground. Red-winged Fairy-wrens were also common at the carpark; they had learned to pick insects from vehicle bumper bars.

Red-eared Firetail

Red-eared Firetail
Tree Top Walk, Walpole Nornalup National Park
We also visited various parts of Walpole Nornalup National Park including Peaceful Bay, and Conspicuous Bay and Lookout (I saw an Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross off here) – spectacular coastal scenery. We then visited the aptly named Giant Tingle Tree, and the beautiful and unusual Circular Pool.

Circular Pool

Conspicuous Bay

Giant Tingle Tree
Southern Short-nosed Bandicoot and Tawny Frogmouth were about the camp at night.

Tawny Frogmouth

On our last morning, I walked the circuit road near the caravan park again. I was pleased to find a pair of Crested Shrike-tit - the distinctive western race and a future potential split. I had missed this bird when I lived in Perth and looked unsuccessfully for it during our recent trip to Dryandra. I noticed that its call was somewhat different from our eastern bird.

Crested (Western) Shrike-tit

Crested (Western) Shrike-tit

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Around Oz Part 27 - Bunbury to Beautiful Margaret River: Red-eared Firetail, Red-winged Fairy-wren, Huge Waves

White-breasted Robin
After our stay in Dryandra Woodland (see following post) we headed to the coastal city of Bunbury for an overnight stay at the Bunbury Glade Caravan Park. About 20km west of Collie there was a large flock of Baudin's Cockatoo by the road. The length of the bill was quite evident compared to the Carnaby's Cockatoos seen earlier - see here for pics.

Baudin's Cockatoo

Baudin's Cockatoo
Then it was onwards south, following the coastal road through the top end of Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park. We visited the Cape Naturaliste lighthouse, Bunker Beach and Sugarloaf Rock; very nice coastal scenery. I had seen Red-tailed Tropicbird here many previously but apparently now the colony is abandoned.

Cape Naturaliste

Sugarloaf Rock
The first White-breasted Robins of the trip were seen at Cape Naturaliste.

White-breasted /Robin
And Western Rosellas were common. Other birds about included more Baudin's Cockatoos, Brush Bronzewing and Purple-crowned Lorikeet.

Western Rosella female

Western Rosella male
We moved on to the pretty town of Margaret River, giving the camper trailer a break for a three-night stay in the Margaret River Hotel to coincide with Glenn's birthday. We walked some of the wooded tracks around the town, through beautiful groves of marri and jarrah along the Margaret River. Western Spinebill was feeding on flowering kangaroo paw in the town centre.

Some very attractive scenery about Margaret River and the nearby beachside town of Prevelley, where the size of waves being surfed by a small army of surfers were impressively large.

Margaret River near its mouth

Waves at Prevelly
 In the thick shrubby vegetation behind the dunes at Prevelley, a family of Red-winged Fairy-wrens was nice to find.

Red-winged Fairy-wren
We visited an old friend of mine from Perth, Robyn, who I had not seen for 33 years, and her partner Manfred in their very nice refuge in the marri forests south of Margaret River.

Robyn & Manfred

In their garden was a Red-eared Firetail, a surprise indeed. This is a much-coveted  SW WA endemic.

Red-eared Firetail
We visited some more coastal sites in Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park nearby. Among the birds were several parties of the south-west race of Splendid Fairy-wren.

Splended Fairy-wren: south-west race, male in eclipse plumage

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Around Oz Part 26 - Dryandra Woodland

Rufous Treecreeper
After a pleasant five-day stay in Perth (see following post) we travelled south-east through the Darling Range – seeing our first Grey Currawongs for the trip – to Dryandra Woodland, a wonderful swathe of wandoo woodland famed for its wildflowers, birds and mammals - especially the iconic Numbat.

Grey Currawong

Dryandra Woodland
Dryandra is the largest tract of native vegetation remaining in the the WA western wheatbelt. We settled in for a 3-night stay at the pleasant Congelin Camping Ground: a beautiful, peaceful place - such a contrast with the bustle and hustle of Perth.  Soon, some smart Scarlet Robins were strutting their stuff. Our last night here was the first on the trip where we had a whole camping ground to ourselves.

Scarlet Robin
We did a 22-km drive on our first afternoon along various tracks, travelling 8-15km/ph.  I had seen Numbat here in the early 1990s but we wanted another - and a view better than my last, and of course we looked for birds and other goodies. I's a bit like going on safari in Africa, but numbats - not cheetahs or leopards - are the target.

Elegant Parrot

Rufous Treecreeper, apparently with something edible
No Numbat this first afternoon but nice birds in the wonderful woodlands of Dryandra included Rufous Treecreeper, (Western) White-naped Honeyeater, Yellow-plumed Honeyeater and Elegant Parrot.

Western White-naped Honeyeater

Yellow-plumed Honeyeater
We ran into a local enthusiast from the Numbat Society, Sean Van Alphen; apparently, driving around and looking for this marvellous mammal on their days off is something of a past-time for Sean and some other tuned-in folk.

On our second day at Dryandra, we visited the Dryandra Village and did 58km of driving various tracks;  no numbats still but good birds included a pair of Painted Button-quail on the Ochre Trail, Western Thornbill, Red-capped Parrot and better views of Blue-breasted Fairy-wren than we had earlier near Cervantes (see here).

Blue-breasted Fairy-wren: male coming into breeding plumage

Western Thornbill 
Other birds about included Brown-headed Honeyeater, Bush Stone-Curlew, Southern Boobook, Grey Currawong, Red-capped Robin, Jacky Winter, Restless Flycatcher, Yellow-rumped Thornbill, Inland Thornbill, Shining Bronze-Cuckoo, Horsfield’s Bronze-Cuckoo, Dusky Woodswallow, Fantailed Cuckoo, Grey Shrike-thrush, Carnaby’s Cockatoo, White-browed Babbler, White-browed Scrub-wren  and Weebill.

On our second full day in Dryandra, we spent the morning doing a 9-km hike along some of the reserve’s southern tracks. A Regent Parrot flew over the camp early in the morning before we headed off. We added Varied (Black-capped) Sittella and Western Yellow Robin. We had great but brief views again of Red-capped Parrot, a conspicuously shy bird.

Western Yellow Robin
Dusky Woodswallow
Rupert Murdoch apparently once owned Dryandra. He planned to turn it into a bauxite mine until Perth naturalist Vincent Serventy convinced him that the place should be protected.

In the afternoon of our second day I added Western Rosella after driving another 40km along Dryandra's roads, some of which were becoming quite familiar to me.

Western Rosella
Mammals about included a few Western Brush-Wallaby and Western Grey Kangaroo. We were a bit early for the wildflowers – some nice flowers about but not the profusion we had hoped for.

Western Grey Kangaroo
Some tracks skirted colourful canola fields on private farms. The Numbat had been on the verge of extinction - Dryandra once being its only refuge - when a concerted attempt to contain fox numbers bore fruit, and the animal came back from the brink. In the early-1990s, when I saw my Numbat, one Numbat was seen on average during every 10km of driving; by 2012, that had dropped to one every 90km. Apparently feral cat numbers rose after the foxes were put in their place.

Dryandra Woodland
Canola fields adjoining Dryandra
Now, more attention is placed on knocking off cats, and the Numbat appears to again be increasing its population. Still, our total of 120km of driving produced zero Numbats, although I saw two Echidnas – one of my favourites.

By the way, Rupert Murdoch once owned Dryandra and was going to turn it into a bauxite mine, but was persuaded by Perth conservationist Vincent Serventy that the woodland should be protected for posterity. A good thing too.


Friday, 8 August 2014

Around Oz Part 25 - Perth and Surrounds - A City of Ducks and Flowers

Carnaby's Cockatoo
After leaving the town of Cervantes on the Turquoise Coast (see following post) we headed south-east, seeing a few small groups of Western Corella fleetingly west of Moora. We visited the historic town of New Norcia, then moved on to the Avon Valley and Toodyay, where a group of Carnaby's Cockatoos was feeding on marri nets roadside. The birds were tearing off the ends of the marri nuts to eat. A closely related species, Baudin's Cockatoo, uses its longer bill to extract the contents of the nuts.

Carnaby's Cockatoo

New Norcia
We spent the night in Northam before heading down to Perth for a five-night stay in the nicely located Central Caravan Park. There is a huge change in temperature between the coast and even a short distance inland - Northam, for instance, is 80km from Perth but it was zero there in the early morning; much warmer here in Perth.

A pleasant walk from the caravan park took us along the banks of the Swan River through some nice parkland and bushland. I lived in Perth for three years and have been back several times since.

Australasian Shoveler
Australasian Shoveler was among the birds seen; some of the ducks in the many wetlands in Perth are much rarer and shyer in south-east Queensland.

We visited Lake Herdsman, where several male Musk Ducks were in full display mode, although the female was a tad less exciting.

Musk Duck male

Musk Duck male

Musk Duck female
Herdsman and nearby Lake Monger are just two of many fine wetlands in the Perth metropolitan area; both are close to the CBD. When I lived in Perth, I frequently visited these lakes and surveyed Herdsman for several months. On this visit, Blue-billed Ducks were numerous on both lakes.

Herdsman Lake

Lake Monger & Perth CBD

Blue-billed Duck

Blue-billed Duck
Pacific Black Duck family
Australian Shelduck
More common waterfowl, such as Pacific Black Duck and Australian Shelduck, were about, and there were good numbers of Hoary-headed, Australasian and Great Crested Grebes.

Hoary-headed Grebe
While cruising around Perth it was nice to revisit old haunts such as Pelican Point at Nedlands and Swanbourne Beach. However, the downside was to see how the inner suburbs of Perth have been swamped by expensive parking meters.
Another interesting bird sighting was a flock of Red-tailed Black Cockatoos in the Signal Hill Reserve in the Perth suburb of Cloverdale.

Pelican Point
We visited Kings Park, an extensive bushland reserve on the edge of the CBD. The wildflowers were looking good, as they have been on this trip all the way from the Pilbara.

Kings Park
A nice show in the park was a Western Spinebill, another SW WA endemic.

Western Spinebill