We spent a month in SW Australia, visiting relatives but also birding at key sites to look for the region’s endemics. We spent a lot of time based at Gooseberry Hill in the Darling Range just outside Perth but also undertook a week travelling south to Albany and Bussleton and another trip north to Kalbarri, as well as a day-trip to Rottnest Island. We hired a cheap no frills car though the “no birds” firm in Perth for the entire duration of our stay and stayed in B+Bs and Guest houses when we were travelling without booking ahead. We saw 211 species and had great views of most of the SW Australian endemics including all of the “big 3” at Two People’s Bay. Key species missed were Australasian Bittern, Hooded Plover, Purple-gaped Honeyeater, Malleefowl and some of the more nomadic dry country birds at Kalbarri such as Crimson Chat, Black-eared Cuckoo, Black Honeyeater and Pied Honeyeater.
• 7 -12 Dec: arrival at Perth airport and a week of birding around Perth and the Darling Range National Parks
• 13 Dec: drive south from Perth, birding along the way and overnight at Kenderup (north of Stirling Range NP)
• 14 Dec: Stirling Range N.P and Porongerup N.P., overnight in Albany
• 15 Dec: dawn birding at Two People’s Bay, day trip around Flinder’s Peninsula, drive west to Nornalup
• 16 Dec: early morning birding Nornalup, then Valley of the Giants N.P and drive north to Pemberton for the night
• 17 Dec: early morning birding around Pemberton, including Gloucester Tree N.P. drive to Peppermint Grove north of Bussleton
• 18-20 Dec: stay at Peppermint Grove, birding at Cape Naturaliste, Wannerup and Vasse Estuaries
• 21-27 Dec: a week of birding around Perth and the Darling Range National Parks
• 28 Dec: drive north to Kalbarri birding en route
• 29 Dec – 1 Jan: stayed at Kalbarri, birding the N.P. and environs including an evening boat trip on the Murchison River
• 2 Jan: Drive south from Kalbarri back to Perth birding en route including the Hutt Estuary
• 3 Jan: day-trip to Rottnest Island
• 4-5 Jan: Based at Gooseberry Hill and birding the Munda Bindi Trail at Kalamunda and an early morning visit to Herdsman Lake
• 6 Jan: flew Perth to Kula Lumpur for a week of birding in Peninsula Malaysia
The main birding sites we birded are listed below.
1) Darling Range:
a) Gooseberry Hill and Kalamunda. The large leafy gardens and adjacent open heathy bush produced a wide range of species including lots of Red-crowned Parrots, Rainbow Lorikeets and Australian Ringnecks with smaller numbers of Western Rosellas, Musk Lorikeets and the occasional party of Short-billed Black (Carnaby’s) and Red-tailed Black Cockatoos, plus Little Crow, Dusky Woodswallow, Grey Fantail, Inland Thornbill and Western Thornbill (latter usually feeding on the ground). Common garden birds included Rainbow Bee-eater, Laughing Kookaburra, Striated Pardalote, Red Wattlebird, Rufous Whistler, Mistletoebird and Silvereye whilst heathy areas held a wide variety of honeyeaters including Singing, Brown and New Holland Honeyeaters and Western Spinebill plus several Jacky Winters. Both of the introduced Spotted and Laughing Doves were common here.
b) Helena Valley. A hot area of open woodlands was very productive early in the morning. Common birds here included Common Bronzewing, Splendid Fairy-wren, Striated and Spotted Pardalotes, Inland Thornbill, White-browed Scrubwren, Grey Shrike-thrush, Grey Butcherbird and Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike, plus Brown Goshawk and our first Wedge-tailed Eagles of the trip.
c) Mundaring Dam. A pleasant reservoir with intact adjoining woodland that yielded Weebill, White-winged Triller, Golden Whistler, another Brown Goshawk and a nice flock of 12 Red-tailed Black Cockatoos. Early morning walks in woodland along the road to Mundaring Dam yielded both Brown-headed and White-eared Honeyeater, Western Thornbill and Western Gerygone (singing), plus Scarlet Robin and 2 Elegant Parrots at the edge of a cleared patch of farmland, in amongst a wide range of commoner bush species already seen, plus our first Yellow-rumped Thornbills.
d) Other Darling Range NPs - We picked up a White-breasted Robin in a damp vegetated gully at South Ledge on the Kalamunda circuit, whilst John Forrest NP held more of the same bush birds including a White-cheeked Honeyeater, 4 Scarlet Robins, a Little Eagle and another Brown Goshawk. The Munda-bindi trail near Kalamunda produced more Scarlet Robins, 2 White-naped Honeyeaters and a family of Blue-breasted Fairy-wrens.
a) A visit to the Botanic Gardens and adjacent areas of King’s Park produced great views of commoner birds including Australian Raven, Fairy Martin and Welcome Swallow, plus White-cheeked Honeyeaters and Blue-breasted Fairy-wrens. 2 Painted Button-quail lurking under a bush with a Shingleback Lizard in the midday heat were the only ones we saw.
b) Herdsman Lake. This well-known site is great for waterbirds plus a range of commoner bush species, all easily seen from the hides and trails. The Visitor Centre area produced 3 species of grebe included Hoary-headed as well as Great-crested and Australian Little Grebe; Dusky Moorhens and Purple Gallinules skulked the fringes and a Swamp Harrier glided overhead, whilst a wide range of ducks included Musk, Blue-billed, Hardhead and Australian Shelduck in amongst commoner species like Wood Duck, Pacific Black Duck, Grey Teal, Coot and Black Swan. An early morning trip to the south end of the lake (entrance not so easy to find) added 2 Rufous Night-heron, 3 Glossy Ibis, Clamorous Reed-warbler, Little Grass-bird, Sacred Kingfisher and more Rainbow Lorikeets.
c) Garvey Park and other similar parks with wetlands produced common species like Silver Gull, Caspian and Crested Terns, Australian Pelican, Yellow-billed and Royal Spoonbills, Straw-necked Ibis, Darter, Little Black and Little Pied Cormorants, White-faced Heron and Black-tailed Native-hen, as well as Willie-Wagtail, Sacred Kingfisher, Rainbow Bee-eater, Galah, Australian Magpie, Australian Magpie-lark etc.
d) We bumped into a roadside Brown Songlark and a Pallid Cuckoo both perched on a fence-line on the edge of Perth plus 12 Western Corellas (northern race) in Guildford along the Swan Valley.
3) South to Albany and Bussleton
a) We took an inland route along which to drive south towards Albany taking in National Parks along the way. We had a roadside Australian Hobby near Bannister and a flock of 10 Short-billed Black (Carnaby’s) Cockatoos in dry wheat country at Narogin. Lake Dumbleyung was disappointingly dry, although the surrounding dry bush produced Masked Woodswallow, Pied Butcherbird, Yellow-throated Miner, Crested Pigeon and a group of White-browed Babblers. Further south near Katanning we saw our first Spotted Harrier and Emus plus more Western Corellas and then in dry salt-lake areas our first Hooded Robins, Australasian Pipits and Black-faced Woodswallows. We spotted a few roadside Regent Parrots as we approached Cranbrook and this town held a noisy roost of 500+ Regent Parrots and 100+ Galahs in trees across the railway from the hotel. We stayed at a B+B near Kenderup, which featured some good bush birding including more Regent and Red-capped Parrots, although the only new birds here were Australian Shoveler on a farm pool, plus a roadside Australian Owlet-nightjar on our way back from a meal in Mount Barker.
b) Stirling Range N.P. We took the long scenic drive through the Stirling Range stopping for birds and kangaroos along the way. Birds of prey were well represented and included Brown Falcon, Peregrine, Black-breasted Buzzard and a lone Square-tailed Kite soaring low over the “White Gum Flats”. Other new birds here included Grey Currawong, 3 confiding Southern Emu-Wrens in low heath on a ridge-top overlook and 2 Shy Hylacolas (Heathwrens). Bush birds included many species already seen including Brown-headed Honeyeater, Western Spinebill, Inland and Western Thornbills, Golden Whistler, Spotted Pardalote and White-browed Scrub-wren. A group of Yellow-tailed Cockatoos in a burnt area of woodland near the northern entrance included both Short-billed (Carnaby’s) and Long-billed (Baudin’s) birds.
c) Porongerup N.P. We arrived here at midday, so stopped first in a cafe on the outskirts of the village for lunch, which produced good views of common bush birds such as Splendid Fairy-wren, plus a White-naped Honeyeater, a young Scarlet Robin and 2 more Long-billed (Baudin’s) Black Cockatoos. The NP itself was very birdy, despite the heat, especially around the car park, where we had great views of the hoped for Rufous Treecreeper, plus our first family of Red-winged Fairy-wrens, 2 White-breasted Robins and a group of at least 20 Purple-crowned Lorikeets feeding high in a flowering tree. There was also a good variety of honeycreepers here including White-naped, New Holland, Brown-headed and Brown Honeyeater.
d) Albany. We stayed at a Guest villa overlooking the inlet and this produced several new commoner waterbirds such as Eastern Reef Egret, Great Cormorant, Australian Ibis, Osprey, Whimbrel, Pied Oystercatcher, Greenshank, and both Greater andLesser Sandplovers, as well as Australian Kestrel and more Grey Currawongs.
e) Two People’s Bay. I drove through Albany to reach the reserve just before dawn at 0430hrs and then walked south along a small footpath towards Little Beach. Just being in this world famous location at dawn was very exciting and I was really only hoping to hear the key rarities here but in the end I found the skulkers to be rather obliging. I heard a total of at least 6 singing Noisy Scrub-birds and after 30 mins of waiting obtained prolonged views of a male, that was perched on bare branches just above the ground below the canopy of a low heathy shrub, about two-thirds of the way to Little Beach. The birds are clearly ventriloquial but also move around when singing and it’s simply a question of waiting and walking up and down the path to get views into the scrub. Overjoyed with this, I kept walking down the path and birds kept coming including some 10 Southern Emu-Wrens in a saltmarsh along the board-walk section, 2 Striated Calamanthus (Fieldwren), 2 Tawny-crowned Honeyeaters plus 3 Pacific Gulls on the beach. There were more Noisy Scrub-birds singing close to the old Little Beach car-park and this is where I had great views of a Western Whipbird totally in the open being mobbed and chased by a Western Bristlebird! I heard at least 4 singing Western Bristlebirds, although the Whipbirds did not appear to be calling. Elated with this, I was back in the car by 0730 hrs but then discovered that the park gates had been closed as a result of fire risk due to the increasingly misty conditions and then had to wait nearly 2 hours to get out again whilst someone turned up with the key!
f) Flinders Peninsula. A midday drive around the scenic peninsula with stops at key vantage points produced lots of Tawny-crowned and New Holland Honeyeaters plus Little Wattlebirds, some new birds around the inlet such as Sooty Oystercatcher, White-bellied Sea-eagle and a loneLittle Penguin standing on a rocky islet, plus 20+ Flesh-footed Shearwater, 4 Australian Gannet and an Australasian Pipit at “the Gap”, although Rock Parrots eluded us here as they did at all mainland sites on our trip.
g) Lake Powell N.R. A fantastic lake right next to the road to Denmark encouraged a stop although it took a while to find the best access – we eventually found a track to a hide at the east end of the lake. This was chock full of waterbirds including lots of Australian Shelducks and Australian Shovelers, plus new birds in the shape of Pacific Heron, Clamorous Reed-Warbler, Red-necked Avocet and Black-winged Stilt, while the creek at the west end produced 15 Yellow-billed Spoonbill and a Whistling Kite. Beware snakes here however, as we had a very close encounter with a Tiger Snake along the track to the hide!
h) Nornalup. We stayed in a guest chalet by the Franklin River at Nornalup and evening and early morning walks in the tall forest along the river were very productive. We saw at least 4 Red-eared Fire-tails here as well as 4 Long-billed Black (Baudin’s) Cockatoos, 12 Western Corellas (southern race), 200+ Purple-crowned Lorikeets and a Little Bittern together with a host of the now familiar bush birds including 2 Western Gerygones, 8 Red-winged Fairy-wrens, 5 Splendid Fairy-wrens, 18 Dusky Woodswallows, Western Rosellas etc. The nearby “tree-top walk” in the Valley of the Giants Sate Forest produced more of the same, plus great views of a Western Yellow Robin (our only one of the trip), Spotted Pardalote, Brush Bronzewing and 5 more Red-eared Firetails along the adjacent section of the Bibbulmun track, plus a White-browed Babbler at the edge of a pasture.
i) Pemberton. We stayed for one night at the Gloucester Motel on the edge of Pemberton having seen another 20 Long-billed Black (Baudin’s) Cockatoos between Walpole and Shannon. Best bird at Pemberton itself was a singing male Common Blackbird! We visited the nearby Gloucester Tree NP, which produced great views of very tame Western Rosellas and Australian Ringnecks in the car park (latter of the “28” variety with a red patch on the fore-crown). There were also some 40 Purple-crowned Lorikeets in a flowering tree and 5 Red-tailed Black Cockatoos flew over. A short circuit of some of the walking trails from the car park through excellent tall forest produced a stunning Crested Shrike-tit – our only one of the trip, plus White-breasted Robin, Red-winged Fairy-wren, Rufous Treecreeper, Grey Shrike-thrush, Golden Whistler, Dusky Woodswallowand Western Thornbill, plus plenty of New Holland and White-naped Honeycreepers.
j) Bussleton area. We stayed with relatives at Peppermint Grove beach north of Bussleton. We did less birding here but the beach provided a dead Flesh-footed Shearwater, plus live Australian Gannet, Crested Tern and Pied Cormorant offshore, whilst the surrounding agricultural areas with bush produced our first Black-shouldered Kites plus an assortment of commoner fare including both Spotted and Laughing Doves, Crested Pigeon, Red-capped Parrot, 2 Short-billed Black (Carnaby’s) Cockatoos, Splendid Fairy-wren, Inland Thornbill, Pied Butcherbird etc. A trip to Cape Naturaliste produced 3 Yellow-plumed Honeyeaters plus a Brown Goshawk and 2 Flesh-footed Shearwaters offshore, although we failed to see any Red-tailed Tropicbirds or Rock Parrots at Sugarloaf Rock. 8 confiding Western Corellas in Norfolk Island Pines along the sea-front at Bussleton were unexpected. The Wannerup estuary was a mass of waterbirds including 12 Red-necked Stint, 1 Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, 2 Red-capped Plover, 4 Greenshanks and Great-white Egrets in amongst a host of ducks, ibises, grebes, cormorants etc. An afternoon stop at the bird hide on the Vasse Estuary, adjacent to the Tuart forest reserve produced close views of 8 Wood Sandpipers, lots more Greenshanks, Dusky Moorhen, 12 Chestnut Teal, 100 Hardhead, Swamp Harrier, Whistling Kite and Black-winged Stilts in amongst hundreds of other waterbirds (Ibis, egrets, cormorants, darter, spoonbills, grebes, ducks and swans). This warranted a dawn visit the next day to the hide which produced 2 Pink-eared Ducks, a Spotless Crake and a Little Grassbird. A Collared Sparrowhawk on the way back to Perth near Rockhampton was the final new bird on our southern trip.
4) North to Kalbarri
a) Drive north. We drove north from Perth for a New Year’s stay at Kalbarri having booked a B+B there in advance. We started early and birded along the route, stopping in wherever habitat looked good. The first section was slow, picking up 1 White-cheeked Honeyeater at Badgingarra. The habitats changed, especially north of Dongara, and we saw plenty of commoner roadside raptors such Little Eagle, Spotted Harrier, Australian Kestrel, Black-shouldered Kite and Whistling Kite, plus a flock of c50 Short-billed Black (Carnaby’s) Cockatoos in pines, 2 Red-tailed Black Cockatoos and 4 Western Corellas in with Galahs near Dongara and 3 Rainbow Bee-eaters. A bird on wires near Northampton proved to be our first Red-backed Kingfisher plus nearby Black-faced Woodswallows. A Rufous Songlark was confiding in an area of open grazed parkland just after Northampton, whilst a stop in arid scrub further north produced 2 Mulga Parrot and 12 Diamond Doves, plus an Emu nearby.
b) Kalbarri town. The scrub around town at dawn produced 5 Variegated Fairy-wren and Diamond Dove but otherwise only commoner species such as Singing and Brown Honeyeaters, Crested Pigeon, Sacred Kingfisher, Australasian Pipit, Yellow-rumped and Inland Thornbills and White-browed Scrubwren. An evening boat-tip up the nearby Murchison River provided a Brown Falcon, Osprey andWhite-bellied Sea-eagle, plus great views of assorted cormorants, egrets (including Little, Great white and Eastern Reef), Australian Pelicans, terns, gulls and a variety of ducks and waders on the sandbars including 5 Bar-tailed Godwits, 5 Red-capped Plovers, Red-necked Stints, Common Sandpipers, 1 Turnstone and 3 Curlew Sandpipers.
c) Kalbarri NP. We explored all of the tracks leading to the car-parks and trails. It was very hot during the day, so did most of our birding early in the morning and in the evenings.
i) “Z bend gorge” – the track to the gorge was very quiet but we picked up or first Spiny-cheeked Honeyeaters here. The Z bed area itself was much more productive with 4 White-backed Swallows around the car park, 1 White-fronted Honeyeater, 4 White-plumed Honeyeaters and 2 rather skulking Shy Hylacolas (Heathwrens), plus 5 Blue-breasted Fairy-wren, Rufous Whistler, Inland Thornbill etc.
ii) “The Loop” – another productive area with thorough checks of the trails producing (amongst commoner fare) 1 Red-capped Robin, 2 Crested Bellbird (much easier to hear than see!), 1 stonking male Redthroat, a flock of c30 Spiny-cheeked Honeyeaters, 10 Slender-billed Thornbills, a group of 4 Little Woodswallows, a Pacific Heron on the river plus a flock of 50 Red-tailed Black Cockatoos heading west at 7am and 13 Short-billed Black (Carnaby’s) Cockatoos feeding along the entrance track.
iii) “Hawkshead and Ross Graham” lookouts – a late afternoon check of these neighbouring sites produced little new other than close views of Wild Pigs, Feral Goats and a Black-faced Rock Wallaby on the cliffs. The river pools at Hawkshead produced a surprising variety of ducks and there were plenty of Variegated Fairy-wrens at Ross Graham.
iv) Big River Ranch – just outside the NP, Janet went horse-riding here whilst I took the chance to bird this area of private open dry fields with adjacent scrub and riverine woodland on foot. The dry fields produced lots of Australasian Pipits, 4 White-fronted Chat, a flock of Zebra Finches and a stunning family party of White-winged Fairy-wrens – the latter being the only ones of the trip. There were also Variegated, Blue-breasted and Splendid Fairy-wrens in the scrub, plus White-crowned Babblers, 2 Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater, 2 Crested Bellbirds, 2 Collared Sparrowhawks, Fairy Martins etc.
v) Coast south of Kalbarri. Nice walks in arid, rocky coastal heath to Mushroom Rock and
Rainbow Valley were rather birdless but produced 2 singing Striated Calamanthus (Fieldwren) and several Australasian Pipits, as well as a Lesser Crested Tern and Australian Gannets offshore. We also had a male Hooded Robin here the following day when passing through on our way south.
d) Drive south. We took a more coastal route on the way back stopping at the Hutt Lagoon saltpans for a nice assortment of waders included 2 Long-toed Stint, 4 Curlew Sandpiper, 2 Wood Sandpiper, 2 Greenshank, 5 Sanderling and a Sharp-tailed Sandpiper in with Red-necked Stints, Black-winged Stilts, Red-capped Plovers etc. We picked up 2 Glossy Ibis in amongst c100 Straw-necked Ibis in wet pasture near Dongara plus more large flocks of Western Corellas (150+ in total) and Short-billed Black (Carnaby’s) Cockatoos. We also lucked in on a Bush Thick-knee near Dongara and 4+ Ground Cuckoo-shrikes and a Pallid Cuckoo south of Gingin, although a visit to the Pinnacles N.P. brought very little other than nice views of 3 Black-faced Woodswallows (and the Pinnacles themselves!).
5) Rottnest Island.A day-trip to the island involved an early morning ferry ride from Freemantle (Australian Sea-lions in the harbour and Rainbow Lorikeet in the town) and day-hire of bikes at Rottnest. The island is easily covered in a day and made for a very pleasant excursion. We finally caught up with Rock Parrot at one of the feeding stations for Quokkas (small marsupials) near the settlement, whilst Red-capped Robins were also easy to find here in trees near the swamp, together with the distinctive island race of Singing Honeyeater and 2 singing Western Gerygones. Feral birds here included Pheasant and Peacock. Fairy Terns were easily seen in the bays around the coast whilst the shallow inland lakes teemed with waders including hundreds of Banded Stilts, c60 Red-necked Avocet plus an excellent assortment of smaller waders. Checking through the Red-necked Stints, Sharp-tailed Sandpipers and Red-capped Plovers, we came across 1 Grey-tailed Tattler, 3 Grey Plover, 1 Great Knot, 1 Terek Sandpiper, 1 Pied Oystercatcher, 2 Turnstone and more bizarrely a Buff-banded Rail feeding brazenly at the edge of an open salt pan at midday! A group of 60+ Banded Lapwings dozing in the shade on irrigated lawns near the airstrip were the only ones we saw on the trip.