Month: January 2015

Emu Dromaius novaehollandiae Gloucester National Park Pemberton Western Australia

Emu – Giant of the Southern Forests

Since I was a young boy I have always been fascinated by the big flightless birds that roam the grass- and woodlands of our planet. I guess their long neck, inquisitive look and striding gait are just a few of the hallmarks that make those animals so completely different and unique. But as these birds only inhabit the continents of the Southern Hemisphere I had to wait a long time to see them in the wild – you might therefore understand my excitement when I spotted my first Ostrich on the plains near Satara in South Africa’s Kruger Park almost 20 years ago. The fascination for big birds never left, so when we heard a family of eight Emus (daddy with his offspring) regularly visited the dam of our friends vineyard in Pemberton, we were getting ourselves ready for some serious bird watching. The beautiful backdrop of this place – a vineyard surrounded by tall golden grass and towering Karri trees smack-bang in the middle of Gloucester National Park – would allow us to take …

Goblin Swamp Greater Hawke National Park Western Australia Paperbark Tree

Goblin Swamp

The Greater Hawke National Park is one of Western Australia’s more recent and lesser known parks. Although gazetted to protect its old growth Karri forests, the major attraction could easily be the gnarled and twisted Paperbark trees (Melaleuca rhaphiophylla) that grow in Goblin Swamp – an intriguing yet ghostly place as it name suggests!  

Evergreen Kangaroo Paw Anigozanthos flavidus d'Entrecasteaux National Park

Kangaroo Paws – Botanical wonders of New Holland

When French naturalist Jacques Labillardière visited New Holland (Australia) in 1792 under the command of Antoine Bruni d’Entrecasteaux, the foundations were laid for what became the most extensive collection of Australian flora of its day and age. Especially his collections from southwest Australia produced numerous new species amongst which the ones from the genus of Anigozanthos, better known as Kangaroo Paws. His discoveries are described in the Novae Hollandiae Plantarum Specimen, a masterpiece of botanical science and art. I clearly remember my own amazement when I first saw those wonderful plants with their tubular flowers, dense hairs and claw-like structures. No wonder the State Government named the striking Red and Green Kangaroo Paw (Anigozanthos manglesii) as WA’s floral emblem in 1960, after which it was incorporated in the State Coat of Arms. Although this species is the best known and most famous of all Kangaroo Paws, the tall Evergreen Kangaroo Paw (Anigozanthos flavidus) and the much smaller Cat’s Paw (Anigozanthos humilis) are equally remarkable and spectacular.

Splendid Fairy Wren Perth Hills Korung National Park

Splendid Fairy Wren

As in John Paul Young’s classic song, the bright cobalt blue of this male Splendid Fairy-wren (Malurus spendens) indicates that ‘love is in every sight and sound’ at this stage of summer. Many birds are in full breeding plumage now, but none of them is so striking as the one that has been voted Australia’s Favourite Bird in Birdlife Australia. The males have their groove on and are frantically drawing the attention of the dull-brown coloured females, and although pairs bond for life and are seemingly monogamous their sexual appetite is in overdrive – those birds don’t shy back from adventures with multiple partners while they sometimes even raise the young from those affairs. Soap opera in the wild!

Whistling Kite Haliastur sphenurus Lesmurdie National Park Mundy Perth Hills

Whistling Kite

Summer has really started with temperatures soaring to a record high of 44.4°C a few days ago. The bad news about those extreme conditions is that bush fires are an almost common feature this time of the year – and we already had some eerily close. Apart from their beneficial effect on the germination of native plants, uncontrolled fires can be devastating for men, property and wildlife. While taking some pictures of blooming Christmas Trees a few weeks ago I noticed a raptor cruising the high skies while using the early afternoon thermal currents. Excited as a young kid I started to look for its perch, and to my big surprise I managed to locate the nest about 300 metres from where I first noticed the bird! According to the distinctive high-pitched call there was no doubt I had found the hide-out of a family of Whistling Kites (Haliastur sphenurus), a medium-sized raptor found throughout Australia and New Guinea. Mum and dad perched on the high branches of a tall Marri tree, but my discovery held …