Month: April 2016

Female Splendid Fairy Wren Lesmurdie Fall Western Australia

Splendid Fairy Wren – Masks and Bills

When in the Australian bush, most people have visions of marsupials and reptiles in their mind. Understandable, however, the feathered inhabitants of our reserves and parks often get overlooked, and this is a pity regarding the fact that their number and diversity are far greater than those of mammals and reptiles combined; and with around 150 different species there is an impressive number to tick off! The biggest and noisiest birds are fairly easy to spot and identify, however, the majority of birds are small, move around rapidly and are hard to see and recognise. This certainly goes for the splendid fairy-wren; not so much for the blue males in full breeding plumage, but for the plainer, brown-coloured females and non-breeding males. Add the fact that five different species live alongside each other in our local bushland and you’ll get an idea about how complicated identification can be. When several species are around in an area, useful clues can be given by the colour and plumage of accompanying males or the repertoire of songs. However, out …

Common Brushtail Possum Trichosurus vulpecula Leeuwin Western Australia

Brushtail Possum – Conto’s scrounging scavenger

After the Dingos of El Questro, Hyenas in Mpila and Moongooses on Sugerloaf, we can now add the possums at Conto’s – the scrounging scavengers of one of our favourite campsites in WA. Spot them on the prowl in the dark of the night, high in the canopy of the peppermint woodland; just stay around long enough around the campfire with torch, camera and nightcap for guaranteed mischief!

Boranup forest Karri Margaret River Western Australia

Boranup forest

“While way    way up higher than the eye believes   the Karris   whose ancestors paved the streets of London bask sunrise    lemon and pink   in their solid new skin        and widen their hold on the sky” – Caroline Caddy, Esperance The colossal Eucalyptus diversicolor – commonly known by its Noongar name Karri – grows in the remarkable forests of the South West. With heights over 80 metres it’s not only one of the tallest trees in the world, it also provides dense and long-lived hardwood, used for the paving of roads in 19th century London. The majestic Boranup forest in the Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park is what still remains of the once widespread Karri, and the 11km long drive is now one of the regions major attractions – a fine example of the importance of Eco-tourism!

Smooth stingray Dasyatis brevicaudata Hamelin Bay Western Australia

Smooth Stingray – Giants of Hamelin Bay

Western Australia’s South West region is one of the country’s most beautiful destinations. It’s not only home of the renown wine-region of Margaret River, it also counts numerous natural wonders within the confines of Leeuwin Naturaliste National Park and the Ngari Capes Marine Park. The latter has only been established in 2012, and this relatively new addition to WA’s protected marine environments harbours many intertidal and subtidal reef habitats with an array of marine plants and animals. In winter this region is the scene of the annual migration of Humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) and Southern right whales (Eubalaena australis), while Blue whales (Balaenoptera musculus) are regular visitors in November. Although our visit didn’t coincide with this spectacle, we had a thrilling encounter with another giant of Ngari: the Smooth stingray (Dasyatis brevicaudata)- the biggest ray on earth! Nestled along a rugged coastline shaped by big swells and strong winds, Hamelin Bay is a quiet and protected pocket out of which timber from the nearby Karri (Eucalyptus diversicolor) forests was exported to India, England and South …

Tall Mulla Mulla Ptilotus exaltatus Hamelin Pool Western Australia

Tall Mulla Mulla – Icon of the Outback

Visiting some of our favorite Australian National Parks is not always easy as many of them are located in the northern part of the continent. Distance is not the major obstacle, as traveling just costs time and petrol, however, it is the climate that makes things complicated. In summer the tropical regions can be unbearable hot with temperatures exceeding 40°C, while the cyclones and heavy rainfall of the so-called ‘wet’ season hinder access to many areas. Unfortunately our leave is mostly taken during summer holidays with the result that many wild places are still on our bucket list. This is exactly why we’re so excited that finally we’re heading up north this July, to visit Karijini National Park in the Pilbara region of Western Australia; an outback adventure we have been dreaming about for many years! The Tall Mulla Mulla (Ptilotus exaltatus) we spotted around the Shark Bay area late last year will definitely be one of many attractions, as this magnificent wildflower is a true icon of the outback.

Forest Red-tailed Black Cockatoo Beelu Perth Hills Western Australia

Karak – Forest Red-tailed Black Cockatoo

Most people who escape to the wild hail from urban settings, eluding traffic jams, office jobs and all trivial temptations generally on offer in a city. I’m afraid we have done it the other way around, as last January we moved ‘downhill’ into the Perth Metropolitan area. Although still relatively close to the immense natural beauty this vast state has to offer, the constant immersion in Australian bush and wildlife has ended now we swapped our beloved ‘Tree Hut’ for an ordinary suburban dwelling. No more morning or evening walks in the adjacent National Park, or regular visits from residential King Skinks or Brush-Tail Possums, but leisurely strolls in nearby Kings Park or along the foreshore of the Swan estuary – still pleasant, yet a vague reminder of the ‘true’ nature that once surrounded us. As a result I now feel as a visitor to the places that once felt as a part of me. Nevertheless, my everyday surroundings might have changed, the wildlife that used to be so nearby is still there! And how …

Gravel Bottlebrush Beaufortia decussata Stirling Range Western Australia

Colours of Koikyenunuruff

The Stirling Range National Park is a biodiversity hotspot with a dazzling array of wildflowers. Although most of the area’s iconic species flower in spring, there is not a single season when the landscape is not alive with colours, textures and shapes. A few walks or climbs on and around the numerous peaks unveil a true botanical treasure – as long as you’re able to focus on the little things instead of getting lost in Koikyenunuruff’s lovely vistas. The plants that populate the Stirling Range make it a special place, however, especially the rare montane heath and thicket is under serious threat: Phytophtora dieback disease, intense and frequent fires, climate change, as well as browsing by animals such as quokka’s (Setonix brachyurus), mardo’s (Antechinus flavipes) and quenda‘s (Isodoon obesulus) has led to severe population declines. Protective fencing for highly threatened species in order to allow regrowth has shown promising results – so don’t be surprised to find those fencing structures on top of Bluff Knoll!

Bluff Knoll Stirling Range National Park Western Australia

Stirling Range – Koikyenunuruff

The Dreaming is the beginning of time, when mythical spirits with supernatural powers rose up and travelled the once featureless wilderness, creating mountains, lakes, rivers, sea, stars and everything living on earth – and in the stories about the Stirling Range this is no different. The range is named after the first governor of Western Australia, but known as Koikyenunuruff by the Mineng and Koreng people who once lived in and around these ‘mist shrouded mountains’. Until today Noongar people believe the clouds covering Bluff Knoll or Bular Mial (the range’s tallest peak) are the ever changing visible form of a lonely, dead spirit called Noatch – and that’s why the sign at the bottom of the slope warnes climbers that ‘those who stray might get lost in her misty embrace’. Bluff Knoll therefore remains a place of great cultural significance for the traditional owners. Standing proud in an otherwise flat landscape, the Stirling Ranges are the only obstacle to weather from the Southern Ocean. The slopes and peaks therefore receive relatively high levels of rainfall, and the numerous combinations of …