Latest Posts

Purple Enamel Orchid Elythranthera brunonis Beelu National Park Western Australia

Purple Enamel Orchid

Do they say that the bush is all greyness and gloom

Why, the rainbow has lent every thread from its loom

To weave into flower and shrub

Lilian Wooster Greaves

The wildflowers currently on display in and around the Jarrah forest are nothing short of spectacular. This purple enamel orchid (Caladenia brunosis) found near the Department of Parks and Wildlife headquarters was one of the highlights. I’m sure more will follow soon!

Willie Wagtail Rhipidura leugophrys Herdsman Lake Western Australia

Willie Wagtail – Djidi Djidi

The Willie Wagtail (Rhipidura leucophrys) is a small passerine bird that can be found across mainland Australia and up through New Guinea, Bismarck archipelago, Eastern Indonesia and the Solomon Islands. What it lacks in size, it more than makes up for in feistiness. While the sideways swinging of its fanned tail might be a salute to a nearby friend, attitude goes bad as soon as danger appears and wagtails are known for chasing and hitting much larger birds that threaten their nest.

Willie Wagtails can be found in various habitats, yet seem to prefer open woodlands nearby rivers and wetlands where insects are plentiful. It’s not uncommon to see them feeding near cattle or kangaroos, using the animal’s back as an ideal vantage point while hunting prey disturbed by those grazers.

 

Western Grey Kangaroo Leeuwin National Park Western Australia

Portrait of a Buck

When the search for a small animal turned into a close encounter with a big one! This portrait of a Western Grey Kangaroo – often overlooked and taken for granted in the Australian bush – shows its raw and authentic features when foraging at arm’s length. Inquisitive enough to pose for the camera, sufficiently alert to defend its nearby doe with a kick of its mighty hind legs.

Honeypot Dryandara Banksia Nivea Paruna Western Australia

Honeypot – Bulgalla

No other plant is more closely linked to Australia than the Banksia (Proteaceae). As the different species flower almost sequential in the south-western part of the continent they are most reliable suppliers of nectar and therefore a vital part of nature’s food chain. Unlike many Banksia the Honeypot Dryandara (Banksia nivea) or Bulgalla is a grounddweller, and the striking flowers make bees, honeyeaters and even Pygmy Possums stop for its sweet treasures.

Cowslip Orchid Caladenia flava Swan Coastal Plain Western Australia

Djilba Orchids

As soon as the cold, wet and stormy winter weather gives way to an increasing number of clear and warm days, we know the so-called season of conception or Djilba has arrived. This transitional stage that started a few weeks back is always accompanied by the emergence of wildflowers; rather hesitant at first with some yellow acacias, soon followed by more spectacular displays in the most striking colours of red, blue and purple.

Common Donkey Orchid Diuris corymbose Swan Coastal Plain Western Australia

Common Donkey Orchid (Diuris corymbosa)

Although there is an abundance of wildflowers with different colours and shapes to be discovered, orchids spark one’s imagination most. With around 25,000 species orchids form one of the three largest groups of flowering plants in the world; in Western Australia alone more then 400 species – 413 to be precise – have been identified so far. Scientific recording started as soon as the HMS Discovery anchored in King George Sound in 1791, and the ship’s naturalist Archibald Menzies collected the first three species.

Silky Blue Orchid Canicula sericea Kalamunda National Park Western Australia

Silky Blue Orchid (Cyanicula sericea)

For the local Noongar people orchids provided an important food source, as the starchy roots were roasted in hot ashes or pounded into paste to bake cakes. As soon as Djilba arrived kangaroos were hunted, emu eggs harvested, wild potatoes and orchids gathered.

Little Pink Fairy Orchid Caladenia latifolia Swan Coastal Plain Western Australia

Pink Fairy (Caladenia latifolia)

The season of Kambarang is already on our doorstep, and soon the weather will become increasingly dry. Although most of the orchids pictured will have vanished by then, the bush will have come up with other flowers for us to enjoy.

Common Wallaroo Euro Bigurda Marsupial Kalbarri National Park Western Australia

Common Wallaroo – Bigurda

“The estuary appeared this morning even more lovely than yesterday, and as the heavy morning mists arose, unfolding its beauties to our view, all those feelings came thrilling through my mind which explorers alone can know; flowering shrubs and trees, drooping foliage, a wide and placid expanse of water met the view; trickling springs and fertile flats were passed over by us; there was much barren land visible in the distance, though many a sign and token might lead the practical explorer to hope that he was about to enter upon a tract of an extent and fertility yet unknown in south-west Australia” – George Grey, Journals of two expeditions of discovery

When Sir George Grey and his exploring party stranded in Kalbarri in 1839, they were the first Europeans to see the mouth of the Murchison river, with 820 kilometres the second longest river in Western Australia. It rises north of Meekatharra in central Western Australia, from where it flows southwest to the Indian Ocean. For about 80 kilometres, when the river enters Kalbarri National Park, it meanders through a narrow and steep gorge carved out of the 400 million years old red and white bended Tumblagooda sandstone. The outstanding beauty of the gorge make this pristine wilderness a major drawcard, however, further exploration of the Park’s pretty estuary and rugged coastline is highly recommended.

Australian Pelicans Murchison Kalbarri Western Australia

The coastal section of Kalbarri National Park consists of steep sandstone cliffs, where the relentless force of the Indian Ocean has created remarkable features such as Mushroom Rock, Island Rock and Natural Bridge out of the layered sandstone. These landmarks are all connected by the eight kilometres long Bigurdu trail, named after the Nanda word for the Common Wallaroo or Euro (Macropus robustus), a marsupial that can be encountered grazing on the coastal heath at dusk and dawn.

Although it can be tricky to distinguish the Common Wallaroo from the Western Grey Kangaroo (Macropus filiginosus), a closer look learns they  are markedly different: Wallaroos not only have shorter limbs, they also have a shorter fur that ranges in colour from reddish brown to ironstone red. As opposed to Western Grey Kangaroos, Wallaroos exhibit embryonic diapause, and although a female can become pregnant soon after giving birth, the new embryo remains underdeveloped until the pouch is free.

Wallerroo Euro Kalbarri National Park Western Australia

Wallaroos can be found feeding in the open expanse relatively easy, however, some individuals prefer steep and rocky areas, earning them the nickname ‘Hill Kangaroo’. In this habitat overhanging rocks, ledges and even caves are used for shelter against the often extreme heat. And for those who dare to look beyond the edge another world unfolds. Call it a lucky day!

Dolphin Pod Kalbarri National Park Western Australia

 

 

 

Joffre Gorge Karijini Pilbara Western Australia

Joffre Gorge – Jijingunha

There is no doubt Joffre Gorge or Jijingunha is one of the most spectacular places in Karijini National Park. Located around 31 kilometres west of the Park’s Visitor Center, this is where the Joffre river plunges down in a natural amphitheatre. The falls can be reached by climbing down the narrow ledges and following the chasm, carved through the banded ironstone formations by the force of the water.

Joffre Gorge Karijini Pilbara Western Australia

 

The hike as described is not unlike the journey iAMsafari has taken this year; sometimes easy, sometimes more difficult, but always rewarding and enlightening. Our next adventure will start in a few more days, therefore wishing you all the best for now and hoping to see you back in good health and spirit in the New Year!

Joffre Falls Karijini Pilbara Western Australia

 

Yellow-throated Miner Kalbarri Pilbara Western Australia

Yellow-throated Miner

“But territorial possession can be more extreme than this. Two honeyeaters of large size practise the most intense resource defence of any birds on earth” – Tim Low, Where Song Began

The Yellow-throated or Dusky Miner (Manorina flavigula) is one of the four colonial and co-operatively breeding honeyeaters in the genus Manorina. Closely related to the Black-eared (Manorina melanotus), Bell (Manorina melanophrys) and Noisy Miner (Manorina melanocephala) it breeds communally, with breeding pairs often assisted by other members of the group. Yellow-throated Miners inhabit dry forests and woodlands across Australia, foraging on insects, fruits and nectar, and although not as aggressive and troublesome as Bell and Noisy Miners, they defend their territory and food sources fiercely against any intruder.

Fern Pool Jubura Karijini Pilbara Western Australia

Fern Pool – Jubura

Fern Pool or Jubura is the last of the major landmarks hidden in Dales Gorge. The trail that leads from Fortescue Falls is surrounded by relictual riparian vegetation, reminding the hiker of the humid and tropical climate that once occurred in the Pilbara. Ferns colour the surroundings a lush green while fig trees or Winyarrangu (Ficus brachypoda) slowly strangle the rocks that support them.

Fig Tree Fern Pool Karijini Western Australia

After a strenuous hike, Fern Pool offers a rewarding swim to some or a peaceful oasis to others, while the noisy Flying Foxes or Warramurungga (Pteropus alecto) have made it their favourite hangout.

Black Flying Fox Fern Pool Karijini Western Australia

Fortescue Falls – Jubula

As the sun sets over Fortescue Falls, the only permanent waterfall in Karijini, the colours of the iron-rich rocks slowly change from bright red to a rusty orange hue. The contrast with the lush evergreen vegetation such as stiff leaf sedge (Cyperus vaginatus), white fig (Ficus virens) and ladder brake (Pteris vittata) couldn’t be much bigger.

Brown Falcon Dales Gorge Karijini Pilbara Western Australia

Brown Falcon

Dales Gorge, or Ngirribungunha, is one of the most popular gorges in Karijini, not only due to the vicinity of the Park’s campground, but mainly because Circular Pool, Fortescue Falls and Fern Pool are hidden between its towering walls. However, less popular but equally exciting is the rim walk, a trail that leads through the Pilbara savannah along the edge of the gorge. With a bit of luck the elusive Rothschild Rock-wallaby (Petrogale rothschildi) can be spotted here around dusk and dawn, or some of the park’s many bird species such as this Brown Falcon (Falco berigora), perching on the branch of a dead snappy gum looking for rodents and reptiles.

Crested Pigeon Karijini Pilbara Western Australia

Crested Pigeon

“The chasteness of its colouring, the extreme elegance of its form, and the graceful crest which flows from its occiput, all tend to render this Pigeon on of the most lovely members of its family, and it is therefore to be regretted that, owing to its being exclusively an inhabitant of the plains of the interior, it can never become an object of general observation.” – John Gould, Handbook to the Birds of Australia, 1865

Tawny Frogmouth Podargus strigoidus Karijini National Park Pilbara Western Australia

Tawny Frogmouth

“Yet something. Something big and aware and hidden! He walked on, had walked a mile or so in the bush, and had just come to a clump of tall, nude, dead trees, shining almost phosphorescent with the moon, when the terror of the bush overcame him.” – D.H. Lawrence, Kangaroo (1923)

While the wet season in the Pilbara can be extremely hot, winter is the most suitable time to visit this beautiful region. We unfortunately experienced unusual high rainfall the week prior to our trip, and during our stay in Karijini National Park a cold and unpleasant easterly desert breeze brought temperatures to near freezing after sunset. For nearly five days, the constant wind was almost the only movement we experienced in and around our camp; no snakes, lizards, or dingoes to be seen, and even the region’s rich avian fauna seemed to be in silent hibernation. As campfires aren’t allowed in the park, water bottles, blankets and early nights were our solace, but not after the routine of a late walk in this silent bush. And this is when on a moonlit night the nocturnal and secretive Tawny Frogmouth (Podargidae strigoides) flew past, perched on a branch of a dead Mulga tree, patiently waited to be photographed before flying off to hunt for whatever we couldn’t see.

Termite mound Karijini National Park Pilbara Western Australia

Termites – Grazers of the Savannah

In 1896 David Wynford Carnegie crossed the Gibson and Great Sandy Desert in search of good pastoral and gold-bearing land. In his account of the expedition, named Spinifex and Sand, Carnegie wrote of the landscape of this largely unexplored land:

“There are two varieties of Spinifex known to bushmen – “spinifex” and “buck” (or “old men”) spinifex. The latter is stronger in the prickle and practically impossible to get through, though it may be avoided in twists and turns. There are a few uses for this horrible plant; for example it forms a shelter and its roots make good food for the kangaroo, or spinifex rat, from its spikes the natives (in the northern districts) make a very serviceable gum, it burns freely, serves in a measure to bind the sand, and protect it from being moved by the wind, and makes a good mattress when dug up and turned over.”

The spinifex in Karijini (Triodia pungens) plays an important role in the arid ecosystem of the Park, being part of vast tussock grasslands that alternate with Accacia shrubland and open Eucalypt woodlands. As a native grass species, spinifex offers important protection from soil erosion, however, it has little nutritional value for most animals. Spinifex-eating termites or Manthu are therefore very important in Karijini’s savannah ecology, as the large amount of biomass they process makes them the equivalent of large mammals that eat grasses in similar habitats.

Termite mound Dales Gorge Karijini Pilbara Western Australia

The inner chambers of termite mounds are made up of a complex network of tunnels, galleries and chambers. These impressive structures, made from soil, saliva and excreta not only are home to millions of busy creatures, they also offer shelter to a variety of others such as snakes, goannas, spiders and birds – a perfect example of how the little things in nature can play a big role.

 

Dales Gorge Karijini National Park Pilbara Western Australia

Welcome to Karijini

Located around 1,400 kilometers north of Perth, in the dry and tropical Pilbara region, Karijini National Park is one of the most spectacular wilderness areas of Australia. This land, also known as the Hamersley Range, is situated between the Fortescue River in the east, and the mining and pastoral leases to the north and west – Wittenoom was the closest town to the Park, but regarding health risks related to blue asbestos mining it was closed down in 1994. Newman, Tom Price and Paraburdoo are the nearest towns today, all commercially focused on iron ore mining. In fact, iron-rich rocks are found in such abundance that the Hamersley Range is one of the world’s major iron ore regions, accounting for around 95% of Australia’s production.

Banded Iron Formation Fortescue Falls Karijni Western Australia

To conserve the cultural and natural integrity of Karijini, and protect its amazing landscapes from exploration and mining activities, Dales Gorge was the first area to be gazetted as National Park in 1969. Subsequent additions such as the Hamersley Gorge, excisions of land for mining, as well as rationalisation of boundaries with adjoining pastoral leases, have settled to Park’s surface to its current  627,444 hectares.

Banded Iron Formation Dales Gorge Karijini Western Australia

Karijini harbours an astounding diversity of landscapes, geological formations and ecosystems; spectacular gorges eroded out of ancient rock, the rolling landscape of the plateau they’re incised into, the ageless beauty of red earth, green spinifex and white trunks of snappy gums and bloodwoods.

Savannah Karijini National Park Pilbara Western Australia

The geological history of Karijini started between 2,700 and 2,500 million years ago, when volcanic activity deposited iron and silica-rich sediments on an ancient sea floor. Pressure transformed these sediments into banded iron formations, gradually turning them into hard bedrock. When sea levels dropped dramatically around 20 million years ago, fast flowing water carved spectacular gorges out of the bedrock in places where it was weakened by joints. These gorges are now the major attractions, with narrow chasms, sheer cliffs and dramatic waterfalls providing excellent bush walking in a dream world scenery; an activity we thoroughly enjoyed for more than a week.

Joffre Gorge Karijini National Park Western Australia

As opposed to its geological history, Karijini’s landscape of sclerophyll forests and grasslands is much younger, created when the climate became increasingly dry around 2,5 million years ago. Human occupation is only a speck on this timeline, although mining and pastoral activities over the last century have left profound marks when most of the land was taken away from its traditional Aboriginal owners; the Banyjima, Kurrama and Yinhawangka aboriginal people, who lived in different parts of Karijini for more than 20,000 years. Although most people resettled in towns as Onslow, Karratha, Roebourne and Port Hedland, hundreds of kilometres away from their traditional country, the relationship with the land remains strong through law and tradition, leaving a responsibility and obligation with current and future generations to play a significant role in the cultural and environmental management of the park. To underpin this bond, we  therefore are all greeted at the entrance of the visitor centre by the Banyjima phrase:

“Wirlankarra yanama. Yurlu nyinku mirda yurndarirda.”

(Go with a clear, open and accepting spirit, and the country will not treat you badly)

 

Spinifex Plain Karijini National Park Pilbara Western Australia

Spinifex and Smoke

“We rose early, for we were eager to make contact with the man and the woman who had signalled us. Travelling almost due north of the bearing we had obtained the previous evening, we had gone eight kilometres when Mudjon called a halt and proceeded to fire the Spinifex once more.” – W.J. Peasley, The last of the Nomads

As the sudden appearance of strangers could cause alarm amongst some of the Aboriginal groups that still lived a traditional way of life in the ’50s and ’60s, the practice of setting fire to clumps of spinifex when approaching an area possibly inhabited was adopted by most patrols and expeditions. Not only would the smoke announce your presence, it would also invite a reply.

I have been of the grid for some time, consumed by urban life, coping with mundane matters. To avoid sudden surprise, I’ve chosen to signal some smoke by posting a picture of this spinifex-studded landscape in Karijini National Park, first in a series of posts long due!

 

Brolgas Roebuck Plains Station Broome Western Australia

Brolga

The Broome Bird Observatory offers tours in the different habits of Yawuru country, showcasing the enormous variety of birds in this beautiful corner of WA. I joined the tour to the saline grasslands, saltmarshes and claypans of Roebuck Plains Station, an iconic Kimberley property that covers 275,000 hectares and is home to 20,000 head of cattle. During the wet season the inundated plains are green and lush, abundant with fish, crabs and frogs, an enormous food bowl for thousands of water birds, but in the dry dust devils sweep through the vast open space, where water is only a memory of different times.

Salt Marsh Roebuck Plains Broome Western Australia

The majority of birdwatchers who join this tour are in search of the Yellow Chat (Epthianura crocea), a strikingly coloured passerine bird that can be seen on the plains relatively easy, and as it is one of the must-see species, the Broome Bird Observatory even runs the specific Yellow Chat twitch. I had some good views of this marvellous little bird through the telescopes provided, but unfortunately haven’t been able to get close enough for decent shots. But where some birders search for chats, I hoped to find the majestic Australian Crane or Brolga (Grus rubicunda) – and I did.

Landing Brolgas Roebuck Plains Station Broome Western Australia

The grassy plains and marshes are the ideal habitat for these large cranes, where they feed on tubers, amphibians, molluscs and insects. As Brolgas mate for life, they can often be seen in pairs or small family groups, strengthening bonds with spectacular courtship displays.