Spring slipped past us rather suddenly. Wildflowers common not even a fortnight ago disappeared without a single trace while Rose-tipped Mulla Mulla (Ptilotus manglesii) have popped up almost everywhere, signalling the start of summer with its dry and hot weather. Although these conditions have restricted my outdoor activities to some extent, recent upgrades of camera gear as well as Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop are the main culprits for my absence in the field. While spending many hours behind a computer screen is not my favourite pastime, I’ve become to realise that my photographic collection is in desperate need of proper organisation; a task postponed too often and which now I’m trying to complete bit by bit. I guess that looking back at memorable moments is the fun bit though, and now and then I even stumble upon some almost forgotten encounters, as this Spiny Tailed Gecko (Strophurus ciliaris) which was seen during a night walk at the Broome Bird Observatory. Well-adapted to hunting in the dark, geckos’ eyes are around 350 times more sensitive to light than …
The shallows and flooded grass on the fringes of Herdsman Lake host a variety of wading birds such as Spoonbills, Herons and Egrets. The latter are represented by two different species, with the big yellow-billed Eastern Great Egret (Ardea modesta) as a fairly common resident and the much smaller black-billed Little Egret (Egretta garzetta) as an occasional visitor. With water levels relatively high at the moment – much of the trail near the Swamp Paperbark trail is currently inundated – there is sufficient food for all, and the Little Egrets can be seen hunting little fish and tadpoles at lighting fast speed.
Black Swans are a common sight in our wetlands, and in spring both adults cruise the shallows with their offspring. In certain parts of Herdsman Lake they are fairly accustomed to humans, making it easy to observe their grey cygnets preen and do the occasional shakedown in order to keep parasites and bacteria at bay. Mum and dad always keep a watchful eye though, as young swans are sometimes attacked and killed by rivalling family’s cobs.
With the season of Kambarang in full swing reptiles are out and about again, and a walk around Herdsman Lake at this time of the year will be rewarded with an almost guaranteed sighting of a Tiger Snake (Notechis scutatis). These beautiful but highly venomous snakes call this wetland home, where they hunt mainly for frogs, although lizards, small mammals and young birds are also taken. Their live young are born in autumn and early winter, at the same time when the first baby frogs appear. They’re most active during spring and summer, although they prefer to forage at night as they dislike hot weather.
Native to Australia but not naturally occurring in Western Australia, the Little Corella (Cacatua sanguinea) is a common resident in the Perth metropolitan area. In fact, abundant food and the absence of predators have allowed the population to explode over the last two decades, and flocks of a few hundred birds are not uncommon. They are opportunistic feeders that eat grass seeds, bulbs and grains in noisy nomadic foraging flocks, causing havoc and damage to trees, paddocks and homes. And while competing for nesting hollows with black cockatoos, parrots, owls and raptors, and interbreeding with endemic species, Little Corellas not only have an impact on our urban environment, but also to our biodiversity. Despite all the trouble they bring about, with their fleshy blue-eyed ring and rose-pink coloured plumage these birds always remain a great subject for photography, especially when you can connect with them at eye-level.
The Oblong Turtle (Chelodina oblonga) or Booyi is one of 8 species of long-necked turtles represented in Australia, where it can be found in the wetlands and swamps throughout the southwest region. These carnivorous reptiles use echolocation to hunt for fish, molluscs and crustaceans in low visibility water, and when identified prey is near their head strikes forward to snatch it. Although seemingly slow, large female turtles attack ducklings and even swamp hens with astonishing speed! Life for metropolitan turtles is not easy, as many ephemeral swamps have been converted in housing estates and playgrounds, leaving their habitat rather fragmented in a hostile world, and although Oblong turtles still migrate, for many their journey ends when crossing busy roads. In spring females can be spotted out of the water in search for a safe spot to lay their eggs: they can produce up to 3 clutches of 2-16 eggs that take between 26-41 weeks to hatch. Although many hatchlings are born at the end of winter, many will never find their way back to the water as …
Over the past few weeks I have not only been looking for Western Brush Wallaby (Macropus irma), as mentioned in my previous post, but also for the Banded Anteater or Numbat (Myrmecobius fasciatus). This carnivorous marsupial has featured on my bucket list for quite a while now, and several trips have been made to Boyagin Nature Reserve to find it. Located in the Wandoo woodlands of Western Australia’s wheatbelt, Boyagin is one of the few places where Numbats can be found, as a once thriving population has been dramatically reduced due to land clearing and predation by feral cats and foxes. The translocated Boyagin population has been estimated at 50-100 animals, but as their home range is around 50 hectares, chances of casual sightings are not that high. Although my patience and luck are still tested as far as Numbats go, Boyagin is a beautiful reserve to explore with plenty of other interesting animals and plants to discover. The huge undisturbed granite outcrop that lends its name to the reserve is a prime habitat for the Ornate Dragon …
Kalamunda National Park has been amongst my favourite hangouts lately after a couple of sightings of the elusive Western Brush Wallaby (Macropus irma). I have been back several times over the past few weeks, and although I haven’t been able to capture it on camera successfully yet, I was pretty happy to run into a flock of Forest Red Tailed Black Cockatoos (Calyptorhynchus banksii naso) feasting on nuts from nearby Jarrah trees (Eucalyptus marginata). Smoke from a prescribed burn off that took place a few miles away lent a soft orange colour to a dramatic sunset; a perfect backdrop for this high- perched bird.
“As spring advances they separate into pairs, the male undergoing a total transformation, not only in the colour, but also in the texture of its plumage; indeed, a more astonishing change can scarcely be imagined, its plain and unassuming garb being thrown off for a few months and another assumed, which for resplendent beauty is hardly surpassed by any of the feathered race” – John Gould, Birds of Australia On a rather cold and cloudy day in the Perth Hills this Splendid Fairy Wren (Malurus splendens) showed the inevitability of seasons with the most beautiful breeding costumes of any Australian bird I know. Although featured on iAMsafari before, it’s one of those happy highlights no one can ever get enough of.
When spring temperatures hit summer-like highs not only wildflowers and bushwalkers come out of hibernation. Reptiles make the most of the sunshine and soak up the heat to warm their bodies. This Gould’s Goanna (Varanus gouldii) lazily hung around the DPAW’s offices in Beelu National Park, where the dark spaces underneath the buildings provide ample opportunity to cool down again. As slow and docile as those large goannas might seem, when threatened they can rear up on their hind legs and make a dash for safety at such an astounding speed that their nickname racehorse goanna is well-deserved.
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.
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.
“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 …
“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.
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.
“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
“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. …
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 …
As a family of fishers, the cormorants are amongst the bigger birds found in Australia. The Pied cormorant (Phalacrocorax varius) is surely much lighter than the Australian pelican (Pelecanus conspicillatus), but with its 130 cm wingspan, 2.2 kg weight, and beautiful yellow eyepatch, this aquatic hunter is nevertheless impressive.
The Striated Heron (Butorides striata) is a common bird along the coastlines of Africa, South America and Australia, and in Roebuck Bay it spends a lot of time in the mangroves and on the rocks, hunting for fish in pools and creeks in typical stealth mode.