All posts filed under: Wildlife

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. 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 …

Agile Wallaby Broome Bird Observatory Western Australia

Agile Wallaby

After a very dry wet season, the bush surrounding the Broome Bird Observatory looked brown and dry. The sandy soils of this part of the Kimberley are dominated by Coffee Fruit (Grewia breviflora), Helicopter Trees (Gyrocarpus Americanus) and Broome Pindan Wattles (Acacia eriopoda), with diffused tufts of Spinifex grass in the understory. Although this habitat offers most abundant food in the wet, opportunistic feeders as the Agile Wallaby (Macropus agilis) are perfectly able to broaden their diet by shifting to alternative food resources, such as fruits, leaves and roots from other plants: the tracks that can be found on the beach every morning show those marsupials come to the mangroves to feed on propagules during the night. But Agile Wallabies are not the only creatures that harvest the beach after dark. Every morning before the sun rises, thousands of Land Hermit Crabs or irramunga (Coenabita variabilis) commute between beach and bush after the collection of their newly found homes. A journey that many are not likely to survive when crossing Crab Creek road – a journey …

Green Tree Frog Yawuru Conservation Area Broome Western Australia

Green Tree Frog

When visiting the Broome Bird Observatory, it’s hard to miss the resident wildlife that gathers in and around the camp’s ablution blocks; from the highly venomous King Brown Snake (Pseudechis australis) to the harmless Stimson’s Python (Antaresia stimsonia), some of Australia’s notorious reptiles are drawn to this place to hunt Green Tree Frogs (Litoria caerulea). These ever smiling and relaxed amphibians love to live in toilet bowls – hence its nickname Dunny Frog – during the dry season, when water in the bush is scarce. Although it was easier to find them when flushing, the sight of the dust covered tree-climber was well worth the spotlighting effort.

Rainbow bee-eater Roebuck Bay Broome Western Australia

Life in the mangroves

When descending the red Pindan cliffs towards the beach and benthic flats of Roebuck Bay, one comes across several mangals and tidal creeks. The tropical mangrove forests near Broome consist of several species, such as the common grey mangrove (Avicennia marina), stilt-rooted mangrove (Rhizophora stylosa) and the red mangrove (Ceriops tagal) or lanyi-lanyi. Those forests are complex and rich habitats that require much specialization to live in, and many animals found in the mangroves are therefore absent or rare in other places. With their bright red colour, flame fiddler crabs (Uca flammula) are the most beautiful crabs of the mangroves by far. The typical big and oversized claw of this mostly vegetarian crustacean is waved to defend their territory rather than to crush food, while their remarkable appearance is further enhanced by eyes positioned on tall stalks, enabling them to detect threats from afar so they can disappear in their burrow quickly. The Mangrove mudskipper is another conspicuous creature that can be found in Roebuck’s mangroves. Because they are able to breath through their skin …

Red Wattlebird Anthochaera carunculata Lake Herdsman Western Australia

Red Wattlebird

With grevillea, hakea and eucalypts flowering in abundance, different species of honeyeaters (Meliphagidae) can be found feeding on their nectar. With thin curved bills and brush-like tongues, they’re probing flowers and lapping up large quantities of sweet liquid at a time. Most members of diverse family of passerine birds can be found in Australia and New Guinea, with the Red Wattlebird (Anthochaera carunculata) or Djoongong the largest species in Western Australia. The distinctive red-pink wattles or caruncles have lend this bird its common name, and as one of the noisiest inhabitants of our urban bushland they’re hard to miss when chasing away other nectar-feeding birds as lorikeets and parrots.    

Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus Lake Herdsman Western Australia

Glossy Ibis

Rain is plentiful now Makuru is in full swing, but cool and wet days alternate with dry and sunny ones, leaving ample time to explore nature. As the rains have steadily raised water levels of lakes and swamps, large flocks of birds aggregate on its waterlogged shores, offering excellent opportunities for bird photography. On the Swan Coastal Plain a chain of wetlands runs parallel to the coast; many small ones have been drained, filled or cleared in the past for agricultural and urban development, but Herdsman Lake is the biggest still remaining. Known as Ngurgenboro to the Yellagonga Noongar, the lake is not only a place with a significant cultural heritage, it is also one of the last remaining wildlife havens in the metropolitan area. Apart from a strong supply of reptiles, including the notorious Tiger Snake (Notechis scutatus), over 100 bird species have been recorded at Herdsman Lake. Waterbirds are particularly visible, amongst which the Black Swan, Yellow-billed Spoonbill, Nankeen Night Heron and Australian Shelduck I have written about before. The Ibis family is represented with …

Nankeen Night Heron Nycticorax caledonicus Lake Herdsman Western Australia

Nankeen Night Heron – Ngalganin

“When perched on the trees or resting on the ground, it exhibits none of the grace and elegance of those birds, its short neck resting on the shoulders” – John Gould, Handbook to the Birds of Australia, volume 2 As their name suggests, Nankeen Night Herons (Nycticorax Caledonicus) stalk marches and wetlands during the dark hours of the day, searching for insects, crustaceans, frogs and fish. During daytime these stocky herons can be found roosting, heads hunched onto the shoulders, in the dense canopy of the numerous Swamp Paperbark (Melaleuca rhaphiophylla) trees that surround Lake Herdsman. Although this colony counts between 20-30 individuals, none of those secretive birds leave the thick cover easily, making decent photography a job for the patient. Apart from its nocturnal character, the cinnamon-brown colour has contributed to the other part of its name, as Nankeen cloth from Nanking resembles the adult bird’s plumage.

Tiger Shark Shark Bay Western Australia

Tiger Shark Feeding Frenzy

Last October we were privy to see some fascinating Tiger Sharks (Galeocerdo cuvier) when sailing with the awesome crew of Monkey Mia’s Shotover. This seems a redundant comment to make when Shark Bay is renowned for it’s big population of those undiscerning predators, but whenever they got close to the boat shivers of excitement ran through the crowd. Imagine how the plethora of sharks feeding on the carcass of a humpback whale off Steep Point last Friday must have left the people on those two boats in awe! The shared footage is filmed with a drone by Eco Albrolhos  – please watch the final part of the clip and be convinced that a GoPro is a handy tool in those situations.

Australian Shelduck Tadorna tadornoides Herdsman Lake Western Australia

Australian Shelduck – Guraga

The Australian Shelduck (Tadorna tadornoides) is a gorgeous water bird. Its black head is separated from its beautiful chestnut coloured breast by a white ring, making it one of the easiest recognisable duck species in our wetlands. Shelducks are true wanderers, travelling long distances between the coastal lakes and estuaries and the inland Wheatbelt, however, some stay to breed in the metropolitan area during the winter months, such as this couple at the banks of Lake Herdsman. They pair for life, and the white eye-ringed female is constantly guarded by a watchful male – true love.

Yellow-billed Spoonbill Platalea flavipes Herdsman Lake Western Australia

Yellow-billed Spoonbill

One of the most unusual residents of the Swan Coastal Plain wetlands is the Yellow-billed Spoonbill (Platalea flavipes). Instead of relying on eyesight  when foraging for invertebrates in deep and muddy water, the spatula-shaped bill is equipped with papillae that detect vibrations of prey. It can often be seen walking slowly through the water, sweeping its beak from side to side in search for insects, crustaceans and fish, or just perching on a branch of a Swamp Paperbark tree (Melaleuca rhaphiophylla), such as this one on the banks of Herdsman Lake.

Welcome Swallow Hirondu neoxena Herdsman Lake Western Australia

Welcome Swallow – Kannamit

Perching on the branch of a dead Paperbark tree, this Welcome Swallow (Hirundo neoxena) is waiting to swoop down on the clouds of mosquitos that appear around dusk near the banks of Lake Herdsman, one of the most important wetland areas on the Swan Coastal Plain. The Welcome Swallow is called Kannamit by the Noongar people, who believe this fast and acrobatic bird is a sign of imminent rain.

Eastern Great Egret Canning River Western Australia

Eastern Great Egret

The Swan River Estuary is the centrepiece of Perth. It’s a place of great cultural importance for the Whadjuk people, who believe the Swan River (Derbal Yerrigan) and its tributary, the Canning River (Djalgarra), were made by the dreaming serpent Waugal, creator of rivers, lakes and other landforms on its journey to the Indian Ocean. The same rivers offer recreational activities such as sailing, kayaking or scuba-diving to most city dwellers, while for me the surrounding trails, magnificent views and prolific wildlife are the biggest drawcards. From Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops aduncus), Western Australian sea horse (Hippocampus angustus) colonies, marine and estuarine fish to a huge variety of waterbirds, the biodiversity of this unique ecosystem is astounding. Photo-opportunities galore, like this portrait of an Eastern Great Egret (Ardea modesta) waiting on the shores of the Canning River jabbing at fish and frogs with its dagger-shaped beak.  

Black Swan Cygnus atratus Canning River Western Australia

Black Swan – New Holland Novelty

“…en oock geen sonderling gedierte of gevogelte daer ontwaert, als ten principale in die Swaene rivier een soort van swarte swaenen, daer aff er oock drie levendigh tot ons gebragt hebben en wij UEd. gaarne hadden toe gestuurt, maar sij sijn alle een voor een korts naer hun herwaerts comste gestorven” – Iets over de reis van den schipper-commandeur Willem de Vlamingh, naar Nieuw Holland, in 1696 The first black swans (Cygnus atratus) were observed in January 1697 by Dutch explorer Willem de Vlamingh when venturing on a just discovered river in Western Australia. The black swans were a novelty, as back in those days everyone thought swans were white. The spooked expedition returned to the coast after this unsettling encounter, and baptised the river Swarte Swaenen Rivier (Swan River). The three swans taken on board of the vessels died before the end of the journey, however, a century later French explorer Baudin was more successful, bringing back those beautiful black birds to adorn the imperial gardens of Chateau de Malmaison.

Short-nosed Bandicoot Quenda Perth Hills Western Australia

Bandicoot in monochrome

We’re into May already and well into the season of Djeran, with cool nights, dewy mornings and pleasant daytime temperatures. The colours around us slowly start to shift from predominantly browns to greens, and that feel will remain until at least the end of September. These conditions make spending time in the bush rather pleasant, and therefore I have been out regularly in the last month. Last week’s highlight was this inquisitive and frantically foraging Bandicoot or Quenda. With its brownish color it was fairly neutral against the leaf litter, so I desaturated the picture to remove color and increased the blacks for a contrasting fur and snout.

Bronzewing Pigeon Phaps calcoptera Lesmurdie Falls National Park Mundy Perth Hills Western Australia

Common Bronzewing – Ooda

The Common Bronzewing (Phaps chalcoptera) might be Australia’s most widespread native pigeon, it might also one be the country’s most beautiful. This stocky bird is rather cautious and seldom allows a close approach, but its deep and penetrating “oom-like” call always gives away its location – and with some tact and patience those birds guarantee excellent photos when the greens and browns beautifully blend with the shadows of dusk.

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!

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 …

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 …

Orangutan Pongo pymaeus Forest Reserve Sabah Borneo Malaysia

Orangutan – back to the wild

Wow, it really has been a fair while since my last update on the Easter trip to Borneo. A lot has happened in the meantime: I followed the footsteps of my wife and have started running the Perth Hills trails rather seriously, making me stronger, faster and lighter every day. Winter is the best time of the year to pick up outdoor activities as this – mild temperatures and refreshing rains make those lengthy runs bearable while the transformation of nature into one big flowering mass provides a real feast for the eyes. I promise to post some truly spectacular wildflowers photos on iAMsafari very soon as they are not to be missed. Another project that has kept us busy is the purchasing and gearing up of our own Toyota Landcruiser – an investment in hardware indispensable for the discovery of the Australian outback, just tested around the wilderness of Gnaraloo where we have been swimming with Loggerhead turtles in Ningaloo Reef  – so stay tuned for more indeed! Although I really would like to …