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.
“Australian bush is rarely described as pretty, but the forest floor in spring is a mass of dainty and colourful blossoms” – The Southwest, Australia’s Biodiversity Hotspot – Victoria Laurie Only a few weeks ago orchids were blooming profusely in the metropolitan bushland, but after the first spring heat they’ve vanished like snow before the sun. The same seemed to be the case in the Jarrah forests of the Darling range, where Silky Blue Orchids (Syanicula sericea) were plentiful in the Kalamunda area not that long ago, while none have been seen there on recent walks. Observations like this feed my never-ending hunger to understand the intricate relationship between the bottomless chest of botanical treasures, their respective flowering seasons and habitats, and, above all, have led me to approach nature in a more holistic way rather than singling out its individual parts. It has not only helped me to gain a better understanding of the flora that surrounds us, it has also helped me to find out how to increase the chances of sighting wildlife: the associations formed between …
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!
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.
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.
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. 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. For the local Noongar people orchids provided an important food source, as the starchy roots were roasted in hot ashes …
“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 …
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. 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!
“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 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. 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.
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.
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.
Dreaming of being back at Circular Pool, a cool and shady oasis with hidden gardens of ferns and figs.
“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 …