All posts tagged: Perth Hills

Christmas Tree Nuytsia floribunda Perth Hills Western Australia Moodjar

Christmas Tree – Season Greetings

The Australian Christmas Tree (Nuytsia floribunda) or Moodjar is not exactly known for its lights or baubles, but for its spectacular display of golden flowers that appear in Birak or the ‘yellow season’. The succulent roots, nectar-rich flowers and nutritious sweet gum of the world’s largest mistletoe are prized by the Nyungar, however, as the tree is thought to be inhabited by the spirits of dead people it is better left alone when not in bloom. So we are lucky to have another kind of Christmas tree around our place – and therefore would like to wish you all a Merry Christmas while it’s in full glory!

Forest Red Tailed Cockatoo Karra Perth Hills Korung National Park

Forest Red-tailed Black Cockatoo

The call of the Forest Red-tailed Black Cockatoo (Calyptorhynchus banksii naso) is a sound you simply can’t miss. The discordant ‘ka-rark’ resembling screech is so high-pitched you normally hear this bird before you even see it – no wonder the Forest Red-Tailed Black Cockatoo is aptly called Karrak in Nyungar language. But in case you would’t recognise its call, this Cockatoo is easily identified by its spectacular red and orange tail feathers – a feature that makes them one of the most beautiful Australian birds in my humble opinion. Endemic to the forests of south-western Australia, the Forest Red-tailed Black Cockatoo (FRTBC) is one of the five subspecies of Red-tailed Black Cockatoos present in Australia. It has a distinctive larger and wider beak than birds from the other subspecies – perfect for cracking its favourite Marri (Corymbia calophylla) and Jarrah (Eucalyptus marginata) nuts. Marri and Jarrah trees dominate its habitat, not only providing food but also hollows in which the birds can nest. But as these hollows are becoming increasingly scarce by deforestation and competition from …

Bull Banksia flowers Beelu NP Perth Hills Australia

Bush Tucker # 3 – Poolgarla

Only one look at the flowering spike of the Bull Banksia (Banksia grandis) and you know why the Nyoongar season of Birak was sometimes called the ‘yellow season’. During the hot and dry summer months these Poolgarla spikes where collected for their nectar – either sucked directly from the flower or steeped into water to produce a sweet drink called mangite or mungitch. An account from famous botanist John Drummond (1839) states that ‘the natives, men, women and children live for five to six weeks particularly upon the honey which they suck from the flowers of this fine tree’. In the Diary of George Fletcher Moore (1884) the production of mangite was described as ‘this was done by lining a hole in the ground with paper-bark, filling it with the spikes, and then covering these with water and leaving them to soak’. Consumption of this slightly fermented drink in large quantities could eventually lead to intoxication – a possible explanation why during Birak there would be large gatherings of Nyoongar people participating in mangite drinking parties. On a walk through …

Southern Brown Bandicoot Quenda Lesmurdie Falls National Park

Southern Brown Bandicoot – Quenda

Yesterday I spent some time in the bush again and returned as a very happy man. No, I haven’t found any Ornate Dragons – instead I had a superb sighting of an elusive Southern Brown Bandicoot or Quenda (Isoodon obesulus). Often mistaken for large rats, the Quenda is a marsupial roughly the size of a rabbit that forages on insects, small vertebrates and plants in dense shrubland and understory of Eucalypt woodland, a habitat that provides both ample food and security. They use their strong claws to dig cone-shaped hollows for food, most of the time the only trace you’ll find as the slightest movement or sound generally makes this wary animal rush back to its nest for cover – long skirts from grass trees are often favourite spots. The Southern Brown Bandicoot population has been protected as numbers declined due to habitat loss and feral predators. However, the Western Shield feral predator control program from the Department of Parks and Wildlife has brought a recent recovery, and not only the Bandicoot but also other …

King Skink Egernia kingii

King Skink

We have a family of King Skinks (Egernia kingii) living under the laterite blocks just in front of our tree hut. With the weather warming up significantly the entire family can be seen basking in the sun almost every day now. It is easy to observe them as long as you don’t make sudden movements or cast your shadow over them – those lizards are extremely shy and the slightest movement will make them hide in their burrow. Despite their skittish nature they’ll quickly take a peek to see if the danger has gone after being disturbed, and once your spotted they closely keep an eye on you. Smart thing to do when you’re considered a tiger snake’s favourite prey… Who’s watching? Tell me who’s watching. Who’s watching me? Rockwell – Somebody’s Watching Me  

Short-beaked Echidna monotremes Lesmurdie NP

Short-beaked Echidna

Sometimes we travel long distances in the hope of finding our favourite animals. The idea is to cover as much ground as possible to increase chances of crossing paths somewhere along the track. However, some of our most memorable wildlife encounters were right at the doorsteps from more or less permanent residences; rest camps, look-outs, campgrounds or, more recently, our own house aka Tree hut. Yes, staying put and quietly observing your immediate surroundings is often the best way to enjoy wildlife in a much more relaxed and natural way – at least in my humble opinion. Yesterday we experienced another highlight so incredibly nearby. Just when I wanted to go for a late afternoon run a rustling noise in the bush drew the attention of my wife. Careful analysing the sound we came to the conclusion it couldn’t be one of the Western Grey Kangaroos living in the reserve. Quickly grabbing the camera and climbing over the fence of the garden we tried to discover the tiniest movement in the scrubby undergrowth of the …

Common Donkey Orchid Lesmurdie Falls NP

Common Donkey Orchid – Djilba

Common Donkey Orchids (Diuris corymbosa) are some of the easiest recognisable Australian orchids due to their large ‘Donkey ear-like’ petals. These orchids flower between August and October, and with the first specimens blooming on the sandy soils of the Darling scarp the first signs of spring have finally arrived. According to the Nyungar calendar this time of the year is called Djilba – the growing season during which a massive explosion of wild flowers in Australia’s South West is happening. In anticipation of this botanic spectacle it would be an understatement to say we are getting a little excited!

Galah Eolophus roseicapilla Cockatoo

Galah – Djakal ngakal

The Pink and Grey Galah is a cockatoo feeding on native seeds and nuts in the bush. However, with the clearing of the Weathbelt during European settlement Galahs have been provided with ample grain and water which has resulted in a thriving population around the Perth metropolitan area. Mostly living in pairs or small flocks they never fail to impress with their striking appearance and noisy behaviour.

Eucalyptus caesia Silver Princess Gungurru

Colours of Winter # 1 – Gungurru

Unlike the South African bushveld the landscape in Australia grows more colourful in wintertime. After the first heavy rains of Makuru (the cold and wet season of the Nyungar calendar) many trees have started flowering, bringing a kind of new life to the otherwise dry bush. On one of our walks near Victoria Dam we stumbled upon this beautiful Silver Princess or Gungurru (Eucalyptus caesia), a rare Mallee of the Eucalyptus genus endemic to the central Wheatbelt region of Western Australia. It is named after the grey-white powder covering branches, leaves and flower buds. While most of its fruits where still closed this tree had just started to show some magnificent red flowers, inaugurating the first colours of winter.    

Bobtail lizard

The weather is changing. May is a beautiful time of the year with mild days and crisp nights. Autumn’s chill creeps in and the first rains have started to transform the landscape with grass growing, water flowing and the first trees flowering. As soon as the sun appears on these cool days reptiles can be found on granite outcrops, absorbing heat to regulate their body temperature. When I was looking for Ornate Dragons (Ctenophorus ornatus) hiding in the cracks and crevices of the granite boulders,  I actually stumbled upon this Bobtail lizard (Tiliqua rugosa) at the side of the trail. Absolute motionless with only its eyes observing my movements, it offered the perfect opportunity for some close-up shots.  They are slow, docile and easy to pick up, and therefore often traded as exotic pets for as much as $9,000 on the Asian black market. In order to curb this practice smugglers are sentenced heavily while trying to get those reptiles out of the country stuffed in handbags or teddy bears. Sad but true. Confiscated Bobtails are …

Laughing Kookaburra Western Australia

Kookaburra – laughing your head off

One of the most distinctive sounds in the Australian bush comes from a bird that has become a real national emblem. Laughing Kookaburras (Dacelo novaeguinae) are social animals that mark their territory by laughing out loud around dusk and dawn in particular. The chuckling and laughter between whole families of these giant kingfishers is a spectacle that keeps me entertained over and over. Luckily some individuals have chosen a branch of a nearby Marri tree as their favourite lookout. You’d like to laugh your head off with them? Just click on the links below! http://soundbible.com/grab.php?id=1786&type=mp3  

Grass Tree Balga John Forrest NP

Grass Tree – People and Plants

The Grass Tree (Xanthorrhoea preissii) is endemic to south-western Australia and can be found in almost any nature reserve. In Western Australia Grass Trees are commonly referred to as Blackboys, but are best known by its indigenous name, Balga. The plant has always been extremely important for aboriginals and early settlers. Its thin fronds  provided thatching material for shelters, while the resin which oozes from the trunk was used both as a binding and tanning agent. Because the resin is also highly flammable aboriginals used it as a firelighter, but when settlers cut down great numbers for firewood it disappeared almost completely from certain areas. As Grass trees grow extremely slow (about one metre in 100 years) it will take them a long time to recover, however, through a resurgence of popularity in using native plants for landscaping it has started to make a comeback in urban areas.

Southern Carpet Python Beelu National Park Perth Hills Western Australia

Carpet Python – Waugal

For as long as I have been in Australia I have always wanted to see a Carpet Python. Most bush walks go through amazing country, the kind of place reminding you of the garden of Eden, unspoilt, serene and beautiful. I have a habit that at the start of almost any of these walks I see the image of a Carpet Python winding itself around the branch of a tree, just as in those biblical images. After many years of walking with this idea in the back of my mind I never really thought I would have the privilege of  actually seeing one. Until yesterday when we walked part of the Bibbelmun track, a 1000 kilometre long route named after the early aboriginal inhabitants of South-West Australia, signposted by Waugal, the rainbow serpent from Nyungar dreamtime; a Carpet Python… I caught the first glimpse of this mythical animal when we reached a clearing in the Jarrah woodlands of Beelu National Park. On a stretch of bitumen leading to a deserted airstrip we found this nearly two …

Common Brushtail Possum Lesmurdie Falls National Park Mundy Perth Hills Western Australia

Common Brush-tail Possum

By the sheer number of droppings on the stairs and the penetrating smell of urine underneath the deck of the verandah we should have known we were going to share our Tree Hut with a bunch of possums. Just because of their rather physical presence many people regard those tree-dwelling marsupials as a pest, but because they are protected under the Wildlife Conservation Act possums can’t be removed without permission of the State government. Regarding the abundance of wild fruit on our property and the numerous spaces to establish dens, any vacant possum-smelling space would attract new residents in no-time anyway. Apart from their nocturnal ramblings and territorial fights I guess we have started to love our closest neighbours who come out underneath their Jacaranda tree at twilight almost every day; a routine that makes close-up encounters good fun for kids and easy for photographers!

Ringneck Parrot 28 Lesmurdie Falls National Park Mundy Perth Hills Western Australia

Twenty eight Parrot – Welcome to the tree hut

Hurray! After a few months of hard work we have finally settled in. Our new house is adjacent to Lesmurdie Falls National Park, completely surrounded by tall Marri (Corymbia calophylla) and Jarrah (Eucalyptus marginata) trees. As the deck in front of the house is equally high as the canopy we have baptised this wonderful place ‘The Tree Hut’. The surrounding forrest is home to native wildlife including flocks of noisy tail waggling Twenty-eights, a subspecies of the Australian Ringneck (Bernardius zonarius semitorquatis), clearly recognised by its red frontal band and its distinctive ‘Twenty-eight’ call. The Nyungar called this bird Darlmoorluk and regarded it as a guardian or protector of their camps, keeping evil spirits at bay. So hopefully our home is blessed with having those happy birds around, providing us with a place from which we can live our dreams.