All posts tagged: Photography

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.

Hairy Jug Flower Adenanthos barbiger Beelu NP Western Australia

Botanical history # 1 – Hairy Jugflower

“Moreover the purchasers of plants will often be able, by a reference to this sketch, to ascertain, by the names under which Swan River plants are offered for sale, whether particular species are worth possession, either for the sake of their beauty or singularity” – John Lindley, A Sketch of the Vegetation of the Swan River Colony Even when the forest is eerily quiet, when not a single sound can be heard, in the Australian bush there’s always something new and interesting to discover, no matter how small. On a recent walk I found those beautifully red hairy jugflowers (Adenanthos barbiger), a species of the Proteaceae family endemic to south-west Western Australia. Apart from the esthetic aspects, I often find the botanical history of flowers and plants equally interesting, as it reflects the amazement of the early botanists and explorers when new species were discovered – species that now have become so common and sometimes even unremarkable to us. The hairy jugflower was first described by John Lindley in A Sketch of the Vegetation of the Swan Colony. …

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!

Boranup forest Karri Margaret River Western Australia

Boranup forest

“While way    way up higher than the eye believes   the Karris   whose ancestors paved the streets of London bask sunrise    lemon and pink   in their solid new skin        and widen their hold on the sky” – Caroline Caddy, Esperance The colossal Eucalyptus diversicolor – commonly known by its Noongar name Karri – grows in the remarkable forests of the South West. With heights over 80 metres it’s not only one of the tallest trees in the world, it also provides dense and long-lived hardwood, used for the paving of roads in 19th century London. The majestic Boranup forest in the Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park is what still remains of the once widespread Karri, and the 11km long drive is now one of the regions major attractions – a fine example of the importance of Eco-tourism!

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 …

Gravel Bottlebrush Beaufortia decussata Stirling Range Western Australia

Colours of Koikyenunuruff

The Stirling Range National Park is a biodiversity hotspot with a dazzling array of wildflowers. Although most of the area’s iconic species flower in spring, there is not a single season when the landscape is not alive with colours, textures and shapes. A few walks or climbs on and around the numerous peaks unveil a true botanical treasure – as long as you’re able to focus on the little things instead of getting lost in Koikyenunuruff’s lovely vistas. The plants that populate the Stirling Range make it a special place, however, especially the rare montane heath and thicket is under serious threat: Phytophtora dieback disease, intense and frequent fires, climate change, as well as browsing by animals such as quokka’s (Setonix brachyurus), mardo’s (Antechinus flavipes) and quenda‘s (Isodoon obesulus) has led to severe population declines. Protective fencing for highly threatened species in order to allow regrowth has shown promising results – so don’t be surprised to find those fencing structures on top of Bluff Knoll!

Bluff Knoll Stirling Range National Park Western Australia

Stirling Range – Koikyenunuruff

The Dreaming is the beginning of time, when mythical spirits with supernatural powers rose up and travelled the once featureless wilderness, creating mountains, lakes, rivers, sea, stars and everything living on earth – and in the stories about the Stirling Range this is no different. The range is named after the first governor of Western Australia, but known as Koikyenunuruff by the Mineng and Koreng people who once lived in and around these ‘mist shrouded mountains’. Until today Noongar people believe the clouds covering Bluff Knoll or Bular Mial (the range’s tallest peak) are the ever changing visible form of a lonely, dead spirit called Noatch – and that’s why the sign at the bottom of the slope warnes climbers that ‘those who stray might get lost in her misty embrace’. Bluff Knoll therefore remains a place of great cultural significance for the traditional owners. Standing proud in an otherwise flat landscape, the Stirling Ranges are the only obstacle to weather from the Southern Ocean. The slopes and peaks therefore receive relatively high levels of rainfall, and the numerous combinations of …

Stromatolites Cyanobacteria Hamelin Pool Shark Bay Western Australia

The stromatolites of Hamelin Pool

It’s not a very long drive from the Overlander roadhouse to the old telegraph station of Hamelin Pool, but the dry shrub-like vegetation makes it a rather monotonous one. The barren landscape is an indication of the hot, dry and windy weather in this remote part of Western Australia, a place where summer temperatures average between 35 and 37 degrees Celsius. Those high temperatures create a very high evaporation rate that turns the shallow waters of Hamelin Pool extremely saline – twice as much as regular seawater to be precise. Under normal conditions this hyper-saline water would be diluted by the flow of fresh or low salinity waters, but in Hamelin Pool this is restricted by very low rainfall and a limited tidal flow. So what? Is salt water a good reason to stop in such a desolate corner of the world? Well, in Hamelin Pool it is as this environment is rather unique and one of the reasons why Hamelin Pool – and the whole of Shark Bay – is listed as World Heritage. …

Candlestick Banksia attenuata Kalbarri National Park Western Australia

Candlestick Banksia – Piara

The Candlestick or slender Banksia (Banksia attenuata) – also known by its Nyungar name Piara – is the most widely distributed western Banksia. It occurs on sandy soils from Cape Leeuwin to Fitzgerald National Park in the south-west of Western Australia and as far as the Murchison River and Kalbarri National Park to the north. In the latter we encountered numerous small shrubs with early budding, almost green spikes that slowly develop into bright yellow during anthesis – ready to attract insects, birds and mammals for pollination.

Pink flowered Myrtle Hypocalymma angustofolium Mundy Perth Hills Western Australia

Myrtle flowers of the Darling Scarp

Each time I go out for a bush walk this time of the year I wonder which treasures nature keeps in store for us to discover. Because of the warm spring weather many plants and animals undergo a transformation; the flowering of the Moodjar or Christmas Tree indicates that hot weather is already underway, but before the season of Birak brings the wildflower season to an end the incredibly beautiful Myrtle flowers show off their purple splendour. And although both the Graceful and Rough Honeymyrtle (Melaleuca radula and Melaleuca parviceps) are most common it is the ostentatious Pink Flowered Myrtle or Kudjid (Hypocalymma angustifolium) that steals the show.

Granite Petrophile biloba Lesmurdie Falls NP Perth Hills Western Australia

Granite Petrophile – Pollock in the Bush

The Granite Petrophile (Petrophile biloba) is endemic to the south-west of Western Australia and mainly grows on the granite overlaying soils of the Darling Scarp. It is generally unremarkable, but when this shrub starts flowering in spring it displays pink, grey, white and yellow flowers arranged in a seemingly chaotic order only seen in works of Jackson Pollock – a cacophony of colours, shapes and textures that draws you in when engaging with it long enough.

Sea Urchin Hakea petiolaris Lesmurdie Falls NP Perth Hills Western Australia

Sea Urchin Hakea

The last few weeks have been a real wildflower carnival. With warm weather and still decent rainfall we have been watching a parade of colours and shapes unfold up in the hills. Although the participants in this parade try to outshine each other in the quest for pollinators, the striking Sea Urchin Hakea (Hakea petiolaris) is one of my favourites. This early flowering tree is mainly found around the granite outcrops where it benefits from increased moisture and shade, and because of its stem-flowering or ‘cauliflory’ habit, it is thought that the Sea Urchin Hakea is a relict of an earlier, wetter and more forested habitat.

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 …

Water Monitor Varanus salvator Kinabatangan Sabah Borneo Malaysia

Water Monitor – Portrait of a Dragon

The Water Monitor (Varanus salvator) is the second-heaviest lizard in the world after the Komodo Dragon (Varanus komodoensis) – a fearsome looking animal with a muscular body, split tongue and sharp claws. Scanning their surroundings by walking upright, defending themselves with infection causing bites and feeding on carrion, birds, eggs and young crocodiles, this aquatic and arboreal carnivore is one of Borneo’s apex predators. Although the water monitor is a common inhabitant of the island’s riparian zones and rivers, we were fortunate to watch this dragon up-close on several occasions. Note the sheer size of the claws in the photograph below – and compare it to the innocent look of the juvenile above…