Re-visit 12: South-west Western Australia

 

I have been fortunate to get to the south-western tip of Western Australia a couple of times. A magnificent area for trees, rocks, sea and birds.

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Lots of photos in this re-visit with less commentary, or you will need another glass.

The isolated Little Penguin was unsuccessfully trying to scale this rock for the whole 20 minutes we were there. No idea why, and success looked increasingly unlikely. The slideshow shows the unlikely journey.

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Both Carnaby’s and Baudin’s Black-Cockatoos are found only down in this small area in far south-west WA. First the Baudin’s with the elongated beak:

 

 

Then the Carnaby’s:

 

There are also Red-Tailed Black-Cockatoos:

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This was the first sighting for me of the Bridled Tern.

 

 

Terns often mingle across sub-species so it can be hard often to distinguish them. This is a young Crested Tern.Tern, Crested juv

Of course, there were millions of sea- and shore-birds. In order right to left, then down, we have a juvenile and adult Pacific Gull; ubiquitous White-Faced Heron; Australasian Darter (3 photos); Little-Black Cormorant; Pied Oystercatcher; and Great Cormorants.

Heron, White-faced

Darter, australasian mat juv 2Darter, Australasian, mat juvDarter, australasian juv

 

High on a rock, rarely moving, and looking somewhat forlorn, was a Southern Fulmar, which would not normally be here at this time of the year, so perhaps lost and forlorn.

Fulmar, southern

Below, from the top,we have a Hardhead (a bit out of its normal range); Australasian Grebes (breeding – male is left, fem right); Hoary-headed Grebe; Chestnut Teal; and Grey Teal.

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This area is famous for its giant forests, and they certainly were impressive.

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The rocks were impressive, whether in the water or out of it. First, in the water, with various exposures to feature the water too:

 

With the forests and proliferation of wildflowers, there is a wide variety of forest birds, a number of which were first sightings for me.

First, lots of Honeyeaters, with Brown, then White-cheeked, and lastly the New-Holland.

 

 

Honeyeater, New-Holland ssp longirostris

Although the Australian Ringneck Parrot is fairly wide-spread, this sub-species, namely semitorquatus, is only found in this small area. It is colloquially known as the Twenty-Eight after its call, although I noticed that the Twenty-Eight tag was applied to the species more indiscriminately.

Wherever you go in Australia, you can count on being welcomed by the Welcome Swallows, although again the sub-species Carteri is only found in south-western Western Australia. Looks like there are more on the way.

One of my favourite birds (although the group is large) is the Spinebill. Reasonably common in my garden is the Eastern Spinebill. This was the first sighting of the slightly different plumage of the Western Spinebill.

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Another common bird in Eastern and Southern Australia, close to the coast, is the Silvereye. This sub-species Chloronotus is again only found in the south-west of WA.

Silvereye ssp chloronotus

Similarly, the Bilbali sub-species of the Australian Pipit, a bird found almost everywhere in Australia, is only found in this nook.

 

 

The wildflowers are also spectacular:

And almost finally, the pure quartz, rather than coral/shell sand with which we are more familiar, is remarkable. And treacherous.

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And, finally, I love a good sign. We all know how hard it is to get it right. Tough luck though if it is through this closed at all times door that you need to make the emergency egress.

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Michael Monaghan

Re-visited July 2020

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The new garden/Le jardin nouveau/Der neue garten/

 

Today was the commemorative opening of the new native garden. Inspired by one of the most brilliant launches witnessed by humanity, a link to which is at the bottom of this article, it was held in three languages, with a suitably distanced crowd of one.

For those who missed the beginning, here’s a quick re-cap

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One hundred square metres of what was, before the drought of 2000, lawn – but was now at best grass, but mainly weeds – was to be dug up, and turned into 50 sq m of native garden and 50 sq m of re-sown lawn.

Workers, well the worker, had to meet the watchful and exacting standards of the future occupants, such as the young magpie and the grey butcher bird.

Various paths have had to be constructed, walls built, and stone wall gardens extended.

The plan didn’t allow for discovering a dodgy brothers storm water pipe running right through the middle of the proposed garden, sitting just 100 to 250 mm below the surface.

20200701_134504Taking a punt that the drain, like another one running from the other corner of the back garden, was put there when the houses were new, and there were no gardens to absorb the rainwater coming off the ridge behind, I decided to take it out. We will discover next time it pours if that was a good decision – otherwise I might need that punt I mentioned. I have checked I still have gumboots.

In a very good sign, some prospective tenants couldn’t even wait till the first plants went into the ground.

I watched a couple of young resident magpies attempt, but fail, to remove the colourful labels from some pots, resulting in several being tipped over.

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Then, after frantic last minute activity by the worker, the time for the official opening arrived.

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Being a good employer, and wanting to offer choices to the worker, I offered myself, the worker – read Lee v Lee’s Airfarming to understand the corporate veil – his pick. All I could find, though, was this spade. (boom boom)

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The launch was conducted in English, French and German, as guided by the launch of the new postbox depicted in the attached documentary. Luckily, the Spanish Inquisition didn’t arrive, because I certainly wasn’t expecting it – well, of course, nobody does.

So now I have got only 20 sqm to dig up in the garden, and about 15 sqm to re-sow the last stretch of new lawn. Plus lots of bird attracting natives to be purchased and planted.

 

 

Make sure you watch the clip. One of the funniest things I have ever seen.

Michael Monaghan

July 2020

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Winter at the Jerrabomberra Wetlands

Pretty quiet in winter at the Wetlands, but over a few trips have spotted some new and some rare appearances.

The Golden-headed Cisticola, one of the so-called Old World Warblers, is apparently at the edge of its range around here, but the high reeds and water suit it. This was the first time I had seen one, and as best I could tell, there seemed to be only one.

Another rare sighting, although you often hear them here, is the Little Grassbird. Rarer still for it to sit still long enough for a photo opportunity – and true to form this one didn’t quite.

Grassbird, Little

 

The Red-Browed Finches are often around and are fairly unconcerned by human presence. They were certainly hoeing into the late autumn reed seeds.

Similarly, Superb Fairy-Wrens are common and tolerant.

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Rare visitors right in the Wetlands are Yellow-Tailed Black-Cockatoos, which normally hang about in huge Casuarina Pine stands a kilometer or so away.

The colourful Red-Rumped Parrots are also common here. The male is much more colourful than the female, she more sedately stylish.

 

Black-Shouldered Kites frequent and nest here. This looks like one of the youngsters checking out his home.

Spotted Doves seem to be another of the birds moving in greater numbers into new territory after the bushfires along the eastern and south-eastern coasts. I have also seen them in my garden in Canberra for the first time, along with huge numbers (70 at a time)  of Sulphur-Crested Cockatoos and (30 at a time) of Rainbow Lorikeets. Not before this year have they been in this part of Canberra in anything like those numbers.

Also it is the first time in many years coming here I have seen WoodSwallows here. These are Black-Faced Woodswallows, quite cuddly looking and so they are in practice.

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Quite common in the Wetlands are Black-faced Cuckoo-Shrikes, White-faced Herons,  White-Browed Scrubwrens and Straw-necked Ibis.

 

Ibis, Straw-neckedMore first sightings anywhere for me were the Yellow-Rumped Thornbill:

The Brown Thornbill:

Thornbill, Brown

And the Yellow-faced Honeyeater:

Honeyeater, Yellow-faced 2

So with a bit of patience, and time, the Wetlands always go from there’s nothing there to a nice collection.

June 2020

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Re-visit 11: West MacDonnell Ranges (west of Alice Springs; visited 2016)

Generally, this is a post where the photos of some of the oldest rocks known on the planet just speak for themselves.

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There are moments, such as this entry into Palm Valley, where you really really hope the rangers who stuck in the guiding posts do know where the underwater boulders are. For the most part, they are well more than wheel height below the water. Good for me, the intrepid driver had been before.

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It was well worth his effort – the scenery inside was sensational.

 

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Another great spot in this area is Simpson’s Gap. Again, the rocks do the talking.

 

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There were plenty of gorgeous gorges in the area, including Jessie Gap, Emily Gap and Ormiston Gorge. Geologists (a very recent profession and knowledge – look up William Smith or read Simon Winchester’s ‘The Map that changed the World’)  say that yesterday, well around 400 million years ago, the top layer of quartzite was about 2 kilometres north of the gorge, and something thrust it south, so now there are the two layers. It was all sand on a shallow sea once upon a time too. Don’t anybody raise that this is just this universe.

There are many highlights including these very ancient paintings:

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and an easy to tread on grasshopper, with magnificent camouflage:

 

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Michael Monaghan

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Re-visited June 2020

Re-visit 10: New South Wales/Queensland eastern border ranges.

I was staying in Ballina, on the northern coast of New South Wales, and took a couple of day trips to both sides of the border ranges.

A little known possible, but possibly also not, fact, is that in the Second World War, a proposal was considered at a federal government level, to build a defensive line through this territory. One fact is that such an idea was, in a speech,  labelled by Gen Macarthur as the Brisbane Line. The proposal was said to be, that it might not be possible to prevent the then enemy, the Japanese, from gaining a foothold in the north of Australia; so plan B would be to build stronger defences and turn them back from border country. The proposal, if there was one, was not acted upon, and a subsequent Royal Commission failed to find definitive evidence that the proposal had actually existed.  The Curtin labor wartime Government, probably assisted into power by public unease at the suggestion there was such a proposal, strongly rejected the notion.

Springbrook National Park is on the north of the ranges, with many impressive waterfalls. My favourite was the Natural Bridge Falls. The creek had fallen for millennia onto a sandstone ledge which had also been eroded from beneath by another creek. Over millennia the top creek fall had drilled a now large hole into the ledge, pouring through into the creek below. A some time fairly recently, a large tree trunk had flooded down through the hole, enhancing the display point for the falls.

These are some of my favourite photos, with different effects from different camera settings:IMG_2440

 

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This is what it looks like from above:

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There are many other beautiful waterfalls given the mountainous and wet forests:

At some stage I was right down there.

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Coming in through the south, the forests were equally spectacular. Was a bit flatter, so not the same cliffs and waterfalls, where I was anyway. This is east and just north of Nimbin, of uncertain fame.

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This is looking north to Mount Warning, the subject of a separate trip. Some time ago this whole area was volcanic with the volcanoes about twice the height of this mountain.

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These were my first sightings of the Brown Cuckoo-Dove, and the notorious Australian Brush-Turkey.

Minyon Falls was worth the walk for some shots at different camera settings:

I didn’t take Boggy Creek Trail, with the reason for the name escaping me:

On return, the Park Attendant ensured I stayed off the grass:

Another great area in Australia.

Michael Monaghan

Re-visited May 2020

Re-visit 9: Gippsland Lakes, Southern Victoria

These re-visits remind me how many great places in Australia I have been privileged to visit. The Gippslands Lakes, down around Paynesville and Metung, were fantastic.

If there was any doubt you should always have your camera, even if you are just going for a wee/jimmy riddle behind a bush, this is it. There are dolphins here which are unique to this spot and only found here (sic). They are the Burranan Dolphins, with quite unusual faces with the “nose” coming over the mouth. I was in fact just idly waiting for the return ferry from Raymond Island, but with my camera in case there was a UFO or similar, and, sure enough, there was similar. Dolphins.

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Tattooists are doing well in the dolphin world, although it must be hard to keep them still, and finish the work before the water washes it away; and one wonders what channel they get that has the Roadrunner:IMG_2939

One quite remarkable experience was to  witness a Pelican nursery at close range. A frequent advantage of travelling in off or shoulder peak times is that you end up being the only person on a tour. Sure, you sometimes  have to pay extra, but the value is in being quiet and flexible.

So I ended up the only person, well, fortunately except for the expert skipper, on a trip out on the Gippsland Lakes.

Late in the afternoon we drifted quietly to a safe legal distance from a breeding colony.

The breeding males were certainly apparent, with the blood enfused beak standing out:

 

There seemed to be lots of lost car key issues: they must be in here somewhere:

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It was astonishing to watch the dynamics. Some parents stayed at home and looked after the kiddies.

And there were flying classes graded to the skill level.

Some kids just flew from one end of the island t’other. Others flew for a few hundred metres;

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and in one of my favourite photographs, the older kids arrived back at sunset after a long day’s adventure.

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As always with coastal lakes, the magnificent White-bellied Sea-eagle was a star. Such clean colours in the adults, effortless gliding, and all-round majesty.

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Mind you, in terms of majesty there is always the serious contender, the Wedgie:

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White-faced herons (really should be white-faced egrets) are required by GHQ to have a presence at every water hole. I am sure each bird gets some sort of GPS location order to ensure they are so dispersed.

Royal Spoonbills are common enough, but nowhere near as well organised as the White-faced Herons.

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One of the great mysteries was the whereabouts of this sea snake. I didn’t see it at the time, but it is evident from my photos that something, or some bird, has moved it:IMG_2878 (3)IMG_2876 (2)IMG_2872 (2)

Raymond Island was a very short cable ferry trip off the mainland, and the star inhabitants on the Island are the Koalas, always hard to spot:

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Lots of other birds were about, given the mix of salt and fresh water, and the forests, so we had Little Pied Cormorants and Crested Terns:

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Pacific Gulls were plentiful, with their pronounced beak, here fascinated by the same feature as the Little Pied Cormorant:

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And every Black Swan is a White Swan wanting to get out. If you watch them flying, you will see the white swan under the black sun guard adaptation:

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There were also a few random locals, like the Grey Butcherbird:

Butcherbird, Grey ssp leucopterus

and the first time spotting of the White-eared Honeyeater:

Honeyeater, White-eared

Being close to the sea, the lakes also have some classic inhabitants:

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Another great day.

Michael Monaghan

RE-visited May 2020

Re-visit 8: Victoria River cruise, Timber Creek NT

Just a quick re-visit to the top western corner of the Northern Territory, because we were close up with some magnificent birds of prey on this river trip. They were being delivered fresh fish to “catch” in the water, but that did give you a chance to see their hunting glory.

Not that one would ever think of swimming up this way even in 38°, but a reminder near by:

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The White-bellied Sea-eagles, being amongst the most photogenic birds, were fantastic to watch. There were three or four, including this juvenile:

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The adults were in full flight (sic):

…generally:

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and enjoyed their “catch”:
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Black Kites were also around, with the concave tail that sets them apart from other kites:

This bird struggled to eat on the wing:

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And then there was a random Blue-faced Honeyeater to round things off:

Honeyeater, blue-faced ssp cyanotis

 

Michael Monaghan

Re-visited May 2020

Re-visit 7: Karrajini National Park, Kimberleys WA.

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The area around Karrijini National Park in the Kimberley, west of Exmouth, is riddled with georgeous gorges. These include Dales, Knox, Joffre, Weano, and Kalamina. This revisit is in the area from the Nunatarra Roadhouse, on the Ashburton River, to Karrinjini.

 

It was dry-ish, but apparently is not always so!IMG_2098 (2)

The rocks are about 2500 million years old, which is quite old, being nearly as long ago as St Kilda’s last premiership. The seafloor was where the surface is now, compacted, then lifted, by the drift of the continental plates. As is the case with many areas of ancient rock formations, the formations are generally the remnants of what was, eaten away over millions and millions of years by wind and water.

The temperature variation around here is confirmed by the extremes of the engineering:

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Dales Gorge is the dream of any landscape gardener:

 

It is quite a good idea not to suck on the blue asbestos (the infamous Wittenoom is nearby):

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At one point we were at the foot of the Dales Gorge falls, then later, higher; then somewhat later, close to beer time, much higher. The first mouthful felt well deserved.

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The other gorges are equally georgeous.

And of course there was plenty of wildlife, such as this lizard I nearly stepped on:

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And going through the photos, three not seen before birds of which I didn’t realise I had photos, namely:

The Painted Finch (male):

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Then the Yellow-tinted Honeyeater:

And the Western Bowerbird:

Bowerbird, Western

We came across a Wedgie feeding on a kangaroo carcass. They, the wedgies not the kangaroos, have quite inflexible talons, so they take time to extricate them from the carcass. Magnificent in the air, but not so attractive on the ground, methinks.

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This Sacred (Australian) Ibis seemed to be posing for the shot:

Ibis, Sacred

Making the Corella seem inhibited quiet types, are Blue-Winged Kookaburra:

The kites were fairly unconcerned by people, these Black Kites coming in quite close and sitting peaceably nearby. The clue to tell Black Kites from Whistling Kites I developed, is that Whistling Kites have a whole tail, whilst black kites have a bit missing ie concave.

 

Amongst the hardest birds to even see are the Red-winged Parrots, which really blend in with the vegetation (this is a juvenile):

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Parrot, red-winged juv

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An indication of the environment is this Little Corella, painted pink by the thousands of millions years’ old dust:

Corrella, Little

A stunning area, but just one small part of astonishing landscapes in the north-west of Australia.

 

Michael Monaghan

Re-visited May 2020

 

 

Close encounters with a Gang-Gang family

My neighbours were lucky enough to spot a family of five Gang-Gang Cockatoos land in their backyard – parents and three kiddies. They were skilled enough in modern communication to know you can actually use mobile phones to make, what we oldies would call, phone calls. They summonsed me to, with apologies to Monty Python, curtail my literary activities and high tail it, not to a cheese shop, but to their place.

Talk about cute, and most unconcerned about our presence.

There were some berries left on one large tree:

requiring agility and ingenuity:

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There were also a few chickpeas which the youngsters were keen to try:

But it was largely a case of just sitting or hanging and being photogenic:

Wonderful birds. We often see the adult pair, but this is the biggest family we have seen here.

Below the photos are in a slide show:

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Michael Monaghan

May 2020

Wedgie fun

IMG_6026 (2)I was observant enough, driving slowly the long way home, to spot two Wedge-tailed Eagles enjoying the thermals west of Canberra. They looked young, and seemed to be having fun, rather than  hunting.

The photos are not the best you will ever see, given the distance, but hopefully you will appreciate these magnificent birds.

The first sequence is of one of the two coming in to land on their chosen resting spot:

See below as  a slide show:

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As I said, they did really seem to be playing and learning as these shots will demonstrate:

And then some shots of them just sailing around, having a great time:

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I reckon I better go back to that spot.

Michael Monaghan

May 2020