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Newsletter No: 1 (20/2/07). Well after much much planning, replanning, packing and repacking we set off on Friday (16/2/07). Our first camp was at Barmah Lakes camping area only 200km from home and not really in the direction we are ultimately heading. The attraction was a BOCA outing including a Murray River cruise in the wetlands. We spent 4 nights there and explored the Barmah State Park area. In total we sighted 42 different bird species and added a few to our own life lists. The big ticks were White Bellied Sea Eagle and the Whistling Kite.
The weather has been very hot (and still is) with max temps of 40C and over night temps in the low 20's. The availabilty of a dip in the river helped.
We set off on the next leg of our trip this morning and have travelled about 220km west and are camped again on the banks of the Murray River near Nyah. This is just an overnighter on our way to Pinaroo, SA.
Newsletter No: 2 (2/3/07). We are now at Mt Remarkable National Park which is part of the Flinders Ranges. It is approx 300km north of Adelaide. Yesterday we went for a stroll (hike) to the Hidden Gorge (18km return), very spectacular. We left at daybreak to beat the heat and got back at lunchtime. Top temp around 38C (Hot!!). The afternoon was a slow drive doing some armchair birdwatching with the AC on.
We have now been on the road for 2 weeks of the epic adventure so what have we been up to since the last newsletter..Well...after leaving Nyah we headed west to Pinaroo and and then north to Peebinga Conservation Reserve and stayed 2 nights. This was another bush camp and just camped off a track in the reserve. The country is typically Mallee bush. Very hot when we arrived, but surprisingly the following morning had a heavy mist and took the sting out of the heat. We dipped out on the Western Whipbird however got a number of new birds for the life list..Splendid Fairy Wren, Regent Parrot and Mulga Parrot.
We then went into civilisation for a few days at Handorf; did the tourist thing. A decent shower and electricity...such luxury!! A highlight was catching up with and old hiking friend and his wife. Even there we added the Adelaide variety of the blue cheeked rosella to our list.
Next we moved 70km to Sandy Creek Conservation Reserve. No facilities but a great park. The side benefit was that it is in the Barossa Valley!!! Rather than buy botles we would have to take with us, we sat and drank a glass at a couple of wineries and soaked in the atmosphere, rather nice. Back to the park it was quite sandy (hence the name) with lots of native pines. No new birds though!!!
Here at Mt Remarkable we are adding to our list with some new birds..Varigated Fairy Wren, Orange Chat and White Winged Fairy Wren..excellent. This is our big rest before some big drives which will take us up past Coober Pedy. We have decided to linger here a bit longer...stay tuned.(Back to Top of page)
Newsletter No: 3 (14/3/07). We are now in Alice Springs (again). After leaving Mt Remarkable we headed north along the Stuart Highway and burned up the kilometers. Two overnight stops: at Glendambo Roadhouse and again at Cadney Park Roadhouse and then The Alice. Stayed six nights then went out west to Ellery Creek Big Hole in the West MacDonnell's NP and camped for two nights. Very hot and lots of flies..great swim hole though.
We have had a slight deviation from a our original schedule (a minor hiccup) in that the Copper Hill Station is now closed and not accepting campers. The only minor issue in finding that out was dragging the caravan 40km off the track (very slowly mind you) to be greated with the closed sign (our lesson was to ring prior to going in the future). Did some excellent birdwatching on the Stuart highway (we drive very slowly !!) and the various roadside stops and got a few more for the life lists.
Around Alice Springs and West MacDonnell's we mainly tried to adjust ourselves to the continual heat..40c during the day and 29c over night...nice!!!! Went to the Desert Park in AS to get our eye in with the new birds (for us) in the arid areas (Pity we can't tick them off!!!!). This paid off out in the MacDonnell Ranges where we were able to identify some birds with only minimal glimpses. We have become very adept in the skill of eating, drinking and birdwatching with a flynet on. The little blighters are every where!!!! Despite our avoidance of the sun..long sleeves, long pants etc we seem to be tanning. The sun here is extremely strong. This probably has occurred at the Ellery Creek where the water hole has provided instant (but short term) relief from the heat. While in AS we have to solve a little issue with the fridge in the caravan..it's not coping !!! (We know how it feels). Hopefully all will be ready for a Saturday departure further north...stay tuned for the next exciting episode. (Back to Top of page)
Newsletter No: 4 (29/3/07). We are now in Darwin. The big wet is still happening...much rain !!!! This has caused us to amend our itinerary as we cannot get access into the national parks..ie flooding. On our trip north we have noticed the gradual change in terrain and vegetation from the arid centre to the tropics. We are up into the tropical weather now, very very humid, but with a lower temperature..not used to to the humidity!!!
After leaving Alice Springs we travelled 400km north and stayed the night in the camping area (car park) at the Devils Marbles. Fairly basic camp however with spectacular views. That night we had a tremendous storm with strong winds, lightening and torrential rain. So bad we dropped down the pop-top on the caravan to lower our profile and prevent the roof blowing off. Not much sleep that night !!!! It cleared up by next morning. A least we know what the caravan can withstand. Apart from that excitement the Devils Marbles are worth a visit...not many birds there though.
We then headed further north with a tourist and lunch stop at Tennant Creek. Managed to get some birding in and around the town. 100km north of Tennant Creek we checked out a place recommened to stay by some fellow travellers in Alice Springs. Banka Banka is an outstation of a larger cattle station (Helen Springs total size 11,600 square km's). I thought where we lived was a bit isolated...!! There is a grassed camp area and a waterhole not far away. To top it all off there are some good birds!. Added Brolga's, Australian Bustard's and some more honeyeaters to our list. We ended up staying three nights at Banka Banka and was able to carry out some tyre maintainence.
We spent two nights at Mataranka in a commercial camp area next to the Elsey NP, however we could not even walk in as there is water everywhere. There were 10's of thousands of fruit bats hanging in the palm trees, which is the current food supply for the larger raptors in the area..interesting birding !! To get to the camp area we had to cross the little Roper River which was flooding across the road, this was OK, however the manager warned us if there is much more rain we would be staying for the duration??? This did not bother us too much until 160 mil's fell in the catchment area upsteam so we left as the river was rising further (Underneath the caravan and 4x4 were well cleaned !!)
Next stop was Katherine and we spent four nights at Mullabuloo Homestead which is the orginal homestead of the cattle station. Clean amenities and great birding around the property, but some of the permanents could have been previous customers of ours...a bit of a hideout for interstators wanted on warrants. Needless to say we kept to ourselves!!
In Darwin we are staying in a caravan park about 8km from the CBD. We did the tourist bit on the first day, now we are birding each morning until it gets too hot and humid. The major highlight is a sighting of a Rufous Owl (feeding on a little ringtail possum). Got some good photos. To add sugar to it our mentors (P&J) have yet to tick it off!! We will stay for about a week and then head south again and hopefully the water will have subsided enough to get into Litchfield and Kakadu national parks. Stay tuned for the next exciting episode.. (Back to Top of page)
Newsletter No: 5 (18/4/07). We are now in Kunumurra, WA. Just arrived here today. Now what have we been up to since the last Newsletter ? We stayed a week in Darwin. Joined the Top Tourist Park group to get the discounts. We have added heaps of birds to the life lists. We birded each morning until the heat and humidity beat us and then we went back to the caravan park, showered and recovered with the AC. In the PM we did the tourist thing and went around the WW2 sites. The highlight was being able to go to some Asian cafes for a bit of cultural culinary relief.
Our wait (in relation to the big wet) paid off and the Arnham Hwy was finally repaired and reopened and we could get access to Kakadu NP. Kakadu did not live up to our expectations. We stayed at the Jabaru Aurora Resort (in the caravan park section) and quite frankly it was third rate..very annoying considering the cost and a bit embarissing for Australia touting the place as a top tourist site and having so many international tourists there. On the park itself..its big..lots of jungle, not many birds for us as there was still lots of water about..therefore birds were dispirsed. Visited the aboriginal rock art sites and did some walks. Consider that a lot of hype has been placed around Kakadu because it is close to Darwin and easily accessable for travellers with limited time and lots of $$$$.
Next stop..Katherine again..got to find those elusive Hooded Parrots seeming we dipped out on them earlier. Also a car service..We have done over 6,000km. After our second visit to the recommended site for these birds we managed the Hooded Parrot by trecking through grass up to our neck. Eleanor got a fleeting glimpse of a male and then we both got an extened view of a female (phew !!!! the pressue is off). Still no Gouldian Finches though !!#@#$## We waited a week in Katherine for the Gregory National Park to reopen and then headed west on the Victoria Highway.
The Victoria River Roadhouse provided a grassy site with power (still need the AC for some relief from the heat !!) and good access to the walks in the park. Up early to beat the heat and catch the birds. We were well rewarded with some spectacular views from the escapments and two birds (White quilled rock pidgeon and the Sandstone shrike-trush) only found in this area. We found another area with a walk that blew us away..far more spectacular than Kakadu!!!!! We search hard and wide for the Purple Crowned Fairy Wren and was finally rewarded on the morning before we left. A spectacular bird that really gave us a buzz (boring arn't we?)
Next stop was just down the road at Timber Creek. Stayed at the camp ground at the back of the Timber Creek roadhouse cum hotel. What a dump!!! If it was not for the birds we would not have stayed for three nights. Finally got the Gouldian Finch plus some other unexpected birds...great birding but awful place to stay..worse than Manbulloo in Katherine..yerch!!! Thank god for alcohol. (Anyway Eleanor thinks I take her to all the romantic hideaways).We still have three weeks until our RV with Pam and John and there is a lot to see in and around Kununurra.For those birdos who read these newsletters..we have found where all the Rainbow Bee Eaters are..they are at this caravanpark we are staying at....Stay tuned for the next exciting episode.(Back to Top of page)
Newsletter No: 6 (16/5/07). We arrived yesterday in Broome and staying at the Broome Bird Observatory (Twitchers Heaven!!!!). Will be here for a week and then heading north again. Since the last Newsletter...... We stayed in and around Kununurra for over a week. The humidity dropped to a bearable level however the daytime temp reached 36C and over night 23C (We must be getting used to it). The new bird rate has decreased as we have picked all the low fruit and now need to work harder to get the difficult ones. Managed to see a Black Shouldered Kite out in the Ord irrigation area. We took a cruise from Kununurra up the Ord River to Lake Argyle and picked up the Ospray and White Browed Crake but dipped on the Black Bittern. We went to Lake Argyle and stayed two nights at the old construction village. Very big dam (capacity of 20 sydney harbours!!!) and is flowing a metre over the spillway...so much water!! Lots of croc's (both freshwater and saltwater) around here so not much swimming in the rivers, however did swim in Lake Argyle..the water/croc ratio was OK for the risk. Have only seen the freshwater variety so far!! Did a day trip back into NT to Keep River NP. The park is accessible for 4x4 only and very spectacular.
After Kunumurra we went further north and stayed two nights at Parry's Creek Farm in Parry's Lagoon Conservation Reserve, just 15km south of Wyndham. We were the only campers there. Basic amenities and lots of mozzies (nice!!!). Excellent birding (82 different species sighted and added some more to the life list). Wyndham is a port town, northern most port in WA, with not much going for it.
From there, south along the Great Northern Highway to Warmum. Stayed two nights at the Turkey Creek Roadhouse. Why two nights at a roadhouse??? Surprisingly excellent amenities including a pool and the fact that it is in the middle of a DRY aboriginal community. This was contrasted to the at our next stop which was further south along Great Northern Highway at Halls Creek. The community is taking action in relation to its social issues.
Halls Creek was our base to leave the caravan and explore some of the outlying areas. Without the caravan we headed 130km east on the Tanami Road to Wolfe Creek Meteorite Crater (yes, the place of movie fame) to meet up with P&J (Pam & John). Spent two nights at the crater campground (very basic and free camp) catching up with all the news and did some local birding in the dry creekbed. No new birds but heard the Red Browed Pardalote but dipped out on actually seeing it (very frustrating!!). A bit of a shock to be using a tent (no AC!!) as the caravan is now virtually our home. We will now be travelling with P&J for about the next 4 to 6 weeks depending on how it goes. We then returned to Halls Creek to prepare for Purnululu (Bungle Bungles) and a couple of nights reprieve back in the caravan.
To get to Purnululu NP we travelled 100km back along the Great Northern Highway and then 50km of 4WD track (rocks, bull dust and very narrow) with one deep water crossing (up to the bonnet !!). We spent 4 nights there and words cannot describe how spectacular the area is. Well worth the effort in getting there. Managed to add 2 more birds to our life list (Little Woodswallow and Painted Firetail) and again only heard the Red Browed Pardalote (#@!#%).
After 1 night back at Halls Creek to retrieve the caravan, our next stop was Fitzroy Crossing. Fitzroy Crossing was a two night stop over as a break in the distance to be travelled. Not much there other than Geike Gorge which we visited and were rather disappointed in the weed infestation. Broome is a vibrant tourist town and we look forward to some excellent birdwatching. This morning we added 5 to our life list...stay tuned (Back to Top of page)
Newsletter No: 7 (11/6/07). We are very much out in the wilderness at the moment. We are at an old cattle station (Mornington) purchased by the Australian Wildlife Conservatory. Covers 350,000 hectres ie 1,000,000 acres. It is about 400km east of Derby, off the Gibb River Road. The roads here are OK, however some of the river crossings have tested the nerves. Since the last newsletter we have spent a week at the Broome Bird Observatory (BBO), been to Cape Leveque, back to the BBO, off to Derby, then to Winjana Gorge, Bell Gorge and then here to Mornington.
Our week at the BBO was extremely productive (108 species sighted and 28 new birds for our life list ::: the big ticket item being the Yellow Chat) and very intensive learning on waders, shorebirds and mangrove dwellers. The complex itself is basic, clean and comfortable. The knowlege, expertise and enthusiasm of the warden and assistant wardens were inspiring. A lot of knowledge was passed over in a short period of time. It was good to be there with P&J as their expertise helped us unravel some of the mysteries with which we were confronted. We both were amazed at Pam's excitement on her first sighting of a Yellow Chat.
We then had a well deserved break from birding at Cape Leveque. 4 nights at Kooljaman Wilderness Resort was magnificent (in tents in the camping area..not in the safari huts where the rich and famous stay). Long white beaches which most of the time we had to ourselves. Even managed to coax P&J into the sea!!! Cape Leveque is 200km north of Broome with 150km being 4WD only road. Most people who come here (ie the rich and famous) fly into the resorts airstrip, the others (ie the campers) drive. There was a continual stream of light planes during the day which we assume kept all the shore birds away from the area.
Derby is a deep water port town about 200km east of Broome. We stayed for 3 nights. It has a large tidal shift of around 11 metres. Got another big tick there ::: the Great Billed Heron!! We did the usual birding there around the Mangroves (and of course the Sewage Ponds ::: where else!!!). We also did our final preparations before setting off into the Kimberley proper. The caravan gets left behind!!
Our first stop along the Gibb River Road was at Winjana George NP. Very popular and a lot of fellow travellers. Picked up Horsfields Bronze Cuckoo in the gorge. Stayed for 3 nights. Did a day trip to Tunnell Creek NP which is a 700m long limestone cave through a range with a creek running through it. The next stop was at Bell George in King Leopold Range Conservation Park has some excellent isolated camping sites and we were very fortunate to secure one with access to the creek. We spent 3 nights there and did some good walks. The gorge itself is spectacular and very popular.
We will be at Mornington for 4 nights and will then bid farewell to P&J. We will be going direct to the Mitchell Plateau in search of the Black Graswren, whereas P&J have a few side trips before heading up there. Hopefully in the new newsletter we will be able to boast of our success in the hunt for this elusive bird....stay tuned.(Back to Top of page)
Newsletter No: 8 (3/7/07). For all those who have been sitting on the edge of their chairs waiting to find out if we sighted the elusive Black Grasswren.. well wait no longer.. In the five days in the Mitchell Falls area.. looking.. looking.. looking.. we sighted two Black Grasswrens together on day two for a total time of about 30 seconds before they scurried off not to be seen again. Talk about hard to find.. any wonder they are a big tick for a life list. We are now in Port Hedland.. home of a big mining port.
To refresh your memory, our last newsletter was from Mornington Station and Pam and John (P&J) were going off on some side trips before heading to Mitchell Falls. This all changed due to a red hot tip of a recent sighting of a Black Grasswren we received from a fellow Birdo at Mt Barnett Road House. With this, P&J threw their ininerary in the air and joined the chase!!! On our way to Mitchell Plateau we spent two nights at Drysdale Station camped at Miners Pool on the Drysdale River. Great camping area, not many neighbors (probably due to no facilities) and great birding.
After that it was onto Mitchell Falls. This involved two major river crossings. Both deep but the second one being quite treacherous as the path thru dropped off severely on one side. P&J followed us through it and we have a great blackmail photo of P&J's Hilux slipping into the murky waters before a brilliant recovery and safe exit. A heart stopping moment...and we were not in their car!!
At Mitchell Falls (when we were not chasing the grasswren) we actually did some sightseeing. Both Mitchell Falls and Surveyors Pool are very spectacular and well worth the walking involved. The area is detracted by the provison of a helicopter taxi service between the camp ground and the falls (can you believe it, in a National Park !!!). Rest assured that we did not patronise it, although unfortunately they were not short of customers. There was a complete lack of sighting of raptors in the area, which can probably be attributed to the helicopters. We also sighted one other north Australian endemic..the White Lined Honeyeater, which was our last chance for it and spent some quality time with a Rainbow Pita.
On day five there it started to rain of all things (Yes, this is the Dry season!!!). P&J wanted to get back to their itinery, so we left them there (a few tears!!) and headed off before the river crossings and roads became totally impassable. We got back through the worst crossing (lost some time with a flat tyre) and stayed the night on King Edward River. The next morning we crossed the river after wading across to check the depth and obstructions (0.8 metre deep). This would be the limit we would go across in the Hilux.
We got past the Drysdale River Station and was advised that the Gibb River Road was closed after Mt Barnett. The idea of pushing on and then camping at a roadhouse was not attractive so we set up camp on the Hann River to wait.. It was a great camp area and we were totally alone and no fellow travellers went past for two days!!! Another bonus was an unexpected sighting of the Black Bittern..another big tick..been looking for it since Kununwrra.
The rain eventually stopped and the road dried out out so we drove to Mt Barnett and was advised that if we planned on leaving the Kimberley, now is the time to go as there was another weather front coming which will close all roads for about a week (We have since found out that P&J were stuck in the Kimberley for a week). With that we were off to Derby (along with the other travellers from Mt Barnett).
Safely back in our caravan at Derby we did our washing, reprovisioned, cleaned and dried out camping gear and most importantly had a hot shower. From Derby we headed south enroute to Port Hedland. The first stop was two nights at Port Smith. Great if you a fisherman..would not bother if you are not. The next stop was four nights at Port Kerauden.. excellent beach (southern end of 80 mile beach) and views along with a wide assortment of birds. Basic amenities and the abiity to select sites right away from others. Would recommend this coastal reserve camping area. Picked up the Buff Banded Rail in the mangroves...another unexpected tick. Next stop was Port Hedland, actually staying at South Hedland. Will be here for a few days then heading inland.. stay tuned (Back to Top of page)
Newsletter No: 9 (31/7/07). Hello all.. We are now at Denham, which is on the west cost of WA. Our last newsletter was from Port Hedland where we reprovisioned, refueled, washed clothes and ourselves before heading off again !!! Port Hedland is very busy with handling all the iron ore coming from the various mines. Enormous ships pass within stone throwing distance of the main street. A system of salt flats produce large heaps of salt for export. Our usual visit to the local sewage farm was very rewarding with some great waders.
We have generally headed south down the coast with a slight inland detour to check out the mining towns in the Pilbura. Our agenda was to locate some specific birds (of course).. the main one being the Pilbra form of the Striated Grasswren before we moved out of the area and a few others targetted at specific locations. Our first stop was Karijini National Park. Unfortunately this was also WA school holiday's time (##!@!*&). It was very busy and we were luckly to get a camp sight, as from the next day the campground had the full sign out. As usual, we out and about very early each morning to catch the early bird and we had the gorges etc to ourselves. The birding was disappointing and we had to work hard to get a reasonable list of sightings.
The next stop was Newman, which is a major mining town.. has the largest open cut mine. A bonus is that is was not on the school holidays trail. We only went there for the spinifex (a very prickly type of grass) covered hills, which is habitat for the Striated Graswren. We spent 3 fruitless days looking and 3 uncomfortable evenings pulling spinifex splinters out of our legs !! (ouch !!). We did however put together an impressive list for the area. The mining boom is something to experience and Newman is a very tidy and busy town. We were both impressed with the tidiness and facilities. However, Eleanor paid $8 for a small bowl of rice to go with her curry at a local Thai restraunt.. very expensive.. The locals get paid big $$$ so the local prices reflect it. Not to be discouraged with our lack of success in our hunt for the Striated Grasswren, we then went to Tom Price (yes, another open cut mine and more spinifex covered hills!!). Surprisingly we were back on the school holidays trail... very busy again. Still no luck with the Grasswren, however in all that spinifex we managed to find of all things.. a Spinifex Bird!! As a comparision to Newman, Tom Price was not as good as Newman, considering they are both products of the mining boom, around 35 yrs old. It is interesting how they developed differently. This was our last spot for the Pilbra form of the Striated Grasswren... it has eluded us until next time.
Our next stop was to be Cape Range National Park at Exmouth, however there was still a week of school holdays to go !! So we travelled there in short hops and included a couple of roadside (free) camps and a station stay at Giralia Station. The station stay was excellent. The property is now owned by WA's dept. of Environment and Consevation. We had full run of the 1,000,000 acre property and made very good use of it. No one else venturing out nto the property so we had it to ourselves. Excellent birding..Orange and Crimson Chat, Brown Songlark and the Chiming Wedgebill. The next stop was Exmouth for food shopping before going to Cape Range NP. This town is rapidly being developed from a sleepy seaside town to a full blown tourist resort. Glad to get in and out. As we arrived at Cape Range NP, the weather was deteriorating and we managed to get a site in a camp area near Mangrove Bay, just as the heavens opened up. The camp area was really just a big car park and soon the water was laying everywhere as there was no drainage. It was a damp start for 3 days stay. Around the sand dunes we managed to find the Rufus Grasswren and they put on a great show for us.
We then moved onto Carnarvon with an free camp on the way. We were really on the tourist trail in Carnaravon.. the caravan park was mostly full of longterm stayers from Perth, coming north for the warmer weather. This was a car service and clothes cleaning stop which consumed one day, a day birding and then the weather deteriorated again and we spent a day of cabin fever (or is it caravan fever) waiting out the storms, stong wind and rain (winter is here). The day we moved to Denham the weather was clear and we have an excellent site overlooking Shark Bay. Have been to Monkey Mia and seen the Dolphins, but more importantly to see the Thick Billed Grasswrens that live in the carpark (thats why birders go to Monkey Mia !!).
We have been travelling now for five and half months, set the caravan up 42 times, the tent 10 times, done 17,000 kms, three car services and two rear tyres...and still a long way from home.. stay tuned.(Back to Top of page)
Newsletter No: 10 (26/8/07). Hello all.. We are now at Cheynes Beach, which in the Waychinicup National Park on the south coast of WA. This area is birders paradise for finding the WA endimics and we only have two to go, unfortunately one (Noisy Scrub Bird) is the hardest to sight (can hear its call but not find it to see).
Our big news is that we sold the caravan in Perth and we have now continued on in the tent (No, it was not repossessed !!). The caravan was perfect for such a long trip but unfortunately was not holding up to the rigours of continual use and the demands we were placing upon it. We also found that we were not going into some areas because of our concerns over the caravan. We got an excellent price for it and the bottom line is that we had 6 months accomodation in it for $500 (ie the price difference between purchase and sale price). We will purchase something more rugged in due course. The big trick was fitting all the stuff from the caravan into an already full 4WD !!!
Our last newsletter was from Denham where we stayed in a caravan park with magnificent views over Shark Bay and enjoyed the warm glow of sighting the Thickbilled Grass Wren. From Denham we then headed south to Geraldton and made a left turn inland heading towards Cue (from our research a great birding spot at Nallan Station near Cue). It took four days to get there with overnight stops at Hamilyn Pool and two freebie roadside points. (Slow drivers and plenty of stops to look around likely bird habitat !!!) Hamilyn Pool is famous(?) for its Stromatolites. They are a living rock similair to coral (not as pretty) that date back to the beginning of life on earth (I think I used to work with some Stromatolites ???). To top it all off you are serenaded by Chiming Wedgebills the whole time... it is the most we have ever seen in one place.
Nallan Station is a working cattle and sheep station covering 250,000 acres (they are getting smaller as we come south). The vegetation is primarily Mallee and there has not been any clearing or other pasture improvements... hence excellent bird habitat. The owners supplement the station income with accomodation and camping at the shearers quarters. We camped for three nights and had the total run of the place (some paddocks were 40,000 acres !!). We spent each dusk at a bore trough watching the birds come in for a drink and were treated each time with splendid views of Bourkes Parrots. We also searched furiously for the Banded Whitface which is reported to have been sighted way out in some back area. We finally located a pair in a different area after two days searching (We were getting a little frantic by then!!). We diligently took a GPS reading and left notes for future birdo's coming to the station.
From Cue we headed south on the inland route to Northam with an overnight freebie. Along the way we realised we had entered Western Corella area, so we promptly stopped at the next town that had a grain silo complex and we were duly rewarded with a sighting of this grain feeding bird. Northam was only a lunch stop and to sight the Mute Swan which is an introduced (feral) species that has set up home on the Avon River and therefore wormed their way onto the Australian birdlist. We spent the night just out of Northam at another freebie before heading into Perth the next day.
We spent a week in a caravan park in Freemantle with a mix of touristing and birding. We joined in with a birding outing with WA Birds Australia to get some of the inside knowledge. We also had lunch with a couple we had met earlier on in the trip at Giralia Station. From Freemantle we went south to Dryandra Woodland which is part forestry and part remnant bush. We again had the camping area and bush to ourselves. We spent two nights there and picked up six new birds including three WA endemics Western Shriketit, Western Thornbill and Western Rosella. Our job being done there we moved further south to Albany. Albany is a medium sized city with a deep harbour port. The weather deteriorating, we treated (??) ourselves to a couple of nights in a cabin and lunch at a bistro.
We then headed off with a very early start to Two Peoples Bay to locate the Western Bristle Bird and we were greatly rewarded for our efforts as he greeted the sunrise with his call prior to moving off into the scrub and not to be seen again. After breakfast in the car park, we then searched for the Noisy Scrub Bird to no avail..even after getting the inside info from the ranger. We spent two nights in the Waychinicup National Park at Mt Manypeaks inlet continuing our search. Now we are just down the road at Cheynes Beach and still looking.. listening... looking (hoping). Stay tuned (Back to Top of page)
Newsletter No: 11 (15/9/07). We are now back home !!!! The house is still here and intact. The weeds have certainly taken over and we have a big task ahead of ourselves, plus catching up with relatives and friends and of course bragging to fellow birdos about our bird sightings.
Our last newsletter was from Cheynes Beach (in WA) and at that point we were still searching for the Noisy Scrub Bird...well we eventually saw it after it sucessfully ran us around chasing its calls for three days. We finally outsmarted it (meaning it was smarter than us for three days) by determining its direction of travel in the scrub and then getting ahead of it to see it when it crosses the track. We were well rewarded with two short but spectacular sightings of this bird and the euphoria of ticking it of our life lists.
At this point we only had one WA endemic to go (Red Eared Firetail) and we were getting a little concerned as we were getting close to the edge of its distribution. We then headed back into Albany for two nights to search for the Red Eared Firetail in the heath/bracken vegetation along the boardwalks, however we were unsucessfull in that search but did pick up the Southern Emu Wren as second prize.
From Albany we went to Porongurup National Park to further our search, however the elements were definately against us.. it was raining and most of the park was still closed due to fire damage. Next was Stirling Range National Park.. again the weather was absolutly terrible with a big cold/wet front coming across from the west. We tried our best to find the Firetail in difficult circumstances, but to no avail.We pushed onto Jerramungup and took a cabin to sit out the weather and was treated to a spectular storm display (and a kangaroo in our cabin who also wanted to shelter from the storm).
The next morning was better (just cold and windy ???) so we left very early and went into Fitzgerald National Park to try our luck on finding the Western Whipbird (not a WA endemic but a bird we tried for back at Pebinga NP in SA see Newsletter No:2/07). The Western Whipbirds call is different to its eastern cousin so after some intial confusion we were able to zero in it by rushing towards the series of calls and then stopping until the next series by then we were able to locate it (most times) on low branches. After a number of excellent sightings we had breakfast and moved onto Esperance./p
At Esperance we had the car serviced and spent two nights overlooking the beach in a caravan park. Searched the local habit for the Firetail and it was becoming clear to us that we were going to dip out on this bird (@#!%). We then went out to Cape LeGrande National Park and spent three nights in a secluded camp area. Some excellent walks and views. Spoke to the ranger with a desperate hope of a hot tip for the Firetail but we were out of its distribution area by then. Did manage to pick up the Tawny Crowned Honeyeater.
We then started our homeward journey north to pick up the Eyre Highway. This was fairly rough going with an overnight stop at some homestead ruins on the way. This was a very isolated area and makes you realise just how isolated our pioneers were. Once on the Eyre Highway we basically just drove home in four days with a free camp and two motel stops.
The total distance covered was 24,441km, saw about 400 different species of birds and we added about 100 to our life list.
The challenge now is to settle into the routine of home life, however planning for the 2008 trip and researching and purchasing a caravan tough enough to withstand the rigors of where we want to go will help us keep our sanity (along with some local birding). (Back to Top of page)
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