The remote Pilbara area is the jewel in the crown of Western Australia. It sits just north of the Tropic of Capricorn and comprises tropical semi-desert boasting a wealth of biodiversity and some of the most glorious landscapes to be seen in Australia. From a birding perspective the Pilbara contains four distinctive subspecies of Australian birds. These are striated grasswren Amytornis striatus whitei, black-tailed treecreeper Climacteris melanura wellsi, spinifex pigeon Geophaps plumifera ferruginea and blue-winged kookaburra Dacelo leachii leachii. It is not stretching the imagination too much to believe that some of these subspecies will gain species status at some point — if their readily identifiable differences are anything to go by. Other than those four, we’ll be looking for, among others, rufous-crowned emwren, spinifexbird, painted finch, western bowerbird, star finch and pied honeyeater. In the mangroves around the coast, we’ll seek the near-endemic subspecies: southern dusky gerygone Gerygone tenebrosa christophori, and Pilbara white-breasted whistler Pachycephala lanioides carnarvoni, mangrove golden whistler Pachycephala melanura melanura and western mangrove robin Peneothello pulverulenta cinereiceps. The rare grey falcon is also a good possibility about the rocky hills and along the creek lines.
Ist tour: 29 June 2021 Karratha
2nd tour: 12 July 2021
Participants should arrive today or have previously arrived in Karratha. There are daily flights from Perth.
30 June 2021 Karratha area
13 July 2021
This morning we will take a boat out to West Lewis Island, primarily for Rothschild’s rock-wallaby but we may also see bottle-nosed and Australian humpback Sousa sahulensis dolphins and maybe even score a dugong. We should also see some seabirds such as Wilson’s storm-petrel, lesser frigatebird and roseate and crested terns.
The Dampier Archipelago boasts the highest concentration of rock engravings (petroglyphs) in the world. We’ll visit some of these sites in Murujuga National Park on the Burrup Peninsula in the afternoon. Keeping an eye out for birds, we may see the Pilbara spinifex pigeon.
01 July 2021 Karratha to Port Hedland
14 July 2021
Before heading to Port Hedland we’ll stop at Point Samson to explore the mangroves for dusky gerygone, white-breasted whistler Pachycephala lanioides carnarvoni and mangrove golden whistler Pachycephala melanura melanura, yellow white-eye Zosterops luteus balstoni and we’ll see what waders are about out on the mudflats. We’ll venture on to Port Hedland after lunch, watching out for Pilbara blue-winged kookaburra and again Pilbara spinifex pigeon.
Overnight: Port Hedland
02 July 2021 Port Hedland to Karijini National Park (formerly Hamersley Range)
15 July 2021
First thing this morning we’ll head east to the De Grey River, some eighty kilometres east of Port Hedland. Along the De Grey we’ll be searching for the Pilbara blue-winged kookaburra and Pilbara black-tailed treecreeper. After lunch, we head to Karijini National Park, in the heart of the Pilbara, where we’ll spend two nights. We’ll be on the lookout for grey falcon as we head to Karijini.
We glamp for two nights in the deluxe (en suited) eco-tents in the national park. Karijini is Western Australia’s second largest national park at 6,200 square kilometres and, arguably, the most beautiful area in WA.
Overnight: Karijini National Park
03 July 2021 Karijini NP
16 July 2021
Today we’ll search the snappy gums and spinifex-covered hills for spinifexbird and rufous-crowned emu-wren. Other species around the park could include black, pied and white-fronted honeyeaters, red-browed pardalote, painted finch, crimson chat and little woodswallow. Mammals might include the attractive rufous form of common wallaroo (aka euro).
We continue to explore this national park full of beautiful gorges, waterfalls and crystal-clear rock pools.
Overnight: Karijini National Park
04 July 2021
17 July 2021
Leaving Karijini, we’ll explore some of the mulga country around Karijini before moving on to the mining town of Newman. Target birds include grey and pied honeyeaters, chestnut-rumped and slaty-backed thornbills, western gerygone, Bourke’s parrot and budgerigars.
05 July 2021 Newman
18 July 2021
Key bird today is the Pilbara grasswren, which resides in the hills around Newman. Success being ours, we’ll venture forth for other species in the surrounding countryside.
06 July 2021 Newman to Tom Price (277 km)
19 July 2021
We’ll have another go for the grasswren if we were not successful yesterday. Otherwise, we’ll continue birding en route to Tom Price, travelling back through Karijini NP, looking for any species we’ve missed.
Overnight: Tom Price
07 July 2021 Tom Price to Karratha via Rio Tinto private road (334 km)
20 July 2021
We depart Tom Price early and spend time in Millstream-Chichester National Park. Again, the diversity of habitat in this park is remarkable. Like Karijini there are spinifex hills rolling across the landscape; a great variety of trees and grasses, tree-lined water courses, pools festooned with water lilies and tranquil swimming holes. Many species of dragonflies, damselflies and frogs have been recorded in the Millstream wetlands. We’re also hoping for a grey falcon. We’ll arrive back at our accommodation in Karratha in the evening.
08 July 2021
21 July 2021
This tour finishes after breakfast.
The approximate mean maximum temperature in the Pilbara in July is 22.3º C, mean minimum 8.1ºC. Escape the southern winter!
Tour leaders: Philip Maher & Patricia Maher and another guide
Vehicles: 3 x 4WD
Cost: $6,100.00 AUD twin share
Single supplement: $870.00 AUD
Deposit: $600.00 per person (the higher than normal deposit is due to upfront payments to accommodation places on booking).
First tour: Cost includes accommodation from 29 June to and including 7 July 2021; all meals from dinner on 29 June until breakfast on 8 July 2021; guiding, land transport and park entry fees.
Second tour: Cost includes accommodation from 12 July to and including 20 July 2021; all meals from dinner on 12 July until breakfast on 21 July 2021; guiding, land transport and park entry fees.
Limited to six participants.
2019 checklists to be posted soon
2012 Pilbara trip report
2012 Pilbara flora photos