Australian Ornithological Services P/L
South-West Western Australia
12 — 19 November 2012

Participants: Jack Hanna (Can), Anwyn Martin (Aust), Gabrielle Rees (Aust), Graham Sparkes (UK), Mary Sparkes (UK), Judith Spence (Aust).

Leader: Philip Maher                        
Tour organiser: Patricia Maher

Day 1
12 November 2012
The drier conditions inland has prompted many waterbirds to head for the coast, so with that in mind, we kicked off our southwest tour by visiting a couple of lakes about Perth. Good sightings were had of freckled duck, a species not seen around Perth for several years. There were three freckled ducks on Lake Gwelup and two at Herdsman Lake. Graham did well at Herdsman, picking up both birds in amongst the reeds and melaleucas. Other refugees from the inland included black-tailed native-hen and spotted crake. These lakes are also good for blue-billed, musk and pink-eared ducks and great crested grebes. Serendipitously, we came upon Michael Hancock, a WA birder who had been on our Tassie tour this year. Lake Gwelup being his home patch, he kindly showed us around. There was a flock of little corella here and also a pair of what I believe to be hybrid little/long-billed corella. A female brown goshawk was another good sighting.Nankeen night-herons fed quietly under the melaleucas at Herdsman. Several western gerygones were feeding in the melaleuca. I had not seen western gerygones feeding in melaleuca before; their preferred vegetation elsewhere in Australia is eucalypts and acacias.  

freckled duck

Lunching at Wungong Dam, we added western spinebill and golden whistler and had red-tailed black cockatoos flying over.

We did some late afternoon birding in the Dryandra Forest. The area was dry and birds not plentiful. However, we saw quite a few rufous treecreepers, which like the brown treecreeper in the east seems to be one of the more drought tolerant species. Several western thornbill were seen as well as inland thornbill, yellow-plumed honeyeaters and ‘twenty-eight parrots’ (Australian ringneck: Barnardius zonarius semitorquatus).  A lovely male scarlet robin was observed; the colour so different from its eastern counterpart that full species status should be considered (in my view).

Mammals included a couple of very large echidnas and western grey kangaroo.


Day 2
13 November 2012
We had a bush breakfast at Foxes Lair, which is a lovely patch of forest near our motel in Narrogin. No better way to start the day than a good breakfast and sightings of red-capped parrot, western rosella and ringnecks.

western rosella

At our first stop on returning to Dryandra Forest we noticed that the yellow-plumed honeyeaters were interested in a large hollow in a eucalypt. Some gentle scratching of the trunk had a boobook owl emerging. There were birds about and we were delighted to get great views of a pair of the western race of crested shriketit. Another candidate for full species status in my book!

western form of crested shriketit

Driving the tracks we were on the look out for numbat. Sharp-eyed Judy spotted one. It found a log before everyone saw it but on looking in the log, we could see its face. A gorgeous animal! The many years of drought have taken a toll on mammal numbers in this forest. Although not seeing any more numbats, we did quite well on birds. Highlights included splendid and blue-breasted fairywren (the latter were the only ones seen the whole trip), varied sittella (black-capped), elegant parrot, western rosella, red-capped robin, scarlet robin, the western form of white-naped honeyeater, the spotted form of white-browed scrubwren, grey currawong and jacky winter. Raptors included wedge-tailed eagle, collared sparrowhawk and spotted harrier. We spotlighted after an early dinner and added brushtail possum, tawny frogmouth and bush stone-curlew. In Dryandra we came across a freshly run over death adder, which apart from being dead, was a fine specimen. I hadn’t realised they were in the forest. My mind casted back to all the stomping around looking for painted buttonquail I'd done in the same area on previous occasions. The dugite, another highly venomous snake, and also road kill, was observed on the way home.

death adder

Day 3
14 November 2012
We breakfasted early at Trisha’s mobile café in Foxes Lair. Birding there for a short while after breakfast produced our first pair of western yellow robin. We had lots of red-capped parrots, our first pair of Carnaby’s black cockatoo, more western spinebills and a pair of little eagle.

red-capped parrot

Heading south to Wagin and with a tipoff from Frank , we had about fifty banded stilts, around two hundred red-necked avocets, and a small number of red-necked stint and red-capped plover. Further south, on our way to Cranbrook for lunch, we stopped at some salt affected country and added black-faced woodswallow, white-fronted chat, yellow-rumped thornbill, white-winged triller, elegant parrot, and wedge-tailed and little eagles.

Purple-crowned lorikeets proved frustrating at our lunch spot, constantly calling without revealing themselves. While driving around town searching for them after lunch we came upon a group of (black-capped) varied sittella feeding in Eucalyptus lehmannii. Their preoccupation with probing the crevices of the massive gumnuts afforded us excellent views. I don’t think I have ever seen this species as a garden bird before today.

We birded the northern edge of the Stirling Ranges after lunch where highlights included a pair of western fieldwren, lots of tawny-crowned honeyeaters, splendid fairywren, lots of white-winged trillers, lots of tree martins, more black-faced woodswallows and surprisingly a pair of white-backed swallow; my first ever sighting for the southwest. We had a brief view of a large brown snake, possibly another a dugite, crossing the road.

western fieldwren

Trisha cooked dinner in the camp kitchen of Stirling Range Retreat and a barn owl called nearby as we dined.

splendid fairywren

Day 4
15 November 2012
The birding was very good in the grounds of the Stirling Range Retreat. Regent parrot and elegant parrot were coming in to drink and bathe at the water points, allowing close observation. Both species are nesting in nearby hollow trees. Both are also noticeably different to their eastern counterparts, particularly the regent. While not coming in close, a flock of about fifty Carnaby’s black cockatoos were flying about.

elegant parrot

Western yellow robins were in good supply with probably two pairs nesting in the grounds of the Retreat. An obstinate owlet nightjar called from a large hollow. Other good birds included western white-naped honeyeater, scarlet robin, splendid fairywren, a pair of little eagles (one light, one dark phase), brown-headed honeyeater, restless flycatcher and a fine adult male Horsfield’s bronze-cuckoo.

After lunch, at a salt lake to the north, we had a pair of the western race of hooded plover. Heading back through the Stirling Ranges, en route to Albany, we saw a couple of handsome western brush wallaby.

Day 5
16 November 2012
I was anxious to tackle the three biggies so we were up early. Going after the most challenging first, we headed for Two-Peoples Bay for the western whipbird. A whipbird called well, not long after our arrival. Most people got some sort of view; some got a good look. He certainly didn’t give himself up easily.

A bit further along views of three western bristlebirds were had, with the male sitting up and singing for quite a while. Two out of three skulkers seen on our first morning! A scrubbird called but was well up the hill. I’m used to seeing red-eared firetail at this locality but none were to be seen. It’s a species that seems to have greatly declined with the dry years. Good birds here included an adult square-tailed kite working the heath, out first red-winged fairywrens, southern emuwren, Pacific gull and sooty oystercatcher.

Lunch was at Cheyne Beach Caravan Park. Sated, we checked out the heath at the caravan park and had our first western white-cheeked honeyeaters. We refocused on the scrubbird. Someof the group got quite reasonable views. Three toughies in one day! While trying to get better views of the scrubbird, we’d be distracted by white-breasted robins. Later we took the time to appreciate this delightful species.

white-breasted robin

Day 6
17 November 2012
Next morning we birded the heath and the caravan park environs. Lots of very quiet brush bronzewings poke about the grounds. We came across a female brush bronzewing that had just been run over by a careless fisherman. Her mate was forlornly trying to get her up off the road. It was both distressing and touching to watch.

More red-winged fairywren were seen and western spinebill were in good numbers. We tried around Cheyne Beach for red-eared firetail to no avail so drove over to Waychinup to test our luck there. Three of this splendid species eventually showed themselves. A couple of scrubbirds were heard here but were in inaccessible areas. An adult white-breasted sea-eagle flew over.

red-eared firetail

Later in the afternoon most of us tried again for better views of the scrubbird. This time he co-operated nicely and everyone was happy with their views. It’s a hard species for a whole group to see, so I was feeling a smidgen pleased with myself. Reasonable views of a quokka were had while we were trying for the scrubbird. Trisha cooked a roast lamb dinner in the cabin, after which we tried for spotted nightjar, without success.

western bristlebird

Day 7
18 November 2012
After breakfast we searched around the grounds for another whipbird for those who’d missed it but none were seen or heard. We got our best views yet of thirty or so Carnaby’s black cockatoos feeding on banksia cones and added collared sparrowhawk and brown quail to the list.

Augusta was our next destination and we had a couple more of SW WA endemics to get along the way. Near Rocky Gully there were twenty or so western corellas. This is a rare and seemingly localized species in the southwest.

western corellas

At the Gloucester Tree near Pemberton, we had great looks at very quiet western rosellas, ringnecks and rufous treecreepers; as well as (western) white-naped honeyeaters.

Between Pemberton and Augusta and after a bit of confusion with red-tailed black cockatoos, several small flocks of Baudin’s black cockatoo were observed at a couple of spots feeding quietly on huge bloodwood nuts.

Baudin's cockatoo

So, one objective of the tour was met, cleaning up on all possible regional endemics. Our first Australian hobby for the tour was seen, as were more wedge-tailed eagles. Some of the forests in this area were badly burnt in last year’s fires and I imagine will take a long while to recover.

Day 8
19 November 2012
To the Lighthouse … for rock parrot. Unlike our southwest tour in November last, when there were no rock parrots to be found here, today we had at least ten feeding on the lawns and on nearby rocks. A few humpback whales frolicked off the point and distant views were had of yellow-nosed albatross and fleshy-footed shearwater. Several pied cormorants were also seen. En route back to Perth, we called in at Sugarloaf Rocks hoping for some red-tailed tropicbirds but no luck. They seem to have deserted this locality.

rock parrot

Finding Trisha’s new lunch spot near the Wildlife Park in Bunbury was challenging but thanks to Gabrielle’s phone’s sat nav we weren’t destined to drive around forever (it just felt like it!).

At the foreshore at Mandurah we had distant views of fairy tern.


We said goodbye to a great group of participants at dinner at our Perth airport hotel.

Trisha, Jack and I flew out early the next morning to continue Jack’s family chase in the east. See Personal birdng tour: Beechworth - Ouyen Victoria 20 to 23 November 2012 

Thanks to Frank O’Connor for generously sharing his knowledge of birding the southwest and to Michael Hancock for showing us around Lake Gwelup.

2,143 kilometres were travelled on this tour. I drove a 12 seater Toyota mini bus and Trisha had a Pajero Mitsubishi 4WD as the support/food vehicle. Both vehicles were hired from Avis, Perth Airport.

Checklist of species seen

Litoria moorei

Philip Maher
Australian Ornithological Services

Our next SouthWest Western Australia tour will be in December 2013, (approximately 10 to 17 December)