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Coast, quokkas and cockatoos : southwest Western Australia


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My first trip to the southwest of Western Australia in November 2022 was everything I anticipated and more. The trip was booked through Bellbird tours and guided by Peter Taylor of Southwest birding. The trip started with a 3.30 wake-up and a drive through the deserted streets of Hobart to the airport for the early flight to Melbourne with a connection to Perth. There is a 3 hour time difference between Tasmania and Western Australia that provided time for an afternoon snooze before a meet and greet dinner at a local pub. 


Next morning the day began with a walk through King’s Park, a popular area with runners, cyclists and dog walkers. This urban bush land is home to many birds including the Red-tailed Black Cockatoo, Rainbow Bee-eaters, Magpies and Weebills.








The park was a good introduction to the banksias, a native plant favoured by parrots. Western Australia has over 90% of the world’s banksia species.






Herdsman Lake is a large wetland within metropolitan Perth and is home to a diverse range of water birds, including Australian Shoveller, Eurasian Coot, Little Pied Cormorant and Pink-eared duck, also known as Zebra Duck. This family are successfully hiding their pink ears. 





Maned (Wood) Ducks fed quietly on the lawn.





An Australian Shelduck paddled by.






A Dusky Moorhen had nested very close to the path through the paperbark swamp and 2 chicks waded through the weeds, someone commented that these were the ugliest chicks ever, surely not?








Great-Crested Grebes nested close to the trail - the stripy headed chick is well hidden on its mother’s back. The male was delivering food and tending the nest. 





Little Black Cormorants catch the morning sun on the edge of the wetland and a Spotted Jezebel breakfasts on a callistemon flower.






Australian Shelducks and Pacific Black Ducks share a grassy waterside spot while a Great Egret stalks the shallows. A Pied Oriental Cormorant perches over a pond and Sacred Kingfishers chase through the trees. A family of 5 Tawny Frogmouths roosts along a creek bed well hidden amongst the branches.





The next stop is Lake Mongar, a community space of shared paths and nature trails. Australasian Grebes and a Musk Duck float close to the shore.





After the urban birding concludes we eat our Subway lunch at Bungendore Park before heading to Narrogin and the nearby Dryandra Forest where a Scarlet Robin poses for photos and Australian Ringnecks fossick for the last meal of the day.






Dryandra Forest


We go spotlighting after a picnic and have good views of an Eastern Barn Owl. 

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A great start with excellent photos!

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Oh no, my bucket list is in danger of growing some more!


Maned Ducks and Tawny Frogmouths are striking birds.


Pacific Black Duck is one of the world's Black Ducks that I have not seen.   American Black Duck is one of my favorite birds of all.




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16 hours ago, Treepol said:

We go spotlighting after a picnic and have good views of an Eastern Barn Owl. 


Did you use a LightForce spotlight @Treepol?    A great Australian brand.   They are popular with safari guides in Zambia but have recently become hard to find in the USA.   I was lucky to finally get one recently.


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@TonyQthanks for the encouragement.


@offshorebirderthe southwest deserves a place on your bucket list!  Dare I say it, but Pacific Black Ducks are common here, however they breed with other species and it can be difficult to find the real deal in some locations.  I'm not sure about the Lightforce, it was the guide's spotlight and I didn't get a close look at it.



After a night at the Narrogin Motel we return to the Dryandra Forest for some early morning birding beginning with Elegant Parrot and Western Lorikeet followed by a pair of Rufous Treecreepers and a first glimpse of the Blue-breasted Fairywren.  Further down the road we see a Common Bronzewing, White-cheeked Honeyeater and a Western Yellow Robin. A Dusky Woodswallow fades away in comparison to these flashy birds. A third stop in Dryandra is for Restless Flycatcher, a bird that is eclipsed by a second Blue-breasted Fairywren. We searched for a numbat on both visits but were sad to miss this endemic mammal.







Leaving the Dryandra behind we pass through Wagin an old farming centre to the larger town of Karrating where we have lunch at Dome before stopping for the elusive Western Field Wren at Lake Camelback. These Shingleback Lizards and brief views of Red-capped Parrots were roadside highlights today.






Stirling Range Resort is home tonight.  A quick walk around the grounds delivers Red-capped and Elegant Parrots, more Restless Flycatchers, Rufous Songlark, Yellow-plumed and New Holland Honeyeaters before the mosquitoes drive me inside with lots of time to get ready for dinner at the Borden Hotel.







Next morning I’m up at 5 am when it’s already daylight. An early walk down the Kanga Trail reveals a relaxed Regent Parrot while back near the rammed earth chalets a Yellow-rumped Thornbill devours a moth under the hungry gaze of a young Scarlet Robin.






A pair of Gilbert’s Honeyeaters chase around an old gum tree.




Around the grounds Yellow-plumed Honeyeaters and Dusky Woodswallows were early risers.





The final pre-breakfast bird was the eagerly sought Western Shrike-Tit. The demanding calls of a young bird old enough to feed itself alerted us to a family showdown playing out in the gum tree behind my room.




A jaunty galah catches the early sun in a roadside tree.







Coakerup Nature Reserve is similar to Mallee country, however our hopes for Malleefowl are dashed as birding is very quiet. A Purple-crowned Lorikeet shows poorly against a grey sky and a Purple-gaped Honeyeater hides amongst the leaves before flying off. Lunch today is at the Wellstead Roadhouse before the 120 km drive to Cheyne’s Beach.

The Cheynes Beach Resort is a welcoming and tidy place.





Western Grey Kangaroos graze around our cabins and brightly coloured Red-browed Firetail, White-breasted Robins and Red-winged Fairywrens are easily seen but the latter doesn't wait for photos.









A Western Whistler chases through the trees and poses poorly for photos. Down at Cheynes Beach the last of the fishermen pack up for the day and we search for the Noisy Scrubwren. I give up after a while and return to the cabin snapping New Holland Honeyeaters tanking up for the night at a banksia and callistemon.







A Common Bronzewing grazes on the lawn in the caravan park.




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I really need to get back to Australia!! :) Such beautiful birds. Between your report and @kittykat23uk's recent report I'm really hankering to return asap.

Edited by janzin
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Great trip so far with some awesome birds.  Too bad you missed out on the Numbat.  I have seen recently reports of others seeing them in Dryandra so they are around.  You just have to get lucky I guess.



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What a great start! I'm still sorting through all my photos from our Australia trip at the moment. I recognise quite a few of those birds, although a lot of the parrots are different.. 

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@janzinwhat is the next Australian location on your bucket list?

@Atdahlyes, we were disappointed to miss the numbat, especially as there were sightings later that night. The trick seems to be go out after dark, just one or 2 people for good sightings.

@kittykat23uklook forward to reading about your trip when you have time.





Another early start in search of the endemics that call Cheynes Beach home. Western Whipbird and Western Bristlebird were in the bag before breakfast along with Western Thornbill, Flesh-footed Shearwater, Australasian Gannet, Australian Pipit and Western Wattlebird. 





Skulker habitat


Later in the morning I walked solo around the resort grounds where a female Brown Quail and 2 chicks foraged at the edge of the bush. A King Skink was soaking up the sun amongst some dead branches.






Along the fire trail the banksias attracted numerous Honeyeaters, mostly the gangsta New Holland’s that waited to pounce on smaller birds and the delicate Honey Possum.






Banksia Cocchinea


An Australian Magpie chortled from a gum tree and 2 galahs argued in a tree over the track.




Western Grey Kangaroos are everywhere around the resort and much easier to see than the tiny Silvereyes that jumped from tree to tree along the access road. 




This afternoon we went looking for Rock Parrot on the off-chance that some may be along the beach. There were no parrots, however the walk along scenic Cheynes Beach was enjoyable.




Near the cabins a confiding White-breasted Robin posed for photos.




I was lucky to see a Honey Possum drinking nectar from a candlestick banksia but it dropped down when a New Holland flew over and before I could get a photo. Next morning I wandered out at 5.30, the first bird was a Spotted Scrubwren at the shop followed by an Australian Pipit.






Down at the beach a New Holland Honeyeater was feeding. A Red-winged Fairywren hopped around the picnic area watched by Grey Fantail and Silvereyes. Crested Terns found a dry roost on rocks near the shore. A family of 6 White-breasted Robins hopped around on the beach track.




I was sad to leave the pretty, laid back town of Cheynes Beach and my comfortable cabin, however we are driving to Augusta today. 


A flock of highly prized Baudin’s Cockatoos was a pleasant surprise near Mordalup.







Lunch today was at King Jarrah Tree park outside Manjimup where a short walk delivered Scarlet Robin, Western Whistler, Fantailed cuckoo and a Gilbert’s Whistler feeding on a candlestick banksia.




Along the way we saw 4 Heath Monitors, large reptiles with dark cross-bands from the neck to the tip of the tail.



Photo: D. Stickney




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Honey Possum and Numbat would be my two key targets for a western australia trip! Glad you got the former.

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Nice you saw a Honey Possum.  That colorful fluffy chick is adorable.  When I scrolled back up to get its proper name (Dusky Moorhen) I saw the ugliest chick ever comment.  I disagree.  I could cozy up to those Shingleback Lizards.  Such a nice pose for the two.  You take good advantage of your surrounding wild area!  Thanks for sharing it with us.

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11 hours ago, Treepol said:

@janzinwhat is the next Australian location on your bucket list?

Why Tasmania of course! And the south. Similar to what Jo did recently.  Maybe 2024.....! I'd like to put it together will Bellbird again but only privately, if we can get the guide we had last time (Steve Potter.)

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@Treepol - were you in a group tour or a group of friends? We had used Peter Taylor when we were in Perth in 2019. He guided us on a one-day tour, and we had a grand time with him


We went to Herdsman Lake twice on our own as we really loved that place. so quiet, but lots of waterfowl to see. So glad to see the tawny frogmouth family still hiding in the trees!


The shingleback Lizards look awesome! Australia has the coolest lizard species, i think, and that Smiley Bush made me smile too. Looking forward to more from you, and from @kittykat23uk too


We need to get back to Australia soon for mammals, and the fairywrens in breeding colours!

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13 hours ago, janzin said:

Why Tasmania of course! And the south. Similar to what Jo did recently.  Maybe 2024.....! I'd like to put it together will Bellbird again but only privately, if we can get the guide we had last time (Steve Potter.)


A shame you couldn't have joined @ElaineAustand I! Tasmania is super easy to navigate around. 

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Thanks @kittykat23uk are you home safe and sound?


@AtravelynnI did see another Honey Possum running across the beach road - at the time I thought it was a mouse, however as it had a disproportionate long tail Peter sais it was probably a honey possum. These tiny critters sure move fast.


@janzinlet me know if you make it to Hobart we may be able to have a mini GTG. I'm off to Alice Springs with Bellbird in July, Michael Greenshields is guiding.


@KitsafariI was on a Bellbird tour that was guided by Peter. I did have a private tour booked with him that we lost 3 times due to Covid and the delayed opening of WA in February 2022 - long story. I saw that the Bellbird trip had spaces and booked immediately. Peter is in the process of retiring, have a look at his website, however for previous clients he might do a days birding around Pemberton.



The Blackwood River estuary is quiet this morning, however the seaside town of Augusta is attractive and laid back. Joggers pound the riverside paths and galahs screech from the old Norfolk Pine trees.




Breakfast today is at the Augusta Bakery after which we head for Cape Leeuwin and a scenic stretch of coast. 








The Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse is the tallest on mainland Australia at 39 metres, Cape Wickham on King Island is the tallest at 48 metres.






This Old waterwheel provided drinking water for the lighthouse keepers.




Back down the road a flock of highly sought Carnaby Cockatoos puts on a show. 






Over at the lighthouse coastal Rock Parrots graze on the lawn and a Nankeen Kestrel shelters from the wind behind a chimney.








Beyond the breakers a pod of Bottle-nosed Dolphins frolics between a reef and the shore. Hamelin Bay is our next stop where holidaymakers crowd the beach, annoying a Black Ray that swam lazily in the shallows.








Some fishermen throw recently cleaned fish remains to a Silver Gull that swallows the unexpected meal in about 30 seconds, faster than I could take the photo!




A Sooty Oystercatcher forages on a distant shore and Southern Emu-wrens call from the scrub, whilst Pied Oystercatchers rest on the sand. Lunch is purchased from the local bakery after which we return to Sheoak Cabins and relax on the cool veranda during the heat of the afternoon.






Magpies hop around in the paddock below and a kangaroo bounds amongst the cattle at the dam. Brilliant green Ring-neck Parrots are flying around the chalet and a Willie Wagtail repeatedly attacks a Magpie that gets too close to its nest. A pair of galahs perch briefly in a nearby tree, their bright pink plumage visible through the leaves.


This evening we walked along the river before dinner, mixing with local cyclists, joggers and walkers. Bird highlights included a pair of Splendid Fairy-wrens, Australian Pelicans and a Pied Oystercatcher with 2 chicks.








Dinner was enjoyed by all at the Augusta Hotel.

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19 hours ago, kittykat23uk said:


A shame you couldn't have joined @ElaineAustand I! Tasmania is super easy to navigate around. 

I wish but we already had so much planned for this year!

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@Treepolyes thanks, I got back home on the 12th. Last few nights in Melbourne were a bit fraught as Harley took I'll at home and the usual vets were too short staffed to treat her, so poor Ian had to take her across county to another rabbit savvy vet. Nearly £1600 vet bill  later and she's back to her old self 🙄

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@kittykat23ukouch! to the vet bill, good to hear that Harley is doing well.


The next day was the last of the group trip and it began with breakfast back at the excellent Augusta Bakery that was followed by a 3 hour drive to Coodanup Foreshore Reserve.




A pair of Fairy Terns, an adult feeding a youngster fluttered at the water’s edge whilst further around Caspian Terns and Silver Gulls rest on the sand in front of a small flock of Australian Shelducks. Penguin Island is about an hour further north and is reached by a short 5 minute ferry ride.






The island is home to nesting Bridled and Crested Terns, Silver Gulls and Australian Pelicans. I was pleased to get close views of Bridled Terns as previously I'd only seen them in distant mixed flocks of sea birds.












Some of the adult birds sitting on nests were so hot they were panting in the midday heat. These brown fluff balls are Silver Gull chicks.




After lunch at the Pengo Cafe we returned to Perth where the farewells began as tour participants headed for home and the airport. The remaining 5 had dinner with Peter at a Thai restaurant before an early night. Tomorrow David and I are going to Rottnest Island with Peter to meet the Quokkas.  

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Birds seen at Fremantle from the 8 am ferry next morning included Great Cormorant and Brown Falcon. The ferries disgorge hundreds of passengers around the wharf area who quickly disperse around the island on bikes, segways, hop on hop off buses and on foot.




Peter, David and I walked to the salt lakes where 2 welcome swallows perched. Further on flocks of red-capped Plovers and Red-necked Stints relaxed at the water’s edge. Much further down the lake 1000+ Banded Stints and many Red-necked Avocets sheltered in a backwater. A pair of White-fronted Chats flits and feeds along the beach. 




Crossing the golf course we see a resting Pied Oystercatcher and a foraging galah. Near the gate Silvereyes, Western Gerygones, a Singing Honeyeater and a female Western Whistler keep us busy.



Golden Whistler (female)



Singing Honeyeater


Quokkas hop around slowly outside the police station, the first of about a dozen we saw on the day. 




Lunch today is at the bakery where 3 quokkas have bypassed the quokka gate and graze under the tables.




Australian Ravens squawk in the trees overhead showing off their prominent throat hackles. 




The church is a significant historical building with impressive stained glass windows. Commemorative plaques to past residents provide a glimpse of the island’s history.




Just a few last quokka shots.






The return trip was calm and speedy, we passed several freighters moored off Fremantle waiting for cargos.


My last day was spent looking around Perth, a spacious city where the locals were out in force Christmas shopping. The public transport made getting around very easy, such a wonderful system. London Court was dressed in festive wreathes and the automata on the clock above the Mall performed every 15 minutes. The day passed very quickly and all too soon it was time to board the plane for home.





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"Quokkas hop around slowly outside the police station"  Very quirky, these cute little guys.  You found a good way to get into the holiday spirit.

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OMG Quokkas, too cute! Are they only in Western Australia? Must see!!

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Yes, Quokkas are the best and on my list!  @Treepolcan correct me if I'm wrong but I believe they can only be seen on Rotnest Island these days.  


@Treepol do you think there is enough to do on Rotnest to stay a night or more?  Or, is a day trip good enough?



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  • 3 weeks later...

Sorry have just seen your replies


@Atravelynnthanks for reading along, seems that quokkas have stolen the show.


@janzinand @Atdahlquokkas are most easily seen on Rottnest Island, although I have heard that there are small colonies in the mainland southwest. We only saw them on Rorttnest. I think it would be worth spending a night on the island if only to enjoy it after the hordes have departed! There is plenty of walking and its very scenic. It would be worth asking if there are any nocturnal activities offered.

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the quokkas are delightful! I took a look at Rottnest Island when we were in Perth in 2019 but gave up the idea as our trip was too short to include it. It'll have to be a "Must go" when we next visit WA. Thanks for the rundown of the trip @Treepol


a shame that peter taylor is retiring - he seemed too young to do so!

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