And the bush has friends to meet him, and their kindly voices greet him, In the murmur of the breezes and the river on its bars,
And he sees the vision splendid of the sunlit plains extended, And at night the wonderous glory of the everlasting stars.

Banjo Paterson (1889)

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Bimbijy and Beyond

The Easter birding holiday to Bimbijy station turned into an interesting 1400 km road trip, covering a large area of the remote dry northern goldfields of Western Australia. The lack of rain over the last couple of years has taken it's toll. We woke every morning with no dawn chorus. A silent earth! Just an occasional bird calling in the distance.

One of Australia's most interesting lizards, a Thorny Devil (Moloch horridus), which we found on our way to Bimbijy station the first day. My wife Liz also got a new lifer for her birdlist near here, the often elusive Malleefowl.

A weird and wonderful reptile that looks like some type of alien.

This lizard is well-adapted to living in arid areas, with camouflage and hard spines, grooves on his skin that channel water to his mouth and a diet of small ants (up to 5000 in one meal).

One of the many rock outcrops on Bimbijy station.

These outcrops with their flaked rocks are great homes for many of local reptiles, such as the rock-loving Ornate Dragons.

One of the big monitors of these arid areas, is the Yellow-spotted Monitor (Varanus panoptes). We saw these guys a number of times, often near old wells, probably feeding on dead animals.

A beautiful lizard. The change in body colour is due to skin shedding.

Rob, Myles and Liz checking the overhangs. We stopped at one of the breakaways on Bimbijy to have a look for animals, especially old Stick-nest Rat homes.

Not very attractive, but very interesting. An old  Lesser Stick-nest Rat nest, made of sticks mixed with saliva and excreta. Two species of Stick-nest Rats (Lesser & Greater) were found across vast areas of arid Australia before the foxes and cats arrived. Now the Greater is only naturally found on some small islands off South Australia.

We arrived at the neat and tidy little town of Sandstone on Saturday. Sandstone has always been one of the places I wanted to visit, as it's in the middle of the northern goldfields and basically over 2 hours travel on dusty gravel roads in every direction.

We camped south of Sandstone in the Mulga, which had some recent rain, but still didn't have too many birds. We did manage to catch this lovely Spotted Military Dragon (Ctenophorus maculatus).

This guy (female?) was a little cold and slow when caught, but quickly warmed up and shot off like a rocket.

An area on the road south towards Mt Jackson. A good spot for reptiles with nice clumps of spinifex, but again birds were hard work.

A view of the main road heading towards Mt Jackson. Our Troopy handled the gravel roads well, especially with the new mud terrain tyres which gripped the roads like glue. The only hiccup we had, was when we didn't see a big deep washaway due to the dust and afternoon sun, and  hit at high speed. Luckly we didn't damage anything.

Liz and me in the big saltlake country at Lake Barlee station and it's big 100 km saltlake.

A hard job! A fence across one of the smaller arms of Lake Barlee.

Life is tough on a outback station, especially one on a huge saltlake.

A big monitor sunning on the road south of Lake Barlee. This Gould's Monitor (Varanus gouldii) looks very similar to the Yellow-spotted Monitor, but tends to be more slender and have a slightly different pattern.

A view of Mt Jackson and it's mine. It's sad that so much mining is allowed on ironstone ranges, as these often  have large numbers of endemic flora and fauna. Ironstone ranges in Western Australia act basically as islands, supporting animals that don't tend to cross the flat areas.

We did have a few thunderstorms moving through the goldfields and starting to fill some of the saltlakes.

Myles and Rob checking the maps to find the small cross country tracks we need to get to our camp for our last night. We managed to get to a big rock outcrop in the Salmon Gum woodlands north of Muckinbudin.

It was a great Easter trip with two good friends, exploring remote station tracks and seeing some wonderful country and it's animals. Birdwise it was a bit poor with less than 40 species. Birds were in low numbers, but with the drought and time of year, it's not surprising. We can't wait to visit those areas again, especially in spring and after good rains!


Lancashire and Lakeland Outback Adventure Wildlife Safaris said...

Excellent trip report Richard, love to be able to join you one day. Is Mt Jackson a potential site for numbat reintroduction?



Richard King said...

Thanks Dave. Numbats were probably through that area in the past. They are being introduced to some southern and eastern areas of Western Australia, but the Mt Jackson region will be mined for a long time I believe.

Stu said...

I can't believe you pick up some of these creatures............

Fred said...

I do love those Thorny Devils, gonna have to get me some photos of them one day