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)

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Easter at Cue

Just back from another interesting birding trip to the Cue area in the Murchison region of Western Australia. Alas, no new bird species for me, but my wife did get 4 new lifers. A special tick for her was the Banded Whiteface, which was in it's usual arid haunt near Austin Downs station. We had arrived during the hot middle part of the day and were getting prepared to spend at least a couple hours looking for it over the barren stony plains, when suddenly two appeared less than 20 metres from the car! Excellent.

Our first night's camp at a Grey Honeyeater site near Paynes Find, but no Grey Honeyeaters were found. As you can see from the fly net, the bush flies were crazy out there!

Our typical camp setup. This one on Warne River near the Paynes Find - Sandstone road.

At Lake Austin we did find the Dunna-dunna, an unusual plant found growing at salt lakes only in this region.

A beautiful Pygmy Spiny-tailed Skink that came wandering into our campsite. A common lizard of these acacia woodlands, that uses it's spines to wedge itself in crevices against predators.

On our last night we had camped near Paynes Find again and were treated to lightening shows most of the night. Luckily most thunderstorms were to the north or south of our camp.

In the morning we woke, to find a massive storm bearing down directly on our camp!

We only just packed up in time and got out onto the main track, before a huge downpour flooded the whole area, turning the red soil into a boggy sticky mud.

The rain brought out wildlife, such as this female Red Kangaroo, to drink at roadside pools.

A wonderful trip, we did get over 70 species of birds, but still no Grey Honeyeater or Gilbert's Whistler! Looks like this area will need a springtime (September?) visit, maybe next year.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Eastern Reef Egret

Well, a couple big fauna surveys have been postponed, mainly due to flooding from an excessively wet rainy season up in the north of Western Australia. On the bright side, this means I can spend Easter with my wife and head out bush for some more birding and maybe video (with the HV40). It looks like Cue might be the destination again, with the country still in good condition from recent rains and quite a few arid zone birds that we need to get. I'm still on the hunt for that elusive Grey Honeyeater!

Here's a video of a easier bird to see, an Eastern Reef Egret, chasing small fish along a muddy creek. Fairly common on coastlines of Western Australia, but this video was taken at Cairns in north Queensland. These birds come in two morphs; this video is of the dark morph, which almost looks like a White-faced Heron.

There is also the white morph, which basically just looks like a small white egret.

White morph Eastern Reef Egret

Monday, April 11, 2011

Cue Birding

Unfortunately my Canon XH A1 is still broken after the birding trip to Cue. A shame as it broke on the first day, so I have nothing to show of that trip. Especially upsetting is the fact a Banded Whiteface, a new bird for me, came so close I could almost touch it, but alas no video!

Banded Whiteface
I did enjoy all the 83 species of birds we got, as the country around Cue has had the first good rains in about ten years and a lot of birds were moving about. Most of the salt lakes and salt pans still had lots of water in them (including the associated millions of flies and mosquitoes!). We dipped on Grey Honeyeater and Gilbert's Whistler, two difficult target birds to get in that region, but we did see a wonderful flock of over 45 Major Mitchell Cockatoos. A fantastic sight, as the beautiful salmon-pink and white cockatoos whirled  over the red sand dunes. I also now know of some good camping spots up that way and areas to visit.

I'm looking forward to another trip to the Cue area, but as it's about an 7 hour journey north of Perth, you really need an extra long weekend to enjoy it. Right now I'm getting ready for another journey northwards, this time back to the Camballin area in the south Kimberleys, for a big two week fauna survey.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Northern Pintail at Erskine Lakes

Today my wife and I travelled down to Erskine in Mandurah early in the morning to see the reported Northern Pintail there, a rare vagrant to southern Western Australia. Amazingly there was one here last year, could it be the same one? We missed out on seeing that one last year.

It didn't take long to find the pintail in the smaller of the 2 lakes at Erskine, a brownish female that looked different straight away from all the local ducks, well except maybe a pale Black Duck that had been fooling birders in the area. She was very flighty and would fly between the two lakes almost as soon as she saw you coming towards the water's edge! It was almost too easy for us to get this bird tick, which brings my Australian bird total to 544 (519 for Liz).

I did get this video, but I had to shoot it from long range with my small HV40, so the quality for that distance isn't that great, but it's still a record of it. I've just returned from Cue in the Murchison area where my big Canon XH A1 stopped working. I sure hope it can be fixed!