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, February 15, 2012

Hudsonian Godwit in Perth

A busy day, but great day! Bandicoot relocation in the morning, a text on the mobile saying the 'Hudsonian Godwit has been seen again at Lake Joondalup', a quick dash to Mandurah to drop off caught bandicoots (50 mins), trip back home (90 mins), grab scope and bite of lunch (10 mins), off to Lake Joondalup (45 mins) - target achieved, Hudsonian in scope!

Not my pic (from Wikipedia), but basically identical to the bird I saw, which unfortunately was too far for any decent photography or video. It did have a big red or orange tag on it's left leg, so according to the lastest info, it could have been banded in Chile.

I did get good views, especially when it raised it's wing while preening, to see it's distinct dark underwing of this species. Unfortunately I saw both dark underwings just before it flew rapidly, being chased with a flock of other waterbirds by a Swamp Harrier. That's the last I saw of it, but hopefully it will stay around, so most of Perth's other birders (including my wife) will get to enjoy this very rare American visitor.

For some more info on Wikipedia, see Hudsonian Godwit.

PS. A special thanks to John Graff, who texted and Robyn Pickering, who waited in the heat until I showed up.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Waterbirds and Stormwater Ponds 2

It's been another interesting birding weekend in Perth, with of all things, a Hudsonian Godwit seen at Lake Joondalup. This godwit has only been recorded in Australia 5 times before and all on the east coast, closest to it's normal North toSouth America migration route. It's a long, long way off course to be in Perth! Anyway, I have dipped (along with many others) on it so far, but I'll keep trying.

This last weekend was also spent looking at the last of the stormwater ponds in Kewdale and Welshpool. Besides seeing what birds were using the ponds, I wanted to have a closer look at a wonderful metallic bird structure, often seen while driving past on the busy Roe Highway.

A small square stormwater pond is located behind factories on Ewing St. This pond probably has more bird potential when it's flooded, forming a large island in the middle, at present it was poor for birds. We recorded only 7 species in the local area, with 4 of those common waterbirds, such as Black Duck, Grey Teal, Purple Swamphen and Coots.

Mills St south (also called Garnet's Park) was larger and much better for birds, with 16 species. A least 6 waterbirds were seen, but access is limited to looking in through the tall wire fence. There may be access into the pond area along the drain coming in from the south.

This turned out to be a good birding area, the southern pond (or lake) on the intersection of Roe Highway and Welshpool Rd. 22 bird species were recorded here, with 13 of those being waterbirds, including Hardheads, Australasian Shoveler and 3 species of cormorants. A slightly overgrown small trail allows access around the pond.

The big and beautiful metal bird sculpture is easily accessed from the northern end of the trail. I wouldn't mind having that in my garden!

It has been interesting over the last couple of weekends, checking out the stormwater ponds and the birds they hold, with over 40 bird species recorded in the pond areas. Some ponds are too small and of a poor design to be attractive to many birds, but some like the southern Roe & Welshpool pond and a couple others, I expect I'll visit of a more regular basis. For now, my mind is set on hunting down that poor lost Hudsonian Godwit!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Waterbirds and Stormwater Ponds

Recently an Australian Painted Snipe (a rare record for Perth) was seen at a small drying wetland near Perth Airport, but it quickly moved on to better locations somewhere else. This got me thinking about the numerous small stormwater ponds near the airport, in the industrial suburbs of Kewdale and Welshpool, and their potential as habitats for waterbirds, including rarities such as the elusive Painted Snipe.

Unusually heavy summer rains this year, have kept water levels up in most of the Perth wetlands, and many of the stormwater ponds which are normally dry or just small pools by now, were still full of water. My wife and I decided to check out a few of the larger ponds in the Kewdale/Welshpool area.

First stop were the two stormwater ponds on the corner of Tonkin Highway and Kewdale Rd. The smaller western pond is full of dense reeds and probably only provides habitat for some crakes and rails, but the larger eastern pond has areas of open water with reed edges. Six waterbirds were recorded here (15 bird species in total), including breeding Australasian Grebe, Dusky Moorhen and Coots. A Spotless Crake was also seen running amongst the reeds.

The pond at this time had little in the way of shallow water and no exposed mud, reducing usable habitats for many non-diving waterbirds. The high dense edge vegetation surrounding the pond also may reduce the area’s potential for some waterbirds, who dislike tall vegetation, due to mainly not being able to see or escape predators approaching.

The second stop was to the large pond on the corner of Aitken Way and Abernethy Rd. This was by far the best and most varied of the stormwater ponds we visited in the industrial area, with 15 species of waterbirds out of a total of 22 bird species seen in the area.

The higher numbers of waterbirds and birds in general were expected, as this large pond has a good variety of habitats for birds, including open deep water, shallow water areas, dense reeds and a variation in density and height of edge vegetation. Australian Shelduck were in good numbers (50+), with Black Swans, Australian Pelicans and Yellow-billed Spoonbills also found there.

This large open pond had the greatest potential for interesting bird species and is easy to access and probably should be visited on a more regular basis.

Noble Park on Belmont Ave and Noble St is more of a designated park in a busy industrial area, but is still used as a stormwater catchment area. It had the lowest count of birds, again probably due to the high water levels and dense, often high vegetation in most of the park. Only 6 bird species were recorded here, with only a couple of Purple Swamphens and Black Ducks using the wetland area.

The large stormwater pond near the busy corner of Orrong Rd and Ballantine Rd (access via an unlocked gate near the tyre yard) has very steep banks, deep water and few shallow or exposed mud areas. We recorded 8 waterbird species (out of 11 bird species), with mainly diving waterbirds such as Australasian Grebes on the water. Shallow areas were limited, but some Black-fronted Dotterels were resting on a small area of exposed sediment near a drain.

A large pond, which also had some good bird potential, is located on Pilbara Rd (just north of Orrong Rd) and stretches across to Kewdale Rd. It has a variety of good waterbird habitats, including a vegetated island in the centre. Nine waterbirds out of 20 bird species were recorded here. Half the pond does have high dense edge vegetation, but the other half on Pilbara Rd has open water and extensive weedy areas.

A small, but interesting pond with open water and reeds was found on Anvil Way, with good recently revegetated areas. This pond appeared a good habitat for a number of bird species that like open sedge/reed areas with exposed mud and sand. A surprising 5 waterbirds were recorded (12 bird species in total), with breeding Australasian Grebe, Dusky Moorhen and Coots at this small narrow stormwater pond.

Mills St (north of Welshpool Rd) has this rectangular stormwater pond stretching onto Kewdale Rd with limited access, but a nice viewing platform. The side are again fairly steep with deepwater,reducing waterbird habitat, but it did have a shallower section on the Kewdale Rd end containing some Black-winged Stilts and Australian White Ibis. This small pond wedged in between factories in a busy industrial area, still managed to have 8 waterbird species out of the 9 birds sighted at the pond.

 A long narrow pond is located on busy Orrong Rd, near Kurnall Rd. I have seen more birds on here while driving past, when water levels were lower, but this time it contained only 5 waterbird species, with mainly Grey Teal and Black Duck on the pond.

This large pond on Banksia Rd has the typical steep sides and deep water of many stormwater ponds, including locked gates and a high fence with no access (well unless you want to push through a hole ripped in a section of fence by someone). We recorded 7 waterbird species, including Australian Shelduck, Grey Teal, Black Duck, and Hardheads, out of 10 bird species found at the pond area.

The large stormwater pond located on Orrong Rd near McDowel St, is again another pond where I have seen more birds during drier times, especially at the usual muddy area near the drain entrance. Water levels were very high and resulted in us only seeing 2 waterbird species out of 6 birds in the area. This pond does have a lot of potential when it’s a bit drier, with more areas of exposed mud.

In the last few years Fairy Martins have been sighted in the Perth area on a more regular basis and have been found nesting in their bottle shaped nests under some of the road bridges, especially along Roe Highway. There were about 10 Fairy Martins flying around their nests under this Roe highway road bridge just north of Welshpool Road.

It was the middle of the day and starting to get hot, so our final visit was the huge pond (or lake) area located at the intersection of Roe Highway and Welshpool Rd. This is by far the biggest of the ponds (~ 300 metres long) we had visited and had the great bird potential, but good views were limited due to the extensive and high vegetation around the pond. We did record 19 bird species with 8 waterbirds, including Black-fronted Dotterels, Hardheads and Darter.

More Fairy Martin nests under the railway bridge on Welshpool Road. It’s too hot and time to head home. There are more stormwater ponds still left to be visited in the Kewdale/Welshpool area, but they will have to wait for another time.

We visited 12 stormwater ponds over the morning and recorded 37 species of birds, with 19 of those being waterbird species. Stormwater ponds are often overlooked as potential good birding areas (especially for rarities), but with so many of these quiet small ponds in the metro area, often with good varied bird habitats, maybe it’s time we paid more attention to them.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Reticulated Velvet Gecko

The Reticulated Velvet Gecko (Oedura reticulata) belongs to the Australian nocturnal arboreal gecko genus of Oedura. This gecko is mainly restricted to areas east of Perth, where there are big smooth-barked eucalypts, especially the Wandoo woodlands. This is a gecko that specifically relies on the endangered Great Western Woodlands, more so than the previous Bynoe's Gecko.

Some interesting facts about Oedura reticulata are:

- They are long lived (> 9yrs), with females reaching maturity in their 4th year and males maturing at 3 years.

- Females lay two eggs (between October and January), that have low survival during incubation, but good survival rates as adults, often greater than 75%. The reason it's a long lived species.

- The geckos are secretive, but high numbers can occurs on mature smooth-barked gums that have large areas of foliage and dead wood. Hence the need to save our old-growth woodlands.

This beautiful individual was videoed in a area of Wandoo, about 1 hour east of Perth. I hope you enjoy this lovely little gecko.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Bynoe's Gecko

On a camping trip out to the vast Salmon Gum woodlands near Hyden, about 3 hours drive east of Perth, we came across a nice Bynoe's Gecko (Heteronotia binoei). This is a short video of this beautiful little gecko, she's a little sleepy, but still a wonderful reptile to look at. These geckos are very interesting from the fact that they don't need a male to breed, some populations are totally female! They have three set of chromosomes instead of the usual two and basically form clones of each other. Oh no, I'm starting to feel a bit redundant!

The Salmon Gum woodlands are part of the disappearing Great Western Woodlands, a fantastic ecological area in Western Australia and a very sad loss if they were to go. For more infomation about this interesting area, have a look at Great Western Woodlands site and the informative PDF.