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, May 3, 2012

Tom Price

Just returned from a long 10 day camping fauna survey near the Pilbara town of Tom Price. The days were in the mild low 30's and the flies and insects weren't too bad, so I can't complain, but it still seems a long time when living in a dusty basic bush camp and not being able to have all the amenities.

Most of the area around Tom Price is rocky and dry, but there are a few gems hidden away along some of the rivers, such as this pool about an hour's drive from the camp.

The camp, a little basic and dusty, especially when a strong wind springs up, but inhabited by a nice fauna team.

My home for the next ten days, a swag to sleep in and my big duffle bag. Sometimes at night you would hear a pack of  Dingoes close by and hoped that one of them had not run off with one of your work boots in the morning!

Many of the river systems in the area are dry and only carry water during heavy rains. My job for the fauna survey was mainly birding and it's wonderful to bird here in the cool mornings with hundreds of Budgerigars and Cockatiel flying overhead. I can walk along these river systems all day!

Sometimes during the river surveys you come across these beautiful big pools, teeming with White-plumed Honeyeaters, Sacred and Red-backed Kingfishers, and Whistling Kites.

Some of the pools are very long and deep, but not the best place to camp, due to the swarms of hungry mosquitoes that come out in the evening.

This is the general habitat around Tom Price, dry stony red clay soils with mulga woodlands and spinifex. Good areas for arid zone birds such as Chestnut-rumped Thornbills, Crested Bellbirds and Spotted Harriers.

One of the local reptile residents of these dry stony woodland areas are the Ring-tailed Dragons (Ctenophorus caudicintus).

Some spinifex sites were fantastic, having not been burnt for a long time, the hummocks were over a metre high and two metres across! Wonderful areas for many reptiles and small mammals, as well as Spinifexbirds and Rufous-crowned Emu-wrens.

The fauna team, enjoying a nice cool refreshing soak and the end of a long hot dusty day of fauna surveys.

This remote well with a good water supply, was a great magnet for local fauna, such as Bourke's Parrots and the elusive Grey Falcons.

A new bird for me and one I almost missed out on, the Grey Falcon, with the rest of the fauna team seeing it during the survey at various times, but me always being at the wrong place at the wrong time! Finally on the last day, only half an hour before packing up and leaving this survey area, I got him!

So ended a tough, but enjoyable bird and fauna survey. The area around Tom Price is harsh, but also a very beautiful and magical place.