Southwest Australia birding trip report 8-30 September 2010
John van der Woude   -
Photos of birding sites
See also: introduction & maps, some photos of birds & flowers, and the species list.

Herdsman lake in Perth. The marshy central part is just visible in the background. Many lifer water birds for us here. Best birds: Swamp Harrier, Australian Hobby, Nankeen Night-Heron, Chestnut Teal.

Lake Monger, a little East of Herdsman lake. Lifers were Musk Duck and Pink-eared Duck.

Botanical garden of Perth, part of Kings Park. Late afternoon did not produce many birds, and no lifers of note.

Wungong gorge area, in extreme Southeast Perth, near the end of Admiral road (park in the car park a little before the dam and bird on the other side of the road; follow a track along the North side of a small valley). A very diverse half-wooded site, good for many lifers, like Splendid Fairy-Wren, Yellow-rumped Thornbill, Square-tailed Kite, White-breasted and Scarlet Robin, Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo. A pair of Red-winged Fairy-wren, a very range-restricted regional endemic, was at the creek at the rim of the pasture (old citrus grove) on the foreground.

Bungendore park is a little before Wungong gorge, and well-signposted. Our first Western Spinebill here, and a pair of Baudin's/Long-billed Black-Cockatoo displaying near a nest box above our heads.

The ship of our pelagic day trip out of Hillary's Harbour in the northern suburbs of Perth. This pelagic is done only twice a year (August and September), and we had booked it from home. It produced seven lifers for us, but the sea was actually too rough for a fine pelagic, and the organizers said afterwards that the skipper would probably have cancelled the trip if he had known how rough the sea was. Anyway, it was the roughest ever pelagic of Perth, and half of the participants got seasick, despite the pills and other precautions. We had a few bad hours too, but recovered just in time to enjoy most of the birds.

Salvin's Albatross (at the surface) was one of the highlights of the pelagic. The land at the background is Rottnest island. We stayed some time at this spot as the sea was less rough than further out, where we had not even been able to use the scum due to the high waves and the rocking ship. The albatross in the air is Indian Yellow-nosed.

Dryandra woodlands is a must-visit birding site in SW Australia. It's a two-hour drive from Perth and it can be done from Perth but it's much better to stay in the cottages or nearby in a small town. Rufous Treecreeper is probably the most important bird here, and we had plenty of them. Some of the other goodies were Red-capped Parrot, Bush Stone-curlew and Blue-breasted Fairy-wren.

Our cottage in Dryandra woodlands village ( And our very comfortable rental car, a free upgrade, with an enormous boot space.

Check the low bushes in Dryandra woodland for the specialty Blue-breasted Fairy-wren.

View of Stirling Range NP when coming from the North. Stirling Range Retreat is the best place to stay here (and a birdy spot too), it is located a little further on along this road.

Rich vegetation along the North rim of Stirling Range NP, near Salt River road. Here we had Western (Rufous) Fieldwren, and Emu.

Many of the unsealed roads we had were like this: very well maintained, very broad, and very quiet. Salt River road, at the salt lake (right) where we had Hooded Plover.

Mount Trio is the most accessible part of Stirling Range NP. A beautiful place but we saw no species that we did not see earlier or further on the trip. Close views of Square-tailed Kite though.

Porongorup NP was the only place on our itinerary with tall karri forest. In the undergrowth we had our only White-naped Honeyeater, very close views (race whitlocki). This is along the short (600 m) trail starting at the car park for the 'Tree-in-the-Rock'.

The Albany area is very diverse. This is at the lower Kalgan river bridge. Australian Pelican, several terns, and both Australian White Ibis and (flying past) Straw-necked Ibis.

At the lower King river bridge, a promising site for waders but we were just too early in the season for that (17 September).

East of Albany, Cheynes Beach is the best place to find the three endemic skulkers: Noisy Scrubbird, Western Bristlebird and Western Whipbird. The staff of the lovely caravanpark has a log with maps where birders indicate where exacrly they saw them. Noisy Scrubbird, the most sought after of all three, can be found near the beach by quietly waiting along the asphalt road near the caravan park until the bird runs from one side to the other. Its territory was apparently bisected by the main road. You will hear it before you see it. Listen here to a short recording of its song.

Waychinicup NP is the park which forms the background of Cheynes Beach. Some trails run into the park from Cheynes Beach, and at this spot we saw Western Bristlebird.

Where the above trail bends back along the coast, we had Western Whipbird. Here we also had Southern Emuwren and Spotted Harrier.

At the Gairdner bridge just East of Jerramungup, where we stayed in the caravan park. A pair of Black-fronted Dotterel at the back.

Fitzgerald River NP is good for flowering plants. You will not see carpets of flowers but loads of specials between the bushes. The big yellow flowers are hakeas.

Lake Monjungup reserve is a well-signposted site c. 10 km West of Esperance, and it was our last chance of seeing Red-eared Firetail (one of the regional endemics of SW Australia). We got it.

Pink Lake at Esperance, seen from the North. Dozens of Red-capped Plover in the foreground and c. 4000 Banded Stilts further on in the lake itself.

Sea shore near Esperance (the next coast is Antarctica!). A few Rock Parrots were in the coastal scrub. Four cormorants on a rocky island closeby may have been Black-faced.

View from the beautiful nature trail at the Beacon Hill 1 km East of Norseman. Lifers here were Redthroat and White-eared Honeyeater.

From the Birds Australia leaflet about Norseman we had learnt about the Buldania Rocks, c. 30 km Est of Norseman (see map section). After a longer dry period the little ponds may attract many birds I think. For us the open forest behind it was more interesting, see below.

Open forest 200 m East of the Buldania Rocks near Norseman. This was the only place on the trip where we saw Gilbert's Whistler. Listen here to a stereo recording of its song (wav, 12 MB).

Going further North into the outback, we regularly saw salt pans like this along the road, including fata morganas as shown here. These pans seem birdless.

The long road North out of Kalgoorlie is very quiet and has ample place to stop, but on the other hand we had to make kilometers as well. The most frequently seen traffic were these road trains (max. 53,5 m length). Best to stop on the shoulder of the road and let them pass.

The Pianto road was another gem about which we learned from a Birds Australia flyer (the one for Kalgoorlie; see also the map section). For us, this was one of the best birding sites in the whole outback, with species like Pied Honeyeater, Redthroat, Varied Sittella, Chestnut-rumped Thornbill, White-browed Babbler, Rufous Whistler, Splendid Fairywren, White-browed Treecreeper and Crested Bellbird. The Pianto road starts at 2952'45" S  1216'43" E along the main road from Kalgoorlie to Menzies, at c. 20 km South of Menzies.

We birded around this side track of the Pianto road, as well as 1 to 2 km further on along the Pianto road. This is at 2952'51" S 12110'23" E, which is 5,93 km from the start of the Pianto road at the main road. As there was no traffic at all along the Pianto road, we did not go further than what we could have walked back to the main road in case of a car breakdown.

North of Leinster (see map) the vegetation becomes more and more sparse. This is along a creek about 80 km N of Leinster. It was the only site where we got Grey-crowned Babbler, which is at its southern limit here. Zebra Finch was another lifer for us here, and as I had this cute birds in an aviary when I was about 12 years old, the 'birding circle' was completed! Listen here to a recording of the calls of Grey-crowned Babbler, and this is the display sound of Zebra Finch at this location.

Nallan station is a famous birding site North of Mount Magnet. We spoke to the owner and he told us which wells were in use now. This is the Jackson well (see map), and it produced Mulga Parrot, Hooded Robin and more Zebra Finches. Near the station (farm plus caravan site) we also had Southern Whiteface, Western Bowerbird (with bower!) and Diamond Dove. At a similar well on the other side of the main road (Milly well, see map), we had close views of our only White-plumed Honeyeaters.

Austin lake N of Mt. Magnet. No chats found at this late hour, but the promised Little Woodswallows were near the hill South of the lakes indeed. They flew across the main road.

The Granites is a quiet recreation site just North of Mt. Magnet. This is at the SE corner of the site, and here we had most of the birds, like close views of Mulga Parrot, Crimson Chat and even Western Bowerbird.
Crested Bellbird was singing at The Granites too, listen to this recording.

The Mullewa region (East of Geraldton) is famous for its flower carpets.

Indarra Springs nature reserve was a last minute tip via sms from Marieke/Maree
in Perth. This is in the Mullewa region (see map), and we saw many Variegated Fairy-wrens, seven pairs in total. Also Western (Rufous) Fieldwren and Southern Scrub-Robin.

Kalbarri national park is a vast area of shrubs and small trees. This photo is taken at the Murchison river viewpoint which can be reached by an asphalted road (Hawkes Head/Ross Graham Lookout). The more famous other lookout (The Loop/Z-Bend) is an unpleasant drive via a long road of soft sand where you can hardly stop. The park is beautiful, but the only two lifers we got here (Fairy Martin and White-backed Swallow) may not be very typical for this habitat.

View from the old Murchison river bridge outside Kalbarri NP (see map). Apart from some waterfowl, we had the cute Mistletoebird again.

On our drive from Geraldton to the South we passed a few salt lakes which look interesting but had no birds. but not far from here we did see a beautiful pale morph Little Eagle.

Halfway between Geraldton and Lancelin we passed Lake Indoon which had Banded Stilt and some waterfowl.

Beach of Lancelin, with Red-necked Stint, a lifer for us. This beach was just a minute walk from our cabin at the caravan park (see map; this is the southern of the two caravan parks). In late afternoon, we saw hundreds of Brown (Common) Noddies flying in from the South towards the breeding island of the photo below.

View on Lancelin Island from the platform in the northern part of Lancelin town (see map). This gave us the best views of the many Brown (Common) Noddies hanging around the breeding island. But also, to our surprise, a group of about seven Sooty Terns. This species seems to be gradually expanding its breeding range southward from the Abrolhos islands.

Back in Perth, we followed Frank's email advice for a breeding site of Banded Lapwing, a species we had missed so far. The site is just a sort of forgotten corner of a shopping mall so we could hardly believe we would see the birds when we entered the mall area, but there it was indeed, with a young. At just a few hours before we left the country, this was our last lifer of the trip, number 160.

See also: introduction & maps, some photos of birds & flowers, and the species list.