Australia Travel Diary - p 2 of 2

15 Sept 2013

We're now south of Perth at Dryandra State Forest, both of us now suffering from a bad cold Charlotte picked up from a crew member while diving.   Thank you, Mike Ball Dive Expeditions. 
   But we press on, finding a big noisy flock of Carnaby's Black-Cockatoo.   It's one of two species of Black-Cockatoos endemic to this region of Western Australia. 




Carnaby's Black-cockatoo


Rufous-Hare-Wallaby.jpg (522408 bytes)  

Many nocturnal marsupials that you've never heard of were once common here.  Now they're mostly gone, due to land-clearing but especially predation by introduced foxes and feral cats.
   They cling to existence at Barna Mia Animal Sanctuary, 4 hectares of forest surrouned by a 4-meter electrified fence to keep out the above-mentioned predators.   We drive through darkness and drizzling rain to join one of Barna Mia's night tours. 
    Our cheerful guide leads us along a trail where she puts out rabbit food and vegetables.  Soon hop into view rabbit-sized bilbies, quendas, boodies, woylies, and Rufous Hare-Wallabies.  We view them with a red spotlight held by the guide.
   The most tame is the Hare-wallaby, who hops back to headquarters with us.  Driven to extinction on the mainland, these were introduced into Barna Mia from predator-free islands off the coast of Western Australia.  Good luck, little guy.  You're going to need it.

Nocturnal marsupials were decimated by the onslaught of humans.  But many birds probably benefited, such as the common Australian Ringneck, an open-country parrot that feeds on the ground.  It's known as the "28" because you always see them in flocks of exactly 28 birds, never more or less.  

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Splendid-Fairy-wren.jpg (494713 bytes)  

17 Sept 2013

We have bluebirds in North America.  But at Stirling Range Retreat, 250 km south of Perth, comes a bird that takes the concept of blue to a whole 'nother level.  The well-named Splendid Fairywren male looks as if he's been dipped in acrylic paint, especially when the sun hits him.
    A member of the Maluridae family, fairywrens are completely unrelated to our northern hemisphere wrens - convergent evolution appears to be at work here.
    The male & drab female are monogomous but neither is faithful.   As many as 1/3 of all chicks are the result of extramarital affairs.






18 Sept 2013

Our colds & fever are now worse from sleeping in the chilly campervan.  We gave up and have taken shelter in a chalet with heat and real beds.
   Another spring day in the Stirling Range - overcast, cool and windy.   But the resort area has been kept natural and is quite birdy.  Most conspicuous are the Black-Cockatoos, Regent Parrots, and Ringnecks.  Joining them are Australian Magpies, White-winged Triller, Western Yellow Robin, Spotted Pardalote, hordes of honeyeaters, and the ubiquitous Willy Wagtail, a flycatcher that is always the first bird you see when you step out the door.
   A pond near our chalet had this female Sacred Kingfisher.  

Sacred-Kingfisher.jpg (423190 bytes)

19 Sept 2013

Today the sun made an occasional effort to shine; the winds were a mere 25 mph.  So we drove down Stirling Range Drive.  This wide dirt track is a paradise for the botany-lover, passing through miles of flowering shrubs and forbs, the likes of which you'll never see outside this corner of the world.
   The trip was marred only by the fact that Charlotte forgot to bring our potato chips for lunch.  But with both of us weak and running a fever, we had little appetite anyway.  Below is a sampling of the Stirling Range flora.   

Southern-Cross.jpg (212712 bytes)
Southern Cross
Xanthosia rotundifolia (MacKinlayaceae)

Common Catspaw
Anigozanthos humilis (Haemodoraceae)

Purple Enamel Orchid
Purple Enamel Orchid
Elythranthera brunonis (Orchidaceae)

Albany Daisy
Albany Daisy
Actinodium calocephalum (Myrtaceae)

19 Sept 2013

Meanwhile, it's another dark, gloomy morning in the Stirling Range.  Does the sun ever really shine here?  The birds seem undeterred.   Many, like the Yellow-plumed Honeyeaters, are busy chasing each other as part of spring mating.

Yellow-plumed Honeyeater
New Holland Honeyeater This juvenile New Holland Honeyeater, who lacks the striking white iris of the adult, was all over a Matchstick Banksia (Banksia cuneata) shrub.  The feathers around its beak are covered in pale yellow pollen.
    Tony & Ayleen Sands, who run Stirling Range Retreat, must have planted this Banksia.  It is not native to the Stirling Range, and is in fact one of the rarest of the Western Australia endemics.  Fewer than 1000 plants are known from the wild.

20 Sept 2013

Our health worsening, we give up and beat it back to Perth, stopping to spend a miserable night at Kojonup.  Our last wildflower jaunt is at the Myrtle Benn Flora and Fauna Sanctuary.  The stars here are orchids, especially spider orchids, of which there are 120 species in Western Australia.  The strangest is Caladenia tentaculata.
   A plant with a flower this odd must be up to something.  Its shape, combined with the production of volatiles that mimic wasp sex pheremones, attracts gullible male wasps that attempt to mate with the flower.  Hence resulting in pollination for the flower and, one supposes, frustration for the male wasp.  This so-called sexual deception is not unusual among orchids.