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
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
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
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
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.
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.
Xanthosia rotundifolia (MacKinlayaceae)
Anigozanthos humilis (Haemodoraceae)
Purple Enamel Orchid
Elythranthera brunonis (Orchidaceae)
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
||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
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.