Both Lorenz and I had time off over Christmas, and as nothing was booked we decided to have a staycation in the South West of WA.
I travelled “down South” on the morning of the 22nd December to visit Perup Nature Reserve but the details of this part of the trip will be published in a separate blog post.
Christmas dinner was at the Bertone household in Bunbury and was a hearty and social affair as indeed it is every year at the Italian household!
Boxing day we left Bunbury to travel to Bremer Bay. We travelled via Donnybrook, Boyup Brook, Frankland River, Cranbrook, across the top of the Stirling Range on Salt River Road and finally the Borden – Bremer Bay Rd into Bremer Bay. Big fires to the East of town that had started on Christmas Eve were fortunately by this time under control. The only wildlife of note on the drive was a Southern Heath Monitor crossing the road on the approach to Bremer Bay.
We stayed at Bremer Bay Resort and after an afternoon nap we drove the 37km from town into the excellent Fitzgerald River National Park. We saw plenty of Western Grey Kangaroos as expected on a late afternoon drive, I was about to discount a macropod on Devils Creek Road as just another Kangaroo when something about the posture and the smaller size made me think that this could be something else. Indeed this was case, and the macropod was a Western Brush Wallaby.
The Western Brush Wallaby is a common Wallaby of the South West, also known as the Black-gloved Wallaby. It shelters in areas of thick undergrowth during the day, coming out to browse late afternoon, but because of its nervous disposition it can be extremely hard to photograph, so this was a rare opportunity to get a picture of this species.
Western Brush Wallaby.
We saw a further four Western Brush Wallabies as dusk fell over the park and also, unfortunately, a Fox. The colours of the sky were magnificent after sunset and we had it all to ourselves. The drive back into town was not without incident, we encountered a Rabbit with a death wish, but fortunately timely use of the brakes avoided collision.
Sunset Fitzgerald River National Park.
I was early to rise the following morning and left Lorenz in the land of nod to drive back out to the National Park. I drove to West Mt Barren and encountered another ten Western Brush Wallabies during the return drive. It was a beautiful morning so I made the short 350m ascent (1.7kms,) to the peak.
Looking East from the Summit of Mt Barren West.
Resting on the peak and enjoying the superlative views I had close up views of a Nankeen Kestrel hovering over me. I managed a few photos before being dive bombed a couple of times, so I took my cue and descended to the car.
Nankeen Kestril hovers above the peak of West Mt Barren.
The signature plant of the Fitzgerald National Park is the Lantern Hakea and I stopped to photograph a couple of excellent specimens on the return journey to Bremer Bay.
Lantern (Royal) Hakea – Fitzgerald River NP.
After breakfast we drove out to the National Park and with the day warm (for the South Coast,) we were not surprised to find reptiles out and about. The first reptile we encountered was a Bobtail, followed by a couple of Southern Heath Monitors, a second Bobtail and a final Southern Heath Monitor.
Bobtails and a Southern Heath Monitor – Fitzgerald River NP.
The views are East from Point Anne to Mid and East Mount Barren are spectacular, and the waters of the bay were crystal clear and very inviting so we donned our swimming gear and enjoyed a cool dip in the Southern Ocean although the water temperature was not as cold as expected.
View East from Pt Anne – Fitzgerald River NP.
That evening we once again drove out to the National Park looking for Brush Wallabies. We were successful in finding ten animals during the course of the evening, mostly grazing on vegetation on the side of the road, but a few animals were actually on the road itself. There were also a few Western Grey Kangaroos to be seen but these were mostly adjacent to the farmers fields and not in the National Park itself.
Western Brush Wallaby.
Western Brush Wallaby.
The following day was overcast with light drizzle as we made the drive to Albany but fortunately by the time of our arrival in Albany the sun was breaking through. After checking in to the hotel we did the Middleton Beach Board Walk which winds around the coast from Ellen Cove to Stirling Terrace in the city.
We started from the Ellen Cove side and walked about halfway around returning to Ellen Cove, a distance of around 5km. Reptiles were abundant on the walk now that the sun was breaking through and we saw in excess of ten King’s Skinks, a Bobtail and a Southwestern Cool Skink.
King’s Skink – Albany.
Late afternoon, we drove out to Torndirrup National Park to visit a few of the coastal attractions on this spectacular coastline. Firstly, we visited “The Gap” and the “Natural Bridge,” then in light of the recent cold front that had passed through earlier in the day we decided a visit to “The Blowholes,” would be worthwhile. Indeed it was, with large swells rolling in from the Southern Ocean forcing air up through holes in the rock with noise like that of a passing freight train!
Clockwise from Top Left – The Gap, Natural Bridge, the Blowholes – Torndirrup NP, Albany.
That evening we visited the Field of Light, on the Avenue of Honour at Mt Clarence. A free art exhibition of 16,000 lights that Lorenz was eager to experience.
Afterwards, we drove out to Two Peoples Bay for a spotlight, a mere 40 minutes away from Albany. As we approached the National Park, we disturbed a Boobook Owl from the road into a tree on the verge.
We also passed Western Grey Kangaroos on the drive in and a Motorbike Frog nonchalantly sitting in the middle of the road.
Once we had parked up near the Visitor Centre, I walked to the Picnic Area through the grove of Peppermint Trees checking for Western Ringtail Possums on the way, although I didn’t find any of this species.
I had previously seen a Quokka at the Picnic Area next to the beach on a previous visit to Two Peoples Bay and I hoped to encounter this species again on this visit.
I made sure to remove my shoes to soften my footfall when I set off across the picnic area, and over the course of the evening I saw six Quokkas, although it was difficult to get close enough to photograph them with alarming them. The reason for them being so skittish compared to the Island population at Rottnest is that these animals have had to contend with introduced predators such as the fox and feral cat.
Quokka – Two Peoples Bay.
The last find of the night was a Tawny Frogmouth that flew off from a Peppermint as I returned to the car. Throughout the nights spotlighting there were many Motorbike Frogs making the most on the damp conditions from the light rain earlier in the day.
The following day we did the spectacular Bald Head Walk near Albany, a 12km return hike over Isthmus Hill to Flinders Peninsula and on to Limestone Head and Bald Head. It was definitely a hard walk with lots of ups and down but pretty much all the way the scenery was magnificent. Although the day was only 21C we probably should have carried a little more water than we did!
Bald Head Walk – Torndirrup NP, Albany.
In the evening I returned to Two Peoples Bay for another spotlight, this time I was flying solo as Lorenz elected for a well-earned night in front of the TV.
I couldn’t believe it when I disturbed a Boobook Owl at exactly the same spot on the road as 24 hours prior, I’m assuming it was the same bird. Kangaroos were once again grazing along the roadside verges within the National Park.
I walked to the Picnic Area and there were fewer Quokkas than the night before, so I elected to have another look for Ringtail Possums in the Peppermint Trees around the Visitor Centre. I was much more successful than the previous night with five Possums found in the Trees including a Mother and Juvenile.
Western Ringtail Possum.
A sixth animal was seen on the ground on the tarmac road near the Picnic Area. This is the first time I have ever seen this species on the ground, and at first, I thought I had caught a Bandicoot scarpering down the road in my beam. It was really delightful to see this species confident on the ground and is hopefully a sign that predator control is working well at the Two Peoples Bay.
There were the usual Motorbike Frogs around on the second night but in less numbers than the previous night. The Boobook Owl was unbelievably once again in the same place on the road as I left Two Peoples Bay, it really is fortunate the road is a quiet one!
The following day we drove to Pemberton. Initially the plan was to swim at Greens Pool en-route but the number of people at this popular tourist spot was crazy, so we swam further along the coast at Peaceful Bay instead which although still busy was nothing like the madness at Greens Pool.
The Gloucester Tree at Pemberton is one of my favourite places to hang out. People really interact with each other over the experience of climbing the tree which is magic to encounter in these days of modern technology.
The Gloucester Tree – looking up…..note the metal spikes coming out of the trunk at the bottom of the picture.
The Gloucester Tree looking down…..and this is only from halfway up!
Another reason I love the Gloucester Tree is the amazing birdlife in the Karri Forest. Over the following 24 hours I saw all of the following birds:- Grey-crowned Babblers, Red-winged Fairy Wrens, Ringneck Parrots, Western Rosellas, White-breasted Robin, Silvereyes, Emus, New Holland Honeyeaters and Common Bronzewings.
Clockwise from Top Left:- Western Rosella, White-breasted Robin, Red-winged Fairy Wren.
Clockwise from Top Left:- Grey-crowned Babblers, Ringneck Parrot, Grey Fantail
On the last day of 2018 we drove from Pemberton to Bunbury, where once again we found the incredible hospitality of the Bertone family waiting for us.
That night I made the short 25 minute drive to the Possum Walk in the Tuart Forest. There I encountered the usual inhabitants of the Tuart Forest and saw over the course of the night, around 30 Ringtail Possums, 15 Brushtail Possums, 10 Western Grey Kangaroos, numerous Motorbike and Moaning Frogs and a solitary Tawny Frogmouth.
Clockwise from Top Left :- Brushtail Possum, Moaning Frog, Motorbike Frog, Western Ringtail Possum, Tawny Frogmouth.
It had been an excellent few hours in the forest, although the Brush-tailed Phascogale remained elusive, indeed it had been an excellent staycation in the South West. I knew it was midnight, and therefore 2019, from the sounding of boat horns out in nearby Geographe Bay, and so I made the short return drive to Bunbury, ever grateful to live near such a beautiful region as the South West WA, with its lovely scenery and abundant wildlife. #NatureNeverFailsToImpress!