During the covid-19 crisis, travel restrictions were in place in Western Australia, as indeed they were in many places across the globe. The state of Western Australia erected a hard border with the Eastern States, but also in addition, the state itself was split into 13 regions. Non-essential travel between these regions was banned.
The regional borders remained in place for 47 days in total and because all my favourite wildlife and camping spots were outside of the Perth region where I live and work, I decided to use this time to search locally for urban wildlife. Despite Perth being a city of 2 million people I was delighted to find some fabulous wildlife on my doorstep, and this blog covers what I found…..
Perth City Skyline at Sunset.
Royal Perth Golf Club – South Perth
The Royal Perth Golf Club is a small 74 acre golf course situated in the suburb of South Perth. It is 3.5kms from the Perth CBD, and only a 10 minute bike ride from my home in the neighbouring suburb of Como. It therefore seemed the obvious place to start my search for the Urban Wildlife of Perth.
Typically of golf courses, the Royal Perth Golf Course consists of tree-lined fairways. Despite the vast amount of grass and relatively small number of trees there are good numbers of Brushtail Possums on this course. Some trees like the peppermints are native, other are introduced species, but this variation must provide good habitat for the large numbers of Possums the area supports.
Brushtail Possums – Royal Perth Golf Club – South Perth.
Another nocturnal inhabitant of the golf course commonly encountered is the Black Rat. This introduced rodent is distinguished from the similar Brown Rat by it’s longer ears and tail length as well as it’s expert climbing habit. All rats seen on the golf course were high up in vegetation, with a hibiscus bush holding the greatest number. The proximity of nearby Perth Zoo, situated next to the golf course, with all the associated animal feed would be a breeding ground for this species.
Where there are rodents there are apt to be predators, but it was still a lovely surprise to find a Boobook Owl perched in a eucalypt on one of my nightly excursions. This is Australia’s smallest and most common owl, found across both rural and urban habitat.
Inglewood Triangle Bush Reserve.
Inglewood Triangle is a small 1.7 hectare patch of natural bushland only 5km from the Perth CBD. In fact it is the closest substantially intact bush remnant to the CBD (with the exception of Perth’s famous King’s Park.) The vegetation type at Inglewood Triangle is a Banksia Woodland Community, and although there are four species of Banksia at Inglewood Triangle the dominant species is the Menzies or Firewood Banksia (Banksia menziesii.)
This 8-15m tree produces extremely attractive flowers in Autumn, which in turn provide nectar for many species of bird. The Western Wattlebird is a species endemic to the South West of Australia and is found in the wetter parts of the South West. Throughout most of their range they can be a hard species to pin down, but at Inglewood Triangle during Autumn they are by far the species in greatest number and their babbling calls fill the air.
Western Wattlebirds at Inglewood Triangle.
The larger Red Wattlebird is the second most common honeyeater at Inglewood Triangle. This dominant, pugnacious species usually drives out smaller honeyeaters such as Western Wattlebirds from flowering areas, but here at Inglewood Triangle the Western Wattlebirds hold their own, probably because of their larger numbers, and running battles between the two species are a common occurence.
Red Wattlebird on a Grasstree Spike.
The Banksia flowers at Inglewood Triangle not only cater for birds. but also provide habitat for small reptiles. Large numbers of insects are attracted to their colourful flowers and these in turn provide food for the reptiles, such as the Fence Skink pictured below.
Fence Skink staking out a Menzies Banksia inflorescence for an easy meal.
I was surprised to find not only small reptiles are resident at Inglewood Triangle, when on a warm day I found the medium sized Bobtail Lizard below sauntering down a path. An astounding 60% of Banksia Woodland has been cleared on the Swan Coastal Plain where the city of Perth is situated and as this is the only place on the planet where Banksia Woodland is the dominant vegetation type, it shows how important small reserves like Inglewood Triangle are in protecting urban wildlife.
Bobtail Lizard still exist at Inglewood Triangle.
Chidlow in the Perth Hills was within the Eastern boundary of the Perth Regional lockdown, which was fortunate because this meant I was able to visit during the first Autumn rains. At this time these warm rains, usually from the NW, bring out the largest member of the Western Australian burrowing frogs of the genus Heleioporus, the Hooting Frog (Heleioporus barycragus.) The latin name barycragus translates as deep voice and the call as you might have guessed sounds like that of an owl!
The best place to look for this species is in dry watercourses where males dig a burrow into the banks and call for females in preparation for rising water levels. They really are quite a large frog with an exqusite yellow patterning on the flanks. The muscular forearms of the individual below gives clues of their digging habit, these coupled with their large eyes almost make them cartoon like in appearance and very endearing!
Hooting Frog – Perth Hills.
Other urban wildlife of the Perth Hills I found during lockdown were the Quenda of Lesmurdie Falls. I picked an overcast day to visit because these marsupials are active during the day in such conditions. Quenda or Bandicoots as they are also known are one of the few terrestrial native animals to do well in urban environments and this can be put down to numbers, stemming from their incredible breeding rate. Bandicoots have the shortest gestatation period of any marsupial at 12 days, meaning they can breed up to four times a year and each litter can consist of five babies.
Herdsman Lake is a large freshwater lake 2.5 kilometres by 2 kilometres situated 6kms NW of the Perth CBD. In the Spring months it is an excellent site to find tiger snakes, but all year round it contains an excellent array of waterbirds. A 7km walking trail circumnavigates the lake which takes around 2 hours to walk, so early on a still Autumn morning I found myself walking this trail where in addition to Australian Shelducks and a White-faced Heron, I encountered a Little Egret hunting for breakfast.
Another patch of Urban Bushland I spent time at was Lightning Swamp in the Perth Suburb of Noranda. This is a much bigger reserve than Inglewood Triangle and at 70 hectares is large enough to contain a remnant population of Western Grey Kangaroos. The reserve contains a mixture of banksia woodland and ephermeral swamps, although these were dry in the month of April when I visited.
The Swamp Banksia (Banksia littoralis) is another banksia species endemic to Southwestern Australia (An impressive 61 of the 79 Australian Banksias are endemic to Southwest WA.) The latin name littoralis means “close to the sea” referring to the trees coastal habitat. It grows in low-lying sandy swamps and depressions such as those found at Lightning Swamp. Swamp Banksia are Autumn flowering banksias and as such were in mass bloom at the time of my visit with impressive spikes upto 20cm long.
Swamp Banksia (Banksia littoralis.)
In common with other banksia species these Swamp Banksias were attracting honeyeaters, with the dominant honeyeater species here was the White-cheeked Honeyeater. These plucky little birds were in huge numbers flitting from flower spike to flower spike and at times their group feeding chatter was deafening.
White-cheeked Honeyeater on Swamp Banksia.
The Alcoa Wetlands in the Southern Perth suburb of Wellard are a series of freshwater lakes created by Alcoa during the extraction of clay to line the residue ponds associated with the Kwinana Aluminium Refinery. The company revegetated the area after they had finished using it resulting in excellent habitat for a variety of waterbirds and frogs.
At the beginning of May the first cold front passed over Perth Metro with it’s associated heavy rain. I decided to use this opportunity to revisit Alcoa Wetlands and see if I could find a few of the resident frog species.
Check out another urban frog of Perth here – The Turtle Frogs of Bold Park
The approach to the Alcoa Wetlands is via Mundijong Rd and then St Albans Rd. Running adjacent to St Albans Road is a waterside ditch, which is dry over Summer before filling for the wetter part of the year. This is perfect habitat for another of Western Australia’s species of Burrowing Frog the Moaning Frog (Heleioporus eyrei.)
Unfortunately St Albans Road is a relatively busy rural road which had resulted in the demise of many Moaning Frogs by vehicle strike, but there were still many more alive sitting on the tarmac. I moved as many as I could into the ditch and away from harms way, all the time enchanted by the synchronised choir of their haunting calls emanating from the ditch.
On arrival at the wetlands I donned my wet weather gear and explored, all the while dodging some quite heavy showers. Motorbike Frogs were the frog most often encountered with four of this species seen. The colours on individual Motorbike Frogs can vary greatly from a dark brown or olive colour to the vivid green seen below in a warmer frog.
Another species of frog that caught my eye was a miniscule Quacking Frog, these tiny frogs have a disproportionately loud call that sounds like a duck quacking! They can be rather tricky to photograph due to their small size, and inability to sit still!
Covid lockdown was a difficult period for all, although the population of Western Australia had it easy in comparison to parts of the world hit harder by the virus, at least being allowed to move freely within our respective regions. Instead of getting frustrated about the places I could no longer visit, I used the time to connect with the Urban Wildlife of Perth, and was pleasantly surprised by the array of wildlife that calls Urban Perth home.