Lake Claremont

 

Originally what is now Lake Claremont was a swamp with a series of small pools edged with reeds and then surrounded by paperbark trees. There was abundant plant an animal life and it was an important hunting and gathering place for the Mooro clan of the Nyoongar in the warmer months of the year.

 

Lake Claremont by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
The bird observation platform allows visitors to watch the birds in the grasses and reeds at Lake Claremont.

 

In 1831 European settlers began to clear the land for farming and by the 1890’s there were market gardens and a then state of the art dairy farm. Things looked good and the area prospered. However, this state of affairs was short lived as by the turn of the Twentieth Century the water level rose and the farms were flooded and a permanent lake which rises and falls with the seasons was formed. In the 1950’s Claremont Town Council reclaimed large areas for a rubbish tip and renamed it Lake Claremont in the process. In the 1960’s it was decided to beautify the lake and its surrounds. Sections were infilled to create a golf course and the school playing fields. In time two small bird sanctuary islands were created and there has been a move to manage the the lake in a more ecological manner. The Friends of Lake Claremont are an enthusiastic and very active bunch of local residents and volunteers who have undertaken to assist in the conservation and enhancement of Lake Claremont. There activities have been crucial in weed eradication programs and revegetation projects working in tandem with pupils from  Scotch College and Graylands Primary School. They also have annual public events including Clean Up Australia Day, National Tree Day and Celebrate Lake Claremont Day (community fair). More details can be found on their website.

 

Lake Claremont by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
The infamous Lake Claremont crocodile. Lake Claremont, Western Australia.

So that was then and this is now. What does the lake offer today? Well the wetlands of the Swan Coastal Plain are internationally acknowledged as a bio-diversity hotspot having a greater number of endemic species than most other regions in Australia. Since colonisation three quarters of the wetlands have been drained for urban development. Those that remain are adversely effected by the introduction of feral animals and plants. In this context Lake Claremont is like a biosphere. In the past ten years or so eBird Australia has listed 116 species of bird that can be found on or around the lake which makes it somewhat of a birders paradise. The path around the lake and the bird observation platform make it easy to spot birds all year round. To make it so that you know what you are looking for you can down load an illustrated brochure listing the birds from the Town of Claremont website.

 

Lake Claremont by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Lake Claremont has a dual use path around its edge which is popular with runners and cyclists.

In addition to the nature based activities there is a 3 Km dual use path that circumnavigates the lake which is very popular with walkers, runners and cyclists. Dogs are welcome on a lead. The walk is enjoyable all year round and if you start the car park and head off in a clockwise direction then you can stop at the TeeBox Cafe shortly before returning to the car park. For the youngsters who need to burn off some energy before looking at the ducks there are two playgrounds. If dad doesn’t care for looking at the ducks then he has the option of playing a quick nine holes of golf.

 

Dit by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
A juvenile pied stilt (Himantopus himantopus) at Lake Claremont, Western Australia.

 

Marli by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
A black swan (black ) gathering nesting material at Lake Claremont, Western Australia.

 

Bardoongooba by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
A pair of Australian Shovelers (Australian) at Lake Claremont, Western Australia.

 

Kalyong by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
A pair of grey teals (Anas gracilis) at Lake Claremont in Western Australia.

 

Kwilom by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
A purple swamp hen (Purple), Lake Claremont, Western Australia.

 

Rainbow Lorikeet by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Rainbow lorikeets (Rain) were introduced to Western Australiafrom the eastern states of Australia. Lake Claremont, Western Australia.

 

Wimbin by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Pink-eared ducks (Malacorhynchus membranaceus) at Lake Claremont in Western Australia.

 

Dit by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Called Dit by the Nyoongar this juvenile pied stilt (Himantopus himantopus) feeds at Lake Claremont, Western Australia.

 

Bardoongooba by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Bardoongooba called Australian Shovelers (Anas rhynchotis) by European settlers can be readily seen on Lake Claremont.

 

To Boldly Go …


Zamia Trail by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Bold park and its assorted trails are a very popular weekend destination for people living in Perth. The Zamia Trail is a 5.1Km trail that allows walkers to explore the Banksia and tuart woodland of Perth.

 

…where lots of people have gone boldly before.

 

 

That destination is Bold Park which is quite a unique place in the Perth Metropolitan Area. The park was established in 1936 and named after some bloke who had put in lots of time in the City of Perth local government – which is all a bit  boring. Much more interesting is that it is 437 hectares of remnant bushland on the Swan Coastal Plain comprised of banksia and tuart woodland. Tuart forest (Eucalyptus gomphocephala) was once a major feature of the Swan Coastal Plain with trees of up to 40m in height and providing a unique ecosystem. On colonisation most of the tuart trees were cleared for farming and for it valuable timber which is dense, hard, water resistant and resists splintering. The last remaining tall tuarts are found in the Tuart Forest National Park. There a couple of remnants of smaller trees around the Perth Metro Area such as those found at Mindarie Dunes and Bold Park. The park is situated in City Beach just off Oceanic Drive and can be reached by public transport.To say that the park is popular is an understatement, I went on a Saturday morning and it was absolutely heaving – so this is not a wilderness experience, but an urban walk on the wild side. 

 


Zamia Trail by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
The start of the Zamia Trail on Reabold Hill in Bold Park.

 


Reabold Hill by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Reabold Hill is the highest natural point on the Swan Coastal Plain in the metropolitan area at 85 metres. There is a boardwalk to the summit to allow for disabled access and a sheltered viewing platform at the top. On a clear day you can see the Indian Ocean, Perth city, Rottnest Island, Kings Park and Botanic Garden, and even glimpses of the Swan River.

 


Reabold Hill by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
The shelter on the viewing platform at the top of Reabold Hill.

 


Reabold Hill by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
A fairy house on the path to the summit of Rebold Hill in Bold Park.

 

Speaking of walking there are over 15Km of walking trails of varying distances – the longest one, which I just did, is the Zamia Trail which is 5.1Km long over rolling terrain on a crushed limestone base which means you can comfortably push a stroller or pusher. If you are going to do the walk I suggest parking at Reabold Hill car park. This is a good place to commence the trail, but also it enables you to make a side trip unto the summit of the hill where there is a viewing platform. This is the highest natural point on the Swan Coastal Plain at 85 metres above sea level. This means on a nice clear day you can see the Indian Ocean, Perth CBD, Rottnest Island, Kings Park, and the Swan River. While pedestrians and cyclists can access the park at all times vehicular access is limited as follows:

  • 1 April to 31 October – 5.30 am to 7.00 pm
  • 1 November to 31 March – 5.30 am to 8.00 pm.

The trail is well sign posted so there is no need of a mud-map which means you can just get out and enjoy it. I walked this in winter so there weren’t many flowers out – a few banksias, grevilleas and cockies tongue. I was more interested in the bird life and the Botanic Gardens and Park Authority put out an excellent brochure you can download detailing all 91 species that can be found. There are numerous other animals such as brush-tail possums, bats, loads of reptiles including snakes of varying descriptions. Considering how many people were about I was surprised at how many different species of birds I saw. I even literally stumbled over a very sleepy and grumpy bob tailed lizard (Tiliqua rugosa), trying to warm up on the path in the sun having woken up from brumation.

 

Djindjoko by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Djindjoko called the Brown Honeyeater (Lichmera indistincta) by European settlers. Bold Park, Western Australia.

 

Dooromdorom by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Dooromdorom or Singing Honeyeater (Lichenostomus virescens virescens) feeding on Yackal Djarr or Cockies Tongues (Templetonia retusa). Bold Park, Western Australia.

 

Bandin by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Bandin also called the White-cheeked honeyeater (Phylidonyris nigra) feeding on Menzies Banksia (Banksia menziesii) in Bold Park, Western Australia.

 

Doongorok by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Doongorok also called the red wattlebird (Anthochaera carunculata subsp. woodwardi) feeding on Menzies Banksia (Banksia menziesii). Bold Park, Western Australia

Mandurah Madness

The recent lock downs for the COVID 19 outbreak had a very strange effect. Living in York we don’t visit the coast very often, but as soon as the Western Australian government said we could leave our region all I wanted to do was go to the coast. I suppose it’s a bit like being on a diet and then spending all day obsessing over food. Well with the lockdown over we put the dog in kennels and headed down to Mandurah for a couple of days to get an oceanic fix.

 

 

Now the plan was to spend three days visiting some reserves around, but as Robert Burns once said “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men / Gang aft a-gley.”. The first spot we went out to was Lake McLarty, but there was no water in the lake and no birds to be seen. To cap it all the weather was grim – a storm front was closing in. So we decided to cut our losses and head in land to Pinjarra and walk along the Murray River and visit the Edenvale Heritage Tearoom. Well the tearooms were still shut because of COVID so we settled for a walk along the the river.

 

Eastern Osprey by Paul Amyes on 500px.com

Eastern osprey (Pandion cristatus subs leucocephalus) at Lake McLarty Nature Reserve near Mandurah in Western Australia. Olympus OMD EM1 mk ii with Panasonic Leica 100-400mm lens. Exposure: 1/500, f7.1 ISO 320.

 

Nankeen Night Heron by Paul Amyes on 500px.com

Nankeen Night Heron, Nycticorax caledonicus subsp mannillenis. Pinjara, Western Australia. Olympus OMD EM 1 mk ii with Panasonic Leica 100-400mm lens. Exposure: 1/500, f6.3, ISO 1600.

 

Australian Darter by Paul Amyes on 500px.com

A male Australian darter (Anhinga melanogaster subspecies novaehollandiae) aka as the snake bird. Pinjarra, Western Australia. Olympus OMD EM 1 mk ii with Panasonic Leica 100-400mm lens. Exposure: 1/500 sec, f6.3 at ISO 3200.

 

Paul Amyes taking it easy from the rigours of bird watching on a concrete sofa on the banks of the Murray River in Pinjarra, Western Australia. The sofa is part of the “Take Your Seat Art Project by Fremantle Arts Centre and Alcoa.

 

The next day the weather was grimmer than the previous day’s. We were wearing enough clothes to make Captain Scott of the Antarctic fame look severely underdressed. The morning’s activities were to be based at the Creery Wetlands Reserve which was only a short way from where we were staying. Although wet and bitterly cold we had more success than the previous day. It is amazing how much wildlife can be packed into a small area just minutes from a city centre. If you are in the area it is well worth visiting, don’t let the fact that the entrance makes it look like an off-shore detention camp put you off. As you cross the bridge you get the feeling a couple of Border Force goons could jump out of the bushes and indefinitely detain you. Once in side you can commune with nature to your hearts content.

 

Creery Wetlands Nature Reserve by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
The entrance to Creery Wetlands Nature Reserve in Western Australia.

 

Creery Wetlands Nature Reserve by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
One of the two bird hides at Creery Wetlands Nature Reserve in Western Australia.

 

Helen bird watching at the Creery Wetlands Nature Reserve, Mandurah, Western Australia.

 

Pacific Black Duck by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Pacific black duck, Anas superciliosa. Creery Wetlands Nature Reserve, Western Australia.

 

Western Gerygone by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Western Gerygone, Gerygone fusca. Creery Wetland Reserve, Western Australia.

 

Great Egret In Flight by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
A great egret (Ardea alba modesta) flying over the Creery Wetlands Nature Reserve in Western Australia.

 

Inland Thornbill by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Inland Thornbill, Acanthiza apicalis. Creery Wetlands Nature Reserve, Western Australia.

 

Black Swans by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Black swans (Cygnus atratus) feeding. Creery Wetlands Reserve, Western Australia.

 

1080 Poison Risk by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
An eastern osprey, Pandion cristatus subs leucocephalus, perched on a sign warning about 1080 baiting. Creery Wetalnds Nature Reserve, Mandurah, Western Australia.

 

Western Grey Kangaroo by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Western Grey Kangaroo, Macropus fuliginosus. Creery Wetlands Nature Reserve, Western Australia.

Wandering in Wongermine Reserve

 

OK that maybe a little bit melodramatic, but there was no doubt that getting out and about after a few weeks of lockdown was a bit of a rush! So where did I go? What did I do with this new found liberty? Well I went to Wongamine Reserve near Toodyay to look for two types of orchid and do the walk trail. Pretty sad eh?

 

The main entrance to Wongamine Nature Reserve, Toodyay, Western Australia.

 

 

 

The reserve isn’t really visited any more the gates are locked and many of the signs broken or over grown. In fact speaking of overgrown the walk trail is so overgrown in places that I  suggest that if you do want to visit and walk there that you take a GPS and download the walk track from Trails WA and follow that.

The reserve was closed a while ago and many of the trails and signs have fallen into a state of disrepair. Wongamine Nature Reserve, Toodyay, Western Australia.

 

Some of the vehicle tracks have not been used for a long time allowing termites to build mounds on them. Wongamine Nature Reserve, Toodyay, Western Australia.

 

This was one of only two trail markesr on the walk trail. Wongamine Nature Reserve, Toodyay, Western Australia.

 

Was there anything positive about the visit? Well yes there was actually. The woodland is home to quite a variety of bird life – I didn’t photograph any as I was not carrying a suitable lens as I had gone to photograph orchids. I would expect from walking through the bush that would be quite a display of wildflowers in spring which would make the journey well worth while. There were quite a few species of dragonflies as well which at the time surprised me for some reason.

 

Wongamine Nature Reserve by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Australian Emperor Dragonfly (Anax papuensis) Wongamine Nature Reserve, Toodyay, Western Australia.

 

Did I find the orchids? Well the Winter Spider Orchid is only 6cm tall with a 2cm flower and the Crinkle-leafed Bunny Orchid is 10cm tall with a 9mm flower  and considering that the reserve is 330 ha of bushland I think I did well to find anything at all. I didn’t find any Winter Spider Orchids, I have photographed them before at Babakin, but I found lots of the Bunny Orchids. In fact I never seen so many Crinkle-leafed Bunny Orchids before. So all in all it was a great day out.

 

Wongamine Nature Reserve by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Crinkle-leafed Bunny Orchid, Eriochilus dilatatus subsp undulatus. Wongamine Nature Reserve, Toodyay, Western Australia.

 

Magical Magic Lake

This could have been titled Hyden – the return. Hyden is a small town in the middle of the Wheatbelt in Western Australia some 292Km east of Perth. Regular readers will remember that we’ve been before and maybe somewhat perplexed as to why we’d bother to visit again. Well Hyden’s claim to fame is Wave Rock which is a large granite rock face that has been eroded in the shape of a perfect breaking wave. More than 100,000 tourists make their way there very year. Most just stay about an hour before zooming off to another destination to get the perfect instagram shot without taking any time to see what else is there. A great shame really as there is so much more to offer. When I wrote about our previous visit I concentrated more on other sites and the Aboriginal heritage of the area. This time I’ll look at what Hyden has to offer in terms of the natural world.

We decided to make a three day trip and on our way we’d stop off in Corrigin whose main claim to fame is the being the holder of the world record for the number of dogs in a ute and being the home to a dog cemetery. You’d be forgiven for thinking that Corrigin is a bit obsessed with dogs.  Anyway it was a nice spot to break the journey, stretch the legs, make the bladder gladder etc. Corrigin does have a pretty impressive wildflower drive which begins just opposite the dog cemetery just on the outskirts of town. Most people just pull up in their car, jump out and walk a couple of metres. They then declare that there’s nothing to see and rush off in a cloud of red dust. Just take your time and have a poke about and you’d be amazed at what you can find. Here are a few examples.

 

Sugar Candy Orchid by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Sugar Candy Orchid, Caladenia hirta subsp. hirta. Wildflower Drive, Corrigin, Western Australia. Panasonic Lumix G85 with Olympus mZuiko 60mm f2.8 macro lens and Metz 15MS-1 flash. Exposure: AE priority 1/200 sec, f4 at ISO 400 with -1 stop exposure compensation.

 

Chameleon Spider Orchid by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Chameleon Spider Orchid, Caladenia dimidia. Wildflower Drive, Corrigin, Western Australia. Panasonic Lumix G85 with Olympus mZuiko 60mm f2.8 macro lens and Metz 15MS-1 flash. Exposure: AE priority 1/100 sec, f4 at ISO 400 with -1 stop exposure compensation.

 

 

Pink Candy Orchid by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Pink Candy Orchid, Caladenia hirta subsp. rosea. Wildflower Drive, Corrigin, Western Australia.

 

Blood Spider Orchid by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Blood Spider Orchid, Caladenia filifera. Wildflower Drive, Corrigin, Western Australia.

 

Slender Spider Orchid by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Slender Spider Orchid, Caladenia pulchra. Wildflower Drive, Corrigin, Western Australia.

 

Sugar Orchid by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Sugar Orchid, Ericksonella saccharata. Wildflower Drive, Corrigin, Western Australia.

When we got to Hyden we drove out to the Wave Rock Resort on the shore of Magic Lake which is where we were staying. The lake is quite startling. It’s not very big but is comprised of crystal clear salt water with a gypsum base. That pale coloured lake bed combined with the water makes a giant reflector that takes on the colours of the sky so as the day progresses the lake changes colour. To add to it’s other worldly qualities is that it lies in the middle of a salt plain which is fairly uniform in colour and is covered in mainly scrubby bush and a smattering of trees. It all made me want to get the tripod and graduated neutral density filters out.

 

Magical Magic Lake by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Magical Magic Lake. A canoe on Magic Lake beach at sunset. Western Australia. Panasonic G85 with Panasonic Leica 8-18mm f2.8-4 lens and +3 stop graduated neutral density filter. Exposure: AE priority 1/8 sec, f11 at ISO 200 with +1 stop exposure compensation.

 

Magical Sunset by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Magical Sunset. Magic Lake at sunset. Hyden Western Australia.

 

The next day we decided to combine the Wave Rock Walk Circuit with the Hippo’s Yawn Loop and the Breakers Trail to create a loop that would take us from the resort up to the Hippo’s Yawn then along the bottom of the rock out to the Breakers picnic area and then back to our accommodation at the resort. The best part of it was that we could take the dog as it is all very pet friendly. Along the way we hoped to see more orchids and birds as we passed through the salt plain and into the bush at the base of the rock.

 

Fence Line by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Old fence posts march across the salt flats at Magic Lake near Hyden in Western Australia. Panasonic Lumix G85 with Panasonic Leica 100-400mm f4-6.3 lens. Exposure: 1/250 sec, f8 at ISO 200.

 

Crested Pigeon by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Crested pigeon, Ocyphaps lophotes, Magic Lake, Hyden, Western Australia. Panasonic G85 with LEICA DG 100-400/F4.0-6.3 lens. Exposure: Shutter priority 1/500 sec, f6.3 at ISO 200 with -1/3 stop exposure compensation.

 

Kayibort by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Known to the Nyoongar as Kayibort the Black-faced woodswallow, Artamus cinerus, can be seen on the shores of Magic Lake, Hyden, Western Australia. Panasonic G85 with LEICA DG 100-400/F4.0-6.3 lens. Exposure: shutter priority 1/500 sec f6.3 at ISO 200.

 

Lets Dance by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Salt Lake Spider Orchid, Caladenia exilis subsp. exilis. Magic Lake, Hyden, Western Australia. Panasonic g85 with OLYMPUS M.60mm F2.8 Macro lens. Exposure: aperture priority 1/640 sec, f4 at ISO 200 with +2/3 stop exposure compensation.

 

Yellow Spider Orchid by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Yellow Spider Orchid, Caladenia denticulata subsp. denticulata. Magic Lake, Hyden, Western Australia. Panasonic G85 with OLYMPUS M.60mm F2.8 Macro lens. Exposure: aperture priority 1/125 sec, f8 at ISO 1000 with -1/3 stop exposure compensation.

 

When we got to the base of the rock the vegetation changed from the scrub of the salt plain to thick bush fed by the water run off from the rock. We both enjoyed pocking around in the undergrowth looking for flowers, taking photos of each other and trying to dissuade Frida, our dog, from trying to climb up the rock face in search of interesting holes. It was amazing to see so many orchids – the blue beards were like a carpet in places. It was absolutely wonderful to see.

 

Helen and Frida at Hippo’s Yawn near Hyden in Western Australia.

 

 

Recurved Shell Orchid by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Jug orchid, or recurved shell orchid (Pterostylis recurva). Wave Rock, Western Australia.

 

 

Blue Beard by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Blue beard or blue fairy orchid (Pheladenia deformis),. Wave Rock, Western Australia.

 

All in all we had a great time. There is so much to see and do that we’re already talking about going again. If you are planning a trip to Wave Rock there is a whole lot more to it than posing for a selfie for Facebook on the rock.

 

Emu Fence by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
The Emu Fence at Wave Rock Resort. Hyden, Western Australia. iPhone SE in panorama mode. Exposure: 1/1400 sec, f2.2 at ISO 25.

 

Bibra Lake Bird Walk

 

South of the Swan River is a string of lakes known as the Beeliar Wetlands which are a chain of twenty six lakes stretching from Manning Lake in Hamilton Hill to Madura Swamp near Mandurah Wetlands. Nineteen of those lakes and associated wetlands have been incorporated into the Beeliar Regional Park. This extensive belt of wetlands that has been widely acknowledged as a biodiversity hot-spot having a greater number of endemic species than most other regions in Australia. Within this the Nyoongar with their hunter-gatherer life-style managed the land with their fire-stick farming and survived by hunting and trapping a variety of game, including kangaroos, possums and wallabies; by fishing using spears and fish traps; as well as by gathering an extensive range of edible wild plants, including wattle seeds.  Since colonisation three-quarters of these wetlands have been drained for urban development. What remains has suffered untold damage through the introduction of feral animals and plants. Thankfully Australia is a signatory of the Ramsar Convention and several key wetlands on the Swan Coastal Plain have been set aside for conservation. Bibra Lake is the fourth lake (heading southwards) in that chain of lakes that makes up Beeliar Regional Park. Whitefellas believe that they discovered the lake in 1842 and named it after the bloke who bought the land in 1843, one Benedict von Bibra. The Nyoongar say they have known about the lake since time began and to them it known as Walubup.

I first went to Bibra Lake about thirty years ago and thought it was a bit boring and hadn’t been back until the other week. I was called upon for driving duties for the Beloved Significant Other (BSO) and I was left with a morning to kill. So I looked in my copy of Birding Sites around Perth by Ron Van Delft (sadly out of print and unavailable now) and saw that Bibra Lakes was nearby and rated as a good location for birding. The down side to this was that we were experiencing the first major cold front of winter and that meant it was bucketing down and blowing a gale. So suitably swathed in Gore-Tex and equipped with a suitably weather resistant camera I headed off to walk around the lake not expecting to see much.

 

Live Here by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
A comforting warning painted on the cycle path that runs around Lake Bibra. It was cold and wet in winter so not much chance of a snakey encounter.

 

Initially I thought that with it raining I had more chance of photographing ducks as it was the perfect weather for them. There were quite a number of different species on the shore and the water. I was quite taken by the Shovelers and the Pink Eared Ducks. The Shovelers are quite a string looking duck with colouring and almost disproportionately large bills. They can often be seen foraging in shallow water where they filter water through their bills insects looking for insects, crustaceans and a variety of plants. Such a specialised mode of feeding means that they are limited to certain types of habitat such as freshwater swamps and lakes with large reed beds. Shovelers also tend to hang out with pink-eared ducks which are so called because of the patch of pink feathers on the sides of the drakes head. Like the Shovelers they too are filter feeders. As the walk moved through areas of paperbark and sheoak trees then smaller insect eating birds were seen such as Willie Wagtails, Grey Fantails, Silvereyes, and various types of wrens. Over all as I did the 8.5 Km walk I saw 18 different species of bird which I felt was a pretty good haul considering the weather conditions. So I’ve revised my opinion of Bibra Lakes and will not wait another 30 years before my next visit.

 

Australasian Shoevelers by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Australasian Shoevelers, Spatula rhynchotis. Bibra Lake, Western Australia. Panasonic Lumix G85 with Panasonic LEICA DG 100-400/F4.0-6.3 lens. Exposure: 1/400 sec, f6.3 at ISO 250.

 

Keeping A Low Profile by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
A pink-eared duck (Malacorhynchus membranaceus) keeping a low profile while amongst Eurasian coots (Fulica atra). Bibra Lake, Western Australia. Panasonic Lumix G85 with Panasonic LEICA DG 100-400/F4.0-6.3 lens. Exposure: 1/500 sec, f6.3 at ISO 3200.

 

Brown Honeyeater, by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Brown Honeyeater, Lichmera indistincta. Bibra Lake, Western Australia. Panasonic Lumix G85 with Panasonic LEICA DG 100-400/F4.0-6.3 lens. Exposure: 1/500 sec, f6.3 at ISO 2500.

 

Varigated Fairy-wren by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Varigated Fairy-wren, Malurus lamberti. Bibra Lake, western Australia. Panasonic Lumix G85 with Panasonic LEICA DG 100-400/F4.0-6.3 lens. Exposure: 1/500 sec, f6.3, ISO 320.

 

Willie Wagtail by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Willie Wagtail, Rhipidura leucophrys leucophrys, Bibra Lake. Panasonic Lumix G85 with Panasonic LEICA DG 100-400/F4.0-6.3 lens. Exposure: 1/500 sec, f6.3 at ISO 1600.

 

Mistletoebird by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
A female mistletoebird, Dicaeum hirundinaceum, at Bibra Lake in Western Australia. Panasonic Lumix G85 with Panasonic LEICA DG 100-400/F4.0-6.3 lens. Exposure: 1/500 sec, f6.3 at ISO 2000.

 

Bibra Lake by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Bibra Lake is part of the Beeliar Wetlands which is an internationally recognised birding hotspot. This is one of two bird hides that have been buit at Bibra Lake.

 

Feed A Bird? by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Don’t feed the birds sign at Bibra Lake complete with Willie Wagtail, Rhipidura leucophrys leucophrys. Panasonic Lumix G85 with Panasonic LEICA DG 100-400/F4.0-6.3 lens. Exposure: 1/500, f4, ISO 250.

If you are interested in the birds that can be seen at Bibra Lakes, and indeed throughout the Beeliar Wetlands Birding WA has a useful webpage that gives info on the species that can be seen and where. Birdlife Australia put out a couple of useful brochures which can be got from regional visitors centres or downloaded as PDFs from their website. The brochures are:

 

White-headed Stilt. by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
White-headed Stilt, Himantopus himantopus subsp. leucocephalus. Bibra Lake, Western Australia. Panasonic Lumix G85 with Panasonic LEICA DG 100-400/F4.0-6.3 lens. Exposure: 1/500 sec, f6.3 at ISO 1600.

 

MTB in Denmark

Denmark Nornalup Heritage Trail and Munda Bidi Trail by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Green Pool, Wilson’s Bay National Park Denmark Western Australia. Apple iPhone SE camera in panorama mode. Exposure: 1/1400s, f/2.2, at ISO 25.

Denmark the town in Western Australia not the country. There is a lot of opportunity for trail riding in the area with several long distance trails converging on the town. So after a few days of goofing around on some of them to get the lie of the land I then put together a loop ride that would make for an epic birthday bash.

By combining the Denmark – Nornalup Heritage Trail , the Munda Biddi and some cycle path along Ocean Beach Road I ended up with a 42Km loop ride that would take me through some beautiful country.

 

Denmark Nornalup Heritage Trail and Munda Bidi Trail by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Elephant Rocks, Wilson Bay, Denmark Western Australia. Apple iPhone SE camera in panorama mode. Exposure: 1/1600s, f2.2 at ISO 25.

 

Denmark Nornalup Heritage Trail and Munda Bidi Trail by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
On the Nornalup Heritage trail which is a rail to trails project. Denmark, Western Australia. Leica DLux Type 109. Exposure; 1/1000s, f4 at ISO 200.

 

Denmark Nornalup Heritage Trail and Munda Bidi Trail by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Lights Beach on the Munda Biddi Trail, Denmark, Western Australia. Apple iPhone SE. Exposure: 1/10s, f2, ISO 25.

Below is a video of how I got along.

The Hidden Danger Of The Bush

Memorial bears for the victims of Drop Bears. York, Western Australia

As I have been tramping around the local woods this spring photographing orchids and birds I noticed something that I’d never seen before. That something was teddy bears tied to trees in odd remote locations. At first I thought it was strange game being played by the local kids, but after I saw my tenth one I decided to ask about and find out what was going on. It took ages to find someone who would answer my questions. Eventually an acquaintance told me to go and see Cliffy. 

Memorial bears for the victims of Drop Bears. York, Western Australia

 

Cliffy wasn’t that easy to find. The directions up to his shack in the wandoo forest were very vague – turn off the Great Southern Highway onto Talbot Road, drive for 10 Km and then take the third track on the left. Turn right at the dead tree that looks like an “excited” Tony Abbot in Speedos and then right at the big rock. I found the shack. When I say shack that really sounds better than it is. A few sheets of corrugated tin and some bush poles was all it was. When I saw Cliffy it was plain to see that he’d had a hard life. He is a compact sinewy man with skin the colour of tanned leather and hair like iron filings. His hands were a testament to hard physical labour – even the callouses had callouses. As to his age, well if you told me he was 100 I’d believe it and if you said he was 50 it wouldn’t surprise me either. So after the usual “Howz yer doin’?” Followed by a quick discussion about rainfall and rain gauges* I asked him about the bears. Cliffy sucked his single tooth and rolled a couple of strands of tobacco in some paper that looked like it had been torn from a pocket Bible. Slowly and quietly he says in a voice that sounded like he’d been gargling on razor blades “They’re memorials to victims of Drop Bear attacks”. He lit up and took a long drag and then told me the strangest tale. I scurried home to do some research.

Memorial bears for the victims of Drop Bears. York, Western Australia

 

Most people throughout the world know about the Koala Bear or to give them their proper scientific name “Phascolarctos cinereus”. Well firstly they are not a bear but a tree-dwelling marsupial that feeds on eucalyptus leaves. Secondly they are relatively harmless because all they do is eat and sleep. Occasionally you come across a grumpy one but all you’ll suffer is a few scratches. Well apparently the koala has an evolutionary cousin, the Thylarctos plummetu. Most animals in Australia are known by their Aboriginal name, but this one hasn’t got one as the Aboriginal Peoples are so scared of it they refuse to talk about it. Colonial settlers came to refer to them as Drop Bears for reasons that will become apparent later. Few people have seen the animal, and of those that have only a couple have lived to tell the tale. I’ll quote the Australian Museum’s description:

Identification

“Around the size of a leopard or very large dog with coarse orange fur with some darker mottled patterning (as seen in most Koalas). It is a heavily built animal with powerful forearms for climbing and holding on to prey. It lacks canines, using broad powerful premolars as biting tools instead.”

Size range

“120kg, 130cm long, 90 cm at the shoulder.”

Habitat type

“Vegetation Habitat: closed forest, tall closed forest, tall open forest, tall open shrubland”

Feeding and Diet

“Examination of kill sites and scats suggest mainly medium to large species of mammal make a substantial proportion of the animal’s diet. Often, prey such as macropods are larger than the Drop Bear itself. Drop Bears hunt by ambushing ground dwelling animals from above, waiting up to as much as four hours to make a surprise kill. Once prey is within view, the Drop Bear will drop as much as eight metres to pounce on top of the unsuspecting victim. The initial impact often stuns the prey, allowing it to be bitten on the neck and quickly subdued. If the prey is small enough Drop Bears will haul it back up the tree to feed without harassment from other predators.”

The Australian Geographic magazine did an article in 2013 about a University of Tasmania (UTAS) research project looking at who were more susceptible to attacks. In 2012 there was a research project looking to track Drop Bears in bush and see how many there actually are. An excerpt from that paper can be read here. I even managed to find online an old public announcement film for new migrants dating from the 1950’s warning of the dangers posed by Drop Bears.

 

When Cliffy had finished his tale of horror I had to lift my jaw up from the floor. “But why oh way don’t the government send in the police or the army to do something about it?” I say incredulously. This sent the old man into a fit of hysterical laughter. After ten minutes he managed to regain his composure. “Yer dopey pommy bastard, don’t yer know nothin’? The last time the Australian Army was called in to deal with an animal problem was in 1932 when Emus invaded Western Australia and that was a complete fu*king fiasco and made them look like complete idiots. It would be too dangerous to let that mob loose in the bush. The bloody pollies are all too busy guzzling at the trough to care about a few bushies goin’ missing.” 

So if you venture into the Australian bush and see teddy bears tied to the trees be aware that Drop Bear attacks have happened in the area and you’d be best advised to leave.

* All conversations in this part of the world follow this pattern. It’s considered very rude not to ask about someone’s rain gauge.

The Hills Are Alive…

…  with flowers. Definitely not Julie Andrews and the ghastly singing Von Trapps.

When people think about Australian biodiversity and nature hot spots they automatically think of the rainforests of North Queensland, Kakadu National Park in the Northern Territory or Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park in Tasmania. If prodded a little bit Western Australians might mention the Stirling Ranges National Park. But what if I were to tell you that there is a very significant region of biodiversity, a landscape that is still in its pristine state (i.e. has never been cleared) that is less than two hours drive from Perth? That it contains more than 1400 species of flowering plant, 24 of which are unique and not found anywhere else, there are 78 different species of bird, and there are ancient Aboriginal artefacts. So where is this place? Wongan Hills.

The name Wongan Hills comes from the Nyoongar Wongan Katta which means talking or whispering hills. The range of hills, which are about 10 north-west of the townsite are the largest single area of natural vegetation remaining in the northern wheatbelt. It is spring when everything happens – there is a truly spectacular display of wildflowers. I focus on native orchids and it is absolutely gobsmacking the number of different species and the sheer quantity of them. In the space of a morning’s walk around we found ten different species and they were totally new to me. Below are the fruits of that trip.

 

Pink Candy Orchid by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Pink Candy Orchid, Caladenia hirta subsp. rosea. Christmas Rock, Wongan Hills, Western Australia.Exposure: manual 1/125 s at f/8.0, Iso 200. Olympus OMD EM1 with OLYMPUS M.60mm F2.8 Macro lens, TTL fill flash provided by Metz 15 MS-1 ring flash.

 

Chameleon Spider Orchid by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Chameleon Spider Orchid, Caladenia dimidia. Christmas Rock, Wongan Hills, Western Australia. Olympus OMD EM1 with Olympus 60mm f2.8 macro lens, with Metz 15 MS-1 ring flash. Exposure: aperture priority 1/80 s at f/8.0 with -1 stop exposure compensation and TTL flash.

 

Yellow Spider Orchid by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Yellow Spider Orchid, Caladenia denticulata subsp. denticulata. Christmas Rock, Wongan Hills, Western Australia. Exposure: manual 1/160th sec, f8, ISO 200 with TTL flash. Olympus OMD EM1, OLYMPUS M.60mm F2.8 Macro lens, Metz mecablitz 15 MS-1 ringflash.

 

 

Salt Lake Spider Orchid by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Salt lake spider orchid ( Caladenia exilis subsp. exilis). Roger’s Reserve, Wongan Hills, Western Australia. Olympus OMD EM1 with OLYMPUS M.60mm F2.8 Macro lens and Metz 15 MS-1 ring flash. Exposure: Manual mode, 1/250 s at f/8.0 ISO 200.

 

 

Clown Orchid by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Clown orchid (Caladenia roei) also known as ant orchid, man orchid and jack-in-the-box orchid. Christmas Rock, Wongan Hills, Western Australia. Olympus OMD EM1 with OLYMPUS M.60mm F2.8 Macro lens and Metz 15 MS-1 ring flash. Exposure: aperture priority 1/50 s at f/8.0 at ISO 200 with -1 stop exposure compensation.

 

 

Mottled Donkey Orchid by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Mottled donkey orchid, Diursis sp. ‘Wyalkatchem’. Christmas Rock, Wongan Hills, Western Australia. Olympus EM1 with OLYMPUS M.60mm F2.8 Macro lens. Exposure: aperture priority mode 1/80 s at f/8.0 ISO 200 with -1 stop exposure compensation and flash from Metz 15MS-1 ring flash.

 

 

Yellow Granite Donkey Orchid by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Yellow Granite Donkey Orchid, Diursis hazelii. Mount Matilda, Wongan Hills, Western Australia. Olympus OMD EM1 with OLYMPUS M.60mm F2.8 Macro lens and Metz 15 MS-1 ring flash. Exposure: Manual mode 1/100 s at f/4.0 ISO 200.

 

 

Sugar Orchid by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Sugar Orchid, Ericksonella saccharata. Mount Matilda, Wongan Hills, Western Australia. Olympus OMD EM1 with OLYMPUS M.60mm F2.8 Macro lens and Metz 15 MS-1 ring flash. Exposure: Manual mode, 1/80 s at f/5.6 ISO 200.

 

 

Dainty Donkey Orchid by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Dainty donkey orchid, Diuris sp. ‘north-western wheatbelt’. Rogers Reserve, Wongan Hills, Western Australia. Olympus OMD EM1 with OLYMPUS M.60mm F2.8 Macro lens and Metz 15 MS-1 ring flash. Exposure: aperture priority with -2 stops exposure compensation 1/125 s at f/5.6 ISO 200.

 

 

Crimson Spider Orchid by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Crimson spider orchid, Caladenia footeana. Rogers Reserve, Wongan Hills, Western Australia. Olympus OMD EM1 with OLYMPUS M.60mm F2.8 Macro lens and Metz 15 MS-1 ring flash. Exposure: Manual mode, 1/200 s at f/8.0 ISO 200.