And I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For*


Bamborn by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
I’d gone to Locke Nature Reserve near Busselton looking for common helmet and midge orchids, but they weren’t flowering. This Western Yellow Robin (Eopsaltria griseogularis) and its mate kept darting in and out of the bush as I walked along the track so I photographed them instead.

This nature photography lark is a lot harder than it looks. I follow a couple of YouTube channels from the UK that weekly show the host going out to some location to photograph and /or film a particular animal or plant. They always find it and always get   good images. My experience is a bit different to that. I find that you can go out with all the best intentions in the world,  but if nature isn’t playing ball then you don’t get anything. I’ve lost count of the number of times that I’ve set out to look for the Cleopatra’s Needles Orchid (Thelymitra apiculata) driving 100’s of kilometres to find absolutely nothing. Take last weekend. We were down in the South West of Western Australia as my partner was again playing in a croquet tournament. So I’d researched what was about in terms of birds and orchids and set out to several locations with a specific list of what I wanted to photograph. The first stop was Malbup Creek Bird Hide where I wanted to see tawny frogmouths and white-bellied sea-eagles. Well I spent a nice morning at the hide without seeing them. I did get a nice shot of a shelduck and the local kangaroos were hamming it up for a photo.

 

Koorak by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Not the white-bellied sea-eagle I was looking for. Still he’s a very handsome Australian Shelduck.

 

Yongka by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
No tawny frogmouths to be seen let alone be photographed. The Western Grey Kangaroos were keen to oblige.
The next stop was Locke Nature Reserve looking for common helmet and midge orchids. Well after a couple of hours of scrabbling around in the undergrowth fighting off the unwanted attentions of the local mosquitoes I’d found lots of them, but none in flower. There were some Splendid Fairywrens in the nearby bushes but they really didn’t want their picture taken and kept dancing out of the way every time I got close. On the walk back to the car a couple of Western Yellow Robins flew slightly ahead of me. They would stop and perch periodically and I was lucky enough to grab a few frames.
My last spot was Westbay in Augusta looking for scented autumn leek orchids. Now I’d seen them before at this location and knew where to go. They weren’t there. Not a one was to be seen. But I did find some autumn leek orchids – close enough so I photographed them. Funnily enough the autumn leek orchid has a much more pleasant scent than the scented variety which has decidedly unpleasant pong.
Autumn Leek Orchid by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Autumn Leek Orchid, Prasophyllum parvifolium. Westbay, Augusta, Western Australia
So there you have it another rewarding trip. I may not have found what I was looking for but I found other things and really enjoyed my time in the bush and that is what it is all about.
* This weeks musical reference is of course U2’s song I Still Haven’t Found. My favourite version is the one on 1988’s Rattle and Hum album.

Where’s Yer Bin?

No this is not the racist joke joke about  people from ethnic minorities and prison. This is a sensible post about ibis. Now not a lot of people know this – but there are three species of ibis in Australia. The most well known is the Australian White Ibis (Threskiornis molucca) also commonly known as the Australian Bin Chicken and sometimes referred to as the tip turkey thanks to its habit of rummaging in rubbish. I think we can all agree it is not a very good looking bird,  in fact it looks a little primeval.

 

Not So White Ibis by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Australian white ibis, Threskiornis molucca, and not a bin in sight. Herdsman Lake, Western Australia

 

The second ibis that people may be aware of is the Straw-necked Ibis (Threskiornis spinicollis)and they are fairly widespread and can be found around shallow fresh water bodies. They have not succumbed to an urban diet of rubbish but feed on aquatic insects, molluscs, frogs, and on land, they thrive on grasshoppers, crickets, and locusts.

 

Straw-necked Ibis by Paul Amyes on 500px.com

Straw-necked Ibis, Threskiornis spinicollis. Herdsman lake, Western Australia

 

The third is one that most people are unaware of, and that is the Glossy Ibis (Plegadis falcinellus).  Seen in dull flat light the bird appears to be a dark dirty brown colour, but it is when it is seen in strong directional light its plumage takes on an iridescent green-and-purple gloss. One might almost say that for an ibis it is a good looking bird. They, like their straw-necked cousins, can be found foraging around large shallow fresh water bodies for  frogs, snails, aquatic insects and spiders. This is also our most cosmopolitan ibis being found not just in Australia but also  in warm regions of Europe, Asia, Africa,  and the Atlantic and Caribbean regions of the Americas.

 

Glossy Ibis by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Juvenile glossy ibis, Plegadis falcinellus. Herdsman Lake, Western Australia.

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.

Back Yard Birds 3

Carnaby's Black-cockatoos, by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Carnaby’s black-cockatoos, Zanda (Calyptorhynchus) latirostris, preening prior to roosting. York, Western Australia. Canon EOS 6d with Sigma Contemporary 150-600mm f5-6.3 lens. Exposure: 1/250 sec, f6.3 at ISO 6400.

Ok Ok if the last backyard birds was a little stretch over what is my backyard this one is a huge leap – across the road. From my neighbour across the road’s front garden came this delightful occurrence – Carnaby’s Black-cockatoos roosting. These large cockatoos are now endangered thanks to widespread land clearing so it was fantastic to have them visit the neighbourhood.

Dotty About Dotterels

Black-fronted Dotterel by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Black-fronted Dotterel (Elseyornis melanops), Avon River, Northam, Western Australia. Panasonic Lumix G85 with Panasonic Leica 100-400mm f4-6.3 lens. Exposure: 1/500 sec, f6.3 at ISO 250.

 

What do you do when you’ve got 2 hours to kill while in the Wheatbelt metropolis of Northam? Go looking for Black-fronted Dotterels that’s what! These busy little birds can be found on the muddy shoreline looking for insects and small molluscs.

Black-fronted Dotterel by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Black-fronted Dotterel (Elseyornis melanops), Avon River, Northam, Western Australia. Panasonic Lumix G85 with Panasonic Leica 100-400mm f4-6.3 lens. Exposure: 1/500 sec, f6.3 at ISO 250.

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.

 

Wrecked

Seen Better Days by Paul Amyes on 500px.com
Seen Better Days. An old car wreck on the banks of the River in York, Western Australia. Sony A7R with Olympus OM Zuiko 50mm f1.4 lens. Exposure: 1/320 sec, f4 at ISO 100.

It would be tempting to say that this picture is a metaphor for these COVID19 times, but actually that would be quite crass. While all the restriction have been in place I’ve been determined to have some creative output and this is part of it. Over the last week I’ve been making myself go out in the evening to photograph. To make things a little more interesting I decided to impose a restrictions on myself. In this case I would use a focal length that I don’t particularity like (50mm) and an old vintage lens on a digital camera.I’ve walked past this wreck many times with the dog and really not taken any notice of it. Well on this particular evening the local farmers had been burning off and the smoke in the air was creating a nice warm light as the setting sun shone through it. I thought that the rust of the car complemented the warm lighting.