Kerri-Lee Harris

Plan for touring the southwest, WA

Kerri-Lee Harris
Plan for touring the southwest, WA

Days 14-15: 18th–19th September

Trip planning for us is a little different than it is for many people. We’re more interested in seeing a tiny endemic bird than we are in climbing the massive Gloucester Tree. We get more excited by finding a WA orchid than we do in seeing the sights of Perth or Fremantle. So our planned route for the next few weeks is likely to take us well off the more travelled paths of the south west.

Birds and plants in the west are a little bit weird. Well, they’re a bit different to what we have in the east. Many of the plants are considered Gondwanan Relics, isolated from the rest of the continent by the dry interior of Australia for such a long time that they have evolved independently (and with fewer changes) than plants in the east.

And we had our first glimpse yesterday, when we spotted these red flowering bushes.

Beaufortia is in the Myrtaceae family - like eucalypts, tea trees and bottlebrush - but the genus is only found in the south west of WA.

At a distance, it looks like a Callistemon (bottlebrush)

Beaufortia sp.

Yesterday, during a short break in the weather, we took a walk around the lakes of Esperance

Yesterday, during a short break in the weather, we took a walk around the lakes of Esperance

New Holland Honeyeater - but a distinct race from the one we know in the east

Birds here are a little different too. Sean Dooley describes it perfectly in ‘The Big Twitch’ (a brilliant and hilarious read, for birders and non-birders alike - I highly recommend it!):

“… something seems out of place. It’s as if someone has taken a photograph of your family and altered every fifth detail. At first glance, all seems normal but then you notice your father now has a moustache, your mother is a foot taller, your brother now has a tattoo.”

And it’s those special family members we’re hoping to find.

Yesterday we finally sat down and did some serious trip planning. Taking advantage of a powered camp site here in Esperance, with good internet speeds, we trawled the National Parks website for camping options. We want to get into the birding hotspots described in FAB (our little green bible). And it helps if we can stay in those places, as many birds take time to find and may only be active at dawn or dusk. Can be tricky!

It was also a useful way to spend cold day, with strong southerly winds and rain showers.

So now we have a plan – and we even have bookings! The school holidays are about to start, so we thought that we should get organised, just in case it gets busy. Although I have my doubts about how busy it will be. It’s not exactly the right time of year for a beach holiday here in the south. I’m wearing 3 layers of clothes, plus beanie and gloves right now!

Here’s the plan:

  • This morning we head east to nearby Cape Arid National Park.

  • Next day we'll shift camp a short distance to Cape Le Grande National Park.

    Big drive west on Friday, to the western side of Fitzgerald River National Park. There’s a small private homestead in the middle of the park where we can camp (with showers!) … and we plan to stay there 5 days. The plant life of Fitzgerald River is one of WAs real treasures. And there are birds, of course. And the chance of more whale sightings to boot!

  • We then leave the coast and head into the Stirling Ranges National Park for a few days. This mountainous region is one we’ve long planned to visit, and at this time of year the orchids should be in full swing. There’s a caravan park bordering the National Park, so we’ll be back on power, and even internet (we think).

  • Then back to the coast, and four days at Cheynes Beach, just to the east of Albany. From there we can make day trips to the nearby Waychinicup National Park and to Two-peoples Bay. And it is at Cheynes Beach that we stand perhaps our best chance of seeing WAs famous “Big 3 Skulkers” … Noisy Scrub-bird, Western Bristlebird and Western Whipbird. It’s a slim chance, but you never know …

  • On 3rd October we’ll head further west to the heart of the Southern Forests for a few days. Coalmine Beach - a caravan park, with all the mod-cons - is surrounded by Walpole Nornalup National Park.

  • Then, just as the school holidays end, we head around the corner into Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park. Good timing, I think, as this area is a recognised, popular holiday spot. It’s also a beautiful region of rocky and rugged shoreline with coastal heath. And it’s just a stone’s-throw from Margaret River. We will visit … and not just for birds!

  • From there we’ll turn for home – but by ‘roads less travelled’, at least until we get back to the crossroads of Norseman again. Our three destinations – all highlighted in FAB! – are deep within the Great Western Woodlands. Dryandra Woodlands, Wave Rock and Dragon Rock, and Peak Charles National Park.

We’re looking for those little things that make life in WA so special.

Our first WA orchid! Species tbc … I forgot to check the leaves!! We’ll stop by the site on our way out of town this morning and take a closer look.

Common Bronzewing … a species that seems identical to ours at home, but is much less wary!

Common Bronzewing … a species that seems identical to ours at home, but is much less wary!

We’ll be off air for over a week now, but hope to have lots of news and photos for our next posts.