Thursday, 13 August 2009

07/08/2009: Western Australian (Day 1)

I just came back from a 4-day company trip to Perth, Western Australia. Apart from the other members of my agency, I also had the companionship of my wife for this trip. We stayed at a holiday house called the Trafalgar Retreat near Joondalup which is about 30 km from Perth's city center. To get around during our stay, we rented a Kia Grand Carnival which is almost the same as our own Naza Ria Carnival. It has been more than 15 years since my last visit here but things looks about the same. Clear blue skies and sea, fresh cool air and friendly folks.

As this is not a pure birding trip, I managed to get a few hours of birding on the first 3 days. Although the temptation of birding was very strong, I tried my best to control myself in order not to let my other companions feel neglected - especially my wife. However, I was in luck as the suburb we are staying in is quite rich in terms of bird life. The flowering tree on the front lawn was quite a center of bird activity as birds regularly came to feed.

From this tree alone, I had splendid views of a few garden birds on my first morning here in Australia. Unlike the garden birds back home, the birds here are certainly more striking like this White-cheeked Honeyeater.

The similar-looking New Holland Honeyeater was also attracted to the flowers of this tree.

The Brown Honeyeater is rather drab-looking when compared to the other two but it still fascinates me. As a matter of fact, anything with feathers will attract my attention and fascination as I am, after all, in a foreign land. Just like a kid in a candy store. My wife is quite accustomed to my obssession with birds but not my colleagues. It took time for them to get used to my birding behaviour. I guess now they know just how much I love birds!

The Red Wattlebird is another widespread and successful species. With its loud resonant calls and large size, one will have to try very hard to miss it.

The Singing Honeyeater completes the list of Honeyeaters found on our front lawn. This fellow seems to be the boldest of the lot and will allow very close approach. Unlike the others, it forages for insects and will even hawk for insects flushed by its foraging.

The Australian Raven is the exact equivalent of our House Crow (about the same size too) and they can be seen everywhere. Their loud child-like caws are very much a part of the sounds of the suburbs in Western Australia.

Another familiar bird of the suburbs is the Willie Wagtail. It is not a real Wagtail but a rather large Fantail Flycatcher. Anyway, I like the name. It fits the bird's personality and appearance perfectly. By the way, I have decided to follow the common names used in the Field Guide to the Birds of Australia by Simpson & Day - my bible for this trip.

I also came across an all-too-familiar species, a Spotted Dove. Here it is called the Spotted Turtle-dove and it is an introduced species to Australia.

The Laughing Turtle-dove is another introduced species and it is doing much better than the Spotted Turtle-dove. Within the vicinity of our house, it clearly outnumbers the other Turtle-dove.

There is one garden bird here that I can never get used to unless I stay here permanently. And it is the beautiful Galah. Their bright pinkish plumage make them appear like mobile watercolour paintings. My companions were truly amazed by its beauty and I don't blame them. Although I have seen them before during my last trip, this parrot still does it for me. Imagine coming home to the sights and sounds of Galahs foraging in your garden each evening after a tiring workday. Now that's the best "stress-buster" I can think of...

I managed to slipped away for a few hours of birding with my wife as the rest of the group wanted to rest after the tiring flight. We left Penang at 9.00 pm last night and reached here at 5.30am after transiting at Kuala Lumpur. That worked well for me as I was just itching to go out and do some birding after such a great session on the front lawn. We decided to visit a nearby birding site which is Lake Joondalup. The Ocean Reef Drive cuts the across the lake and dividing the site to Lake Joondalup North and South. We drove to the northern side first. The bushland surrounding the lake look quite promising upon our arrival.

As we were looking for a place to park the car, we were greeted by a flock of foraging Galahs.

Then came a couple of Australian Magpies. This striking species is another common resident and I had a tough time convincing my wife that they are related to Crows. Their loud bells-like calls did not help much either. Both of the birds appear to be adult males as females do not possess white on their backs. Anyway, the birds are very confiding and I took quite a number of shots before they foraged further away.

We then walked along a path that headed towards the lake. I was slightly disappointed to see that there was not that many water birds in the vicinity.

There was a trio of Pacific Black Ducks resting at the edge of the lake. This is by far the most common and widespread of all the Duck species.

The only other water bird present was a splendid male Australian Shelduck. As with most water birds here in Australia, he allowed quite reasonably close approach and I obtained quite a few great shots.

A dazzling Rainbow Lorikeet alighted on a dead tree nearby our parked car but the lighting condition prevented me from taking really good shots.

The journey here from Malaysia started to take its toll on my wife and she wanted to get some rest. However, she gave me the thumbs up to continue birding without her. Honey, you're best! Deep inside she knows I won't be able to rest at all if I follow her back to the house. Anyway, after dropping her off, I ventured around the southern side of the lake.

The first to greet this Malaysian birder was a foraging Grey Butcherbird. This bird is known to impale its prey on sharp objects - much like a Shrike. And like the Shrike back home, it is shy and does not tolerate close approach.

There were plenty of Rainbow Lorikeets around but there was hardly any good photographic opportunities as the birds tend to keep to the canopy levels. The shadows cast on the birds did not help one bit at all.

A foraging Long-billed Corella helped me overcome my disappointment with the Lorikeets. Unlike the Lorikeets, it was resting on a much lower perch and in reasonably good light. I could not have asked for more...

Galahs were plentiful here on the southern side as well. I just sat down on the grass near a foraging flock, hoping that they will approach me on their own account. And I was not left high and dry... Thanks, guys!

The lake here had a little more water birds than the northern end and the majority of them were Eurasian Coots.

Gradually, some of the Eurasian Coots came closer the edge of the lake and that provided me with the opportunity that I was waiting for to capture their images.

The Australasian Grebes were not so trusting and keep a fair distance from me. I did managed take a record shot of an individual in non-breeding plumage.

The Hardhead was also rather shy and did not wander close to shore the whole time I was there. Here's a female that came the closest to me...

A White-faced Heron foraging at the edge of the lake was the last bird I observed before I called it a day (birding, of course) and headed back to the house. Although it was not too far away, the harsh lighting of the mid-day sun again prevented me from taking clear shots. Anyway, this trip has started off extremely well for me and I was certainly looking forward to what tomorrow will bring.


yen said...

Wow, a birder paradise working trip eh.

Birds approaching park visitors can only happen in country where they love and treasure their nature, here in Malaysia, they find time to catch them as meal or as prize trophy.

The Wagtail does lool like a Fantail to me.

Great post and lots of good photos.

Choy Wai Mun said...

Thanks, Yen. Yes, it was a great company trip. Birding is just terrific here. The Willie Wagtail is indeed a big Fantail.

Anonymous said...

great photos. Would you mind if I used one for educational purposes? I am a science teacher. I live next to Lake Joondalup!

Choy Wai Mun said...

Please go ahead.