Piney Lakes – revisit

I had some spare time during the day and thought it would be nice to see some mammals if I could.  I previously saw Quenda during the day at Piney Lakes, Winthrop – so I thought I should head back.  I timed my visit during a dry window on a July day – I actually saw a little sun which was nice.  I parked at the Environment education centre which is just off Leach Hwy (the carpark is closed weekends).

I headed for the wetland walk which is a boardwalk where I saw Quenda last time.  I walked a long way through a number of different paths and around the lake – but only heard a noise in a bush by the path which could have been a Quenda – I didn’t spot any :(.

I got a couple of nice bird shots but it was lovely to be out during the day anyway.  And perhaps Piney Lakes isn’t a dead cert for Quenda  like I thought it was – or perhaps the inclement weather had them in their burrows.

This is a Western wattlebird – not as well known as the more common Red wattlebird.

And this Willy wagtail posed just in front of me.  All in all it was a nice day to be walking through bush.

Willy wagtail @ Piney Lakes.



Rainbow Bee Eaters and Camera Traps…

For my birthday over a year ago I was generously given a camera trap by my wife – a Browning Strike Force HD.   Essentially it is a motion activated digital camera with some smarts – designed to be left outside for extended periods.  Initially developed for hunters they have found huge application in wildlife monitoring.  I had wanted one for ages but for the past year only really used it to spot cats in backyards.

Anyway I had been chatting to Klaus from the Friends of Kensington Bushland as I had been thinking about setting up the camera in the bushland to see if I could photograph any wildlife.

We needed to get council approval and as things transpired a Rainbow Bee Eater nest had been located and they were keen to get a camera on it.  Rainbow bee eaters (also called RBEs) are the grey nomads of the bird world – they spend the winter months in the far north sometimes as far as PNG and summers in the South.  They breed during summer  and unusually for a bird dig a nest burrow in sandy soils.  They are related to kingfishers and have the most amazing rainbow colouration (hence the name!) – see top image.  As the name also suggests they eat bees and all sorts of other insects – this bird was seen with a large dragonfly and beating it to death against the branches of the tree!


Rainbow bee eater nest burrow @ Kensington Bushland

The above photo shows the burrow.  I met with the council representatives and we set the camera trap just in front of the nest – taking care to conceal it from the path to prevent theft.  It was set up on 03/01 and finally removed on 27/01 – so just over 3 weeks in total.


Camera trap in situ

Over that period the camera took approx 7500 images of which 150 had animals in shot – most were of waving grass (one of my learnings!).  Another learning was that the camera date was set in US format – so when resetting after a battery failure on 08/01 I had actually set it to 1 Aug!!


Camera trap image


Cropped RBE pair at burrow entrance

Above is one of my earliest images – I had some issues with the camera resetting itself and chewing batteries – so I updated the firmware and then it behaved perfectly.  My next learning was being careful where you aim it.  I had taken it home to update the firmware but when I put it back I actually had it aimed too high.  Fortunately I got some amazing shots of the birds in flight, however missed the action at the burrow.

The inbuilt thermometer seems to be unhappy when the temp is over 46-48 degrees and then goes negative!

Here is Steve from the council trimming back some of the grass to reduce shots of the wind in the grass.

Steve trimming vegetation – note the temperature!

I came back and re-positioned it but then didn’t get any more images from the burrow – it looked like the RBEs had left it by then.

Last image associated with burrow

3 mins before last image taken just above burrow

Looking back through all the images this is the last image I can associate with the RBEs leaving the nest.  The other image was taken only 3 mins before.  This was on 13/01, ten days after I had first placed the camera.  The chicks fledge after thirty days and we were not aware of when the egg first hatched, but could see the bird going into the burrow with food.

Last image of bee eaters – appears to be 3 birds

This image is the last one that I think are Rainbow bee eaters – the colour is off as I have it facing into the sunset (I have now learnt best to aim south to avoid the sun).  I can make out 3 birds so I like to think its the 2 parents and the fledgling.  This was 3 days later on 16/01.


This image was taken on my phone camera on 28/01 – if you look carefully you can see spider webs across the burrow and it is no longer in use.

Here are a few other images that are interesting.  It is quite effective at night and uses infrared flash to take photos.  I ended up spending quite a bit of time at the bushland late at night as that fitted best with family commitments.

Anyway to finish off – I didn’t get a shot of the fledgling leaving the burrow as we had hoped for, but I learnt heaps about using the camera and got some amazing shots of animals just from the one location in the bushland.  I hope to get some more opportunities to deploy the camera and see what other critters I can find.

Smile 🙂 I am on candid camera!

Quenda, quenda, quenda – Piney Lakes

I had been on parental leave and this was my last weekday before heading back to work – there was a play date on at home so I was going to head out for some exploring.

In some of my research I had seen Piney Lakes had lots of Oblong Turtles and it was a place I had driven past many times wondering what it was like in there.  In my reading up they also spoke about Quenda that can be found there.

I drove in from Leach Hwy – noting you can’t park inside on weekends.

As soon as I got out of the car I heard the unmistakable call of a rainbow bee-eater – they are a summer visitor and fly down from the North & PNG to breed in sandy tunnels – so lots of places in Perth play host to them.


Rainbow Bee-eater

There is an education centre which I suspect is the main function of the place.   I headed past there seeing lots of honeyeaters and wattlebirds.


White-cheeked honeyeater

I walked through sculpture garden to the walk around the wetland.  Just as I entered the gate I saw a quenda dash away but wasn’t able to grab a photo.

As I walked on the track the vegetation is quite close and you can hear lots of birds.  I came across this awesome juvenile bobtail lizard getting some sun on this warm day.


Just beyond I found a bigger bobtail with one eye – must have been a violent encounter in the past perhaps with a cat, dog or maybe fox?.


I hadn’t seen or heard any more quenda for a while but then saw one dash into the bushes – they are pretty timid here.  Flitting about on a nest box was this striated pardalote.


I also saw a skink dash away – I didn’t manage a shot – I was missing lots today.  Looking at the reptile book at home I think it was an odd-striped Ctenotus and they are pretty hard to identify without a really good shot or catching them.

I walked all the way round the vegetated lake and then went onto the boardwalk where I quickly spotted a quenda – this time I was quieter and it was feeding during the day but under vegetation most of the time.


I spotted a couple more – if you were patient and quiet you could really watch their feeding behaviour.

I then spotted a bird which was zipping up and down tree trunks and I thought it might be a varied sittela but on examination it was a rarely seen but common white-browed scrubwren.


I had a nice view of a family of splendid fairywrens – also known as blue wrens where the dominant male is an iridescent blue – it didn’t pose nicely for me!  I also saw a nice Western Wattlebird.

I was so pleased seeing quenda feeding in late afternoon – this has to become one of my spots to see them.

On leaving I saw another Western Wattlebird feeding on Banksia.


This is a really nice spot – I am sure there are more reptiles to be seen and also amphibians – but the quenda during the day was the standout.


Perth Pelagic Birdwatching Trip

I went for my first ever pelagic bird watching trip on the weekend.  I had wanted to go on one for ages but none had been close enough.  I was up at 5am for a 6:30am and 6:45 departure from Fremantle.  I had been worried about the weather but it was only overcast and the forecast was a window of good weather before a cold front came in the evening.  There were 28 of us – I didn’t know anyone but was amongst similar minded people.

We got ourselves underway and saw a few common seagulls and a welcome swallow on the way out.  We saw our first Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross just before we hit Rottnest – this was my first lifer of the day.  Next a call went out “Orca” or Killer Whales.  I had secretly been hoping for some mammals on the trip and I got really lucky early on – they are pretty rare around Perth and these were found just on the seaward side of Rottnest – not that far off West End.

The pod had a couple of males identifiable by there tall thinner fin and some females with the more rounded dolphin like fin.


We had amazing views of an animal I have always wanted to see but thought I was going to have to travel to Bremer Bay or Exmouth to see!  I was very excited 🙂 We then headed out further to see the birds..

We then saw a Cape Petrel – new for me – but pretty common on the ocean.


Cape Petrel

Our destination was the start of the Perth Canyon approx 25 nautical miles offshore (45kms for non seafaring types!).  It is incredibly deep and we were in depths of 800m+.  This is where you get the pelagic birds – amazing to find them so far away from land.  We had a tuna oil slick and were chumming with mulies.  Pretty soon we had a bunch of majestic albatross behaving like squabbling seagulls!


Gaggle of Indian Yellow-nose Albatross

We saw a rarity – a subspecies of the Yellow-nosed Albatross – the normal ones around Perth are the Indian but we also saw an Atlantic – quite a long way from home.  You may have to take my word for it (I took others) but the darker eyes are the indicator for that subspecies.

The map below gives a good idea where we headed out and also where I took most of my photos – I took 500+ this day – but heaps were blurry.  I learnt some new skills balancing on a rocking boat trying to aim a huge lens at a flying bird – it can mean plenty of blurry shots and some just of water!

20160824-Pelagic Trip Map

We went out a looooong way!

Assorted photos of most of the bird species I saw.

It was an awesome day – 14 new species of Perth and 1 new mammal.  I was also really pleased with some of my photos taken in challenging conditions.