Rottnest Is. – Quokkas, birds and fur seals

For the winter school holidays we took a family trip to Rottnest for a week.  It’s a great place to stay – very relaxing with tourists getting about on foot, bikes or the bus – there are only service cars on the island.  We stayed in a heritage cottage in Thompsons Bay built around 1840!

Rottnest is a small island about 20kms off Fremantle and is about 7kms long.  Its name comes from dutch explorers who named it Eyland’t Rottenest (“Rats’ Nest Island”) after mistaking the marsupial Quokka (Setonix brachyurus) for a large rat in 1696!  Its original indigenous name of the island is Wadjemup, used by the local Noongar people.  The island has a mixed history as it was used as an indigenous prison for a time and now it is a tourist haven and important wildlife sanctuary.

The kids loved the Quokkas which are everywhere and very tame in the main tourist areas.  My almost 2 yr old daughter Sienna grasped straight away that they like green leaves and we had to help her find leaves for the whole week.  Rottnest is a mainstay of the Quokka population – it’s not well known that there are isolated populations throughout the southwest of WA.

In researching the animals that could be found on Rottnest I found there is a colony of New Zealand Fur Seal (Arctocephalus forsteri) on Cathedral rocks on the western end of the island and with a newly constructed boardwalk.  I have previously seen Australian Sea Lions (Neophoca cinerea) but the fur seal was a new species for me.  My 4 year old son Liam, my wife Mel and I, chose a clear day and headed out on the bus that does loops round the island.  It was a 30 min bus ride out and was cold and windy on this exposed part of the island.

I took this pano of the rocks.  You can’t make it out in the picture but seals could be seen hauled on the rocks and also frolicking in the water.  To see better you needed binoculars or a telephoto camera.

Pano of Cathedral Rocks, Rottnest Is

Seals hauled out on the rocks.

Seals in the water.

You can see how many seals are on the rocks if you look carefully.

We then headed to West end where we saw a soaring Osprey and a huge built up nest on a rock just offshore.

We then headed to catch the bus back and on the side of the road found this weird spider which has since been identified as one of the mouse spiders (Missulena granulosa).

On another day I took a walk to check out some of the salt lakes for birds and found my first ever Banded stilts (Cladorhynchus leucocephalus).

I saw a few other birds (photos below) – I was really pleased with the swallow picture flying into the wind on the golf course but not actually making any headway as the wind was so strong!  There used to be a population of breeding Indian peafowl on the island – but they are managed now to just 5. Common pheasant (introduced) can also be found on the island but I didn’t see any.

Welcome swallow @ Rottnest Is

I finished off with a collection of Quokka shots.  The below is one drinking open fresh water which is quite difficult to find on the island, so this one was taking advantage of a large puddle as it had been quite wet!

In the below right is one sleeping on its tail and getting some sun!

We had a great holiday – even though a few days were wet.  The kids loved the island and Sienna is still talking about Quokkas! Their Granny bought them each a fluffy toy one on the island which is in bed with them each night.

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Penguin Island Day Trip

I took some time off during my son’s first lot of school holidays as he has just started kindy this year.  He has been saying for ages that one of his favourite animals was the penguin – so we planned to take him down to Penguin Is.  Only 45 mins south of Perth is Penguin Is – just south of Rockingham.

Accessible by a quick 5 min ferry from Rockingham Wild Encounters the island is part of Shoalwater Marine Park and home to 1200 Little penguins (Eudyptula minor).  DBCA have a discovery centre on the island where you can see captive rescue penguins.  They really reinforce to use the boat – as there have been deaths with people using the sandbar to access the island.

Liam and I made the quick ferry ride across and were pleased to see a sea-lion frolicking in the bay not far from the boat.  There is a colony of sea-lions on another island in the marine park.

Liam on boat with Penguin Is in background.

We headed into the discovery centre to get some really good looks at penguins – Liam really enjoyed it and was attentive for the ranger talk as well.

One of the penguins is named Kevin and he is quite a show pony penguin.

We then headed to walk around the island to look for wild penguins in amongst the boardwalks.  Penguins are out at sea feeding for most of the daylight hours – so you don’t actually see many penguins on the island!  We heard there were a couple of male sea-lions that were nursing shark wounds and had been seen on the beach – so we went looking!  None there that day.

We went to the western side of the island which was much rougher and Liam had a great time in the waves – despite me telling him I forgot to pack in a towel 🙂

We then walked up to one of the lookouts finding this fat King skink (Egernia kingii) – we wondered if it might be pregnant?  They are live bearers.

King skink @ Penguin Is

Lots of steps!

At the lookout we were harassed by seagulls who had nested right next to the boardwalk – Liam marvelled at the colours of the eggs.

Silver gull eggs @ Penguin Is

We then headed back to the beach looking for penguins but none were found.  I was glad we had spent the time in the discovery centre.

We then headed back into the discovery centre just to see the penguins once more before heading back to the mainland for lunch.

A great day – well worth a family trip.  Bring towels though – kids are highly likely to get wet!