Denmark Trip – Part 1

Western Rosella

Western Rosella

My recent trip to Denmark wasn’t as far afield as you might imagine, as it’s on the south coast of Western Australia, not the European one.  I stayed in a cabin on built stilts, on the side of a hill, in woodland, so from one side of the house the view was directly into the tree tops.  There was a bird feeder on the balcony and we had lots of visitors to it, including some surprises.  The rosella (above) was one of them.  It’s the first time I’ve seen them since we moved here and there was a whole family who were regular visitors.

White-browed Babbler

White-browed Babbler

The rosella wasn’t the only first for us.  This babbler was one of a group of about 7 who came noisily through the woods

Red-winged Fairy-wren

Red-winged Fairy-wren

This red-winged fairy-wren and his family was another regular visitor.  I have to say he looks just the same as several other fairy-wrens (blue-breasted, variegated, lovely) and I’m only guessing red-winged because of our location.

Common Bronzewing

Common Bronzewing

Another frequent visitor to the bird table was this lovely bronzewing.  There were quite a few of them and they were easily chased off the feeders by the gallahs, so they quite often fed on the forest floor beneath, picking up the seeds that the other birds were dropping.

White-naped Honey-eater

White-naped Honey-eater

These honey-eaters were also new to me – white-naped honey-eaters.

Gallah Chicks

Gallah Chicks

The most common visitors to the feeder, and the whole of the balcony, were the gallahs.  At one point we had 22 gallahs on there, all queuing up for a feed.  In the woods I found the reason they were so hungry. This one had been eating for at least 3. The parents seemed to be feeding, then regurgitating food for their very noisy chicks. You can just see one peeping out of the nest hole.

Gallah

Gallah

 

Dolphins

 

Dolphin

Dolphin

There won’t be any birds in this post but surely everyone loves dolphins.  So I thought I’d share some pictures from a recent trip.  This wild dolphin was playing just in front of me in the shallows.

Swimming in the shallows

Dolphin swimming in the shallows

These were taken in a town called Bunbury, about 2 hours drive south of Perth.  The town is built by a lovely bay, which happens to be a perfect home for dolphins.  It’s shallow and sheltered, and has plenty of fish in it. And lots and lots of dolphins.

Visitor Centre

Visitor Centre

There’s a dolphin visitor centre and the wild dolphins frequently come to shore all year round.  When a dolphin comes to the shore at the centre someone rings a bell.  Visitors and volunteers then stand in a line, thigh deep in the water.  The wild dolphins then come and have a look and a play.  It’s one of the few places in Australia where you can do this.  Each one might stay for just 2 minutes, or even for as long as an hour, it’s up to the dolphin.  Sometimes they come on their own, sometimes several come together.  Sometimes they might not come at all for a while – there are no guarantees with wild animals.

Dolphin Face

Dolphin Face

It’s just a breath taking experience.  It’s hard to think that they’re completely wild, they’re so curious and confident in the company of all those people.  You don’t touch them or feed them, just stand while they swim around you.  About 90 of them live in the bay all of the time, and about 200 are regular visitors to it.  About 20 of them are regular visitors to the shore.  Last year, one of the females brought her calf in to show it off less than 24 hours after it was born – I wish I’d seen that.

Dolphins Playing

Dolphins Playing

The centre runs boat tours around the bay, and also trips to swim with the dolphins in the bay.  When we arrived a trip came in where the visitors had been in the water with one group for about 45 minutes.

Females and calves

Females and calves

They’re all bottlenose dolphins.  The bay is especially safe for raising young because so much of it is too shallow for sharks to live and hunt in, and sharks are their main predators.

Bottlenose

Bottlenose

We went on the boat tour and it was amazing.  We must have seen 40 – 50 dolphins while we were out.  We were told that the group in the picture above were probably all mothers and calves.  The calves aren’t tiny – they looked pretty much full size, but they stay with their mum for several years.  The youngest would have been at least 9 months old as this year’s calves hadn’t been born yet.  It was such an amazing trip that I’ll be going back again soon in the hope of seeing one of this season’s calves.

White-bellied Sea-eagle

White-bellied Sea-eagle

White-bellied Sea-eagle

As I mentioned before, I’ve never actually seen a sea-eagle properly.  These pictures were taken by my husband on his trip to the Northern Territories, east of Darwin, in a place called Corroboree Billabong.

I'm looking at you

I’m looking at you

 

 

He was only there for a few hours yet he managed to see at least 6 of these lovely birds, and fairly close too.  They seemed to realise that the people on the cruise boat were no threat.

 

Perching

Perching

 

If you want to see a white-bellied sea-eagle in action but, like me, you aren’t near a good viewing spot, try this.  It’s the white-bellied sea-eagle cam, a live stream from a nest in Sydney.  It’s been running for several years. As I type the eggs are due to hatch any minute.

 

Setting off

Setting off

 

 

As the clouds rolled in this one realised the photo opportunity was coming to an end and flew away.  Their wingspan is over 2m so it’s quite an impressive sight.

 

 

Always on the lookout

Always on the lookout

 

Hopefully it won’t be too long before I see a sea-eagle for myself.  If not, I’ll have to save up for a trip to the Northern Territories.

 

 

 

Although it was the sea-eagles who stole the show, these whistling kites were quite cooperative too.  The one on the left is a juvenile.

Whistling Kites - probably

Whistling Kites – probably

 

 

 

 

 

Arrggh – Crocodiles

Darwin  Home of the Saltwater Crocodile

Darwin Home of the Saltwater Crocodile

Today’s pictures all come courtesy of my husband who was lucky enough to have a couple of days off while working up in Darwin.  I was fairly unsettled while he was away, but mainly because I’d let him take my camera. The understanding was that I could use his pictures on here on his return.

Freshwater Crocodile

Freshwater Crocodile

He went to a National Park east of Darwin for a river cruise to see the crocodiles that the region is famous for, and he wasn’t disappointed.  There were plenty of saltwater crocs out right from the start, and they saw the smaller freshwater ones further into the trip too. About 40 years the saltwater crocs had been hunted to near extinction, when there were only about 3,000 left in the wild.  Since being protected, their numbers have risen rapidly to near 100,000 now.

These dense trees were great for smaller birds to hide in.

These dense trees were great for smaller birds to hide in.

 

 

The scenery and the weather are very different to that around Perth.  It’s tropical so the plants and birds are completely different too.

Comb-crested Jacana

Comb-crested Jacana

 

 

 

 

 

 

The birds were out in their masses.  Many different species, and some in huge flocks.

It doesn’t look it in this photo, but these jacanas actually have really long legs.

 

Jabiru

Jabiru

 

 

I’d seen jabiru on the television before, but I hadn’t really paid attention to where they lived.  Also called the Black-Necked Stork.

 

 

 

Little Kingfisher

Little Kingfisher

 

 

There were several of these Little Kingfishers out fishing.  We don’t get these around Perth either.

 

 

 

White-bellied Sea-eagle

White-bellied Sea-eagle

 

 

Now these do live in WA too, but I’ve only ever seen one and it was extremely high in the air and being chased by crows at the time.  There were several sea-eagles on the river, but more about them next time.

 

Ant Nest - in a tree

Ant Nest – in a tree

 

 

There are over 700 types of ants living in Australia but not many (even across the world) nest in trees.  These are specially adapted and live really high off the ground, avoiding many of the normal ant predators.  They don’t avoid the birds though.

 

 

Rainbow Bee-eater

Rainbow Bee-eater

 

 

There were several bee-eaters out, but most of them were lass co-operative than this one about sitting still and posing for the camera.

 

 

Seeing the photos has made me just a bit jealous – especially as we had rain and cold weather for most of the time he was away.  So the central north of Northern Territory is now very much on my hit-list of places to visit.

Best viewed at a distance

Best viewed at a distance

Whistling kite – a very sad day

Whistling Kite - covered in diesel

Whistling Kite – covered in diesel

This is a very sad sight indeed, a pathetic little whistling kite having diesel removed from its body and feathers.

Last week I took my son to a nearby wildlife rescue centre, Express Wildlife Rescue, for him to do a few hours of voluntary work and in the end I stayed too.  It’s in Wanneroo, North of Perth, and is run by a very driven and dedicated woman called Andrea.

The kite was rescued by a ranger from a vat of diesel and was covered head to toe in a sticky goo, just like when birds are taken out of an oil slick.  One of the last things I helped with before I left was cleaning some of it off.  It’s a tricky balance though.  The diesel seeps in through the skin, so it’s important that it is removed as soon as possible.  On the other hand, it’s a wild bird and too much handling could cause it to die of shock.  And it’s bound to be even more stressful when being handled by 2 people and washed.  Sadly, the bird died the next morning.  As with any animal that dies there, the vet did a post mortem.  One of the reasons is to find out over time which treatments are best what sort of care has the highest success rates ( how long can you handle a wild bird for before it’s too long, foods, temperatures etc ).  It turned out that it was covered in goo inside too, so it had it in its stomach and lungs too.  There was no way it could have survived that.

Tawny Frogmouth

Tawny Frogmouth Doing a very good impression of a log

Andrea has a very high success rate with around 75% of all of the animals she takes in being returned to  health and to the wild.  She had another kite there which was due to be released within the following few days after recovering from an attack by a cat.

Most of the animals fall into the following categories.  1) Attacked by another animal (fox, cat, dog etc).  2) Hit by a vehicle. 3) Deliberately hurt by humans.  I was shocked by just how many felll into that third category.  There was a beautiful white dove there.  It had been rescued after it had been completely plucked  by its owners while it was still alive.

Monopoly

Monopoly – making sure that bit is soft enough to rest his head on as he falls asleep

One of the most popular residents is Monopoly, the kangaroo.  He was orphaned when his mother was shot, then he was poisoned.  The cruelty left him epileptic, so he’ll never be able to be returned to the wild (he needs regular medication) and he probably won’t make it to maturity.  But, for now, he has a very happy life.  His best friend is a golden retriever who enjoys his company.  The two of them played together for ages, before finally settling down for a rest.  Monopoly needed to just make sure the hair was soft enough before he too lay down with his best friend for a rest .

The rescue centre is a not for profit organisation and is always fund raising to pay the medical fees and food bills.  There’s a page on the centre’s website listing things that they are short of (news papers, towels, food bowls etc) so if any readers live nearby, perhaps they could take a look at the list to see if they can drop off anything useful.

 

Under the Waves – Snorkeling

Acropora Coral

Acropora Coral

Snorkeling – it’s time for another ‘not bird’ post.  One of the things that really struck me when I first arrived in Oz was how strange it was to not recognise most of the plants and birds around me.  Getting used to them certainly helped me feel at home here.  About 6 months ago I tried snorkeling.  I’ve done it before with disappointing and slightly embarassing results – I wasn’t exactly agile in the water, despite being a reasonable swimmer.

Parrot fish

Parrot fish

I’m so glad I perservered, it was well worth it and I’m now a bit of a convert.  Once again, I found myself in a world in which I was very uneasy.  Full of plants and wildlife, of which I knew nothing.

At Rottnest

At Rottnest

 

Spangled Emperor

Spangled Emperor

Butterfly Fish

Butterfly Fish

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some of these pictures were taken off Rottnest Island, some up at Ningaloo and some just 10m from the beach near home.  Even in the cooler waters away from the coral reef there’s plenty to see.

Stripey

Stripey

Snorkeling

Snorkeling

Ningaloo

Ningaloo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the great things about snorkeling at Ningaloo was how warm the sea water was – a pleasant change from the Irish sea and the North sea.

hawksbill

hawksbill turtle

This is one of my favourite pictures, despite not being very clear. It was the first turtle I ever saw in the wild.

For Christmas I had an ‘Olympus tough’ camera which has been fantastic.  You can take it to the beach with no worries about being near sand and, best of all, it’s waterproof.  I’m still getting used to trying to focus it on the thing I want, and practising trying to stay still while the current is wafting me around, but it still takes some lovely shots.  I only know the names of a few of the fish still but it’s starting to feel a bit more familiar under the waves.

Pink coral

Pink coral

Seabirds

Pacific Gull and Little Black Cormorant

Pacific Gull and Little Black Cormorant

Marina

Marina

 

Today the weather was perfect for an early start in the kayaks, so we had a trip around the marina and along the coast.  There were plenty of seabirds around.  Because we were on the water, I only had my little camera, so not very good for distance shots of birds.

Young Osprey

Young Osprey

 

 

The best thing this morning was seeing one of the young ospreys for the first time since they left hte nest a few weeks ago.

 

 

Osprey Mum

Osprey Mum

 

 

Mum kept a close eye from a nearby lookout – you can see her on the aerial on the roof.

 

 

Osprey nest

Osprey nest

 

 

 

Here’s a view of the nest from on the water.  You get a good view of the sculpture that it was built in.

 

Fishing Practice

Fishing Practice

 

 

 

 

And here the youngster is perched on a mast, looking closely for fish.

osprey call  Click on ‘osprey call’ and hopefully you’ll be able to see and hear it.  The young osprey was constantly calling to Mum during its training session.

Crested Terns

Crested Terns

 

 

There were several families of crested terns by the boats.

 

 

 

Female Darter

Female Darter

 

 

 

There was a family of Australasian Darters out.   This is the female.

 

 

Young Darter

Young Darter

 

 

 

 

Young darter.

 

Night Heron

Night Heron

 

 

 

I’ve also seen several night herons by the marina this week.  This is the best picture I’ve managed.  The problem is that I see them when it’s dark.  They are too far away to use a flash, so all the pictures were a bit dark and blurry.  Hopefully I’ll get a better one before they leave the area.

Pied cormorants

Pied cormorants

Whale Watching

 

Whale Tail

Whale Tail

 

I WENT WHALE WATCHING!!!  Ok, it’s rude to shout, but ‘I WENT WHALE WATCHING’ and it was fantastic.  In fact it was so good that I went again.

Humpback

Humpback

 

Ever since I thought we might move to WA I’ve been excited about the prospect of whale watching.  We arrived just a couple of weeks too late for it, so I had to wait a whole year for the chance.

 

2 whales

2 whales

 

 

The stretch of water just west of where we live is known locally as ‘Humpback Highway’ for a reason.  From the end of September to early December the whales migrate southwards with their calves, from the breeding grounds in North WA to the cooler waters towards the antarctic.

 

Humpback face

Humpback face

For my  first trip the breeze was up and in the wrong direction.  Enormous choppy waves, despite the sunshine.  We didn’t see any whales for over an hour, then we saw lots at once.  Then we saw lots of people being sea-sick. Not ideal.  The sea was much calmer for the second trip, but it was right at the end of the season and we only saw a few whales, and only for a short time.  On a good day mid-season you’ll see several groups of them.

 

Blowhole

Blowhole

 

They’re mainly humpacks, but there are also a few Southern Rights, though I didn’t see one on either trip.  This year there were also 5 killer whales seen playing very close to shore but that’s very rare.

 

 

Tail

Tail

It was much harder to get good pictures than I’d thought.  Someone shouts ‘There’s one’.  By the time I’ve turned round, it’s already sent up it’s water spout and is on its way back down.  By the time I’ve got the camera on it and got it focused, its back is already heading under.  And with the boat bobbing up and down with the waves, keeping the camera on target was quite a challenge.

 

The whales have now gone for another year.  Next year I’ll definitely go again.  If I get a perfect day, there’ll be calmer water and lots more whales and maybe I’ll get some closer shots.  I’d love to see them playing where they come vertically out of the water then splash down sideways.  If I go right at the start of the season I may even see an albatross before they head south for the summer, then I can post a bird picture too.

 

Humpback

Humpback

 

Reptiles – not birds

Bobtail, Blue-tongued skink

Bobtail, Blue-tongued skink on a mission

Whilst I’ve seen some birds this week, they haven’t grabbed my attention as much as the lizards.  It’s that time of year.  The sun has warmed up, the days are longer, and the reptiles are waking up, looking for food and looking to breed.  The one in the picture above is common around here but you’d be unlikely to see one for most of the year.  I’ve seen 5 already this week.  It’s called a bobtail because of it’s stumpy little tail, or sometimes a blue-tongued skink.  All of the ones I’ve seen this week have been marching quite purposefully and don’t seem to mind having their picture taken.  They’re about a foot long and quite broard with a wide head.  Be warned though – they have a nasty bite so don’t try to pick one up.

Dugite in the garage

Dugite in the garage

When we moved to Oz we were told (much to the disappointment of 2 of my sons) that it was unlikely that we’d ever see a snake as they are so shy.  But this one was in the garage of our temporary home just a few weeks after our arrival.  Dugites are highly venomous so it’s just as well we stopped the enthusiastic boys from trying to pick it up.

Dugite in the garden

Dugite in the garden

 

 

This is also a dugite – this time in the front garden of our first rental house.  It was quite feisty and, again, the boys had to be persuaded not to get too close, despite all the expertise they claimed to have picked up from the professionals on the TV.

 

Perentie Monitor Lizard

Perentie Monitor Lizard

 

This is one of the biggest Australian reptiles.  It’s a perentie lizard, the largest of the goannas and one of the biggest monitor lizards in the world.  This one was about 5 feet long.  I didn’t see it,  my husband took this photo in the far north of WA.  You can see from the picture just how fantastic its camouflage is.

 

King's Skink
King’s Skink

 

We saw this King’s skink on Penguin Island.  It seemed strange to me.  We were having a picnic on the grass and the skinks were ‘begging’ for scraps just like pigeons in the UK.  Not having seen many lizards in my life, and certainly not a foot long, I was pretty unnerved by it, and worried in case they bite.

Small lizard

Lizard

 

We do get smaller lizards and skinks too – they aren’t all huge!  This one was only about 4 inches long.

 

 

 

 

Skink

Skink

 

I can’t tell you which sort they are as I struggle to identify them, there are so many similar sorts.  This one had lines of red spots on its sides and legs.  It was very narrow and about 8 inches long.

 

 

 

The one below is my favourite of the week though.  It lives between our garden wall and the garage next door.  It comes out to sit on top of the wall and warm itself up in the sun.  I can’t tell you what sort it is, but it’s black, 21 inches long and our neighbour thinks it is the one that has been living here for years.  I keep referring to it as ‘him’ but I’ve know idea whether anyone can tell whether it’s male or female just by looking without picking it up.  If anyone can shed any light on its gender or what sort of lizard it is I’d love to know.

 

Black Lizard

Black Lizard

Seal Island – Kayaking Trip

CuriousSealion

Curious Sealion

 

Seal Island

Seal Island

 

A couple of days ago I went kayaking with my husband to Seal Island.  I was keen to go in order to see all of the wildlife and hoping that the sealions or dolphins might come and see us.  However, I was also aprehensive as it’s further than I’ve ever been previously.  So, what did we see?  Well, firstly, the sealions.

 

Sealion and pups

Sealion and pups

 

This mum had her pups with her on the beach.  The most sealions I counted at once was 14.  They were mostly just lying on the beach, but a few ventured into the water.  I was so pleased when eventually one decided to come and play for a while.

 

Sealion who came to see me

Sealion who came to see me

 

Here’s one in the water with me.

 

 

 

 

 

Sealion

Click on ‘Sealion’ for video

 

Pelicans on beach

Pelicans on beach

 

 

There’s a huge pelican colony there.  These pelicans didn’t seem to be bothered by the sealions on the beach.

 

 

 

Ospreys and Chicks

Ospreys and Chicks

 

 

We paddled over to another island where I’d seen an osprey previously.  The pair had nested and had (I think) 2 chicks, though it was hard to see.

 

 

Me Filming Ospreys

Me Filming Ospreys

I was nervous of getting my good camera wet so I took my old automatic with me.  It was temperamental to say the least and it’s zoom and focus kept playing up, but I did get some photos and video clips in the end.  We sat and watched as the male brought in a fish (about 7 inches long) and then the parents both fed on it and helped feeding the chicks.

 

It was a fabulous trip.  There were 2 downsides. Firstly, we didn’t see a single dolphin even though there’s a pod that lives there and they often go and play around the kayaks.  Secondly, achey shoulders the next couple of days.  However, it was well worth it and I’m sure we’ll do the trip again.