Margaret River - birds, flowers, trees and wine
Trip Start Oct 12, 2005
118Trip End Mar 23, 2006
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We left Perth yesterday morning (Friday 21st) headed for the south-west
of Western Australia: Rockingham, Bunbury, Bussleton, Margaret River
Augusta. The area is known for its wine, but the wildlife has been much
more interesting & novel (though wine tasting was a new experience and
I've seen masses of new & exciting animals, birds and plants, and we
brought Helen's big bird & flower identification books along, so that
anything she doesn't recognise (not much
whome all these strange animals & plants are "normal") can nevertheless
be approximately identified.
Little penguins. At Penguin Island off Rockingham. Mostly a bird
sanctuary, but a part is open to the public who must venture onto the
little ferry in the blowing wind & threatening rain (or maybe that was
just us!). I saw one genuine, wild, little penguin hidinng under a
boardwalk in the middle of the island. Apparently there are thousands
living on the little island but they are quite shy and don't come out
greet visitors. However the visitors' centre has 10 tame(ish) penguins
which have been rescued following injury etc & are now hand fed in
of visitors each day. These little things were SO cute! They are only
about 40cm tall, with white tummies and steel-blue sides, backs and
flippers, and they waddled around to be fed & to dive into the pool!
Each of these tamed penguins has a name: we met Piggy, Pingu, Sassy,
JoJo, and several of their friends, & they come forward in order to be
fed with fish from the keeper's bucket. If you've never seen Little
Penguins then I highly recommend them!
Pelicans. Apparently so widespread around Australia and elsewhere in
Southern Hemisphere that Helen was amazed that we don't have them in
England! We don't, though, so the sight of Penguin Island's pelicans
flying around in the strait separating the island from the mainland was
really something new. They breed on Penguin Island, alongside the
penguins and the gulls: great big black & white birds with huge great
Emus. Yes, really, emus too! Two of them crossed the road almost
directly in front of the car just before sunset on Saturday night.
Fortunately we were just slowing down to look for the vineyard
to Ed & Eleanor, Helen's clients who had invited her to dinner (and
included me in the invitation), so managed not to get an emu through
the windscreen. This pair were just walking along: big, dull buff
coloured birds with solid bodies of slightly shaggy feathers and long
legs & neck. It was quite amazing to see them just wandering along & up
a track away from the road, seemingly totally oblivious to the car or
indeed anything much else.
Silver gulls. Australian seagulls: smaller and less noisy than their
British equivalents, they are similarly ubiquitous along the coast. The
biggest concentration was at Penguin Island, where the gulls were
nesting (small nests on the ground, with mid-sized spotty eggs) and
were rather protective of the nests and the young seagulls: rising to
head height or thereabouts they shrieked at us to keep away from their
babies, like something from The Birds. Fortunately for us, however,
there was no pecking or aggression.
Australian Ringneck "twenty-eight" parrots. Bright green parrots with a
yellow ring around the back of their necks (hence the name ringneck;
nickname "twenty-eight" comes from the cry which apparently sounds as
though they are saying "twenny eight, twenny eight!"). There seem to be
plenty around in the woodland of the South West: we saw quite a few
hanging around on the roadsides, eating.
Kookaburras. The laughing kookaburra, an Australian icon, and I didn't
just see them I even heard them laugh. They were hanging out along the
Caves Road south of Margaret River in late afternoon. About the size of
a crow, or a little smaller, white and brownish, the Kookaburra doesn't
quite hit the "cute" button, but is appealing-looking: vaguely
kingfisher-shaped with a brown stripe back around the eye. The ones in
the forest & on the power-lines wouldn't oblige by laughing, but
Australian white ibis.
New Holland Honeyeater.
Ospreys. Strictly speaking, just the osprey's nests which are huge
of sticks built around the coast of Rottnest Island (see earlier
Also crows, several varieties of duck & not a few other types of bird
flying away, or in the distance.
Kangaroos. Yes, I have now seen wild kangaroos bouncing around. The
whole jumping thing is just so endearing (though I am having it very
firmly impressed on me that kangaroos are a pest to farmers as they eat
all the crops, which I can see is a bit of a problem). They're a bit
shy, though, so no photos yet. We called in on a client of Helen's in
Busselton & they told us where to find kangaroos near there, just
a partially built housing estate on the edge of town. Then I stepped
of the cottage we're staying in & wandered up the track just before
sunset yesterday. And there was a kangaroo at the end, maybe 50 yards
away. It stared for a while & turned its back to bounce away.
Rabbits. Cute, furry, bouncy & a pest to farmers. So far, so
kangaroo-like. Wild rabbits aren't such a novelty, of course, as plenty
live around the semi-industrial area near my house. But still, to see
rabbits is always a pleasure: the little white tail disappearing under
bush as it hops about its daily business. There was one by the forest
octtages and one on a slope above the Blackwood River as it arrives at
the sea in Augusta.
Skinks. Greenish ones on Rottnest & brown ones on Penguin Island and
down towards Augusta. That's skinks - a medium sized & slow-moving type
of lizard - not skunks. I'm not a lizard person really (not so much as
am a furry animals person!), but any new wild beastie is a Good Thing
Pet dogs. Not wild at all: very soppy and tail-wagging. So far I've met
Molly the retriever (or labrador?) belonging to Stuart & Sally, Helen's
clients in Busselton, Two bouncy, barky dogs belonging to Wendy the
forest cottage's owner, and Ellie the affectionate baby Jack Russell at
Ed and Eleanor's.
Trees and plants seen:
Lots and lots, but in particular:
Karri trees. Very, very tall.
Red, blue and yellow gum trees.
Paperbark trees. Which peel off their bark like, erm, paper.
FOOD. Food was great. Dinner in Margaret River was at a pub/restaurant in the centre of the town where I had a lovely pasta thing and tried kangaroo for the first time (Helen gave me a little bit of hers. Definitely something I'm having again!). And we visited the Margaret River chocolate factory which was also yummy!
WINE: I am not a big drinker but the wine tasting was an interesting way to taste stuff and find out which I liked and which I didn't. Going to the amazingly posh wineries was fascinating: a mouthful of wine which might be nice, nasty, taste of grass (yuk), wood (weird) or sweet (yum). The gardens were quite amazing too: massive rose beds laid out in a classic manner, with plenty of lovely smells.
CAPE LEEUWIN: The most South Westerly point in Australia, Cape Leeuwin lies just beyond Augusta and possesses a lighthouse, 3 huts which were formerly the lighthouse keepers' cottages and some great waves, where the Southern and Indian oceans meet. What a fantastic view, in spite of the rain which turned up a few minutes after us, and the wind which gave just a slight hint of what it would be like here on a winter's night. Photos were taken and then we went round the corner to a calcified water wheel. It wasn't that old - maybe 100+ years or something, but minerals in the water running over it had caused stone to build up around the wheel and stop it from turning. The beach was great too - rocks to climb on and sand to attempt to walk on. The sea was a little chilly for paddling though!
CAVES: Helen passed the car driving over to me to drive the Caves Road through the woods towards the caves. The road winds up hills and round tightish corners, making it a fun drive, somewhat different from the straight highway down to Margaret River. We eventually arrived at Lake Cave, beneath a CaveWorks exhibtion (reasonably interesting) and descended what felt like hundreds of steps through the collapsed dolmin to the entrance to the cave. The guide was new, very enthusiastic and only about 5 feet tall, which was good for her as there were plenty of places around where the unwary, taller, visitor could hit their head. So we stepped down and down and eventually found ourselves in a single cave with plenty of funny-shaped stalagmites and stalactites. And a lake. Walked through to the end where there was a light show, showing off the strange shapes including the suspended limestone table. A very nice cave, with plenty to see. Then we had to climb back up the steps. Which was less fun. Though stopping to take photos every couple of flights means that you look slightly less pathetic.
VISITING CLIENTS: Helen had organised to take some papers to a couple who are clients of hers, and they'd invited us to dinner. Which was very kind of them. Met the dog (see above), saw their winery and pet guinea fowl(!) and sat out in the screened outside verandah (fly screened). Ed and Eleanore were an elderly but very lively couple: he was an ex-meteorologist (from Kalgoorlie) and she an ex-dentist originally from Austria (via London). Somewhat entertainingly, she seemed to have drunk a good bit of the wine for dinner before we arrived, so Ed had to try to reduce her intake while cooking so that nothing too bad happened to the food! In fact it was lovely: pickled pork tasted much like ham to me) with potatoes and veg. Then a prune-in-baked-custard confection which was very sweet, and consequently more than acceptable! The free entertainment got more surprising through the evening, which was funny, and eventually we escaped to the tranquility of the forest hut!