by Robert Davis
Key Species : Emu, Malleefowl, Black-tailed Native-hen, Australian Bustard (chance), Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo, Major Mitchell's Cockatoo, Regent Parrot, Mulga Parrot, Red-backed Kingfisher, Redthroat, Chestnut-rumped Thornbill, Southern Whiteface, White-fronted Honeyeater, Grey Honeyeater (good chance), Black Honeyeater (sporadic), Crimson Chat, Hooded Robin, White-browed Babbler, Varied Sittella, Crested Bellbird, Ground Cuckoo-shrike (chance), Masked Woodswallow (sporadic), White-backed Swallow.
Beacon is about 350 kms from Perth via the Great Eastern Highway to Northam and Kellerberrin and then north via Bencubbin. There are a number of excellent birding sites including the many granite outcrops and remnant bushland areas in the shire. Beacon has the great feature of being the farthest north-easterly town in the wheatbelt. As such, it is not a typical wheatbelt location, and it has a large number of uncommon endemic and goldfields birds which come from across the nearby Emu-proof fence. The Emu-proof fence should certainly be a highlight of any birding trip to the area, and besides the obvious Emus, it can produce highlights such as Malleefowl and Major Mitchells Cockatoos. Beacon can be seen in two days (an overnight stay in town), but it is best seen with at least three days so that more time can be devoted to the birds beyond the Emu-proof fence. The roads can be hazardous to navigate in winter and after the cyclonic summer rains, and a four-wheel drive is definitely recommended. Spring or Summer are probably the best times to visit (September-March), but care should still be taken when going beyond the Emu-proof fence, due to its extreme isolation. A caravan park can be found in Beacon, but there are no hotels or motels. The nearest hotel can be found in Bencubbin, 46 km to the south of Beacon.
1. Beacon Town
The small town of Beacon is a good place to start looking for wheatbelt birds. During winter and spring, large flocks of Little Corellas migrate to the town and can be seen in flocks of up to 1,000 individuals in the grassed areas of the town. An abundance of Galahs and Australian Ringnecks can also be seen in the tall Salmon gums and grassed lawns. Honeyeaters (including the occasional Black Honeyeater) and thornbills can often also be seen around town.
2. Bush Fragments
Most of the real birding around Beacon will take place in the many large areas of remnant vegetation. The best way to access these remnants is to take the Bonnie Rock-Burrakin Road heading west out of town. Turn north onto Bimbijy Road. There are many paddocks alongside the road and Nankeen Kestrels, Black-shouldered Kites, Wedge-tailed Eagles and parrots are often seen in the fields. Also watch the roadside trees carefully as Major Mitchells Cockatoos have been seen in these, especially in the roadside creeklines.
A good fragment for birding is on the corner of Bimbijy Road and Scotsmans Road. Turn right onto Scotsmans and continue for about 1 km. A small track on the right provides access to a granite outcrop area. Wandering around the woodland fringing the outcrops, can provide good views of Mulga Parrot (quite common here), Yellow-rumped and Chestnut-rumped Thornbill, Grey Shrike-thrush, many Rufous Whistlers, Common Bronzewing, Nankeen Kestrel, Brown Falcon, Red-capped Robin and more. The creek line on Bimbijy Road just before Scotsmans Road, can be traversed into a large bushland area. Major Mitchells Cockatoos can often be seen here, as well as robins and wrens. Also look for Emus and the occasional Australian Bustard in the nearby fields.
Billiburning Rock is a relatively undisturbed bushland area found by continuing along Bimbijy Road until the sealed road ends, and then continuing a bit further until a sign which points to the rock. Take this road to the right (Kuhl Road) to the end, and turn left. Billiburning is one of the largest outcrops around and provides opportunities for many more secretive birds. It is also quite near the fence, and often has good sightings of Wedge-tailed Eagles, Budgerigars, Black Cockatoos (also widely spread around town and in creek lines), Purple-crowned Lorikeets (for the very lucky!), Major Mitchells Cockatoos and possibly Malleefowl.
There are many areas of bush around Beacon, and it is best to explore for yourself, but be careful, as it is very easy to get lost in the head-height Mallee! Local farmers would also be happy to let you look in their dams and fields for plovers, bustards and ducks, if you ask their permission. There is no permanent water anywhere in the shire, and dam watching can be very productive (especially in wader season) producing several plover species, Australian Shelducks, Australian Wood Ducks and Yellow-billed Spoonbills.
3. Beyond The Emu-proof Fence
Beyond the Emu-proof fence lies Karroun Hill Nature Reserve and Bimbijy Station. This area can be treacherous, so take plenty of water, let someone know youre going there and take care.
There are few tracks off the main road beyond the fence, and the best plan of attack would be opportunistic car-spotting with frequent stops to wander through creek lines. There is a track to Mt Churchman which can be driven up to get a good view of the surrounding area. The fence is by far the best place for rarities. A decent amount of twitching here will produce Regent Parrots, Major Mitchells Cockatoos, Malleefowl (often seen around midday, running across the road), Emus, most of the local passerines, a number of raptors including Wedge-tailed Eagles and Collared Sparrowhawks, and possibly, just possibly, Grey Falcons. I think I may have seen one out here, but it was a very quick and quite uncertain sighting (probably wishful thinking!). This area is also excellent for seeing goannas, snakes, red kangaroos and, unfortunately, feral goats, camels and horses. This area of bush certainly has great potential for rarities, and night spotlighting has produced Southern Boobook, Tawny Frogmouth, Australian Owlet-Nightjar and Spotted Nightjar. White-browed Babbler, Red-backed Kingfisher, White-backed Swallow, Ground Cuckoo-shrike, Hooded Robin, Varied Sittella and Rufous Treecreeper have all been recorded in the initial survey of Karroun Hill Reserve by the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife (Youngson, W.K. and McKenzie, N.L., 1977). CALM may be able to assist you with getting a copy of this.
4. Grey Honeyeater Site (Thanks to David Stewart - NSW)
This site is 32km south of Payne's Find. The road is signposted to Maranalgo Station and continues through Mouroubra Station to 20km west of Beacon. The site is approximately 110km north of the Beacon / Burakin Road. There is a grid with a sign facing north warning 'Caution Horses Next 10km'. You can park on a side track just north of the grid. David Stewart found a Grey Honeyeater here in September 1997. A week later Frank O'Connor found them three times. They were about 150 to 200 metres north of the grid. The first was about 30 metres east of the road. The second was about 80 metres west of the track. A few days later the third sighting was about 50 metres west of the road. All sightings were in a distinctive species of mulga with a peeling iron coloured bark which is quite common. The bird looked like the illustration in the new edition of Pizzey rather than the illustration in Simpson & Day. Red-capped and Hooded Robins were quite common. In November 1999 a Chestnut Quail-thrush was probably heard, but Grey Honeyeater was not found in fairly windy conditions.
Accommodation or camping is available at Bimbijy Station (08 9667 1022), Ninghan Station (08 9963 6517), White Wells Station and possibly Pindabunna Station. Good birding sites near these stations are in the web page on Payne's Find.
Beacon Check List (Microsoft Word 95) (12KB)
|© Copyright Frank O'Connor 1997-2005||Visits||Last Modified 7th November 2005|