Waychinicup Nature Reserve Birding Sites

Key Species : White-bellied Sea-Eagle (chance), Brush Bronzewing, Long-billed Black-Cockatoo (chance), Red-capped Parrot (good chance), Ground Parrot (long shot), Spotted Nightjar (good chance), Noisy Scrub-bird (best chance), Red-winged Fairy-wren, Southern Emu-wren, Western Bristlebird (very good chance), Little Wattlebird, Tawny-crowned Honeyeater, Western Spinebill, White-breasted Robin, Western Whipbird (chance), Red-eared Firetail. Mammals : Southern Brown Bandicoot, Honey Possum (chance), Quokka (chance), Western Brush-tailed Wallaby, Western Grey Kangaroo, Bush Rat (good chance). Reptiles : King Skink, Rosenberg's Monitor (good chance).

The Waychinicup Nature Reserve is situated on a small picturesque sheltered inlet about 40km east of Albany on the south coast.  It is a popular local fishing spot.  There are a limited number of camp sites ($5 per night payable to CALM) with a couple of gas barbecues and a single pit toilet.  No fires are permitted.  There is no fresh water available.  If you don't want to camp, then there is a good caravan park at Cheyne's Beach (08 9846 1247) where there is a general store and fuel.  Alternatively, you can stay in Albany which is about one hour away.

To get to Waychinicup from Albany, head north east east along Highway One to the small town of Many Peaks (40km from Albany).  Turn right 8.5km past Many Peaks towards the small coastal town of Cheyne's Beach (not Cheyne's Bay which is further east).  After 13km along the road to Cheyne's Beach, turn right onto the 4WD road to Waychinicup.  It is 5.5km to the camping area at the end of the road.  A 2WD can usually safely negotiate the road if you go slowly but it is rough and you will encounter problems if the road is wet after rain or if you need to pass a vehicle coming from the other direction.  There is a creek about half way along the road to the camping area and the road will be closed by CALM (08 9842 4500) if there is water flowing over the road.

The Noisy Scrub-bird, Western Bristlebird and Western Whipbird are all quite common in their respective suitable habitats.  You will hear them in many places along the 4WD road but they are all notoriously difficult to see in the dense heath.  The Noisy Scrub-bird lives in the densest habitat especially along the watercourses.  The Western Bristlebird lives in the very low heath with possibly a few scattered low bushes such as mallee.  The Western Whipbird usually prefers mallee heath but at Waychinicup there is not much mallee and so they are most often in the hakea thickets.  All three species spend most of their time on the ground and very seldom fly.  The Western Whipbird commonly calls from two or three metres above ground while you may be fortunate to see the Western Bristlebird in the top of a very low bush or in the base of a mallee tree.  They tend to call in bursts about 10 minutes or so apart so you need to be very patient.

I strongly recommend that you learn the calls for each species.  However, the playing of tapes to attract birds is a very controversial subject.  If you do use a tape, then play it for no more than two or three calls (5 to 10 seconds) and then wait for up to 10 minutes for the male to move towards you and then to respond.  If the bird responds, then play the tape again for about two calls.  If they don't respond immediately then you could probably play the tape all day long without any benefit.  You shouldn't need to use a tape to attract the Noisy Scrub-bird and the Western Bristlebird, but it may be helpful for the Western Whipbird.  However, if you are really looking for the Western Whipbird then I very strongly recommend the Fitzgerald River, Cheyne's Beach, Two Peoples Bay or the Stirling Ranges as much better locations.

Please be very careful to minimise trampling and damaging the heath.  As a general rule try to keep to the road, the few side tracks and the kangaroo trails.  Ticks (reddish and about 3 to 4mm) can be a problem so I recommend that you wear long pants and that you spray them and your shoes and socks with insect repellent.

The following is a list of suggested locations.  The distances given are from the information display (S34 53 34" E118 20 01") at the camping area.

1. The Inlet.  You are unlikely to see anything unusual, but it is still worthwhile briefly checking the inlet for Pacific Gull, cormorants, Common Sandpiper, White-bellied Sea-Eagle, etc.  In January 1998 there were large numbers of Tree Martins hawking in the late afternoon.  Fork-tailed Swift could be a possibility as a passage migrant in summer.

2. The Camping Area.  It is worth while looking around the camping area for Red-winged Fairy-wren, White-breasted Robin, Brush Bronzewing, King Skink, Southern Brown Bandicoot, Bush Rat and possible QuokkaFan-tailed Cuckoo is also a possibility.  You should hear a Noisy Scrub-bird near the best camp site which has a gas barbecue.  I have heard Noisy Scrub-birds calling regularly during the night in May 1997 and January 1998.  I followed an animal trail from the camp site under the trees for about 50 to 80 metres to the heath beyond and I got very close to the Noisy Scrub-bird but I failed to see it.  It can be easier to follow the road for 100 to 150 metres from the toilet and work your way down the slope on the right.

3. Noisy Scrub-bird Site (50 metres S34 53 33" E118 19 53").  Walk up the hill from the pit toilet (past the road on the left that leads down a steep hill) to a small track on the left marked by five pine posts.  Walk along this walk track for about 30 metres until you are at the edge of the low heath looking down to a watercourse lined by taller trees.  In late 1999 CALM bulldozed the 30 metre wide fire break which has greatly changed the site.  Go down the fire break to the bottom and make your way up the creek on the right hand side for about 10 metres.  You might need to bring something to sit on if the ground is wet.  Try to avoid the ants which can be annoying.  It is then a case of waiting for the bird to come to you.  The male calls fairly often so you should be able to determine if it is getting closer.  It may sound loud compared to other birds but it is only when it is very loud (sometimes almost hurting your ears) that it is close.  It often stops calling when it is very close and can see you.  Every time that I have seen it, it has been within the first ten minutes.  It is your decision but I would admit defeat if I hadn't seen it after 20 to 30 minutes.  There is a pair of White-breasted Robins that you should see while you wait.  The Noisy Scrub-bird used to go much further down the creek past where the fire break is now.  This is now highly unlikely, but in the future it might be possible for another to establish a territory below the fire break.  There are two sites where you would have a reasonable chance of seeing it if you remain still and are patient.  The first is about 30 metres below the fire break, and the other is in the corner.  I have seen Red-winged Fairy-wren, Southern Emu-wren and White-breasted Robin in or on the edge of the low heath as well as a Rosenberg's Monitor.  I have heard and got very close to Western Bristlebird but the chances of actually seeing it here are low.  I have heard Western Whipbird in the hakea at the far right end of the low heath and up the hill on the other side of the fire break.  This is also the area where I picked up the most ticks!

4. Western Bristlebird Site (700 metres S34 53 15" E118 19 43").  This is an area with dense impenetrable hakea on the left of the road and low heath on the right with a few small mallees that are quite close to the road.  There are two small sandy water runoffs on the low heath side.  There is a pair of Western Bristlebirds that seem to spend quite a lot of time close to the road especially near the second runoff.  I have seen these birds on two occasions (the male in May 1997 and the female in January 1998) but you need to allow 60 to 90 minutes and you must be prepared to be patient.  There are a number of approaches to seeing them.  I recommend sitting on the edge of the road on the hakea side of the road.  You don't need to hide but you should keep still and be patient.  You might then be lucky to see one cross the road to forage along the edge of the hakea (this is more likely very early in the morning).  Otherwise you should sit and wait for the pair to call to each other.  The male starts the call with the reply coming from the female.  They repeat this a number of times and then they are silent for 10 to 20 minutes.  Try to locate where the calls are coming from.  Hopefully you will see the bird within one of the small mallees or on the top of a low bush.  The third alternative is to walk into the low heath at the end of the second runoff for about 5 metres to a small drain.  Follow the drain to the left.  Wait in the drain for them to call and then walk slowly through the heath towards the call.  The heath is relatively sparse in this area and you mostly have a good viewing area up to 10 metres or so.  Don't get too close to them.  Instead, allow them to move towards you by leaving yourself a good viewing area and then hope to see the bird as it runs/forages through the low heath.  At this location I have also seen Southern Emu-wren, Little Wattlebird, Western Spinebill and Tawny-crowned Honeyeater plus Shining Bronze-cuckoo is a chance.  I have heard Western Whipbird in the hakea.

5. Noisy Scrub-bird Site (1km S34 53 17" E118 19 37").  This is an area with a taller (3 to 4 metre) thicket on the right of the road with dense hakea on the left.  The tall thicket is the territory of a male Noisy Scrub-bird.  This is very close to the road and if you pick the right place you can make your way 20 metres or so into the centre.  However, I have yet to find a place with a good viewing area so your chance of actually seeing the bird is greatly reduced.  White-breasted Robin is a good chance here.

6. Dieback Disease Control Track (1.5km S34 53 07" E118 19 28").  This location is where the track bends slightly uphill to the right.  The sandy track straight ahead at the corner is marked by three pine posts.  There is a hakea thicket straight ahead to the left of the sandy track, and also to the right of the road on the top of the slope.  Most of the other vegetation is low heath suitable for Western Bristlebird.  There is a Western Whipbird with a territory mostly in the hakea along the ridge but it does sometimes cross the road and the sandy track to the other area of hakea.  I saw one bird calling about 3 metres above the ground in a dead tree in the 'triangle' between the sandy track and the road in May 1997.  The 'triangle' is a good site for Southern Emu-wren and Red-winged Fairy-wren and I have seen a Rosenberg's Monitor here.  The hakea is good habitat also for Little Wattlebird, Tawny-crowned Honeyeater, Western Spinebill and possible White-cheeked Honeyeater amongst the abundant New Holland Honeyeaters.  Please respect the dieback control signs.

7. Creek Crossing (2.4km S34 52 47" E118 19 43").  This is an area of tall trees (including some eucalypts) along Waychinicup Creek.  The creek is often flowing while at other times there are always a number of pools along the creek including one at the creek crossing.  There is extensive undergrowth below the trees and along the creek including bracken ferns.  There is a Noisy Scrub-bird with a territory to the north (left) of the bridge.  The vegetation is thick along the creek so that your chances of seeing it are small.  There is a kangaroo trail that you can follow parallel to the creek for 30 metres of more where you might get lucky and see the bird if it leaves the cover of the creek.  On the eastern (far) side of the creek and the southern (right) side of the road there is a track.  This track has been recommended as a site to look for Red-winged Fairy-wren, White-breasted Robin, Red-eared Firetail, etc.  On a couple of occasions I have found a flock of Long-billed Black-Cockatoos roosting in the eucalypts just before dark.  Check their bills as Short-billed Black-Cockatoos also occur.

8. Poison Risk Area Sign (2.6km S34 52 42" E118 19 49").  This sign is at the start of a track on the left of the road.  The track leads down towards the creek.  I haven't followed the track but it might give access to a suitable area to look for the Noisy Scrub-bird.  I have got close to a Noisy Scrub-bird about 100 to 150 metres further along the creek to the right but the vegetation became too dense to get closer.  This might be the same male as the one at the creek crossing but I think that it is likely to be another in an adjoining territory.  The poison is 1080 baits (usually in buried eggs) laid to control foxes.

9. Mallee / Heath Site (4.1km S34 52 27" E118 20 38").  This is more a general area rather than a precise location.  On the south (right) side of the road there are patches of low heath where I have heard Western Bristlebird and also patches of mallee and hakea heath where I have heard Western Whipbird.  On the north (left) side of the road there is a very extensive area of thick low heath.  There is the chance of seeing a raptor such as a Swamp Harrier patrolling over the heath.

10. Cheyne's Beach Road (5.5km S34 52 17" E118 21 24").  The power lines are usually a good place for a few raptors such as Brown Falcon and Nankeen Kestrel.  They probably feed on the road killed reptiles.  At the Waychinicup turnoff you will notice some yellow 'hockey sticks' along the side of the road.  These are used by the Main Roads Department to signify that there are rare plants along the roadside verge and that care must be taken when maintenance is undertaken to clear the vegetation from the verge or if they intend to widen the road.  The rare species are not marked on the hockey sticks.  At the turnoff, you can hear several Noisy Scrub-birds in the distance.

11. Spotlighting.  It can be worth while spending some time spotlighting just after dusk.  I have seen a Spotted Nightjar along Cheyne's Beach Road closer to Cheyne's Beach and Tawny Frogmouth and Southern Boobook along the road to Waychinicup.  I have heard a Barn Owl during the night at the Waychinicup camping area.  Southern Brown Bandicoot is fairly common at the camping area and they may approach your camp site after dark, and you might see a Quokka if you are lucky.  Honey Possum is a chance if the banksias or hakeas are flowering.

 

Cheynes Beach Caravan Park, via Manypeaks 6328 (Phone : 08 9846 1247 Fax : 08 9846 1311)

 

Copyright Frank O'Connor 1997-2004 Visits Last Modified 10th July 2004