Get Twitching Bird Watchers

Grab your binoculars and meet the furry friends of the south west

Birdwatching is a therapeutic way to connect with nature and the Margaret River region is a great place to grab a pair of binoculars and begin birding.

“When you take a walk amongst the tall trees and listen to the birdsong, it puts life in perspective. It’s amazing how much we appreciate the world around us when we start watching and listening to birds.” says Dr Tegan Douglas from BirdLife Australia.

Learn about some of the local bird appreciation and conservation projects and how you can get involved.

Photos by Steven Castan

The Great Cocky Count

“We are starting to get a handle on the south west forest populations of our iconic, much-loved black cockatoos” says Dr Boyd Wykes, ornithologist and chairman of Nature Conservation Margaret River. The Margaret River region is a stronghold for all three of WA’s threatened cockatoos – Baudin’s and Carnaby’s White-tailed Black Cockatoos and the forest race of Red-tailed Black Cockatoo. All are present throughout the year but with local and longer distance seasonal movements relating to their varying diets, availability of nest sites and drinking water sources.

To monitor overall numbers, community teams survey 30 cockatoo roost sites in our region each autumn for The Great Cocky Count, with some roosts supporting hundreds of birds of more than one species.

“We’ve still got a lot to learn; how they use the region, where they roost and where they go” says Shapelle McNee who helped coordinate The Great Cocky Count.

The Masked Owl

Boyd is particularly interested in owls and together with fellow local Steven Castan, has spent many nights over the last two years tracking down a vibrant population of Masked Owls, the enigmatic forest relative of the Barn Owl.

Unfortunately, a diet of rodents leaves the owls vulnerable to secondary poisoning from mouse and rat baits.  The alarming finding from sampling tissue from dead birds in the south west by ECU owl researcher Mike Lohr, including a Masked Owl found at Meelup, is that all our owls and native predatory animals such as the chudditch are being killed off by a new generation of rodenticides. Boyd urges people to avoid poisons if possible, or to use multiple lower dose poisons rather than one-off lethal doses that would kill a native predator that eats the mouse or rat.

Birdata – The Great Bird Survey

Birdata is an Australia-wide database of bird sightings, and it’s not just for bird nerds – anyone can record what they see, and help BirdLife monitor our feathered friends at the same time. Zoom in on the map and you’ll find a list of all birds sighted in that region.

Dr Tegan Douglas teamed up with Andre Courtis from Your Margaret River Region to create Birdata Shared Sites at the local lighthouses and caves, to participate in Australia’s longest running fauna survey.

“At Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse we have a leaky water tank which is well known for attracting a plethora of birds, especially in warmer times as it is so dry out there. Red-eared Firetail Finches, Southern Emu Wrens, White-breasted Robins and a phenomenal number of Splendid Fairy Wrens hang out there” says Andre.

Birds of prey are a regular bonus on lighthouse tours; “I have had a Squaretail Kite come within a couple of metres of the tour group up the top. Last week on a tour, we watched a Nankeen Kestral attack another bird on the ground. There was an almighty screeching noise like I’d never heard.”

Get Involved

Join the BirdLife Cape to Cape Group on one of their walks and excursions. It’s a welcoming and enthusiastic group, and a fantastic way to discover some hidden gems.

Free birding events at the lighthouses and caves are a great way to see some rare birds in the company of experienced bird watchers including Christine Wilder from the Cape to Cape Bird Group. Each site brings different species due to varying vegetation, but Christine says you might expect Spotted Pardalottes, Splendid Wrens and White-breasted Robins at Cape Naturaliste, Black cockatoos amongst the karri trees at Jewel Cave and possibly a crested shrike-tit at Mammoth Cave. You might see Rock Parrots, endangered Hooded Plovers, White-breasted Sea Eagles and Ospreys at Cape Leeuwin. Call 9757 7411 for bookings.

CockyWatch is a new initiative to find out what the cockatoos are doing and where throughout the year. Participants record numbers of Black Cockatoos seen while travelling along routes by car, bike or on foot.  Boyd Wykes has chosen to survey a 5km section of the Wadandi track through forest and farmland.  “I survey slowly on my mountain bike in one direction and then peddle faster back, giving me about an hour’s exercise.”

Register at birdata.birdlife.org.au and download the Birdata app so you can track birds in your own backyard and on holiday.

National Bird Week is from 22-28 October – look out for events.

Birdwatching Hot Spots 

“You can’t go past a walk along many of the sections of the Wadandi Track for seeing an abundance of bird species – and a walk in Boranup Forest is a must. Many of our beaches reveal sea birds and shore birds as well – my favourite beach spot is Cape Mentelle and Gnoocardup beach” – Steven Castan (@estebanthenatureman – IG)

“There is a spectacular seabird called a Red-tailed Tropicbird that used to be recorded quite regularly in spring and summer off Sugarloaf Rock and Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse. They haven’t been recorded there for a few years though, but it would be great to know if people do see them – record them in Birdata!” – Dr Tegan Douglas

“Rotary Park has several lovely walking tracks, including a karri-shaded riverside walk. Birding highlights include Crested Shrike-Tits, Rufous Treecreepers, Western Rosellas, Red-capped Parrots, Splendid and Red-winged Fairy Wrens, White-breasted Robins and Western Golden Whistlers” – Christine Wilder

Now that you know where you’ll be headed with your binoculars….need somewhere to stay?

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Lizzy Pepper

About Lizzy Pepper

After living in Melbourne and London, Lizzy meant to have a summer in Yallingup before getting a “serious” job in Perth. Nine years on, and she loves Dunsborough too much to return to city life. Lizzy works as a marketing consultant in the tourism industry. She’s taken helicopter rides along the coast, distilled her own batch of gin and put in the hard yards tasting wines to help tell her clients' stories. Whether she’s paddling her wave ski on Geographe Bay, swimming at Castle Rock Beach, brunching at a favourite café or drinking local wine on the deck, Lizzy is always on the lookout for new tastes and experiences to share with visitors. Instagram: @lizzy.pepper.marketing / Web: lizzypepper.com

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