Thursday, October 27, 2011

Perth Wader Sites (Part 2: Coastal & Estuarine Sites)

This is the second  part of our two-part guide to wader sites near Perth, this time focussing on coastal and estuarine sites (although the sharp-eyed amongst you will notice a couple of sites that are technically lakes have snuck in here too!). The sites this time are listed roughly in order of closeness to Perth CBD, although there are a few out of place.

Alfred Cove: Alfred Cove is one of Perth’s best known wader sites, located within 15 minutes of the city centre. Whilst wader numbers (particularly small species like Sharp-tailed and Curlew Sandpiper) have fallen significantly at the site in the last decade or so, you can usually still find a reasonable variety of waders here over summer. The most commonly seen species are Bar-tailed Godwit, Great Knot, Common Greenshank, Grey Plover, Australian Pied Oystercatcher and Black-winged Stilt. Red Knot, Red-necked Avocet, Pacific Golden Plover, Red-necked Stint and Red-capped Plover are also reasonably regular, and Black-tailed Godwits have been observed regularly over the last few years. Other less common visitors can include Pacific Golden Plover, Whimbrel, Terek Sandpiper, Grey-tailed Tattler, Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, and Banded Stilt.

To reach the cove, park near the sports centre at Troy Park off Burke Dr. Check the samphire and any muddy margins of the cove and any nearby sandbanks and mudflats along the Attadale foreshore - the extent of the exposed sandbanks varies with the level of the tide.

Grey Plover are one of the most common coastal waders to visit the Perth area, and can usually be seen at Alfred Cove during wader season.

Point Dundas: Point Dundas is located upriver of Alfred Cove. The area is popular with walkers and dog owners, so disturbance levels are often high. The number and variety of waders is usually much greater at Alfred Cove, but a visit to Point Dundas can sometimes reward the observer with a few waders, and closer views than those often available at Alfred Cove. Wader species recorded at Point Dundas over recent years include Whimbrel, Red & Great Knots, Common Greenshank, Grey-tailed Tattler, Common Sandpiper, Black-winged Stilt, and Australian Pied Oystercatcher.

Parking is available at the end of Ardross St. Check the shoreline and mudflats (if exposed) to the right of Applecross jetty, and the rocky shoreline around to the left – a boardwalk here means that there can still be the odd wader on the shore even when there are a lot of people about.

Other Swan River sites: Other sites along the river can sometimes have a few waders, although these are usually restricted to common species like Red-necked Stint, Red-capped Plover, and Australian Pied Oystercatcher, but may include something more interesting if you’re lucky. The most well-known of these is probably Pelican Point near UWA (parking along Australia II Dr, or nearby along Hackett Dr). This site was once excellent for waders, but has sadly dropped off significantly. There is an elevated viewing platform at the end of Australia II Dr with views over the lagoon, or you can walk around the river shore if the tide isn’t too high.

Other sites that may be worth a quick check include Milyu Nature Reserve along the freeway (access available by parking in Como and crossing the elevated footbridge across) and Point Walter, in particular the sandbar extending into the river (parking at the end of Honour Av).

Woodman Point: Woodman Point will rarely produce big wader counts, but it is usually a good spot to find a reasonable variety of coastal waders. The most common species are Ruddy Turnstone, Grey Plover, Australian Pied Oystercatcher, and Red-capped Plover, however Great Knot, Common Greenshank, Sanderling, Bar-tailed Godwit, Red-necked Stint, Grey-tailed Tattler, and Greater Sand Plover are also regular visitors. Pacific Golden Plover, Lesser Sand Plover, Red Knot and Terek Sandpiper have been reported several times over the last few years. Sooty Oystercatcher is also a rare visitor and a number of other species have been reported on occasion, including Banded Stilt, Red-necked Avocet, Marsh and Common Sandpiper, and Long-toed Stint – many of these birds are likely to have been on passage, in particular the predominantly freshwater species like Marsh Sandpiper and Long-toed Stint.

Grey-tailed Tattler are regular visitors to the Perth area in small numbers.

Turn off Cockburn Rd into O’Kane Ct, then left into Jervoise Bay Cove, and immediately right into Woodman Point View. At the end of Woodman Point View, turn left and follow the road to the carpark near the groyne. The best area for waders is along the beach north of the groyne and out along the rocky point at the north end of the beach, but there can also be a few waders along the beach back towards the Cockburn cement jetty. The area is quite popular, so the best time to visit is early in the morning and/or during the week.

Rottnest Island: Although a popular destination, particularly in summer, Rottnest’s coasts and salt lakes still attract a good variety of waders. As with any wader site, it is at it's best during summer, but it is also one of the better sites near Perth to see a few overwintering waders, particularly on the salt lakes. There are daily ferries to Rottnest departing from a number of points around Perth, including Barrack Street jetty in Perth city, B Shed in Fremantle, and Hillarys Boat Harbour – single-day return fares currently range from about $60 to $85 depending on departure point (Fremantle is usually cheapest).

The salt lakes usually attract the greatest concentrations of waders, most famously Banded Stilt, which are usually present, although their numbers fluctuate from only a few birds to several thousand. Black-winged Stilt, Red-necked Avocet, Australian Pied Oystercatcher and Red-capped Plover are also regular in smaller numbers. The lakes also attract a variety of migratory waders. The most common species usually include Red-necked Stint, Curlew Sandpiper, Sanderling, Ruddy Turnstone, and Grey Plover. Less common species can include Lesser Sand Plover (Rottnest is probably the best chance for this species near Perth), Greater Sand Plover and Sharp-tailed Sandpiper. The salt lakes are also well-known as one of the few sites in Australia where Red-necked Phalarope has been regularly recorded; although there were no reports for several years, a phalarope returned to the island in late 2010 and was present for several months. Other rarities reported in the last decade have included Ringed & Little Ringed Plovers, and Oriental Pratincole.

Whilst the biggest wader numbers are usually found on the salt lakes, the exposed reefs and quieter sandy beaches around the island also attract a few species, including Sanderling, Whimbrel, Bar-tailed Godwit, Red-capped Plover and Australian Pied Oystercatcher.

A flock of Banded Stilt on the salt lakes on Rottnest Island.

Garden Island: Garden Island is not readily accessible to the public unless you own a boat, as there is a day use area for recreation accessible by boat. However, BAWA has run organised bird walks on the island every few years, and there is an annual wader count in February. The sandy beaches usually hold a few Sanderling, Red-necked Stint, Red-capped Plover, and Australian Pied Oystercatcher. The rockier parts of the coast can have a few different species like Whimbrel and Common Sandpiper, plus a pair of Sooty Oystercatchers used to be resident (although their status is now uncertain as at least one bird had died). Banded Lapwing are common on the lawns around the naval base, but access is not possible unless you are there for an organised walk/wader count. The sandbar near where the causeway reaches the island can have an interesting variety of waders including Sanderling, and Grey & Red-capped Plover, and more rarely Eastern Curlew and Banded Stilt. NOTE though that the sandbar is unfortunately not part of the day use area, so access is again limited to organised walks/wader counts.

Point Peron: The beaches and rocky shore around Point Peron usually hold a small number of waders over summer. Ruddy Turnstone and Australian Pied Oystercatcher are the most common species, but Sanderling is also regular. Less common visitors can include Eastern Curlew and Sooty Oystercatcher.

Travel along Safety Bay Rd, and turn west into Point Peron Rd. Follow this until you reach a T-junction  - here you can turn right and park in the parking area – there can be a few waders along the beach here. Alternatively, you can turn left and follow the road to the carpark at the point and check the beaches and rocky shoreline around to the right.

Peel Inlet: The Peel Inlet is one of the better wader sites in the greater Perth area, attracting a good number and variety of waders, and is the most reliable area to find several species, including Whimbrel and Eastern Curlew. However, the large size of the inlet means that birds can be spread out across a large area, and the increasing levels of disturbance, particularly on weekends, means that at least some sites are becoming less used by waders. Nonetheless, a visit to several of the sites listed here will usually yield a reasonable variety of waders.

Greater Sand Plover are relatively uncommon in the Perth area, but can be seen on the Peel Inlet, Woodman Point and at Lake McLarty.

Coodanup: From Pinjarra Rd, turn south into Wanjeep St and follow this down to a T-junction (roundabout) with Peel Pde, and turn left. Immediately on the right is a track down to a carpark on the edge of the inlet. There can be a few waders on along the estuary shore and on any exposed mudflats, including Bar-tailed Godwit, Common Greenshank, Grey Plover, Red-necked Stint, and Black-winged & Banded Stilt. A few extra species can sometimes be found around to the right near the fence, including Sharp-tailed Sandpiper and Grey-tailed Tattler.

Nairns: From Coodanup, continue along Peel Pde along the estuary edge and into John St (a continuation of Peel Pde). John St terminates in a sandy parking area on the estuary. Check the mudflats along the shoreline east to the mouth of the Serpentine River. There is a lagoon behind the samphire flats but this now appears to be out-of-bounds.

This area is usually one of the better areas for waders on Peel Inlet, but as with most areas on the inlet, it can be very variable. The more common species often include Bar-tailed Godwit, Grey Plover, Common Greenshank, Curlew Sandpiper, Red-necked Stint, Red-capped Plover and Black-winged Stilt, but Banded Stilt, Red-necked Avocet, Grey-tailed Tattler, Red Knot, and Sharp-tailed Sandpiper are also reasonably regular. Less common species include Greater Sand Plover, Eastern Curlew & Terek Sandpiper, while rarities such as Baird's Sandpiper, Little Ringed Plover, Broad-billed Sandpiper, Ruff and Inland Dotterel have also been reported in recent years.

Mariner’s Cove: Park in the parking area off Darwin Tce (roughly opposite Mariner’s Cove Dr). There is an entrance to the Creery wetlands through the gate near the observation tower – this leads to a boardwalk through the samphire to an observation platform on the edge of the lagoon. There is often a Common Sandpiper on the rock walls near the parking area. The lagoon usually has only a few waders like Black-winged Stilt and Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, but is worth checking as on occasion there can be big numbers – for example, one observer recorded 8000+ Banded Stilt, 1000+ Black-winged Stilt, and 500+ each of Red-necked Avocet and Sharp-tailed Sandpiper on a day in early 2010.

Samphire Cove: Cross the new Mandurah traffic bridge and turn right into Old Coast Rd then right into Leisure Way and travel down towards the estuary until you see a fenced reserve on the left. There is a path through the reserve, leading to a boardwalk across an area of samphire to a point at the top of the cove. BE AWARE that this area is unfortunately developing a dubious reputation; there haven’t been any serious incidents and you should be safe, but make sure you make it obvious that you’re birding, and it may be sensible to visit with other people.

The cove is often a good site for Whimbrel, and sometimes Eastern Curlew, either along the muddy edges, or in the samphire itself. Grey-tailed Tattler are also fairly regular. When the tide is low enough, the point at the top of the cove is often good for Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Common Greenshank, and Grey Plover, as well as Black-winged Stilt, Australian Pied Oystercatcher, and Red-capped Plover. Less common species that have been recorded in recent years have included Wood and Terek Sandpipers. The rock wall along the western edge of the samphire usually holds one or two Common Sandpiper, and sometimes other species like Grey-tailed Tattler and Sharp-tailed Sandpiper.

The Peel Inlet is the most reliable area near Perth for Whimbrel (pictured) and Eastern Curlew, particularly around Samphire & Soldier's Coves, and the Erskine foreshore.

Erskine Foreshore: After crossing the new traffic bridge, continue past the Old Coast Rd turn-off and turn left at Sticks Bvd and continue through two 3-way roundabouts (turn right at the first, then left at the second) into Sirocco Dr and follow this around to a parking area next to the estuary. The islands in the channel usually have a few waders, including Whimbrel, Eastern Curlew, Bar-tailed Godwit, Common Greenshank, and Grey Plover, although the views aren’t especially close. Along the shore, small numbers of Common Greenshank, Common Sandpiper and other species may be seen, particularly if you follow the path around the corner to the left, where there’s a small cove.

Soldiers Cove: Soldiers Cove is located across the channel opposite Samphire Cove. There is no track or boardwalk through the samphire, so observation from the parkland along Soldiers Cove Tce is recommended. This area is reportedly good for Whimbrel and Eastern Curlew, and should be a chance for a few other waders of interest.

South Yunderup (Austin Bay Nature Reserve): This area is accessible from Wellya Cres, off South Yunderup Rd. Turn off South Yunderup Rd into Murray Waters Bvd and follow this until it loops around and becomes Wellya Cres. Park along the road here (GPS Location 32d 35’ 35.65’’S, 115d 46’ 39.81’’E) and walk over to the estuary. Some wading through the mudflats is usually required to get to the waders – be aware that the mud can be treacherous near the raised track separating the nearby lagoon from the estuary, so it’s best to avoid this area.

This area can be one of the best areas for waders, although as with all Peel areas it is very variable. The more common species usually include Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Red-necked Stint, Common Greenshank, Black-winged Stilt, and Red-capped Plover. Other regular sightings include Banded Stilt (sometimes several thousand) and Greater Sand Plover. The area also seems to be one of the better sites for ‘freshwater’ waders on the inlet, particularly when Lake McLarty is dry, with records of Marsh Sandpiper, Pectoral Sandpiper, and Long-toed Stint. Rarer sightings for the south-west that have been reported include Broad-billed Sandpiper and Lesser Sand Plover, while a Baird's Sandpiper was seen in early 2017.

Goegrup & Black Lakes: Whilst not strictly part of Peel Inlet, these two lakes along the Serpentine River are located nearby and are included here for convenience. Both lakes can have a few waders, particularly when the water level is low enough for exposed mud. These often include resident waders such as Red-necked Avocet, Black-winged & Banded Stilt, and Red-capped Plover, but there can also be migratory waders such as Common Greenshank and Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, and potentially something more interesting - Pectoral Sandpipers have been recorded on several occasions.

Goegrup Lake can be accessed from the western side by parking along Koolyanga Rd, where there is a track (GPS Location 32d 31’ 37.55’’S, 115d 46’ 33.62’’E) leading to a boardwalk through the samphire, ending in a viewing platform over the lake. Access is also possible from the eastern side by parking at the end of Dunkerton Rd (GPS Location 32d 31’ 24.92’’S, 115d 47’ 37.08’’E), off Lakelands Rd. The northern end of Black Lake can also be accessed from here.

Yalgorup National Park: Like Peel Inlet, Yalgorup is covers a massive area, but much of it is relatively inaccessible, but there are a number of areas worth checking. The eastern shore of Lake Clifton is accessible from the end of Mount John Rd off the Old Coast Rd. The northern end of Lake Preston is accessible from Preston Beach Rd – there is a carpark (GPS Location 32d 52’ 46.75’’S, 115d 39’ 55.39’’E) on the left after you cross the causeway through the lake. (St.) Martin’s Tank is accessible from a limestone road off Preston Beach Road – the turn-off is on the right just before you reach the causeway. There is a turnoff to a campground at (St.) Martin’s Tank (GPS Location 32d 50’ 20.06’’S, 115d 39’ 46.33’’E) where you can walk down to the lake shore. Lakes Yalgorup and Hayward are accessible by tracks of Preston Beach Rd, the GPS locations of the starts of these tracks are 32d 52’ 39.53’’S, 115d 40’ 28.45’’E and 32d 53’ 31.90’’S, 115d 41’ 24.90’’E. Other areas are also accessible along various tracks, including Lake Pollard and the south end of Lake Preston. Google Maps, Google Earth, or NearMap are useful resources as most of the tracks can be seen fairly easily on the satellite photos, but be aware some are very sandy and not driveable (at least without a good 4WD).

The Yalgorup Lakes are the closest reliable site to Perth for Hooded Plover, and can also be a good site for Banded Stilt. A good variety of migratory waders also occur; the most numerous is usually Red-necked Stint, and often a reasonable number of Curlew Sandpiper. Most other species are reported in low numbers, but there can often be a good variety, including Grey Plover, Great Knot, Ruddy Turnstone, Grey-tailed Tattler, Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, and Greater Sand Plover. Terek Sandpiper has also been reported reasonably regularly, and there have been several rarities reported including Broad-billed Sandpiper, Inland Dotterel and Ringed Plover.

Ringed Plover (with Red-necked Stint) photographed at (St.) Martin's Tank Lake in early 2007.

Lancelin: The new coastal road north of Perth means that Lancelin is now a relatively comfortable day trip from Perth, and can be good for a variety of coastal waders. The more common species include Sanderling, Ruddy Turnstone, Australian Pied Oystercatcher and Red-capped Plover. Other visitors can include Bar-tailed Godwit, and both Greater and Lesser Sand Plover. Sooty Oystercatcher have also been reported on occasion.

The best area for waders seems to be around the point opposite Edwards Island, although any of the beaches could have waders. There is a carpark near the point along a road off Hopkins Rd, past the radio communication centre (GPS Location 31d 01’ 29.53’’S, 115d 19’ 42.52’’E).

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