Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Victoria Dam: Perth's Hidden Endemic Hotspot

For years, visiting twitchers in a hurry to see some South-west endemics have headed out on Albany Highway in solemn pilgrimage to Wungong Gorge. While many have no doubt succeeded (though recently it has been less reliable for Red-eared Firetail), Wungong is to be honest a fairly dismal place, heavily degraded with weed growth (not to mention the occasional seedy characters hanging round the toilet block!). Well, allow Leeuwin Current Birding to reveal our preferred one-stop-shop for all the local endemics: Victoria Dam (alternatively known as Victoria Reservoir).

Victoria Dam is reached by an access road signposted off Masonmill Rd, a short loop road off Canning Rd in Carmel. A short distance along the access road, you reach a boom gate with a carpark on the right .On weekends, the boom gate is closed, so you have to park in this carpark and walk the rest of the way along the access road (about 1km each way). When the first gate is open, you can drive further along the access road until you reach another boom gate, with a second carpark on the left. The road is no public access (by car or on foot) from this point on as it’s the ranger’s residence, so you need to park here.  There is a walk trail leading downhill from this carpark to the base of the dam wall (see map below). This trail passes through an area of nice marri/jarrah forest, past a small patch of wandoo, and onto a set of wooden steps that lead down to the top of the dam wall (Perth city is visible in the distance from the top of the steps, framed by the sides of the valley). From the top of the dam, you can follow a bitumen road down to the base of the dam wall, where there is a grassed picnic area and toilets. Thickets of ti-tree and Calothamnus beneath the dam wall, and thick vegetation along the creekline, provide dense cover for some of south-west WA’s more secretive, gully-loving bird species.

A female Western Spinebill, one of many south-west endemics commonly found at Victoria Dam.