My last post found us bedding down for the night of September 12, 2013 in a comfortable cabin at the Stirling Range Retreat, at the northern edge of the Stirling Range National Park. The next morning, September 13th, we found plenty to do right around the campground.
First thing in the morning, I found myself hauling out my camera to record a visitor right outside our doorstep (while Eileen recorded me).
Our visitor was a Galah (Eolophus roseicapilla), perhaps the bird that says "Australia" to me more than any other. Every time I see one I am taken back to my drives through the Australian back country in the early 1970s, and wheeling flocks of pink and grey Galahs flying in front of my van against the red earth.
After breakfast, it was time for a morning stroll around the property.
Just beyond it is open farmland, stretching away to the north - not ideal for a nature walk, you might think, but it did have a few attractions.
One was this Australasian Pipit (Anthus novaeseelandiae); but I was out here looking for one bird in particular, one I had only glimpsed once many years earlier...
The Elegant is one of the grass parrots, unobtrusive little birds that usually stick close to the ground, feeding on fallen seeds. It is found through much of the southwest, and in southern South Australia and western Victoria and New South Wales (I had first met with it in South Australia's Eyre Peninsula, back in 1974). It is a bird that seems, unlike so many others, to be benefiting from our presence as woodlands give way to its preferred open country.
The Elegant may not be one of Australia's more spectacular parrots, but perhaps that is part of its charm; its subtle colours seem to match its seemingly quiet ways. if you Google it you will find that most of the entries are about keeping Elegants as pets; believe me, it's better to come across them in the wild.
I am less sure about this, but I believe it to be Bell-fruited mallee (Eucalyptus preissiana), more widespread than the last species but still confined to a strip along the southern coast.
This is one of the she-oaks (Allocasuarina sp.), flowering trees that (as I said here recently) do a good job masquerading as conifers.
I'm never sure of my wattle identifications (there are just too many of them), but I have this one down as Flat-leaved Wattle (Acacia glaucoptera)...
...and this as Raspberry Jam (Acacia acuminata), a widespread southwestern species that owes its charming vernacular name to the smell of its freshly-cut wood.
Here's where things get a little embarrassing. I am pretty sure that this is a Grevillea, but I am not at all sure which one.
Even more embarrassing is the plant in these photos. There are both Grevillea and Hakea spp. that look like this (eg Red Hot Pokers (Hakea bucculenta), which hails from well north of Perth), but they are not supposed to occur in the Stirlings. So either the retreat owners planted this, or I've overlooked something, or I don't know what I am talking about (all of which are possible).
Fortunately for the visiting non-botanist, there is a lovely little trail running through the grounds of the retreat along which a good many of the flowers were not only in bloom, but neatly labeled.
Anyway, the trail was a great place for Eileen and I to make acquaintance with the number of the common wildflowers of the area.
At the yellow and of the spectrum, we found not one but two local orchids: the Cowslip Orchid (Caladenia flava) that we had seen the night before...
... And the Common Donkey Orchid (Diuris corymbosa), considerably more attractive than the name might suggest. It is one of a group of southwestern orchids named for the resemblance between their large, erect upper sepals and a donkey's ears.
Back to blue again, with another member of the Goodeniaceae: the Pouched Dampiera (Dampiera sacculata), one of a genus named for the 17th century explorer, naturalist and pirate (now, there's a combination!) William Dampier, one of the first Europeans to reach this corner of the world.
Same family, different color: Silver Goodenia (Goodenia affinis).
I admit this one is a bit more pink or purple that it is blue, but use your imagination. This one was not labeled, but it is, I believe, Round-leaved Microcorys (Microcorys capitata), a member of the mint family (Lamiaceae), thoug the Stirlings are a bit south of its small natural range.
Albany Synaphea (Synaphea polymorpha), as its name implies, is a local plant of the Albany-Stirling area. It may not look it, but it is a member of the protea family (Proteaceae) - though considerably smaller and stragglier than many of its relatives. There are over fifty species in the genus, all confined to southwestern Australia.
Tangled Petrophile (Petrophile divaricata), with its clumped flower heads, looks a lot more, at least to me, as though the Proteaceae is where it belongs (as, indeed, it does).
Starflower (Calytrix leschenaultii) is an extremely attractive member of the myrtle family (Myrtaceae); the Australian National Herbarium calls it the most spectacular of the seventy-odd species in its genus. These are, presumably- newly-opened flowers; as the blossoms age, their stamens turn from yellow to red.
This is a species of Conostylis, but its leaves lack the long bristles of the species I showed in my last post (C. setigera). There are many species in the genus, and I'm not at all sure which one this is.
OK, enough of the yellow-blue/purple contrasts. This is Orange Pea (Gompholobium polymorphum), and my thanks to the students of Tranby College for allowing me, for once, to identify for certain one of Australia's endless array of pea flowers!