I arrived in Albany midafternoon last Friday after a long day’s hard driving. And it was hot. I had made an early start that day in order to negotiate the corrugations of the road into and out of the Fitzgerald River National Park. I was on the road by 6.45 am and did not emerge onto the sealed pavement outside the park until 8.30 am. I deliberately took it easy but really I don’t think I should have worried as my Sally wagon yet again proved herself more than equal to the task.
I made my way down to Bremer Bay through some lovely farmland on the edge of the national park but was somewhat disappointed with what was there and decided not to hang around. I suppose after hanging out in superb national parks for the previous week or more I had been a little spoilt, so it’s not Bremer Bay’s fault. Quite obviously it is a favourite holiday spot for many people, especially fishermen.
So off I headed to Albany – well, I did stop and explore a couple of places en route, but found myself hanging out for Albany with nothing else taking my fancy. Albany is a lovely town/city. I had no idea that it was such a historically significant place being the first European settlement site in Western Australia. Of course they really play on the Anzac tradition as that is where the troops embarked for their service in the First World War. There is an enormous Anzac museum there – almost every fellow traveller I spoke to in the lead up to arriving there told me I just HAD to go see it. But I am afraid my dislike of war and anything that tends to glorify the sacrifice of those boys is not something I willing go to see, and so I did not. Albany also has a pretty “nasty” history as it was a whaling town, and in true style that too has been somewhat glorified by a museum at the site of the old historic whaling station – a highly commercial operation and while I did drive out to that point to have a look, again I did not partake in their commercialization of that history.
I did however generally love Albany. The town center contains lots of beautiful old stone buildings, and is situated beautifully on a very hilly site overlooking the beautiful King George Sound and Princes Royal Bay. It is a big grain terminal port with huge ships queued up in the bay waiting to take their place at the terminal, and lots of grain carrying road trains and railway lines coming into the port. I managed to find a reasonably priced caravan park on the foreshore of Princes Royal Bay about 12 kms out of town.
I spent Saturday bird watching and visiting photographic exhibitions that were part of a large month long art exhibition. Seppings Lake in Albany is a fantastic bird watching location, with hides and trails all round this fairly large lake. I don’t think I have ever been in a location to equal it for diversity and numbers. The mosquitos were pretty enormous too, but maybe that is why all the little birds love it so. And the exhibitions were fabulous. I even got to meet one of the gallery owners who is herself an abstract/creative photographer with an exhibition of her own at another gallery which I also saw. This was made to order as the thing I have been experimenting with and trying out myself ever since I began this trip is abstract/creative photography, and I am loving it. So it was great to be able to see what others do along these lines, to know that I am not the only crazy photographer alive, and to learn from their art.
I stayed in the Albany area three nights, with the middle night being spent at Cozy Corner, a free Shire operated camp ground about 30 kms out of town. It is just on the way to Shelly Beach in the national park there, but it was so lovely when I dropped in for a look I ended up staying – getting the last available spot in the ground.
Now I am in the Stirling Ranges, staying at an eco-retreat just on the edge of the park. Like the Fitzgerald River national park, the topography and landscapes here are dramatic and dominant. I came here with two expectations – the first to see wild orchids and the second to see a diversity of bird life for which the ranges are famous. I have not been disappointed.
Last Tuesday morning I treated myself to a guided tour in a four wheel drive vehicle with a retreat expert to see orchids and wild flowers. And I am so glad I did. I would never have found the orchids myself. THEY ARE SOOOOOOOO TINY. Some of those I have photographed are no bigger than my thumb nail. They are magic. Of course they are also seasonal, so a lot of the more famous ones were not in flower at the moment. But I was well satisfied with what I did see, and moreover I now know what I am looking for.
Then on Wednesday morning I did a guided bird watching walk here in this park and into the neighbouring national park. Volunteers from Birdwatching Australia come here on a roster and do these daily guided walks at a humble cost of $20 per person, and all the proceeds go to Bird Watching Australia for conservation and rescue projects. The one they are working on here in WA at the moment is relating to the endangered and threatened Carnaby’s white tailed Black Cockatoo whose habitat and in particular nesting places have been destroyed by farming and other urban activity. They are a beautiful bird and there are flocks of them living here at the moment. But because their nesting places are scarce these flocks consist of birds that are 30-40 years old and there are very few young breeding pairs coming on.
Anyway, this walk was an absolute delight and you will see the fruits of a lot of my photographic labours included with this blog. And joy and excitement, this morning, on a walk of my own, I found and got fab photos of the Azure Kingfisher. These kingfishers (I think they are the Azure, look like it anyway, but the folks here just call them the Sacred Kingfisher) come back here from elsewhere every year to breed. And they have just returned for this year.
I almost got barreled by Mrs Kingfisher and a small to medium monitor this morning. I was standing photographing the birds, close by the tree in which they nest, and could tell that they were pretty worked up about something. Mrs Kingfisher was making a lot of noise and diving and flying from one tree to another at a rapid rate. Then I caught sight of the monitor creeping around the base of their nesting tree. I got a photo of it, and was just lining myself up to get a head on shot of him when Mrs Kingfisher came screaming out of another tree and dive bombed him. He took off at a million miles an hour straight towards me, and she followed him and almost collided with me too. I managed to jump to the side out of both their paths, but didn’t get the photo of course. AND, all this was much to the entertainment of a couple of campers who were watching the whole thing while eating their breakfast close by.
So, this is my last night here in the Stirling Ranges. Tomorrow morning I head off into more outback country, north to Hyden and some apparently pretty interesting sights en route and close by.