Mt Frankland National Park
The 30,830-hectare Mount Frankland National Park has a rich array of forest birds, from eagles to colourful fairy wrens and robins. Short walks in any part of the park should reveal at least 20 species at any time of the year.
The best times for bird watching in Mount Frankland National Park are spring and early summer, when birds are most active and often in full song. Although the park has never been fully surveyed for birds, more than 50 species are likely to occur here. Most reside in the area, but some arrive as spring migrants and others leave temporarily during the cold winter months.
Parrots and Cockatoos
There are three species of large, noisy black-cockatoo in Mount Frankland National Park, including the red-tailed black-cockatoo. The other two, with white patches in their tails, are very similar and have remarkably similar calls. Viewed close up, Baudin's black-cockatoo has a longer beak than that of Carnaby's black-cockatoo. All three species are becoming scarce because of reduction of nest trees and food resources.
The twenty-eight parrot, red-capped parrot and western rosella are found throughout Mount Frankland National Park. Rosellas are most common along streams and in valleys, where they feast on the seeds of many plants, especially the peppermint. Red-capped and twenty-eight parrots eat the seeds of eucalypts and allied species - the red-capped prefers those of marri and the twenty-eight eats seeds of marri and jarrah.
The nectar-eating purple-crowned lorikeet is the smallest parrot in the area. It is a rapid flier and shrilly screeching flocks are a feature of the park when the eucalypts are in bloom. All the parrots and cockatoos nest in hollows of mature trees. The larger species require larger trees with bigger hollows.
Birds of Prey
Birds of prey are relatively uncommon. The shrill alarm calls of other birds may draw attention to their presence. The brown goshawk can be seen throughout the park, hunting small birds by stealth. Adult birds are slate grey on the back with beautiful cross bars underneath. Young birds have a brown back and dark vertical streaking on the belly. The slightly smaller collared sparrowhawk is a more fearless hunter than the goshawk and often chases birds for longer distances.
The wedge-tailed eagle can sometimes be seen soaring high over Mount Frankland. It probably doesn't feed in the park, but uses air currents over the hill. The migratory square-tailed kite arrives during spring and summer. It feeds on other birds' eggs and nestlings and can sometimes be seen gliding slowly just above the tree tops searching for bird nests.
Night-feeding birds are relatively scarce in Mount Frankland National Park. The tawny frogmouth can sometimes be seen in the daytime sitting in a tree and mimicking a dead branch. At night it flies down from its perch to feed on insects, spiders, and scorpions.
The boobook owl also feeds on insects which it takes from the air or the ground. The smallest nocturnal bird is the owlet-nightjar, which sleeps in a tree hollow by day but emerges at night to feed on flying insects such as moths. Like the boobook owl, it lays its eggs in a tree hollow.
Cuckoos and Kingfishers
Several species of cuckoo are found in the park's forests, and all lay their eggs in the nests of foster parents. The mournful calls of the fan-tailed cuckoo ring out in winter and spring. Other cuckoos arrive from northern Australia in spring. The small, barred shining bronze-cuckoo is common in some springs especially when caterpillars, their favourite food, are abundant. The migratory pallid cuckoo is less common and mainly found on the edges of the national park.
The colourful sacred kingfisher arrives from northern Australia in September. It lays its eggs in a hollow tree, usually jarrah or marri, and feeds on small reptiles and large insects. The loud rollicking laughing call of the kookaburra is a feature of this national park. The largest kingfisher in the world, the kookaburra was introduced into Western Australia in the 1900's and is now common in forests and woodlands. It breeds in tree hollows and feeds on large insects, reptiles and house mice.
Some particularly lovely songsters are found at Mount Frankland. The best is undoubtedly the grey shrike-thrush, aptly given the scientific name harmonica. This plain grey bird feeds on insects and builds an open, cup-like nest of small twigs. The golden whistler is smaller than the shrike-thrush and its "wee-wee-wit" call is less melodious. The female looks like a small shrike-thrush but the male has a beautiful yellow breast and green back.
The red, black and white scarlet robin will perch on a twig as it keenly surveys the ground for insects. The duller-coloured female is usually close by. During the breeding season the male can be seen feeding the female while she builds the nest or incubates her eggs. The white-breasted robin is slightly larger than the scarlet robin, but is just as easily seen if you walk quietly through the forest. It often perches on the side of a tree trunk before flying down to pick an insect from the ground. Both species build nests of bark, spider webs and lichens, camouflaged to match the branch upon which they are built.
Small Insect Eaters
Several tiny, brownish birds may be found in all vegetation types. They are often hard to locate unless calling. The weebill, one of Australia's smallest birds, lives high up in the eucalypt canopy. Only about eight centimetres long, with a tiny beak, this yellowish-olive bird is a eucalypt specialist, carefully picking tiny insects from leaves. It often lives in groups of up to six, which use high-pitched warbles to call to each other as they move through the canopy. The weebill's nest, a dome with a side entrance, is rather large for such a small bird. Made of leaves, grasses and bark fibres, it is held together with spider webs and lined with feathers. It is built among a cluster of hanging leaves, often at the top of a tall tree.
The western warbler also feeds almost exclusively in the canopy. Though almost impossible to see in the tall karri forest, its distinctive melancholy call gives away its presence. The little hooded nest, made of bark fibres and spider webs, is suspended among foliage high in a tree.
Other small insect eaters may be found closer to the ground. The commonest in Mount Frankland National Park is the broad-tailed thornbill, only about two centimetres longer than the weebill. It has a brown back, a reddish rump and dark vertical streaks on the whitish throat and breast. Unlike other thornbills, the tail is often held half cocked. This thornbill takes insects from bark, twigs and leaves in all vegetation strata. The domed nest with a hood over the side entrance is placed in a twiggy bush, a clump of creepers or the foliage of a tree.
The western thornbill is also common. It is smaller than the previous species and has no distinctive colour markings. The western thornbill is only found in south-western Australia, where it often moves around in small flocks. It is quite noisy with twittering, tinkling calls. Its nest, which is similar to that of the broad-tailed thornbill, is well hidden behind peeling bark, in a knothole of a tree or in the dead skirt of a grass tree.
The white-browed scrub-wren, a secretive but very noisy bird, is common in dense vegetation along streams, valleys and on slopes but is hard to see unless you sit quietly and wait for it to approach. It is then easy to identify with its white eyebrows, black-spotted breast and white edges on the shoulders. The domed nest of leaves and bark is incredibly difficult to find, as it is located low to the ground among dense, shady vegetation.
Spotted and striated pardalotes are abundant. These small, colourful birds pick insects from eucalypt leaves with their short, stumpy beaks. The striated pardalote builds a nest of grass and bark inside a small hole in a tree branch, but the spotted pardalote builds a similar nest in a tunnel drilled into the ground.
The grey fantail, which feeds on flying insects and is very approachable, is common here, and easily seen in the karri forest. The nest is a neat cup of bark fibres bound together with spider webs. The grey-breasted white-eye is sometimes common and small flocks move through looking for small insects and berries. It builds a neat cup nest without any lining and lays two or three blue eggs.
Swallows and Martins
Tree martins are sometimes abundant, especially in spring and summer. Recognised by their short, square tails and white rumps, they hawk for small flying insects above the tree canopy. They nest in tree hollows usually in jarrah, marri and karri. Most leave the area with the commencement of heavy winter rains.
The welcome swallow is uncommon in the area, where it is confined to the edges of forest and along major streams. It has a long, forked tail and dark rump and does not breed here. The dusky woodswallow is fairly common but difficult to see, as it feeds high above the canopy. It has broader, less pointed wings than the swallow or martin.
Red-winged and splendid fairy-wrens are common in Mount Frankland National Park. Living in small groups of up to 10, they vigorously defend their territories against other groups of the same species. The red-winged fairy-wren generally prefers the denser lower slopes and valleys, but will often colonise thickets high up the slopes when they regenerate after fire. Only the fully plumaged males are brightly coloured.
Splendid males are entirely blue and black, while red-winged males are slightly larger with chestnut-brown shoulders. Females of both species are drab brown, with bluish tails. Fairy-wrens build domed nests of grass and bark fibre, lined with soft down from zamia palms, banksia wool or feathers. Splendid fairy-wrens often nest in bushes of prickly moses (Acacia pulchella). Red-winged fairy-wrens nest near the ground, often among fallen bracken fern or in dense sedges along streams.
The rich, reddish-brown rufous treecreeper can often be seen climbing up eucalypt trunks. Its loud, penetrating call can be heard for a considerable distance. The bird feeds on small insects, especially ants. It is a poor flier and when it has finished feeding in one tree it will glide down to the base of another, before spiralling up the trunk. It nests in hollow tree branches and sometimes in fallen trees.
The Australian sittella has a black cap on the top of its head and a distinctive yellow base to the beak. This noisy, active bird runs up and down branches in search of insects beneath the bark. It frequently hangs upside down as it probes under the bark. It moves in small flocks and builds a tiny cup nest in the high fork of a tree.
Ravens, Butcherbirds and Currawongs
The Australian raven is the only "crow" found in the park. Whereas it is abundant in farmland and around towns, here it is rather scarce and shy of humans. Its large stick nest is placed high up in a eucalypt tree.
The grey currawong is about the same size as the raven, but is greyer, with white patches on the wings and tail. Its loud "kloot-kloot" reverberates through the forest. Its nest is smaller and neater than the raven and it feeds on large insects, including large bull ants, seeds and berries. Related to the currawong is the smaller grey butcherbird, which prefers more open parts of the park. Butcherbirds have a musical, rollicking call and feed on large insects, lizards and small birds.
Several species of honeyeater live in Mount Frankland National Park. The western spinebill is the commonest and most widespread. It visits many different flowers, especially kangaroo paws, scarlet jugflowers, and banksias. Noisy brown honeyeaters visit in large numbers, seeking nectar and insects. In summer they are noticeable along streams.
The black, white and yellow striped New Holland honeyeater, with its shining white eyes, is also abundant and noisy, especially in the dense understorey. In the eucalypt canopy the white-naped honeyeater, with its black crown and green back, delves among the leaves and twigs for insects. When some plants such as albizia (Paraserianthes lophantha) are in blossom it will feed close to the ground. The largest honeyeaters are the red and little wattlebirds, which are noisy and aggressive to other birds. They feed on nectar from various trees and shrubs. All honeyeaters build open, cup-shaped nests lined with soft wool from banksias or zamia palms.
Naming of the park
While exploring north and west of Albany in 1829, Dr J Wilson climbed Mt Lindesay. From this vantage point, he noted that the surrounding hills would be grand points in a trigonometrical survey. Hence he named Mount Frankland after the then Surveyor-General of Tasmania. The Aboriginal name for Mount Frankland is Caldyanup.
THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW
Where is it?
50 km from Walpole.
30 minutes from Walpole
What to do:
Sightseeing, picnicking, bushwalking, camping.
A 1.5 km walktrail meanders around the base of Mount Frankland and through karri forest. A steep, 1 km trail branches off to the top of this granite monadnock.
Camping, Barbecues, Picnic Areas, Toilets, Drinking Water, Interpretive information.
Nearest CALM office:
Walpole District Office
Information for this National Park has been supplied courtesy of The Western Australia Department of Conservation and Land Management