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          Member | Join now

          By joining the biggest community of bird lovers in Australia, you can help us make a positive impact on the future of our native birdlife. The members of BirdLife Australia, along with our supporters and partners, have been powerful advocates for native birds and the conservation of their habitats since 1901.

          We are also the meeting ground for everyone with an interest in birds from the curious backyard observer to the dedicated research scientist. It doesn’t matter what your interest in birds is or how much you know about them, your membership will offer you the opportunity to increase your awareness and enjoyment.

          Birdlife Australia would be delighted to welcome you as a new member and we look forward to sharing our news and achievements with you throughout the coming year.

          Our Programs

          @BirdlifeOz

          ‘Southern Cassowary’ was the winning image from last year's Bird Portrait Category, in the @BirdlifeOz Photography… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…

          @GichingaWa Amazing huh! "The physiological secret to long migrations does not depend on a single 'magic' adaptatio… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…

          More evidence that conservation works. Breeding seabirds on Macca have also bounced back tremendously since the int… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…

          Eyre

          In 1977 Birds Australia established the Eyre Bird Observatory, a remote research station, to collect information about birds and wildlife. Named by explorer John Eyre on his east-west journey of 1841, it is the most isolated research facility in Australia. Cocklebiddy Roadhouse, 50 km northwest on the Eyre Highway, is our nearest neighbour.

          Previously, the Observatory was the first Eyre Telegraph Station, built in 1877, and replaced by the current limestone building in 1897. The Observatory features a display commemorating the role the Telegraph Station had in establishing national communications in Australia along with Inter-Colonial Telegraph Line.

          Eyre Bird Observatory, WA

          Eyre Bird Observatory veranda

          Coming Events

          Eyre Bird Photography Course -  Price $590 for 6 nights

          Arriving Sunday 8th November - departing Saturday 14th November 2020
          Facilitated by Keith Lightbody
          Max 6 participants. Five places taken


          Major Mitchell's

          Australasian Fairy Tern

           

          FIELD TECHNIQUES IN BIRD STUDIES - $590 for 6 nights

          Arriving Sunday 22nd November - departing Saturday 28th November 2020
          Facilitated by Tegan Douglas    

          This course is always fully booked. Be quick to book if you would like to attend this year.
          Contact Tegan Douglas on 0402 457 403.or email eyre@www.bianchun.tw

          There may be grants available for undergraduates from BirdLife WA.
          Course limited to 8 participants. No places taken at this stage. Recent reports of previous courses can be downloaded below.

          DUNE RESTORATION    Discounted Price of $300 !!!   for 6 nights
          Arriving Sunday 31st May - departing Saturday 6th June 2020
          Facilitated by George & Pam Agar.

          This will be the first Dune Restoration Session for 2020. The tasks include seed collection (for future planting) and seaweed (for spreading on the dunes). 6 people are needed. If you would like to be part of this long term revegetation work, ring the Caretakers to secure your place. (08) 9039 3450. At publication we have just 2 participants so please come along and help out.
          Check below for reports of previous courses.
               

          Visitor Information & Accommodation

          Day Visitors

          The Observatory always welcomes visitors for the day. Come and see the profusion of birdlife amidst our beautiful landscape.

          Day Visitor Prices

          Per vehicle  $10

          Day visitors will need to provide their own lunch. You are most welcome to have your lunch on the house veranda. This is a perfect spot to watch the birds at the bird baths. Please note: there is no pick-up for day visitors.

          Vehicles and the Track

          The distance from the Lookout to the Observatory is about 13 kms. The last 10 kms is sand and limestone, suitable for 4WD only.  It is not suitable for trailers, vehicles with low clearance, and 4WD vehicles with high tyre pressure. The distance from the Observatory is indicated by road markers every kilometre along this track.

          2WD vehicles, motorhomes, trailers, and caravans

          These vehicles should be left at the Lookout. Be aware that since the fires there is no cover for vehicles at the lookout.  Observatory caretakers will ferry guests staying more than one night, who are leaving 2WD vehicles at the lookout, to the Observatory by prior arrangement. There are stipulated pick-up times from the Lookout. These are 8.30 am and 3.30pm. Always check with the caretakers so you can be there at the correct time. If caretakers are not busy that day they may offer alternate times. Visitors will also be dropped back to the lookout at these times.

          4WD Vehicles

          • Leave motorhomes, trailers and caravans at the Lookout
          • Drive a further 3 km to the top of the scarp
          • If you have a UHF radio, call the caretakers on channel 12 from the top of the scarp to check if the track is clear of other vehicles, and the condition of the track
          • Proceed 1.2 km down the scarp to the Madura turnoff (Green Bottle Junction)
          • Take the right-hand road to Eyre Bird Observatory (signposted)
          • Deflate tyres to manufacturers' recommendations for sand driving (about 20 PSI, as a general guide) to prevent getting bogged and prevent damage to the sand track

          Important information

          • Transport is not provided for day visitors
          • Camping is not permitted in the Nuytsland Nature Reserve or at the Observatory
          • No public transport service operates along the Eyre Highway
          • No pets are permitted

          Accommodation

          The Observatory accommodates up to eight overnight guests. Because of our limited facilities, to avoid disappointment, advance bookings for overnight stays and meals are essential.

          Overnight Guests

          Accommodation in the historic Old Telegraph Building is basic with shared bathroom and toilet facilities. There are three bedrooms, one with a double bed and bunks, one with a double bed and two singles, and one with two singles and bunks.

          Acacia room sleeps 4Guests should note:

          • Bookings are essential. Please contact the caretakers
          • Up to a total eight guests can stay on any one night
          • You will need to bring your own bed linen—Sleeping bag, sheets, pillowslip, towel—to reduce water used for laundry purposes
          • Three meals per day are included in the cost of the booking

          Bunk room sleeps 4Prices for Accommodation

          All prices include GST (Effective 1 January 2016)
          Adults      $95  per person
          Children (4-14 years)     $50  per person
          Courses  $590 per person for 6 nights; extra nights $95

          Discount of $5 p/n for accommodation for BirdLife Australia members, seniors and YHA card holders. There is no discount of any kind on courses.

          Payments

          Payments can be made by credit card (Visa/MasterCard) or cheque made out to 'Birdlife - Eyre'.

          Eyre Bird Observatory is a not-for-profit facility, with the fees directed to cover our running cost. Fees for courses cover transport within the nature reserve for course outings, tuition by experienced leaders, accommodation in shared rooms, and hearty meals!


           

          Friends of Eyre

          Friends of Eyre is open to anyone who wishes to stay in touch with the Observatory and contribute to its future. By making a donation, you become a Friend of Eyre for 12 months, and receive free copies of our newsletter Eyre Waves.
           
          Donations from our Friends are used to purchase extra items that make the job of the caretakers a little easier, and visits to the Observatory that little bit more enjoyable.

          Bank details for donations

          ANZ bank, Willetton WA
          BSB: 016-499
          Account number: 2891 51749
           
          Eyre Waves is produced quarterly and contains reports from the current caretakers, news of new and interesting bird sightings, and notices of courses and workshops. Here are some highlights from a report of some previous caretakers.
           
          There is so much more to Eyre than birds. It really is a treasure trove of Nature in general. This ranges from the primal mallee and acacia forest, hardly touched by human hands, to the abundance of birds and animals. You can look out as the sun sets, in one direction at the greens and golds of the vegetation, and in the other at the oranges and reds of the clouds. And then there is the pink sheen on the Joseph dune…

          The birds and animals also seem to pick up on the tranquillity of the place. They learn how those noisy two-legged animals behave, and just live with us. This may be the Silvereyes and Singing Honeyeaters drinking while we’re talking to day visitors 2 metres away. Or it may be the kangaroos which come to drink at the bird baths at all times of the day or night. They don’t seem to mind us, and even come up when Rob is playing guitar!

          We spent lots of time here watching the ‘television’ – the three windows which look out over the birdbaths. There was almost always something good on – and no adverts! While we’re not expert birdwatchers, we had some experience before we came out here, and we’re certainly better at it now! Once you get to know a bird, and its calls, habits and distinguishing features, it’s relatively easy to identify them from a glimpse. If you don’t know them, you sit for ages waiting for one to sit still long enough to get a good view or a photograph, for later identification. The good thing at Eyre, is that the birds often come to you!


          Recent caretaker reports can be downloaded below

           

          My time at Eyre - the briefest of snap shots

          John Martindale

          It was with some trepidation that I walked up the narrow dingy stairway at Dryburgh Street in North Melbourne, the RAOU headquarters.

          The date was September 1977 and things were decidedly less than they could have been. The honeyeater chromosomes refused to show themselves at LaTrobe Uni, my parents had separated and the young girl in my life had run off with another. I was 23 years old and the lure of new birds in the west was now too great to ignore.

          I was on my way to a job interview for Australia's first Warden at the Eyre Bird Observatory. At the top of the stairs, my emotions were quickly settled by a tall and kindly fellow named Dr. S.J.J.F. Davies. I enjoyed talking with Stephen and before long found myself heading west not knowing quite what to expect but so excited about my boys own adventure.

          According to that indispensable Atlas book, the Readers Digest Maps of Australia, Eyre was somewhere on the Bight west of Eucla. Stephen had assured me it was easy to find and access would be no problem for my trusty old Land Rover (such optimism)...and so I arrived at the top of the scarp, on my own in the middle of the night in mid December 1977. It didn't look good so I camped out until daylight.

          Next morning I was woken by another vehicle. It turned out to be Pete and Barb Brown with kids Damien, Simon and baby Georgie from Arubiddy station. They were on their down to the beach for a spot of fishing and also to knock off a few old telegraph poles for fence posts. They took me in hand (and many times thereafter) and together we bounced our way down the track to the building. I remember vividly my first impression of it. Remote and dilapidated but I knew it had history it wanted to show and tell. I must have had 30 new ticks by days end but the Brown's had left and I thought I was to be alone on my first night...next thing Syd Baker arrived back from Cocklebiddy with supplies. We had a good night in front of a mallee root fire.

          Syd, a retired Corporal from the Australian Army Transport Corps (?) was really the first Warden in my view. Earlier, putting his army experience to good use, he had managed to fire up literally the old Studebaker truck from Cocklebiddy and with no brakes drove it down the scarp with material for a work party that Stephen had organised. These two men and other in the initial work party had the place looking good and comfortable for me and I will always be grateful to them. I was very sad to hear of Syd's demise from Cyclone George in the Pilbara last summer.

          And so, Syd and I settled into the Bird Observatory routine. There was no phone; only twice daily RFDS radio schedules to VK8 - Kalgoorlie. I still remember Eyre's callsign being 8-Whisky Sierra Delta and John Flower and Lorraine at the RFDS base. I loved the radio especially the School of the Air talks but it was a two edged sword. Sometimes good news, occasionally bad but either way, Eyre and Sid were provided constant companionship and solace. The Major Mitchells used to swing on the copper wire aerial and cut it constantly until we replaced it with fencing wire.

          We built the first toilet, the "Tin Sheet House" but before long Syd had fossicked around, as he did, and discovered (fell in through rotten timbers) the original stone lined dunny pit that we then plumbed into the outhouse. Shortly after, the first of several Dugites moved in to be later immortalised in poem by F.N Robinson.

          It wasn't long before we had the bird list up to around 150 species and visitor nights upping 500 in our first year. Stephen was terribly busy running courses ably assisted by Perry and Alma de Rebeira and others. I see the census techniques course continues to run today. From the latest bird lists and Eyre Waves it seems to me anecdotally that the abundance of certain species appears to be altering...That Black-capped Silver Whistler sighting is a sure sign that the climate is warming!! Eyre is well placed to monitor this most serious of threats to our planet and the long term studies now in place may prove invaluable. I worry about those Southern Scrub Robins....they used to be quite common. In contrast, I never saw or banded a New Holland Honeyeater but now they are dominant.

          Time passed quickly, stalwarts such as Joan Seabrooke did much in the early days through the RAOU WA Group. I remember Joan telling me to go to the Kanandah gymkana (only 120 miles away to the north on the railway line) for a day off. I still have the banner for the fastest man on the Nullarbor in 1978 but I reckon Pete Brown let me win. Peter later became a very popular Mayor of Esperance but not before dealing pugistically with a rival in the Cocklebiddy Manager. He was a good Aussie Rules player with Port Augusta.

          It wasn't long before university students and long time supporters Doug Watkins and Shapelle Mc Nee were introduced to the magic of the place. Doug, Shapelle and Allan Burbidge, subsequent Wardens, worked hard to broaden the scientific base to include mammals, reptiles and plants. Eyre offers much more than a Bird Observatory and I found a common bond among all the scientists who stayed there, from spelios (cave huggers) to astronomers (Skylab searchers)....a concern and love for the place. Eyre and the Nullarbor have an irresistible attraction....the wide open spaces.

          Another person who influenced me was a local called Johnny Carlisle. He built the hut at Twilight Cove. Johnny was raised in part by the local Aborigines on the Nullarbor and knew a lot about their folklore. I bumped into him descending the track down onto the beach near Israelite Bay, the next telegraph Station after Eyre heading west. He showed me the wreck of the Twilight, a sailing vessel used to deliver the poles for the first telegraph line along the coast. That wreck is now over 50 metres inland illustrating the dynamic coastal processes at work along the Bight. Johnny said there was a fortune in ballast still lying in that ship.

          I mentioned a decomposed carcass of a crested type penguin (Fiordland??) that a visitor had found and he casually mentioned that the Aborigines knew of two kinds of penguin egg along the Nullarbor cliffs. I have always felt that the Fairy Penguins there may have had company in some not too distant past.

          In any case it was a good excuse to go looking. Sid and I latched up with a local fisherman called Barry Rigby, better known as "rigor mortis" because of his fondness for port shandies. We poked off along the cliffs from the hut at Nine Mile (that Barry built incidentally - now removed) in a small tinnie using holden door handles from Cocklebiddy car yard as spinners. No penguins but plenty of snook found their way to various homesteads. Now I am older with a family, I doubt I would risk that journey again but then it was an adventure for me.

          It was about that time in mid winter that a subsequent Eyre benefactor and photographer named Hal (sorry I cannot recall his surname) visited and filmed the Southern Right Whales calving in Twilight Cove. Back then it was unusual to see these magnificent animals but they are undoubtedly recovering now that whaling has ceased. I swam with these beasts but it wasn't until later that I was told to do so was tempting fate because of the white pointers (of the cetacean variety).

          However, it didn't defer Stephen from putting up mist nets one night up to his chest in water off the observatory beach entrance as the Observatory took part in its continuing wading bird studies. It never ceases to amaze me just what birds fly along that coastline. Where else in the arid zone would Coots land on your roof, mistaking the moonlight reflection off the corrugated iron as a pond or Banded Landrails walk up to your front door?

          The first year out of five of the RAOU Atlas was under way with great excitement. Perry as Regional Coordinator rejected my Square-tailed Kite on the Observatory chimmey stack.  We got to travel around the Nullarbor visiting all the ten minute blocks and venturing as far north as the Great Victoria Desert. I remember Stephen leading one trip after the Kalgoolie Congress where three birdos got lost for two days at a place called "Dead Dingo's Donga". That 10 minute block was really well sampled for birds as we conducted a spiral search pattern in vehicles. I often wondered just what went on at that donga as romance was never far away in those times for the young bloods of the day. Stephen continued to write texts (over 500) for the Atlas in every spare moment he could muster. I couldn't believe the effort.

          There was always something going on and many times it had nothing to do with birds but just male mischief in a remote area. All kinds of people dropped in. One night, Ross Dunkerton, the WA car rally champion, knocked on the door. He had bogged his Holden ute about 3 km out. We towed it into Eyre. I'll bet it is the only Holden ever to navigate that track. Another time a Dept of Main Roads driver lost his job after trying to grade the track and then getting the grader bogged on the beach. The round Australia Redex car trial was on. A jackeroo and I in a pique of drunken mischief turned the signs around on the Nullarbor thereby delivering them to places other than Rawlinna.  Syd found a bottle on the beach with a message in it relating to a whisky promotion. It had come all the way from South Africa. He received a complimentary bottle for his efforts.

          Bill Graham and the WA Post Office Historical Society collated historical material and deposited it in two time capsules buried under the Observatory building. It must almost be time to dig up and open the first of these. Bill was a direct descendent of the original postmaster who operated the station from 1877 to 1927. Bill spent countless hours taming those sandhills under which I feel there is more Eyre history to be discovered. In my time alone the chicken coop and a horse drawn dray to the south east went under. There are also the remains of an older access track to Eyre to the north-north-west of the existing track along the telegraph link line. I meant to explore this track but never got around it. I did climb the Wurrengoodyea dune to the north-east, hoping to make a first ascent and experience the most magnificent view. Of all things, I found an old tin fuel can half way up it. Not so isolated after all. I guess Bill's descendants would have combed the locality in their days off for something to do. There must be more rubbish dumps around. Not nearly enough bottles in the museum for 30 years of continuous habitation yet. Syd loved the dumps we found.

          Before I knew it, nearly two years had elapsed. I had started writing up my Masters and the east of the continent was beckoning me back I welcomed the Congreves. Peter, Di and Di's mother Irene. They taught me how to make a real Indian curry using local Nullarbor lamb. Peter walked from Rawlinna to Arubiddy after the Observatory Susuki gave up on the bumps. Di was promptly bitten by a scorpion whilst Irene complimented me on the smoothness of the ride in from Burnabbie. By the way there are two old Ford Model T's in the bush above the scarp near the old homestead that really deserve restoration.

          In March 1979 I retraced my steps to Melbourne. Eyre had given me adventure and new romance. Over the two years, the Nullarbor locals had cared for me and introduced me to a new way of life. The chromosomes were working and generally life was looking up. There is never a week, even now at 53 and 30 years later, where I don't think about the good times at Eyre. My Mother once said I grew up at Eyre and I think she was right....funny how birds and places can profoundly affect your life. Thank you Eyre for the privilege.

          Dune restoration volunteers

          the Observatory's beach

          Volunteering at Eyre

          Caretakers

          We are currently seeking caretaker couples.

          Are you interested in becoming one of our volunteer Caretakers for three months? Caretakers look after the facilities and visitors on a day-to-day basis, contribute to the research and training activities from time to time, and record weather data for the Bureau of Meteorology. Being a volunteer Caretaker is a rewarding experience for those with the time, an interest in birds and the environment in general, and a desire to help visitors to gain the most from their time at Eyre.

          Although the position is unpaid, all your needs are provided for and we are able to reimburse you some of the costs in getting to and from the Observatory.

          Criteria for a Caretaker:

          • Have a demonstrated interest in birds and birding and/or the natural environment
          • Have Computer literacy in Windows 7, emails, MS Word, MS Excel
          • Have stayed at the observatory for 3 nights or more
          • Two adults (preferably a couple) are a necessary requirement
          • Be prepared to commit to a minimum of a three-month stay
          • Have sufficient mechanical skills to service the observatory vehicles, power generator, etc
          • Have an interest in people and hospitality
          • Be prepared to cook and clean
          • Be able to cope with isolation, remote conditions, i.e. ordering supplies weekly, limited water and power, long distance shopping (nearest supermarket at Norseman 400 km to the west)
          • Have the ability to communicate with a wide range of people
          • Have a police clearance and a medical check from your GP

          Apply to be a Caretaker by sending a one-page description of your skills and experience to Chair of our Management Committee, Alma de Rebeira.

          Most Wanted

          Couriers

          Are you going to Eyre? Or even just passing by Cocklebiddy?

          We often need to transport items to or from the Observatory.  If you happen to be coming our way please contact our Caretakers, and let them know you'd be willing to help.

          Volunteer Tradespeople

          We could always use a hand from the following licenced trades:

          • Carpenters
          • Electricians
          • Mechanics (Vehicles, Generators, Pumps)
          • Plumbers
          • Diesel Mechanic

          Brush Bronzewing

          panorama of the Observatory landscape

          Research – More than just Birds at Eyre

          The scientific program at the Observatory commenced in 1978 and continues currently under the supervision of the Caretakers, course leaders and visiting scientists. We encourage further research; to contribute please contact us.

          Birds

          Bird observations commenced on the first day of rehabilitation of the Telegraph Station and continue on a daily basis by the Caretakers and visitors. Supplemented by regular counts in defined areas and weekly counts are carried out along 13 km of Kanidal Beach. Records are contributed to BirdLife Australia’s Atlas & Birdata project as well as printed in the West Australian Bird Notes newsletter.

          Bird banding started in 1977 and has continued since through the efforts of the Caretakers, assisted by qualified course leaders and visiting banders. Banding studies include John Martindale’s MSc project on genetic relationships in birds; the extensive Honeyeater Expedition co-ordinated by Stephen Ambrose and Tim Marples; a PhD project by Stephen Ambrose on the behavioural and physiological ecology of the White-browed Scrubwren; and Tim Marples spent some months carrying out research into the ecology of the Singing Honeyeater. He also analysed data gathered by the the Observatory banding program to examine trends in occurrence for a number of honeyeater species; Peter Congreve investigated plumage changes and moult sequences of a number of species banded at the Observatory, and contributed data to supplement known methods for ageing and sexing birds; Doug Watkins gathered data from banded birds to determine their role as pollinators in the region; Don Bradshaw and Dave Goldstein conducted research into water metabolism and kidney function in honeyeaters; and data gathered at the Observatory has contributed to research demonstrating Bergmann’s Rule in the Singing Honeyeater.

          Annual banding studies continue to provide important data on seasonal movements and longevity of individuals and morphological variations in a number of species. The Observatory has the second longest running bird banding project in Australia. The data gathered at Eyre is being used in climate change studies by Janet Gardner, and in the Banders’ Guide to Western Australian Birds. Ornithological research has been an essential function of the Observatory and will continue into the future.

          Dune Stabilisation & Botany

          Dune stabilisation has been an important effort since the Observatory opened. Progress reports of the success of this work are presented regularly. The Observatory was a semi finalist in the Regional Achievement and Community awards in 2011 for the work done on dune restoration.

          Allan Burbidge published a plant list for the region, adding to the work of R.F. Parsons, E.C. Nelson, G.J. Keighery and others. Botanical studies have continued with visits by E.R.L. Johnson, A.M. Baird, H. Kirkman, K.R. Newbey, M. McCallum-Webster and A. Brown.

          A new study has just started on Climate change

          A PhD student at The University of Melbourne  called the observatory hoping that we might be able to assist her with the collect rainfall samples for her research

          She explained – “The aim of my project is to develop detailed reconstructions of temperature variations from approximately 3 to 5 million years ago, using the geochemical information stored in cave deposits (i.e. stalagmites) from various caves across the Nullarbor Plain. A key component of this study is the analysis of the chemistry of small pockets of water trapped inside stalagmites. In order to be able to interpret this data reliably it is important to have a detailed understanding of modern rainfall chemistry in the region, particularly the changes it goes through throughout the year, and changes in the sources of this rainfall. This information can be  linked to variations in the stalagmites, and be used to develop detailed reconstructions of past climatic variations in the region.

          This is why I am trying to develop a network of as may stations as possible from across the Nullarbor who would be willing to help me collect the rainfall samples that I need to analyse and compare to my stalagmites. I was hoping that you might be able to help me as you already monitor daily rainfall and as such you could be a big help to my project. All I would need you to do is to pour the rain gauge water into small vials (as opposed to discarding it on the ground) each day it rains and label them with a small amount of information for later identification in the lab. All of the equipment that you need would be posted to you, or as we will be coming to do some field work, it may be possible to deliver the equipment to you.”

          The observatory is pleased to be able to assist in climate research and is collecting water samples for the study.

          WA Native Orchid and Conservation Group    

          Visit to Eyre looking at revegetation post December 2016 fires

          Just back from our trip to Eyre and whilst we could not see all we wanted as the Twilight Cove track was closed we did find some orchids to add to your list.
          At the cliffs next to the lookout we found Caladenia microchila and Pterostylis mutica in seed plus a thelymitra in bud which we think is Thelymitra occidentalis. All these are in the burnt area.

          Further to the east at GPS 32 09.572 126 18.100   on the Burnabbie track to Madura in a cliff gully we found Pterostylis sp 'Eyre' in flower. This is a rufous greenhood. It is likely there are more of these on the Twilight Cove track which we were unable to access as it was closed at the time we were there. The Pterostylis complex do not respond very well to fire so it is likely that they will flower better in the second year after the fire if they have survived as their tubers are very shallow and can be killed by hot fire.

          On the track coming in to the observatory we viewed Calochilus pruinosus which is critically endangered but was in good flower and seemed to have survived the fire ok but will be interesting to see how it fares going forward given its habitat has changed.

          I have enclosed a photo of the Eyre rufa and the Mallee Beard orchid. I have also added a photo of the Caladenia microchila which was finished when we were there - this orchid would be flowering in August along with the Pterostylis mutica.

          Caladenia microchila extends from Kondinin to Madura and is the most easterly found spider orchid in WA. We found the remains of quite a few of these in the rock ledges on the limestone cliffs. That orchids grow in this environment is amazing and we are excited that we have found a possible new rufa just east of Cocklebiddy just off the Eyre Highway. We need to do further studies to determine its status and also the range of this orchid.

          Looking forward to a return visit next year all being well so we can see how the second year after the fire has impacted the orchids.It was pleasing to see the re generation that is starting to happen.

          Regards
          Kevin
          WA Native Orchid and Conservation Group

          Dept of Parks & Wildlife was also contacted to carry out a survey: Emma Massenbauer responded.

          Hi Alma,

          Your email was passed onto me regarding the regeneration at Eyre Bird Observatory after the fires. My role is flora Conservation Officer for the Esperance District of DPaW and my work is primarily focused on the recovery of threatened flora and fauna.

          We are planning to head out to Eyre Bird Observatory on 18th september (weather permitting) to monitor the populations of threatened flora that occur on the Eyre Bird ObservatoryTrack and assess their recovery. There is a rare orchid species that we are particularly interested in as part of a larger survey trip which will include travelling east to Eucla. At this stage we will have a couple of days at Eyre Bird Observatory where we will survey a rare orchid population just north of the observatory and this will involve putting in vegetation monitoring plots (most likely 10m x 10m) in the areas where the rare flora occurs.

          Cheers
          Emma Massenbauer
          Conservation Officer
          South Coast Region | Department of Parks and Wildlife

          Emma has put markers on the track into the Eyre Observatory where the endangered Mallee Beard orchid is found. They are very close to the track and she has established some monitoring areas to study the vegetation regrowth after the fire and the likely impact of the loss of vegetation on the orchids. Emma was there the week before the native orchid group arrived to do a thorough survey of the Mallee Beards which are critically endangered.(Ed)

          Pterostylis sp 'Eyre'
          (Eyre rufa)
          Endangered Mallee Beard
          Orchid
          Caladenia microchila
          The most easterly found
          spider orchid in WA

          We had a good tour of the observatory thanks to the caretakers and all enjoyed the chance to see the good work being done out there.   Kevin

          Reptiles

          During January 2019 a reptile studies course and survey was run at the Eyre Bird Observatory, located in the Nullarbor, Western Australia. A similar course was conducted six years ago in January 2013 with the same study design and aims. The objectives of this course/survey were firstly; to provide an up-to-date and accurate account of reptile species found in various habitat types in the area. Secondly, to compare the results and findings of this survey to the one conducted in 2013, and thirdly to provide an opportunity to teach skills in reptile survey methods, identification and handling to an enthusiastic group of participants.

          Download the Reptile Studies Report 2019 below

          Western Pygmy Possum

          It has been known for some time that the Western Pygmy Possum Cercartetus concinnus is resident at the Observatory (Eyre Report 2 1979-1981). Trapping results suggested that it may be relatively abundant, but little quantitative information has been gathered. A nest box had been placed in the large mallee Eucalyptus diversifolia next to the solar energy unit but had not been used. When a Pygmy Possum took up residence in June 1987 and built a nest it was decided to build more boxes immediately, and add to their number as opportunity allowed.

          We wanted to know:
          a) whether the Pygmy Possums would follow the example of the female in box 1 and use the boxes for breeding and/or sanctuary
          b) if they would move from one type of mallee to another following the flowering and
          c) if the abundance of Pygmy Possums varied in the site area

          Nine nest boxes were completed and erected in July 1987, 10 more in August, 12 in September, and 19 in October. These boxes were made in a variety of ways, openings were not standard but only the boxes with small openings were used by the Pygmy Possums.

          The trees selected were all mallee species: Eucalyptus diversifolia (16 boxes), E. angulosa (17 boxes), and E. rugosa (18 boxes). Peak flowering for these species was July to September, October to December and November to December respectively. Most boxes were placed about 1.5m - 1.8m from the ground. Boxes were inspected weekly from June to December 1987, fairly regularly in January 1988, not in February and once in March. The regular inspections did not appear to disturb even the females with young, particularly once a nest had been established.

          Initially individuals were marked with felt pen at the base of the tail using up to four colours and lasting for up to two months. Later an ear clipper was used to provide permanent identification.

          Western Pygmy Possum at Eyre Bird Observatory

          Results
          Pygmy Possums used 38 of the 51 boxes. Boxes not used on a regular basis were sometimes taken over by other creatures, such as huntsman spiders. On two occasions occupancy by individual huntsman spiders exceeded 3 months.

          A very large cricket occupied box 28 for two months and Marbled Geckoes Phyllodactylus marmoratus were found briefly in two boxes.

          Female Pygmy Possums occupied boxes for longer periods than males if they constructed nests, but generally non-breeding females were transitory. This was also true of females with tiny young who did not begin a nest. Males were much less prone to stay in a nest. The “top resident” female occupied the same box for 19 consecutive visits (18 June -
          7 November 1987).

          Nest Construction
          Resident females were the nest builders with long-term female residents always building substantial nests. Nests filled the boxes over time, with leaves renewed on an ongoing basis. Early nests were constructed of the host mallee, but later the leaves of Acacia anceps were more commonly used. These large shrubs were 20 - 30m from the nest tree.

          Breeding
          During the period of the study 29 females had a total of 34 litters. Numbers in each litter varied, ranging from 6 to 2. It seems possible that the nest boxes provided secure areas as observations showed all of the young counted produced by one female survived up until the time they became independent. Litters were found during the following months: June (1), July (1), August (4), September (10), October (6), November (9) and December (3). The 15 litters that contain known numbers provided 28 males and 35 females, for a total of 63 at an average of 4.2 young per litter.

          Movements
          Out of a total of 169 individuals marked, 34 were later found in different boxes or places. The distances covered ranged from about 3m to a little over a kilometre. Regularly caught males and females tended to be found in a relatively confined area, on average from 10 to 250m, 100m being the norm. Nine individuals made longer treks: two movements of about 500m, three of about 700m and four of about 1000 m.

          Incidental Observations
          Pygmy Possums were found to readily enter and use human habitation. We caught them in the house and two bred in the garage. No success was had when searching for nests in hollows or in old Babblers’ nests.

          We had one female (non-gravid) that went from 14.6g on 13 December 1987 to 27.5g on 9 January 1988. She was in boxes with other possums for four observations and the fifth time alone. Possibly cannibalism is an explanation for the acceleration in weight.

          We found no evidence to support Smith’s contention that Pygmy Possums were often found in a torpid condition and could be handled without them being aware of it.

          Conclusions
          This survey demonstrated that Pygmy Possums will regularly and frequently use breeding boxes.

          Despite the shortness of the survey, it seems likely that they move from one blossoming species to another. What happens when the mallees stop flowering is unknown, although we think they may use the mistletoe that flowers during February to March. We were unable to discover whether they move into the Melaleuca that blossoms during the same period and later.

          It may well prove significant that in 1988, which saw almost no flowers on the mallees, there were very few Pygmy Possums sighted.

          Probably, the most important outcome of this study has been its demonstration of the need for a more extensive and intensive study program over a number of years, ideally undertaken by an independent researcher. The material gathered during 1987, despite its many shortcomings, would be a valuable starting point.

          References
          Royal Australasian Ornithologists Union, (1982). Eyre Bird Observatory Report 1979-1981, West Australian Group, Perth.

          Smith M.J. (1983). The Western Pygmy Possum. In R Strahan (Ed)

          The Australian Museum Complete Book of Australian Mammals (Sydney, Angus and Robertson)

          Nesting Boxes


          In 2004, Rod Smith made some new Western Pygmy Possum nest boxes as the old wooden ones were on their last legs. Pygmy Possums are still enjoying the environs of the Observatory and have accepted their new PVC pipe style accommodation very well.

          They have occasionally taken over the box for putting the Rope Walk booklet in. A check is made every morning so guests know to be careful not to squash the sleeping possum when they return the booklet.

          We have had possums sleeping in the top bunk of the V.I.P. room much to the amusement of guests. A Pygmy Possum has even surprised us in the Stevenson’s Screen (weather instument box).

          History

          Edward John Eyre’s expedition 1841

          Mercilessly beaten by the sun, day after day, huddled frozen and bone-weary in his blankets at night, John Eyre must often have felt that the life of an explorer was indeed harsh.

          It was 1841 and 26 year old Eyre, together with his companion John Baxter and three Aborigines, was intent on breaking the barrier of desert, scrub and salt-pan that kept Western Australia isolated from the eastern colonies. Across almost 2000 kilometres of bleak, harsh, unyielding terrain, the small party struggled on to cross the lower western half of the continent.? No rivers or streams irrigated this dry, dusty land and the explorers were frequently thirsty.

          Among the coastal sand dunes south of what is known as Cocklebiddy, Eyre and his party dug for, and found, life-saving water.? The place eventually became known as Eyre’s Sand Patch but was later abbreviated to Eyre. They recuperated here for 28 days before heading westward again on April 27, 1841. Two days later Baxter was murdered when two of the Aborigines deserted. Eyre, accompanied by Wylie, the remaining Aborigine, continued and became the first to walk from east to west.

          1897 Eyre Telegraph Station building before restoration in 1977
          1897 Eyre Telegraph Station building before restoration in 1977

          The Eyre Telegraph Station est 1877

          Because of the good supply of fresh water and proximity to the coast, Eyre’s Sand Patch was destined to become one of the repeater stations for the Inter-Colonial Telegraph Line which first linked Western Australia to the outside world. In 1877, when the line came through from Albany, the telegraph station was built.? The original telegraph station was a weatherboard building with an office, kitchen, dining room and bedrooms. When William Graham arrived to take charge a similar building was erected for him, his wife Emily and their six children. The station opened for telegraph traffic on July 17, 1877.

          Twenty years later in 1897, a limestone building was erected. The following year there were 17 people living at Eyre.

          Of all the people who worked on the Inter-Colonial Telegraph Line, William Graham, or ‘Iron Man Graham’ as he was known, was the most outstanding personality.

          He came from Kadina in South Australia and was a builder, an amateur anthropologist, a magnificent horseman, a long-distance swimmer, a successful horse breeder and a capable cross-country cyclist.

          He learned the language of the local Aborigines and studied their culture. As a hobby he bred thoroughbred horses at Eyre and several of them were very successful racers. His own horse, a fine stallion appropriately named Wire, stood seventeen and a half hands high – almost as big as a Clydesdale.

          Legend has it that he rode Wire 160 kilometres in one day to repair a break in the telegraph line. He is reputed to have regularly stayed on board the supply vessels which serviced Eyre until sailing time and then swam a kilometre back to shore through the shark-infested waters of the Southern Ocean. Also, he is believed to have ridden his bicycle 100 kilometres from Israelite Bay to Eyre in the days when there was nothing except scrub and mallee, and certainly no roads.

          The Grahams brought up 10 children on the station. William Graham held the position of station master until his retirement in 1901 to a farm in Narrogin. Some of his daughters married telegraph staff who later became station masters at Eucla and Israelite Bay.

          Eyre Telegraph Station served Western Australia for fifty years until the original line closed in 1927 to be replaced by a telegraph route along the Trans Australian Railway, 150 kilometres to the north. The original buildings were sold for 30 pounds and some of the timber and iron was removed and transferred to Rawlinna. The beautiful limestone building fell into disuse until 1976.

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          Early Memories of Eyre

          CARETAKING REMINISCENCES - Don & Donna Reid

          Eyre Bird Observatory is a most fascinating and peaceful part of the world. It is a painter’s and photographer’s paradise. Apart from the beautiful and varied list of birds, there are the changing shadows on the dunes, the exquisite patterns on the dunes after a rain, the thick scrub on the vegetated dunes, the wonderful beach with its water birds, whales and seals and the people who come to stay. The list goes on.

          Don first visited Eyre during the 1979 RAOU Congress in Kalgoorlie, when the post-Congress excursion took a large group on a big swing through the Nullarbor, all landing on John Martindale for two nights. We have been back regularly ever since.

          We have been relieving wardens three times and have had several visits to Eyre over the years. Our first stint was in 1983 to give Peter and Di Congreve a break. We were quickly initiated with the arrival of a rental car carrying the producer and director for the Bill Peach TV Explorer series. They heard that there was overnight accommodation at Eyre. We threw more chops in the stew and scurried around to find bedding and towels. We had a delightful time with them. The next day Don took them on a tour of spots they might like to film before they left. Don had to go to Cocklebiddy to pick up our next visitor. He was a five-foot-eighteen-inch Canadian (his response when asked). His extra height sitting in the open back of the ‘Flying Tomato’ came in handy on the beach bird count. Peach and the filming crew arrived about a week later, doing the filming in a day, but took time out for our lunch of runzas and salads.

          The Congreves had to take their generator for repairs and we brought one with us.
          Every time we started it one or two light globes blew. By the time we discovered that we had to have everything electrical turned on (this included the copier, every light in the place and me holding my electric knife) when first starting the generator, the supply of globes was nearly depleted. We managed to get a couple of globes from Cocklebiddy and visitors donated two from their caravan when taken back to the top, to help us until our next order, which was some time away.

          It was in 1983 that we started spreading seaweed on the dunes. Don’s geological experience convinced him that, although the old nets being spread over the dunes were catching some blowing seed, we really needed to starve the dunes of sand blowing in from the beach. The seaweed also provided a nourishing bed for seed germination. The first seaweed was placed at the entrance of the beach track and many hands have kept the process going. Now, the original sites are lush with natural growth.

          Ordering the stores a fortnight ahead by letter took considerable alertness. Unpacking the order was a social occasion with whoever was at hand. One time we opened a box to see masses of tobacco and tobacco papers and an assortment of other odd things. Of course, it took a long time to get it to its owner (the Cocklebiddy roo shooter) and receive our more useful order. Once, our vital freezer order got left on the truck.

          When we were looking after Eyre in 1986 our first visit was by a couple from Switzerland, flying a small plane around Australia, taking photos for the Australian Tourist Commission, to be distributed in Switzerland. They landed at Cocklebiddy, got a ride to the tower, where Don picked them up. This was a job on the side for them both – he was a pilot in the air force and she an architect. They were at the house only a few minutes and we found them taking photos on the front verandah – she on his shoulders. They had found a pygmy possum in the rafters. They had to keep moving and Don returned them to the top late at night to fly off early next morning.

          In ’86 and ’89 several of our artist friends from Perth gathered at Eyre for art workshops with superb results. It is, indeed, a glorious place for painting. Also, in ’89, I (Don) gave a geology course. This looked at the geological history of the Nullarbor, the coastline, escarpment, local limestone and its fossils, the caves and the dunes. During our periods at Eyre, we also continued bird banding. I had been originally trained in this work by Peter Congreve in the early ‘80s .

          The beach runs were always full of interest. On one run in 1986 we came across a large seal on the beach, which we attempted to identify later when we got back to the Observatory. We came up with ‘Weddell Seal’ but it was later pointed out to us that the Reader’s Digest book we had used had the captions for Weddell Seal and Leopard Seal transposed. It was a Leopard Seal we saw. We should have known by all the big teeth it bared at us!

          There have been many changes to Eyre in the 30 years we have been visiting the place. We saw the installation of the solar power station and its reliable power; the change from RFDS telegrams to telephone for the weather reports, the progression from tiny, underpowered Suzuki 4WD utes to much larger Toyota diesels (not always any more reliable) and finally from the adventurous drive up and down the scarp to the highway that is there now. We are happy to have been a small part of the Observatory’s development.

          Don and Donna Reid

          Received 2008 and reprinted here in 2019

          If you'd like to share your story please forward it to eyre@www.bianchun.tw

          Major Mitchell's Cockatoos having a bath

          Contact the Caretakers

          Eyre Bird Observatory
          PMB 32, Cocklebiddy via Norseman WA 6443

          T 08 9039 3450
          F 08 9039 3440
          E eyre@www.bianchun.tw

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          August 2019

          Course Report 2019

          Dune Restoration Course
          December 2019

          Course Report 2019

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          October 2019

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          October 2018

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