Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Mighty Sevylor on the Millstream

Kayaking is great way to see the river scenery and wildlife. And my trusty plastic touring and seakayaks have been put to good use to travel the estuaries and inlets of SWWA.

But there are times when lugging 25 - 40 odd kilos of plastic on a car and through the bush is just not practical -

                              and so to promote the inflatable yaks.

The Mighty Sevylor is a 5 kg lump of plastic sheeting, inflated with a low pressure hand pump. Fitting snuggly in the back of the low-clearance-and-inappropriate-vehicle-for-road-touring subaru imprezza, the Mighty Sevylor proved its $ 100 - 200 worth at Millstream-Chichester National Park.

Minutes to inflate, hours to paddle - our two person boat was a snug fit for two. It is good that we're both short-arses, but the boat is fine for a single paddler to handle. Okay - so it doesn't rate highly for speed, but The Mighty Sevylor is convenient, stable, lightweight and perfect to take along on road trips when space and weight are at a premium. Perfect for spontaneous paddles.

Just upstream (west) from the Crossing Pool campsite, there is an easy access point at the ford and pipeline crossing over the Fortescue River. This allows for an easy 3 km of paddling upstream before you reach some rapids and melaleuca thicket, which can be easily portaged if you wish to go further. You can also try downstream from the ford, so long as you are prepared for portages.

Dense stands of Melaleuca argentea line the river, as well as the endemic millstream palm (Livistona alfredii). Expect to see a lot of birds, including rainbow be eaters, little black cormorants, black swans and blue winged kookaburras, zebra and star finches, butcher birds etc..

The river bank is easily accessible and open to walk along because the undergrowth is relatively sparse. Feral cattle are obviously keeping this more open, and intermittant flood events will scour the braided stream beds.

Keep you eyes open for ta ta lizards / long-nosed water dragons (Lophognathus longirostris) on the rocks and tree trunks..

Obviously  paddle only at low - moderate water levels and not during flood events. Winter is a perfect time for a paddle on the Fortescue because the weather is relatively mild  to warm for the Pilbara, plants are still flowering, the road are most accessible and mostly likley to be open have been graded by that time of year.

Time of year to paddle: Winter - spring (May - October). Avoid during flood events or predicted flood events. This means being aware of heavy rainfall in other parts of the Fortescue catchment.

Skill level: Easy. Grade 1- 2 (flatwater). Some moving water and minor rapids and ti-tree thickets.

Attractions: Pleasant easy kayak along wide, majestic river lined with tall, lush riparian vegetation and passing by specular mesas and rock outcrops.

Entry points: 2WD - Crossing Pool campsite and ford over Fortescue. Expect portages to get to long pools. Other points are also accessible with 4WD.

Note: Some areas of the river are of high cultural signifiance to the Yindjibarndi people and recreational water activities are not permitted.

More information -

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Chip chip

Striated pardalote (Pardalotus striatus)

Over the last few weeks, striated pardalotes have been chirping around the neighbourhood. Nothing else could be as distinctive as their incessant but cute "chippa chip" calls. According to the ornithologist at work, they are apparently relatively common in Perth's suburbs - more common than you would think. But are rarely seen, because they are tiny, more or less brown and spent most of their time flittering within eucalypt canopies.

But, for some reason, one raucous male last week decided to bail me up in my house and spend his time having a go at my windows and peering inside a hole in the external wall.

He started with the front window.. very distracting he was too.. because this is what I could see while working at the computer.

 And then he moved around to the kitchen window - where he performed to two other birds who came around to investigate his chirping and wing-waving at the window.

There were concerns that he was spending way too much time responding to his reflection - an amazing fact alone was that that our scungy, dirty windows actually could cast a reflection. But he did also spend a lot of time performing at a hole in the wall and to the other birds, so I had hopes that they were going to nest there. He eventually did move on from the kitchen after a week and now I can hear him chip-chipping among large trees around the suburban block.

I rate the striated pardalote a 9.5 out of 10 on the cute scale. Damn handsome and very yellow about the chops.

And here is a pair in a more natural setting, flitting about their nest hole in a wandoo (Eucalyptus wandoo) at Dryandra woodland, 159 km SE of Perth.