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2008: South to the Stirling Range

White-cheeked Honeyeater

The Great Southern Highway is the roundabout route from Perth to Albany. I had cut across to it at Narrogin and was now following it down to Wagin, home since 1985 of the Giant Ram. It’s a bloody great steel and fibreglass sheep. The Aussies love that sort of thing.

Of more interest to me was the Wetlands Park, in which the monster lived. The park held a good selection of birds, most exciting of which was white-cheeked honeyeater for my 873rd lifer. That got the day going a bit better.

According to the IOC the white-cheeked is now one of only three Phylidonyris honeyeaters. The tawny-crowned has gone into its own genus, as has the white-fronted, which has also whizzed practically to the other end of the family, near the beginning.

Anyway, white-cheeked is still closely related to the New Holland honeyeater, which I had seen back in 2003. I would be reacquainted with that when I got to Albany at day’s end.

Leaving Wagin, I had hopes of birding lakes to the south but they were rather a detour and the roads in looked dodgy. I definitely didn’t trust the maps about their metalled state. Deep agribusiness still surrounded me, even when I turned off the highway towards Gnowangerup. The only birds were big and obvious, like black-shouldered kite and brown falcon.

Something big and obvious was also looming on the southern horizon – the Stirling Range. That held some promise. Only forty miles away.

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