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Rottnest Island in winter (2 of 2)

This second chapter is a walk on the island’s natural, wild side…although its final destination is the Rottnest Hotel, as MV Dilligaf departs.

The pelican atop this post may – or may not –  be the very same one who spent several hours, motionless, on the jetty at Geordie Bay that morning.

In any event, the afternoon’s weather proved kinder, so my beloved and I stirred ourselves.

Both pelican pics here – taken a second or so apart – show the one bird, shortly after it stirred itself, in Bickley Bay.

Same pelican as featured image; this taken a second earlier. All photos copyright Doug Spencer.
Same pelican as featured image; this taken a second earlier. All photos copyright Doug Spencer.

 

Rottnest is a prime place for ospreys.

All ospreys are the one species and although many humans have never seen one, ospreys are found on all continents, except Antarctica.

This Australian winter, Rottnest has 10 active osprey nests.

This one is at Henrietta Rocks.

Ospreys on nest, Henrietta Rocks, Rottnest Island.
Ospreys on nest, Henrietta Rocks, Rottnest Island.

 

Nearby, on the beach, a pied oystercatcher’s relaxed behaviour suggested that it was well aware that ospreys eat only fish and that tourists don’t hunt oystercatchers.

Pied oystercatcher, Rottnest Island, winter 2016. All photos copyright Doug Spencer.
Pied oystercatcher, Rottnest Island, winter 2016. All photos copyright Doug Spencer.

 

Much of Rottnest’s eastern side is occupied by shallow lakes: some seasonal, some “permanent”, all saline.

Lake Baghdad, viewed from above Little Parakeet Bay, looking across to Wadjemup Lighthouse.
Lake Baghdad, viewed from above Little Parakeet Bay, looking across to Wadjemup Lighthouse.

 

Most rain falls in winter.

Summertime water levels are typically lower and salinity much higher; this promotes the growth of certain algae.

A byproduct is the “pink lake” phenomenon.

Click here for a partial explanation and photos of various pink lakes.

Rotto is currently enjoying a “proper” winter, so the lakes-proper look like “normal” lakes.

Along their shores, however, you can currently experience another natural phenomenon.

It never snows on Rotto and and its lakes are not at all polluted by man-made cleaning products.

Wind-whipped foam - entirely natural, benign - is oft-seen on and near shores of Rottnest's lakes.
Wind-whipped foam – entirely natural, benign – is oft-seen on and near shores of Rottnest’s lakes. All photos copyright Doug Spencer.

 

The surfactants responsible are – like the lakes turning “pretty in pink”, most summers – a natural byproduct of  the lakes’ rich, organic “soup”.

Samphire, embraced by entirely natural foam.
Samphire, embraced by entirely natural foam.

 

A few minutes after I took the above photos, my beloved and I had one of many meetings with Rotto’s emblematic animal.

This quokka has an uncommonly healthy pelt. All photos copyright Doug Spencer.
This quokka has an uncommonly healthy pelt. All photos copyright Doug Spencer.

Setonix brachyurus is the only member of its marsupial genus.

Unwittingly, this small wallaby “named” Rottnest.

In 1696 Dutch explorer Willem de Vlamingh landed on the island and mistook the island’s quokkas for rats.

He named the island Rottnest, meaning “rat nest”.

Quokkas live only in southwest Western Australia, but in most places are now entirely absent, or very rare.

Only on Rotto are quokkas abundant.

The island’s western/southwestern half is much the wilder; all tourists and resident humans are accommodated in the eastern/northeastern end.

Porpoise Bay – on the southeast side – is a very short bus trip or an easy bike ride away from Rotto’s modest “bright lights”.

 

Tea Tree, Porpoise Bay
Tea Tree, Porpoise Bay.

 

Most of Rotto’s trees are sculpted and pruned by the prevailing winds.

It is always worth looking carefully across the water; on the final of our three Rotto winter mornings we saw a whale (probably, a blue whale – no “tail”,  one very big “blow”, then gone) a large pod of dolphins and many birds.

Alas, I lacked the necessary lens “grunt” to do justice to them.

It is also worth looking up.

Osprey, above Porpoise Bay
Osprey, above Porpoise Bay

 

On Rottnest you do not have to be at all “clever” or “expert” to enjoy surprisingly close encounters with ospreys.

(However, it was well within suburban Perth that I enjoyed a much closer, astonishing encounter with an osprey – probably a once-in-my-lifetime experience. That will be subject of a future post)

I suspect that the osprey which flew above us on Porpoise Bay was one of the pair who were nesting on a sea stack, a little west of Parker Point.

Zoom in/enlarge & you will see there are two adult Ospreys. All photos copyright Doug Spencer.
Zoom in/enlarge & you will see there are two adult Ospreys. All photos copyright Doug Spencer.

 

Parker Point, south side of Rottnest. All photos copyright Doug Spencer.
Parker Point, south side of Rottnest. All photos copyright Doug Spencer.

 

The wildest/most splendid part of Rotto’s shoreline is generally – and accurately – known as West End.

More formally, it is Cape Vlamingh.

Near Rottnest's West End, early August 2016
Near Rottnest’s West End, early August 2016

South from here, Antarctica is the nearest substantial landmass.

West, it is Africa.

Half an hour away is another world altogether: downtown, Thomson Bay.

On a summer day, we would have queued for who knows how long to obtain our beers (excellent – from a decent selection of real beers…the “oil refinery” kind are also available) which we would have consumed in the midst of a loud throng of many hundreds, overlooking the many hundreds of boats, clogging Thomson Bay.

This winter’s day we were two of eight people sitting outside, with fewer than twenty inside…and the only boat in front of the hotel was casting off.

It may or may not have belonged to comedian Kevin “bloody” Wilson, but the boat was named after his signature song.

If you are mystified, Google for Dilligaf!

 

Just before sundown, view from Hotel Rottnest across to Perth. Copyright Doug Spencer.
Just before sundown, winter. The view from Hotel Rottnest across to Perth. Copyright Doug Spencer.

Published in nature and travel photographs Western Australia

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