There’s an incredible variety of birds in the Margaret Rive region. And when you’re hiking the Cape to Cape Track, you’re guaranteed to encounter plenty of them! We asked the region’s foremost bird expert, BirdLife Australia‘s Christine Wilder, to tell us about her favourite coastal birds that you might enounter during an adventure of Margaret River’s famous 124km coastal trail.

Coastal birds of wild and rugged Margaret River

Christine says: “I live on the hill close to Cape Leeuwin and when I was writing this, according to a report on Radio National, the wind was gusting at 126km/hr here with hail. Dangerous surf conditions. And a swell of well and truly 10 metres or maybe more. From my deck I can see Bessie’s Reef completely whited-out so I know when it is a “biggie”. This season has gone gangbusters and beyond all predictions. Everything is dominated by the elements in the capes and living here in Augusta is an awesome experience, especially located so close to one of the most amazing capes of the world and a bonus – between two oceans!
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Over 25 years I have been involved with local bird conservationists to introduce initiatives to protect beach nesting birds, shorebirds and other coastal and ocean-going species. It has been a slow evolving process for many of us in conservation. Back in the ’90s the Cape to Cape Track was in its infancy too and those involved haven’t waivered in their dedication to making it one of the great remote walking tracks between the capes where we can observe some special birds.

Hooded Plovers listed as vulnerable but big efforts are being made to protect them

“It is difficult limiting my choice to five favourite birds when speaking about coast and ocean birds. I have been associated with the management of the beach nesting Hooded Plover (pictured below) for more than two decades, so that bird has to be top of my list. Classed as vulnerable, the small resident shorebird is an icon of our region. Now there is a unique capes monitoring program in place where Parks & Wildlife-inducted volunteers report breeding plovers to the BirdLife online portal. There are also rangers to protect eggs and chicks by immediately erecting fencing and signage to alert walkers of birds’ presence and a request to take care not to approach them, keeping to the water’s edge and keeping dogs on leashes.

Striking Pacific Gull dominate beaches up and down the capes

“Another species that I find totally incredible to watch is the Pacific Gull (pictured below). Larger than the Silver Gull, in small numbers, these striking black and white birds dominate the beaches up and down the coast.

The handsome oystercatchers warrant a mention too – Australian Pied Oystercatcher (pictrued second from top with red legs and beak) and Sooty Oystercatcher – large shorebirds that feed on the rocks and along the tide line. Here again walkers can take care to avoid the dunes where these birds breed.

Australiasian Gannet also impresses with its awesome aerial feats and fishing ability

“The fifth bird in my list of favouritres is the impressive Australasian Gannet (pictured below). It can be seen in small numbers close to shore, when walkers look out to sea from the track. From a great height these gannets dive into bait balls and at certain times of year gather in rafts of up to fifty birds.

I also love seeing other species of birds here in and around the coast, including albatrosses, shearwaters, plovers, even recently a Little Penguin, and of course the migratory shorebirds from the northern hemisphere. There is so much to see and enjoy in its many facets and weathers!”

Thanks so much for those great words Christine! And a big thanks to photographer Jenny Kikeros for her shots of the Hooded Plover and Australian Pied Oystercatcher. And to Jeffrey Venning for the fabulous shots of the Pacific Gull, Australasian Gannet.

To book your guided or self-guided adventure on the Cape to Cape Track, click HERE

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