Northam, Pelicans, Kookaburras, Bushfires and a Good Samaritan


Continuing our general exploration of the Perth region we headed out to the township of Northam. The main reason for heading that way is that Northam is said to have the largest number of historic buildings in Western Australia (other than Fremantle).

Northam is just over 30 Km north of York, which we have visited before, and just over 90 Km from Perth. So just over an hours drive. Waiting until the Perth suburbs commuter rush hour was over we set out on a drive through picturesque countryside. Some might question the picturesque descriptor and certainly the countryside is nothing like the green and pleasant land that is the UK.

Driving out we passed through forests of trees, with fire blackened trunks, starkly contrasted by brilliant white gum trees. All topped of with leaves that are tinted close to sage green. All with a constant backdrop of a clear blue sky. Occasionally these forests give way to more open lands, presumably cleared to provide grazing for sheep and cattle. Although mainly open, these pastures are dotted with trees to give livestock some shade.

Countryside - Near Northam WA
Countryside – Near Northam WA

The landscape change as we enter the “Avon Valley”, becoming more hilly and open. The road changing altitude more frequently and, as we entered the outer suburbs of Northam, we made a short detour, following a sign indicating that there was a view-point on top of the hill.

The view-point gives good panoramic views over Northam and the surrounding countryside.

Countryside surrounding Northam WA - Viewed from Mt. Ommaney
Countryside surrounding Northam WA – Viewed from Mt. Ommaney
Countryside surrounding Northam WA - Viewed from Mt. Ommaney
Countryside surrounding Northam WA – Viewed from Mt. Ommaney

The picnic tables up here have been vandalised and the whole area is looking a little sad. It would seem that it is a popular place for “hooning” around with cars and bikes.

After several do-nuts, I managed to get the son-in-laws car perfectly parked. As you can see now the smoke has cleared.
After several do-nuts, I managed to get the son-in-laws car perfectly parked. As you can see now the smoke has cleared.

There is also an information board which makes reference to a grave site accessed down a made path. Unfortunately, most of the information is obliterated but I was able to determine that the grave site is on un-consecrated ground and that it once held the body of a Mrs Iva Jane Burrows. Apparently she shot and wounded her step daughter before injecting herself with a lethal dose of poison. It was her wish to be buried without religious service or sermon. One other oddity was that her husband had the coffin bound with two chains prior to interment. Confusingly, despite the presence of the grave-site on the hilltop other sources on the web suggest that she was buried in the Northam Cemetary which is, presumably, consecrated.

On into Northam and we spotted a sign for the pedestrian suspension bridge and were soon parked up again.

At the foot of the bridge is a modern day wood sculpture, of a Bob Tailed Lizard, entitled Little Bobby.

Little Bobby - Northam WA
Little Bobby – Northam WA

The bridge has a 117 metre span and is 16 metres high. Apparently it can hold up to 400 people, evenly spaced, and is capable of withstanding 150 Km/hr winds. It is a popular vantage point for the famous Avon Valley Descent, so the live load capacity has probably been exercised on numerous occasions, since it was built in 1975.

Shire of Northam - Avon River Suspension Bridge
Shire of Northam – Avon River Suspension Bridge

We crossed the bridge, and yes it wriggles, squirms and bounces as you walk. I was told on numerous occasions, to stop making it bounce.

The Ubiquitous Shopping Trolley - Scourge of the western world
The Ubiquitous Shopping Trolley – Scourge of the western world

Having crossed the river, we ate a very pleasant lunch on the veranda at the RiversEdge Cafe. Here, I had a Curried Rice Salad with added Chicken Strips, while Gerry had a Peach Salad with added Salt and Pepper Squid. Mindful of the rising temperatures we washed the food down with some thirst quenching Iced Tea.

Apart from being the start point for the Avon Descent

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Avon Descent is an annual, two-day, white water event involving both paddle craft (kayaks, surf skis) and small motor boats. It runs from Northam to Perth, Western Australia along the Avon and Swan Rivers, and is held in August of every year.

Sponsors and commercial support regularly changes, sometimes annually.

It is the only event in the world where both power craft and paddle craft race compete. The course has Grade 2–4[clarification needed] white water rapids and is 124 kilometres (77 mi) long.[1] The first Avon Descent was held in 1973. There has been an increase in the prize pool from 2007 of $10,000 providing an extra $6,000 for 1st, $3,000 for 2nd and $1,000 for 3rd fastest single paddle craft. In 2006 757 competitors started the event in 459 craft.

The top class in the powerboats is the 10hp sports class. These boats are made from foam and fibreglass, and have hydraulic jacks that enable the motor to be jacked up. The motors are unmodified and run a surface piercing propeller. These powerboats can reach speeds of approximately 70km/h.

Northam is also known for its many historic buildings …

133 Fitzgerald Street, Northam - A two-storey rendered brick and tile building (1906) in the Federation Free Classical Style
133 Fitzgerald Street, Northam – A two-storey rendered brick and tile building (1906) in the Federation Free Classical Style
 Northam Post Office & Quarters - a brick and iron building designed in the Federation Free Style architecture. Built circa 1909
Northam Post Office & Quarters – a brick and iron building
designed in the Federation Free Style architecture. Built circa 1909
Commercial Hotel, Northam - Built 1902-1903
Commercial Hotel, Northam – Built 1902-1903
Northam Hotel - The original hotel was built on the site In 1887 although a licence had been operating from the site since 1890.
Northam Hotel – The original hotel was built on the site in 1887.
Commonwealth Bank - is a two-storey, Inter War Stripped Classical style commercial building. Built circa 1934
Commonwealth Bank – is a two-storey, Inter War Stripped
Classical style commercial building. Built circa 1934

During our walk alongside the river we were entertained by various aquatic birds. Ducks, gulls, moorhens, and a lone pelican. The Pelican was fishing, and seemed to be doing quite well. Sailing along majestically, plunging his enormous bill down into the water, then slowly lifting his head while draining the water keeping his bill closed enough to keep his prey from escaping. This would be followed by a uptilt of the bill so that whatever had been caught slid quickly down into his gullet.

Pelican - Northam Town Pool
Pelican – Northam Town Pool

The gulls spent a deal of time harassing the pelican. Everytime his head went under water, and his bum went up in the air, they would swim in close, as if to peck the exposed behind. Then when his head came back up they would move away. On one occasion, one of the gulls leapt out of the water and used the pelicans back like a trampoline to launch itself into the air.

Other birds on or around the water included an Egret …

Egret ?
Egret ?

…… a Heron ….

Heron ?
Heron ?

…. and a Cormorant drying it’s wings …

Cormorant
Cormorant

Western Australia is known for the Black Swans which feature on the state flag, but Northam is known as the home to White Swans which were first introduced to Australia during the 19th century.

In 1896 the White Swan was introduced into Western Australia by a British colonists. In the early 1900’s, it is believed a Russian settler and the town’s mayor, Oscar Bernard, introduced White Swans to Northam . The Avon River in Northam became the only place in Australia where the newly introduced bird survived and today it is still the only place in Australia where White Swans breed naturally in the wild.

After spending a few hours in an around Northam it was time to head back to Perth. Returning to the car I made a really bad decision. I knew that the car was low on fuel but decided that we would be able to fill up at a service station on the way. This was stupid as I then made a second dumb decision, which was to take “the pretty route” back. We drove for many kilometers along very quiet roads, with few other motorists. Slowly the fuel gauge dropped towards the empty mark.

Then nature stepped in to compound my dumb decisions. We started to see the signs of a bush fire directly ahead …..

Bush Fire - Gidgegannup, WA
Bush Fire – Gidgegannup, WA

Then we encountered signs stating that there was a road diversion ahead due to the fire. This was not good news, with the fuel tank virtually empty, we could not afford to be diverted onto even more remote roads.

Cresting a rise I spotted a guy and his vehicle on the opposite side of the road and I stopped to speak to him. The reason he was parked up was because his vehicle was LPG fuelled so no way through and, being low on fuel, he also had a limited range. He said that he was resigned to spending the night at the roadside.

When I asked if he knew where the nearest service station was he waved his hand towards the smoke and said “the other side of that”. This was not looking good.

Off the road, through the trees on our side, we could see some buildings. So we decided to go and see if anyone there might have some fuel to sell us. The buildings that we had seen were not inhabited but we could see a house further back and made it up to the front of the house.Luckily there was someone home, and, not only that but they had a can with about 10 litres of fuel which they gave us.

Thats right, gave us !!!

Twice I offered to pay for the fuel, but was refused. I siphoned the fuel although he offered to do that too. I couldn’t allow him to do that when he was donating the fuel. The fuel he provided took us back up to about a quarter of a tank. After thanking him profusely we set off on our way, me with the taste of unleaded on my lips and tongue. No amount of water seemed to clear that taste.

Shortly after leaving the “Good Samaritans” home we arrived at the detour which took us through some picturesque wooded roads. These roads were quite narrow, barely wide enough for two vehicles to pass. I guess I should be grateful that they were paved. En route we encountered this little fellow.

Kookaburra
Kookaburra

I’m pretty sure he’d had an encounter with another motorist. He let me drive right up to him and even when I got out of the car he just sat there looking at me. Not very humane of me, I took a picture first before considering helping him. Looking at the displaced feather I thought I might have to move him off the road or even contemplate something more drastic. However, as soon as I got within a couple of feet, he took off and flew away through the trees. Hopefully he was just stunned.

A few more kilometers down the road and we began to see signs of civilisation and then we were ejected onto The Great Eastern Highway. Soon after that we arrived at The Lakes Roadhouse where we were able to fill up with fuel and I was able to get some mints to try to get rid of the taste of unleaded.

It took us another hour to get home and a nice hot cup of tea while we discussed the days adventures ……. or perhaps I should say, misadventures.

Here is how the bush-fire was reported on the day ….

http://www.perthnow.com.au/news/western-australia-bushfires/wa-bushfires-gidgegannup-issued-emergency-fire-warning/news-story/39277d63a9c087f8c3aac13969fb839a

And, at the time of this post, the Department of Fire and Emergency Services had this to say some twenty four hours on …..

http://www.dfes.wa.gov.au/alerts/Pages/Alert.aspx?ItemId=15727

And finally, once again, a big thank you to Paul for donating the fuel.

Point Walter


Over the last few days we have been discussing getting in a bit of fishing. This kind of talk then leads one into a discussion about possible venues.

During previous visits I have fished various locations, including

  • Coogee Pier – produced blowies until the dolphin came
  • Woodman Point – Produced a Snook and a couple of unidentified fish. They tasted OK though.
  • Mandurah – one of the  canals produced blowies until the dolphin came. Bit of a theme here. And an early morning trip to a beach only produced blowies and a cheeky pelican.

A bit of trawling on the interweb and Point Walter  / Blackwall Reach came into focus as possible venues.

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It was decided that an exploratory visit was in order and as luck would have it there was also a nice cafe where we could have a spot of lunch.

Arriving at Point Walter we strolled the immediate foreshore and slipway. There were some boats anchored just off shore, with folks fishing, and at least one guy appeared to have waded out to a sand bar. He was fly fishing in water that reached up to his thighs.

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Swan River – Point Walter

Further strolling took us to the Walters River Cafe and on inside, where we had a very pleasant lunch comprising burgers for Steve and I, Salmon with scrambled eggs on a roti base for Gerry. All washed down with cold beers and a home-made lemonade for me.

In search of the fishing spots we meandered out onto the nearby jetty, at the far end of which we could see a figure drowning worms. Hoping to get some fishing hints I said hello and was greeted with a smile and “no speak english”. In response to my muttering that I was hoping to ask about the fishing he offered “no fish” and settled back to watching his rods.

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Jetty – Point Walter

All around the end of the jetty there were thousands of bait fish and we caught a glimpse of maybe half a dozen “bream shaped” fish ghosting through the water, behind the angler. I resisted telling him he was fishing in the wrong direction.

Walking round the point didn’t reveal the fishing points we were searching for but was still a pleasant way to pass time. There was plenty f activities taking place on the water. Sailing boats, fishing boats, paddle boarders, tour boats and seadoo’s. As we walked we were shadowed by the ever-present seagulls and were harangued by the magpies and crows.

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Jonathan Livingston Seagull !!
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Blackwall Reach – Swan River

From the shore, having walked round the point we were able to look down Blackwall Reach. The cliffs in the distance hold the fishing points we were searching for. Following this water down will ultimately lead one into Fremantle.

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Causeway to small islet

We decided to return to the car to drive round to find the access point for the cliffs. En-route we picked up an ice cream, or two.

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Place Marker – Point Walter Reserve

To be fair, only Steve and I had ice creams although the picture may say otherwise.

Arriving at the first parking space near the cliffs we were confronted with this sight.

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Hope this isn’t representative of what happens to all anglers cars.

There is a sticker on the other side of the car, giving the owner twenty-four hours to remove the vehicle from this site. Seems a bit unfair, assuming that the car was stolen, since the owner may not know it is missing or if they do, may not know where it is.

There was quite a useful information board here.

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Interesting, although hardly surprising, is the linkage back to England.

From here we made our way down to the cliffs and the potential fishing sites. There are made paths running along the cliff tops, with view platforms positioned at various points.

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View From Platform Over Blackwall Reach

Although the viewing platforms are positioned several metres above the water, the local council has provided for anglers by placing special bins for hook and nylon disposal.

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Looking Back Towards Point Walter

General consensus is that this would be a good place to try out, so the plan is to give it a go sometime next week. I’ve not fished from cliff tops before but it can’t be much different from fishing off a pier…… can it ?

Just below one of the viewing platforms there were a number of Black Swans resting….. although, with the naked eye, these two looked more like gnarled, twisted driftwood.

Black Swans
Black Swans

Heading back to the car and onwards to home, we stopped for me to get a couple of shots across the river to the Perth city skyline. This gave me the opportunity to also capture a couple of local wildlife shots.

First up is a cluster of pied (?) cormorants ….

Pied Cormorants ?
Pied Cormorants ?

Then we have a much rarer species …..

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Orange Backed Yellow Jackets – Otherwise known locally as “schoolies”

As you can see in the photo, these are Orange Backed Yellow Jackets, known locally as “schoolies”. Known for gathering onto rafts during the summer season. These are the young but they are always overseen by the elders of their species. They can be identified by the darker plumage.

Further along the shoreline the Perth skyline comes into view…..

Perth City Skyline
Perth City Skyline

Shame it was a little hazy. Hopefully, I’ll get some better shots as we advance through our trip.

Bussleton Jetty


Just a couple of weeks ago, while we were still down under, we visited Bussleton Jetty. Bussleton is around 2.5 hours drive south from Perth where we were staying. The Jetty pushes out to sea, some 1.8 kilometres (1.08 miles) and is said to be the longest timber piled jetty in the southern hemisphere and is second in length only to the UKs Southend Pier which at 2.18 kilometres (1.29 miles) is the worlds longest. Apart from the pleasure of walking the length of jetty and partaking of the fresh sea air there is an added attraction. At the end of the jetty is the Underwater Observatory (UWO) which allows visitors climb down some 8 metres to the sea bed.

Intra Tidal Viewing Window - Underwater Observatory at Bussleton Jetty
Intra Tidal Viewing Window – Underwater Observatory at Bussleton Jetty

We were lucky enough to join the last tour of the day and we were just six including the guide. The photo above is the first landing of the spiral staircase which has a window allowing one to observe the pilings and the creatures that inhabit the intra-tidal areas.

Intra Tidal Window - Underwater Observatory at Bussleton Jetty
Intra Tidal Window – Underwater Observatory at Bussleton Jetty

Further on down there are several other windows giving a unique view of the world below the waves. The lighting is quite subdued inside the observatory allowing for the natural lighting outside to appear very bright. We were lucky to visit when the sun was shining brightly and the sea was very clear. Apparently there had been some churn of the seabed a few days previously due to the winds that blew in. Even so taking pictures through the very thick glass does make photography a challenge.

Red Bait Crab - Underwater Observatory at Bussleton Jetty
Red Bait Crab – Underwater Observatory at Bussleton Jetty

Picture above is of a Red Bait Crab. So called because of its popularity for use as bait by the fishermen. This guy was very busy harvesting food amongst the corals and seaweeds. Apparently they will eat just about anything. A bit like me then.

Apart from the distortion caused by the glass, there is a magnification effect making things appear closer than they really are. Apparently they have the windows cleaned regularly as the sea creatures would very soon take over the surface of the glass just as readily as the remainder of the structure. Imagine that on your CV, “Underwater Window Cleaner”.

Unlike the typical aquarium you would find in a zoo or at some seaside town the UWO is a bit of a lottery. Fish can come and go as they please. I managed to capture some of the species on our visit.

BJ_Fish3
Whitebarred Box Fish – Underwater Observatory @ Bussleton Jetty
BJ_Fish2
Crested Morwong – Underwater Observatory @ Bussleton Jetty
BJ_Fish
Dhufish – Underwater Observatory @ Bussleton Jetty

There were many more species spotted than I have captured or even presented here. Unfortunately not all presented themselves close enough to the glass to for me to grab a snap. Great excitement was generated when an octopus was spotted on the seabed but for me the best moment was when a cormorant came down like a rocket chasing a shoal of fish. The air trapped in his feathers made him look like a silver missile. The agility he displayed not just with the initial dive but followed up by horizontally chasing the shoal at seabed level was amazing.

Soon it was time for us to leave and begin the long walk back. The wind had gotten up which made for a very blustery walk. The journey back seemed much longer.

Heading Back To Shore - Bussleton Jetty
Heading Back To Shore – Bussleton Jetty

All along the jetty there are interesting plaques to read. Some are folks reminiscences from the past. Some bear historical facts and some are memorial plaques for folks whose ashes have been scattered from the jetty.

Fish - Lucy Dougan A plaque on Bussleton Jetty
Fish – Lucy Dougan
A plaque on Bussleton Jetty

And could this be a statue of the young girl whose memories Lucy Dougan describes above ?

A bronze statue close to the plaque entitled "Fish" Bussleton Jetty
A bronze statue close to the plaque entitled “Fish”
Bussleton Jetty

Or perhaps, Jetsam below ?

Jetsam - Nicole Sinclair Bussleton Jetty
Jetsam – Nicole Sinclair
Bussleton Jetty

Both of the plaques conjure up images of a bygone era and touch on my own memories of a childhood tied strongly to the sea and seashore.