WA WAnderings

JohnM

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Earlier this week, on a stunning spring day, I took a day trip N of Perth to Lesueur National Park, a particularly floristically rich area in SW Australia (Lesueur | Explore Parks WA | Parks and Wildlife Service; Lesueur National Park).

It has been an extremely good wildflower season in WA this year with widespread good rains and, being locked within the borders, I’ve been taking advantage of it.

This short trip, and others to follow in the next few weeks, don’t justify individual TRs but are bigger than a reasonable ‘view from my office’ post.

I’ll do this TR as a rolling thread as I get out and about.

Here’s the location and route of this week’s little excursion.

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An 18km one-way road loops through the park.

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I’ll work through the photos in the sequence taken, so there will inevitably be some repeats. The bright, cloudless day in some instances was a curse as the colours of some flowers washed out. I only use a pocket camera and take happy snaps on fully automatic mode.

On the side of Brand Highway about 100 clicks out and no introduction needed.

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The sandplain soils are extremely nutrient-deficient, particularly in phosphorus. Sticky insectivorous plants like Drosera spp. are common.

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JohnM

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Then on further N to Stockyard Gully (4WD access) and the limestone caves.

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There was incessant buzzing. Bees were swarming and had hives on the limestone overhang – and in a nearby tree.

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And a heavy infestation of the introduced weed Paterson’s Curse in some paddocks on the way home.

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And that was it for a very pleasant day out.

Next week’s weather is shaping up to be warm and sunny. PERfect - so the next outing is WAndering the Wheatbelt Way (Wheatbelt Way) Sunday-Tuesday.
 

JohnM

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Now back, and an excellent few days WAndering it was. PERfectly timed. First, some background on the region.

The Wheatbelt (noun) is a one of the nine regional development administrative regions of WA.

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The wheatbelt (adjective) is a vernacular descriptor for the broader grain-growing belt of WA. In the pioneering past, wheat-growing was almost the sole grains cropping, but nowadays a greater range of broadacre crops are produced – notably canola, barley and oats, as well as substantial sowings for hay. Wheat remains dominant, at over half of total grain production in WA, which is currently estimated at c. 20 million tonnes for 2021. WA wheat production is typically a little under half of Australia’s total.

Unfortunately, the widespread good rains earlier in winter gave way to a dry August and frosts occurred in early September. Together these will have an adverse impact – quite severe in some areas encompassed by the Wheatbelt Way - on what was initially shaping up as a bumper season.

The traditional ‘wheatbelt’ name lingers, especially given the regional naming, but the actual grain-growing belt now extends well beyond the Wheatbelt region.

The region, like much of SW Australia, is noted for the richness of its flora and high levels of endemism.

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The Wheatbelt Way is a fairly new tourist trail in the NE part of the Wheatbelt region – basically N of Great Eastern Highway (Perth-Northam-Merredin line [and eventually after a few days to the Edge of the Known World of Terra St Marko, beyond which lies the Terra Covidus hell of demons, gremlins and goblins 😱]) out to the NE extremity of the agricultural area. It is clearly a cooperative effort between several towns and the state government to inject alternative life into the region.

I’ve done a lot of travelling throughout SW Australia over the years, but mainly while working and with insufficient time to stop and fully appreciate the various offerings. After this essentially scoping run, I can certainly recommend it to folks in WA, and visitors once the current nuttiness ends, especially in spring – with September being optimal.

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The trail takes in various historic sites, natural phenomena and wildflowers. Being spring, I was particularly interested in the wildflowers as the weather is beginning to warm and dry and they will soon be in seasonal decline. The weather was PERfect for the three days – fine and clear and low-mid 20s.

The overall trip looked like this:

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Initially I went WAndering around SE of Merredin so, strictly, off the Wheatbelt Way grid. Non-conformism is in my DNA. 😜

Day 1, Sunday 19 September:

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JohnM

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The large Collgar wind farm about 25km SE of Merredin. Needless to say, this was not in the definition of mixed farming when I was studying agricultural science 50+ years ago. The yellow is not canola; it’s capeweed (perhaps known to some by the misnomer dandelion) in peak bloom.

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I saw a lot of bobtail goannas on the trip.

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JohnM

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Westonia is a tidy and cute little town, with modern construction of facades representing what it once looked like. Dead quiet on Sunday afternoon. Potentially busy, though as there is an accommodation camp for the Edna May gold mine adjacent to the town.

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The pub.

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Then to Sandford Rocks, a little NE of Westonia.

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