Graeme Chapman - natural history photographer - ornithologist

Australian Birds

Black Grasswren
Amytornis housei
(Viewing 4 of 13 photos)

Click to listen to sound samples Black Grasswrens are restricted to the rugged sandstone plateaus of the north-west Kimberley of W.A. This is one of the most difficult of all the grasswrens to see, mainly because of the remote and inaccessible nature of the habitat - the nest and eggs weren't even described until February 1998. This is hot country and even in the cooler dry season when most people visit, Black Grasswrens spend much of the day in the cool, dark cracks and fissures amongst the sandstone boulders. There, they blend perfectly into the shadows (see 518207). Early morning and late afternoon are definitely the best times to see them as they feed more in the open. In the dry season, family parties of four or five are not uncommon and if they are calling to one another, their metallic, chattering calls are quite easy to hear.(Listen on sound page) The two most accessible sites to see them are Merten's Creek, a camping area at Mitchell Plateau or if you can handle a bit of a rough drive to get in, and prefer a more remote place free of the noise of helicopters, Bachsten Camp at Mt. Elizabeth Station also provides a degree of comfort. Surveyors Pool, a site less easily accessible on Mitchell Plateau (518206) is also a superb location but has no facilities.. Alternatively, those who choose to join one of the cruises which now explore the Kimberley coastline may see the birds in several places en route.

Early in the dry season the roads in to both Mitchell Plateau and Bachsten Gorge can be testing, if not impassable. The "road" in to Bachsten Gorge is always rocky and involves some serious 4 WD. By contrast, the road into Mitchell Plateau is sometimes boggy and varies a lot depending on the extent of the wet season. After you cross the King Edward River there is an excellent campsite on the western side which makes a great starting-off point for the last leg of the journey. The superb polished quartzite there in the river bed (pic 518219) is well worth a look.

Photo: 518201

518201 ... Black Grasswren.

Photo: 518203

518203 ... Their calls are quite loud - even louder from a mini amphitheatre like this.

Photo: 518204

518204 ... Range of Black Grasswren

Photo: 518205

518205 ... Black Grasswren.

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