10/9/2021 ….. Stirling Range National Park to Chirelillup Nature Reserve

Camel Lake NR, Chirelillup NR, National Parks, Nature Reserves, Numerous days, Road Trip, Stirling Range NP, Western Australian Orchids

Well after enjoying our 2nd night at the Stirling Range Retreat, we pack up and head out on our exploration of the Stirling Range National Park. We plan on taking the Stirling Range Drive to Red Gum Pass Road, then north to Salt River Road. Then heading east to Formby Road South where we will head north to Gnowangerup. Obviously we plan on making numerous stops to explore for orchids and to enjoy the wonderful outdoors.

First up we head into Bluff Knoll Road to check out the orchids in one further location. Maybe we will find something different without the threat of rain hanging over our heads. Not surprisingly, the orchids found were the same as the ones found yesterday, but photos were taken again of course.

Nearly 10am, so we make tracks toward our next location. On Stirling Range Drive, we make a split second decision to pull over on the side of the road. We manage to find a few orchids on the side of the road.

We jump back in the Triton and move a few hundred metres down the road before stopping at a spot that had seen a bushfire some time in the last year. Let us see if this has triggered orchids to grow for us to find.

Now it nearly 11am so onwards we travel, with our next stop being Talyuberlup Picnic Area. First up we check the picnic area side of the road then we head up the Talyuberlup Peak trail a wee bit, before scrambling back to the triton. As we had hoped, orchids are found.

Time to consider lunch, so we move onwards to White Gum Flat picnic area. We have a bite to eat and then go exploring the nearby area. We don’t venture to far before we find orchids. This time round we actually cross the road and find further orchids including new ones for the day. Turns out the King spider orchid is a new species for us, so that was an exciting find.

Still more of this National Park to check out so onwards we go. At the intersection of Red Gum Pass Road we turn left and check out some locations along the roadside. We found a few orchids including some new ones for the day.

We now head north along Red Gum Pass Road and make a quick stop into the picnic area, where we find a few orchids but move further north to another road side location where orchids are located as well.

We eventually reach Salt River Road and turn right. However we soon pull over at Salt Lake Nature Reserve for an explore, but after a quick check not much is located so we move on to Camel Lake Nature Reserve, with a road side stop along the way. At this final stop we are lucky to find some new orchid species for the day as well as previously found ones. Photos of all those found at the locations along the way were taken to record their discovery near the northern boundary of the National Park.

Wowsers, they were amazing first time locations for orchids. 13 possible species and 1 hybrid found, however we must move on as it’s past 4.30pm and we still have nearly 50kms to our planned destination. We arrive at Chirelillup Nature Reserve, set up camp and whilst Deb lights the campfire I have a very quick scout around in the waning sunlight.

09/09/2021 ….. Stirling Range National Park and surrounds

Formby NR, Mabinup Creek NR, National Parks, Nature Reserves, Numerous days, Road Trip, Stirling Range NP, Western Australian Orchids

We awake to a cold , wet and miserable day, but we won’t let that stop us from going exploring for orchids. Finally the rain stops, so after a bite of lunch, we head up to the Bluff Knoll lookout however the actual mountain is nearly covered in clouds. The feature picture show some of the amazing metal artwork installed there. Some close-up images are included here for your appreciation.

Bluff Knoll hidden in cloud

So now is the time to commence our exploration of the area. We have a very quick scout around the lookout and parking area, where we see a few orchids. However on the drive into the lookout we saw some possible spots to check out along the roadside. So it is at these couple of stops, in between showers, that we locate the following orchids.

It’s now past 2.30pm so we only have a few hours of daylight left to explore, so we will keep close to our base. Therefore we make tracks north of the National Park, to visit the nearby Formby Nature Reserve, which weirdly is still signposted as the Mabinup Creek Nature Reserve. The northern boundary of the park is found to be very weedy and the creek is overflowing, which does not thrill us too much. So we head back down Formby Road South and venture in on the eastern boundary. Next time we need to pack wellington boots as the place is flooded, but we venture in nonetheless, after applying insect repellent, as the mozzies may become troublesome. This place proves to be covered in orchids in large numbers and many species, which is amazing to us. Refer the following images of the orchids found.

I just had to pop in some photos to show how many orchids were at this location as well as the ones we found swimming.

It is now after 4.30 so we head back toward our base at the Stirling Range Retreat, but as per usual we make one more stop. We pull off the road before the Mount Trio turn-off and head down this gravel track. This is a new location for us in the park and it proves to be quite fruitful. Our quick stop though runs into another hour. Luckily the rain holds off. Here is what we found.

With the light running out fast we do a u-turn, head back to Formsby Road South and make tracks for our little cabin. What an amazing afternoon of orchid hunting we have had today, especially given the cold and wet morning we awoke to. I think we found 23 species and at least 3 hybrids which is mind blowing but this National Park and it’s surrounding are like an oasis in the middle of cleared land for agriculture.

08/09/2021 ….. Dinninup to Stirling Range Retreat

Greater Kingston NP, Mickalurrup NR, National Parks, Nature Reserves, Numerous days, Road Trip, Six Mile Road NR, Unicup NR, Warrenup NR, Western Australian Orchids

After spending a wonderful night with our gracious hosts we pass through Dinninup and head down Six Mile Road and make our first stop at Six Mile Road Nature Reserve.

The ever reliable Jug orchid (Pterostylis recurva) is the first orchid found. These are a common orchid occurring over a wide range, from Geraldton to Israelite Bay. It is a unique species in the Pterostylis genus so has not been included in any of the 5 complexes. Other common names include the Bull orchid, Antelope orchid and Recurved shell orchid.

Very soon after the equally reliable Little Pink fairy (Caladenia reptans subsp. reptans) is found. They are commonly found growing in clumps and are distinguished from the Pink fairy by having a purplish/red colouring to the underside of their leaf, rather than green. Also quite a widespread orchid with populations found from Northampton To Esperance

Then another stunning orchid is found. The Silky blue orchid (Cyanicula sericea) which flowers between Jurien Bay and Esperance, is quite the stunner. The spotted labellum is very distinctive and the flowers can be up to 40mm in width, which are large enough to stand out in the bush.

Next found are numerous donkey orchids. These orchids are very difficult to identify due to all species being very similar in appearance plus many overlap in their distributions. Any help in identifying these orchids would be appreciated.

Leaving this Nature Reserve we move on, to who knows where as we are just winging our stops by using the Hema map book and Google maps. We locate a patch of bush, which is signposted as the Mickalurrup Nature Reserve but I cannot locate any reference to it online other than as a hotspot in eBird, so its location at the intersection of Westbourne Road is my only location detail for reference purposes.

A quick inspection does not turn up much. Some more donkey orchids (un-named), a Little pink fairy and some snail orchids (un-named). So onwards we go as it is now past 11am

Next stop is further south at the location Heartlea forest settlement, which is located in the Greater Kingston National Park. We head off with low expectations given the finds so far today, but are blown away by finding a brand new species for us. 🙂

The Little pink fan orchid (Caladenia nana subsp. nana) is a small orchid that flowers between Perth and Bremer Bay, in forest and woodland habitats. Being so small we struggled to get any decent pics but will share them anyways.

Other orchids found here were more Little pink fairies, donkey orchids (unnamed) and a Silky blue orchid.

Then just as we were leaving this spot a single spider orchid is spotted. From the options available for the range and colourings I believe it is a Joseph’s spider orchid (Caladenia polychroma) which flowers in September & October between Fitzgerald River National Park and Boyup Brook.

As our planned destination for the day is still some 200kms away and it now 12.30, we return to the road. As is usual for us we don’t make it far before stopping to have a quick look around, this time at a layby near Tonebridge.

We again find some donkey orchids which I will not attempt to ID, but more excitingly we come across some more spider orchids. Theses appear different to the one found earlier and are most likely the Tenterden yellow spider orchid (Caladenia straminichila) which is pale yellow to creamy yellow in colour with basally backswept petals.

Next stop is Unicup Lake which is located in the Unicup Nature Reserve. It appears a Water Ski club used to exist here, as there is an old tin shed still in existence. We have lunch here before exploring the nearby area for orchids.

First up the Little pink fairy is found followed up by Midge orchids (Cyrtostylis huegelii) and some more Snail orchids (unnamed). The round, green, ground hugging leaves of the Midge orchid are found in great numbers however as the midge orchid flowers are very well camouflaged, you need to stand still and look closely to see them.

A very exciting find is the Crab-lipped spider orchid (Caladenia plicata) which I believe is a new species for us. This little orchid flowers from September to early November in woodlands, forests and Mallee-heaths. Located between Nannup and Hopetoun, this orchid reaches up to only 350mm in height and is distinguished by it’s unusual shaped labellum and spreading fringe segments.

With further searching we find more orchids but nothing really new for the day. Snail orchids are found but naming them is just too difficult so if you have any idea of their identification, please comment on this post. Also some Corybas sp. leaves were found with some showing old withered flowers.

As we need to keep moving we head back to the Triton and hit the road again. We only get as far as Kulunilup Nature Reserve before pulling over to the side of the road. On a quick check nothing is found so we move on. Further along a bit we pull off the road at Kenny’s Tank which is located in the Warrenup Nature Reserve and take the 5 min walk towards the tank. However we are beaten back by the swarms of mozzies but do find loads of orchids, which is great.

First orchids discovered were donkeys orchids, however naming these is also difficult. Using Florabase and Atlas of Living Australia they may be one of 2 species. (D. corymbosa or D. porrifolia). Nearby the donkey orchids was the old faithful Jug orchid.

The large white spider orchids then start appearing in numbers as do the mozzies. As none are founds in clumps and based on the location I feel they are the White spider orchid (Caladenia longicauda subsp. longicauda). Listed in Florabase as being found in the Cranbrook local government area, plus with a photographic record in the Spider Orchid EBook 2018 from Frankland WA, I am confident in the ID.

Also found were Little pink fairies, Cowslip orchids (Caladenia flava subsp, flava) and Banded greenhoods (Pterostylis vittata), which are all quite common orchids. Also seen was a sole Lemon-scented sun orchid in bud and masses of spent Mosquito or Midge orchids.

From nowhere, a sole Joseph’s spider orchid is seen, so some pics were taken.

I go across the road to check out a particular sign and discover some White spider orchids in clumps as well as one that looks a little different. The clumping ones must be some Stark white spider orchids (Caladenia longicauda subsp. eminens) whilst the unusual one could be a Tangled white spider orchid (Caladenia longicauda subsp. redacta), which is smaller in size and has shorter fringe segments than other longicauda complex orchids.

So even though we were fighting off the mozzies, the orchids found made it worth it. However we must move on, so we jump back into the Triton but only get 5 mins down the road when masses of White spider orchids on the roadside force us to pull-over. We are near the Yeriminup Road intersection.

These must be more Stark white spider orchids due to their clumping habit. Also found was another donkey orchid and another Lemon-scented sun orchid (Thelymitra antennifera) which is trying to open up.

OK, it’s now past 4pm and we still have close to 100kms to get to our planned overnight stop. So foot to the petal and off we go. We arrive at the Stirling Range Retreat, check-in, then unpack ourselves into our small cabin. At least we will stay dry as the weather moves in.

Not too shabby a day with 14 species found, plus un-named Donkey and Snail orchids. Also the Crab-lipped spider orchid and Little pink fan orchids were brand new species for us, so that was exciting.