Cape Arid National Park

120 km east of Esperance. Cape Arid National Park is a large (279 832 hectares) and exceptionally scenic park. With more than 160 bird species, it is an important park for the conservation of birds in Western Australia, and harbours a number of restricted and threatened species, as well as some interesting inland birds. The park lies at the eastern extremity of the South-Western botanical province and overlaps the boundary of the Eremaean botanical province (the arid zone). Therefore, as well as including beaches and the Thomas River and estuary, it also includes south-western and more arid vegetation types, providing a broad array of bird habitats. Near the coast, these include banksia woodlands, swamp yate (Eucalyptus occidentalis) woodlands, and heaths, some with emergent banksias or eucalypts, depending on the soil type. Further inland, there are extensive areas of mallee of various types and semi-arid eucalypt woodlands. There are also small areas of mixed woodlands and shrublands around granite rocks and the peaks of the Russell Range, including Mount Ragged. Cape Arid National Park, therefore, includes a diverse array of bird species. It is the eastern limit of distribution in Western Australia for ten species, including the ground parrot, scarlet robin, western spinebill and red-eared firetail. Several species that prefer drier country are found in the northern part of the park, but not in the southern parts. These include the mulga parrot and pied butcherbird. Sixteen of the 18 species of honeyeater found in Western Australia south of Dongara are known from the park, a good indication of the richness of species. One endangered bird, the western ground parrot, lives in the park, and several rare species, including the Australasian bittern, Carnaby’s black-cockatoo and Cape Barren goose, visit the park on occasions. Western Australian Cape Barren geese breed only in the Recherche Archipelago and occasionally visit nearby parts of the mainland. Total numbers are estimated to be only about 650 birds. The western ground parrot has declined to very low numbers in the park due to extensive wildfires in the 1970s and 1980s. It is restricted to low heaths and needs long unburnt areas to persist, although it can forage in areas more recently burnt. In order to breed, it is believed that it needs vegetation that has remained unburnt for about 15 years. Annual rainfall in areas occupied by ground parrots in the park is only about 400 millimetres, and the heaths only regenerate very slowly under these conditions. At least two species have moved into the park in the last 40 years. The elegant parrot moved into the Esperance district in 1959, following clearing of vegetation for farms. This species and the crested pigeon, which arrived in about 1980, both like very open woodland or parkland situations. At Cape Arid, they are most likely to be seen along the boundary with the farmland, particularly on Merivale Road.

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