Day 95 – Saturday, 27 August 2022

We left the caravan park at 9:54am after Russ had re-arranged the occupants of the canopy once more. He removed the pieces that made up the stone guard which are tightly wrapped together and cushioned with old towelling, and they have been packed under the bed until we get home. If they squeak while the van is moving, we won’t hear them, and it just might stop the squeak in the canopy.

Today, out to sea, there are dark clouds on the horizon. Luckily the wind is pushing them further away from the coastline. The temperature was 22 degrees, and I had got out my jacket.

We took the Bibbiwarra ford and track once again but turned off onto the Miaboolya Beach Road. And how very fortunate that decision turned out to be.

The highlight of the day for me was seeing Dawson’s Burrowing Bees.

Dawson’s burrowing bee, Amegilla dawsoni, is a species of bee that nests by the thousands in arid claypans in Western Australia.

This dark-winged bee species is among Australia’s largest bees, similar in size and colouring to the carpenter bee species. The bee can get up to 23 mm in body length and 45 mm in wingspan.

Both sexes are densely furry, with the exception of their lower facial regions, which jut outwards and tend to be bare, and are coloured anywhere from light yellow to dark brown if male, or brown and white fur if female.

Males play no part in nest building and provisioning of the nests and serve only to ensure that all females are fertilised. While females shelter in their burrows overnight, males roost on vegetation gripping leaf tips or stems in their jaws and folding their legs beneath their bodies.

This bee species practices solitary nesting, though often the nests are clustered close together. An active nesting colony may contain up to 10,000 burrows. The female bee builds her nest by digging straight down into clay, or other densely packed soil and dirt. She will dig to depths between 15 and 35 centimetres. The female bee will then turn to dig horizontally.

In the horizontal shaft, she will dig downwards to create brood cells. The horizontal shaft is extended with each subsequent brood cell that she creates. Occasionally, females will layer two brood cells on top of one another in a doublet formation.

The female bee will prepare the inside of each cell by laying down a layer of wax. She fills the layered cell with nectar and pollen from four different plant genera. With this wet mixture in place, she will lay the egg on top of the cell, and then cap the cell with mud. She repeats this until she is done laying her eggs. Exhausted by her labours, she may then die on the ground.

Females indicate receptiveness or lack of receptiveness to mating by emitting particular mixes of chemical signals based on whether she has mated previously. Female bees will rarely mate more than once – this causes fierce competition between males for mating opportunities.

The larger males – called majors – tend to aggressively patrol emergence areas and will compete in physical fights to mate with virgin or recently mated females. On the other hand, the smaller males – called minors – which make up 80% of the male population, will wait at

the fringes of the emergence area and will mate only with females who are able to fly away unmated from the immediate vicinity of their natal nests.

The bee feeds only on 4 genera of plants located in the deserts of Western Australia, of which camel bush is a favourite.

On the other hand, the highlight of the day for Russ was to find and photograph a white-winged fairy wren, which is totally blue in colour apart from the wings.

Russ took 215 photographs, and I topped out at 604, most of them to do with the bees, and a lot of them had to be deleted as being of no use whatsoever. They are very loud bees, and they move incredibly fast.

We then backtracked to Bibbiwarra Road and continued along the 4WD track. However, we came across no new wildflowers or any birds that we could find. We did hear them, but they were not co-operating today.

We then turned out onto the North Coastal Highway and headed back to Carnarvon. We did stop along the way to photograph a huge patch of yellow velleia.

By the time we got back to the van it was time for a late lunch. Russ then napped and I spent the entire afternoon swearing because the flower identification books, we bought did not have some of the flowers for which we had photos.

In all probability, they are sure to be so common for the area that everyone with an interest in wildflowers knows what they are named, but it was not very helpful for me.

As a reward Russ decided we should go and get fish and chips for tea. Unfortunately, the only fish and chip shop on Google for Carnarvon was closed. I am beginning to get a complex about eating out!

We ended up buying a half a hot chicken at Woolworths with some bread (that could have been a lot fresher than it turned out to be) and we had sandwiches for tea.

On the way home I did take the opportunity of making a booking for tomorrow night at the Sails Restaurant which didn’t overlook the harbour, so we missed the sunset. On their menu on Google (fingerts crossed) they have Seafood Chowder.

A bonus to all the exploration of native flowers was that I have finally found a name for one of the prettiest flowers that Russ and I had ever seen. It was while we were adventuring around the Avoca area. It turns out to be called Crown Vetch, and you guessed it, it is a noxious weed introduced to Australia. It is native to the Mediterranean region and is used for animal fodder and erosion control.

I spent more time identifying photos before heading to bed about 10:00pm.

The day has been cold with heavy gusts of wind blowing from the east. We are back to a blanket as well as the doona, and we are wearing jackets