Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Broome Bird Observatory

Grey Shrike-Thrush sing at the back door of our cabin.

We gave back the Rav 4 at the airport and Ray collected us for the drive to the Broome Bird Observatory on the other side of Roebuck Bay.

The Observatory is a staging point of international significance for migratory waders. Located on the shores of Roebuck Bay about 25k from Broome is offers cabins and camping in an ideal location for viewing thousands of birds waiting out the Siberian winters. The area has the greatest diversity of waders of any place in Australia, and offers self-guided walks, tours, courses, and an extensive book and video library. Visitors can take part in ongoing field research, or just watch the birds from the cabin verandah.

We took a short walk down to the beach, but it was too hot to stay out and the tide was well out so the wader were scattered across miles of mudflat. A group or thirty pied oystercatchers were bathing in a creek across the flat and squabbling amongst themselves, and seven grey-crowned babblers were babbling as the gleaned the trees along the shoreline.

After a now routine midday nap, I was woken by two grey shrike thrush calling to each other from perches just outside our back door. I set myself up in the shadehouse – the social hub of the BBO. With cold water on tap, insect screens, birding books and journals and bird baths just metres away it was a great spot to spend the afternoon. Double-barred finches were the stars of the bird bath show, gathering in large numbers, but there were also yellow white-eyes, long-tailed finches, rufous throated honeyeaters, little friarbirds, willie wagtails, brown honeyeaters, grey shrike thrush, great bower birds and several agile wallaby. A brown goshawk flew in to drink and bathe, and then wait under cover of a shrub. The willie wagtails chattered an alarm, and everything went quiet at the bird baths.

In the cool of the late afternoon we took a walk along the Pindan Trail. Numbered post along the trail pointed out significant features which were described in a brochure. The word “pindan” means “waterless open bush” and describes both the red soil of the area and the scrubby woodland it supports. Under a bauhinia tree along the trail was a beautiful great bowerbird bower, a perfectly formed tunnel with an impressive collection of white objects at either end mostly shells and pieces of bone.

Back to base to wash off the bulk of the red dirt, the Broom equivalent of dressing for dinner, in time for the regular 6:00pm bird call. Wonderful to hear what others had seen during the day!

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