Broome Bird Observatory

Broome is located on a peninsula which forms a large shallow bay to the east called Roebuck Bay.   At low tide this exposes large mud flats that attract hordes of shore birds which come to feed on the mud dwelling crustaceans.    While most of the migratory shore birds choose to fly to Siberia to breed in the northern hemisphere summer, most of the younger birds don’t bother.  So along with the permanent residents, even at this time of the year there is plenty to see.

I camped for 3 nights at a research centre run by Birdlife Australia called the Broome Bird Observatory.  In that time managed to add another 8 new bird species to my list.

Roebuck Bay near Broome Bird Observatory at high tide and at low tide.

Another view.  The shore birds go out to feed on the flats at low tide that extend for kilometers out into the bay.  At this time you can’t really see them.  However at high tide they congregate on the beaches like in the photo below.

bbo bird flock

It was not easy to see shorebirds on the first day I visited because it was Sunday and every man and his fishing rod was out lining all the beaches.  I’m not sure where the shorebirds go on weekends – maybe to the inaccessible side of the bay to the south.   However one small stretch of beach was lined with great egret instead – also obsessed with fishing.

 Clockwise from top left:  Salt flats being flooded by the high tide – it was interesting to hear a loud rumble emanating from the flats as trapped air bubbled up from the whole area; White-breasted Whistler – a new bird;  Australian Hobby Falcon; Australian Pelican

Osprey (LHS) and Brahmini Kite

LHS:  Lesser crested tern (a new bird species for me) with black winged stilts and silver gulls.   RHS: Crested tern with silver gulls.

avocets and stilts
Black winged stilts with the odd avocet
Avocets with the odd black winged stilt
avocets stilts nd terns
From front to back: gull-billed terns; avocets; black-winged stilts
bbo bush scene
At a macro level I thought that the bush-land behind the bay looked remarkably like the bushveld in South Africa, but if you looked closely the trees and birds were different.
roebuck bay sunset
Sun setting over Roebuck bay at low tide.
tattle great knot godwit whimbrel and turnstone
On Monday there were no fishermen and I had better luck with spotting more shorebirds.   There are 6 species in this photo with lovely names.   The whimbrel is at top centre with long down-turned beak.   To its right is a clump of three black-tailed godwits.   The larger bird to the left of the whimbrel with long, up-turned beak that is pink at the base is a bar-tailed godwit.   This side of the bar-tailed godwit is a great knot.  The smaller birds with yellow legs and stripe through the eye are grey-tailed tattlers and the small brownish ones in front-centre with pink legs are ruddy turnstones.     The bar-tailed godwit has noticed an approaching bird of prey…
scattering shorebirds
… and a second or two later they all panicked and flew off.   The bar-tailed godwit at the top showing its nice barred tail.
black tailed Godwits flying
Flying shorebirds offer confirmation of identification.  The black-tailed godwit (top left) has a black tail.  The whimbrel has the white triangle on its back (centre).   Ruddy turnstones on the bottom left have the striking white stripe down the back.
curlew sandpiper with stints etc
Here a flock of red-necked stints have been photo-bombed by two curlew sandpipers.  Counter-intuitively the bird with the reddish neck and breast is the sandpiper in a sort of half breeding plumage.   To see red-necked stints with red necks, would have probably required heading north a few kilometres to Siberia
greater sand plover with red necked stint
A greater sand plover stands out in a flock of red-necked stints
Reviewing pictures at camp kitchen
Reviewing the day’s catch in the Broome Bird Observatory’s camp kitchen: a room enclosed in fly-mesh in front of some birdbaths.   The only birds that visited were white ibis a.k.a. bin chickens and agile wallabies.    
dusky gerygone 2
A final treat on the day I left was this sighting of a dusky gerygone in the mangroves.

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