The start of the Wet (2016)
The dry season finally surrendered after what seemed an eternity. By now it was late January, and dreams of a good wet season were fading, as there had only been three days where more than 1mm of rain was recorded since April. However, the announcement of a cyclone forming south of Bali provided a new hope, and a week later, Tropical Cyclone Stan plummeted into the northern Pilbara coast. The Broome Bird Observatory, sitting along the northern edge of this system, was drenched in 160mm of glorious water. That night, behind the Observatory, a choir of frogs reached crescendo.
Let’s go back a couple of months to the story of the Bird-of-the-Year...
By mid-November, the Observatory was down to the last of its staff. Assistant Wardens Jane and John had returned home, and Warden Jaime had taken early leave to visit her homeland of Canada. Warden Nigel had planned to stay on until the end of November, and during this time was joined by good friend Stewart Ford, to compete in the 24-hour WA Twitchathon. Down two regular ‘Ruff Knights’ members (Bruce Greatwich and Nathan Waugh), the remaining duo entered the twitch as ‘Ruffled Up’. A western Kimberley jaunt marked virgin Twitchathon territory, but Ruffled Up were able to secure a match-winning 180 species of birds, including gaudy Gouldian Finches!
With the final Observatory shut-down procedures underway, the remaining water points had evaporated into small puddles (Lake Campion had vanished completely). Birds were down in numbers, but very concentrated. On the 29th of November, the Observatory phone rang - Broome's Clare and Grant Morton had just discovered a bird never seen before in Australia, and an absolute gem of a shorebird - Temminck's Stint. This long-awaited addition to the Australian bird list, happily fed along the muddy edges of Lake Eda for four weeks, until Christmas Eve, after which the water had concentrated so much, all the shorebirds had moved on.
The Temminck's Stint round out the year as the 50th species of shorebird recorded around Broome in 2015, adding to the legend of the shorebird mecca.