September to December (2017)
As the year wound down at Broome, guest numbers dropped off and we farewelled a contingent of staff and volunteers before the Wet. In contrast to the guests, shorebird numbers in the bay continued to increase as adults and this year’s juveniles arrived from the breeding grounds. The weather also heated up, with 40degC days a regular feature as the build-up to the Wet intensified.
The period was highlighted by some sensational rarities, including Grey Wagtail at the Habitat Resort in Broome, a Little Stint at Lake Eda (and later at Lake Campion) and possibly the same returning Eurasian Curlew at Bush Point.
The increase in shorebird numbers in the bay is noticeable, with the mudflats bustling with activity as the returning birds feed up after their flight. The number of Common Redshanks has increased to at least four, and these have been making regular appearances on the high tide roosts recently, with some lucky observers even managing sightings from the viewing platform in front of the observatory. A Beach Stone-curlew also made several appearances on the beach below the platform in October, a scarce sighting in the bay. Other summer migrants like Eastern Yellow Wagtail and Barn Swallow have been quite slow to arrive, but are now starting to appear at the sewage ponds and other likely haunts. Unfortunately, as yet there’s been no sign of Sammy the Semipalmated Plover, though we haven’t given up hope yet!
Out on Roebuck Plains, the waterbirds and freshwater shorebirds are concentrating around the last remaining freshwater wetlands, making for excellent birding opportunities. Freshwater shorebird specials like Wood Sandpiper and Long-toed Stint have been present at most wetlands, while single Pectoral Sandpipers have made appearances at Taylors Lagoon and Lake Eda. Oriental Pratincole are slowly starting to arrive to join the handful that surprisingly remained during the Dry. The most notable shorebird sighting has been a Little Stint found at Lake Eda on a Lakes Tour on 24th October, and subsequently seen on several occasions. On one occasion, it hunkered down as our first migratory Peregrine Falcon (likely ssp. calidus) made an appearance over the lake. Other notable sightings out at the lakes have included a Ruff and reliable young Flock Bronzewing at Taylors Lagoon , several Baillon’s Crake at Lake Campion, and a small group of Black-tailed Native-hens at Lake Eda. Closer to the observatory, bird activity around Kidney Bean Claypan and Duck Lake has dropped off as both claypans dried in September. The Yellow Chats are still around though, and there have still been occasional sightings of Red-chested Button-quails in the grassland.
Around the observatory grounds, vocal early-morning flyovers from Channel-billed Cuckoos were a feature of early to mid-October. The hot weather has also seen increased activity at the observatory bird baths, including a few less common bath visitors like Sacred Kingfisher and Paperbark Flycather – no Blue-and-White Flycatchers though! A less welcome visitor was a stray goat that took a liking to the grounds and took up residence for several weeks in October. Fortunately, Goaty McGoatface was eventually captured and returned home, though not before mounting an invasion of the Shadehouse!
To the North of Broome, a pair of Pacific Koels (very rare in Broome) were seen and heard at Crescent Lake on 9th December, while a Freckled Duck and Australasian Shoveler were at Nimalaica (both unusual for this time of year). A Common Noddy was found on a beach just south of Coulomb Point on December 13th, and on the same day, a Square-tailed Kite along Manari Road.
Our Birds of the Broome Region courses were run very successfully in late September and early October, with about 150 species seen on each course, including many of our usual specialties like Yellow Chat. Once again, we had fantastic help during the course from our campground hosts and volunteers!
On the infrastructure front, our newly-renovated Shadehouse has been completed with the installation of the new kitchen fittings, funded through a generous grant from the Shire of Broome. Clearing for a new office and interpretive centre (donated by Woodside Energy Ltd and Brajkovich Demolition) was undertaken by the Yawuru Rangers, and remarkably, the building was secured into position at the BBO the day before our first heavy rains (which would have prevented the trucks bringing it in)! We also wish to thank Toll in Broome for storing the building for nine months during the building approvals process!