May to July (2018)
Despite being in the middle of the dry season, we are still recording close to 200 species around Broome each month. The local highlights on Roebuck Plains Station included a Dusky Moorhen, an Australian Shelduck, a Welcome Swallow (all scarce this far north), at least two Intermediate Egrets (possibly of the Asian race intermedia), a Tawny Grassbird, a Grey Falcon, 22 Flock Bronzewings, and at least 50 Pictorella Mannikins. A breeding-plumaged White-winged Black Tern was also seen for several weeks at a wetland on the station.
The 15,000 or so shorebirds remaining in Roebuck Bay since May have been happily avoiding the beaches close to the BBO, with wonderful conditions still present behind the Crab Creek mangroves where they continue foraging at high tide. Only one Common Redshank appears to be present, along with at least a dozen Asian Dowitchers. Up to six Oriental Pratincoles have been near wetlands on Roebuck Plains, and 10 Marsh Sandpipers are currently at Kidney Bean Claypan. Common Sandpipers returned from their northern breeding grounds in mid-July, as did the first Little Curlew.
Pushing the boundaries of the 70 km radius from the BBO (for which we maintain bird records for during our evening Bird Log) is the straight and sandy Dampier Downs Road on the southern side of Roebuck Plains. The flowering of Grevillea refracta and G. wickhamii along the road has led to an irruption of inland species occurring. Two lucky locals photographed a pair of Major Mitchell’s Cockatoos – the first record for the Broome region, and #329 for the all-time list! Black and Pied Honeyeaters, Crimson Chats, Crested Bellbirds and Red-browed Pardalotes continue to be found regularly.
After many mornings of cleaning up after our Tree Frog friends who like the cool moist environment of the BBO bathrooms (particularity toilet bowls and cisterns), we decided try a different tactic to eviction and build appropriate accommodations. The first Roebuck Bay Frog Hotel, built from lengths of poly pipe standing upright in half a bucket of water, filled quickly. All sized tubes became completely solid with our resident Green Tree Frogs (Litoria caerulea) and the smaller Desert Tree Frogs (Litoria rubella). This hotel was relocated away from the bathrooms and its visitors are still returning to the hotel and not clogging septic pipes, unrolling toilet paper rolls or surprising guests at inconvenient times. We are now running a third hotel in the bathrooms and it too is proving popular. Happiest of all are our camp hosts who have far less frogs to try and clean around.
Planning for our new Visitors Centre continues, with the designing of the interpretive exhibitions currently underway by external consultants. We plan to showcase our ideas for those attending the Campout, with the grand opening expected in early 2019!
The next quarter will be full of 30th anniversary celebrations, with the Shorebirds Birthday Party taking place in early August, followed by our first photography course in many years, guided by the brilliant photographers at Flock Wildlife. We are also nearing the BirdLife Australia Congress and Campout, to be held at the Mangrove Hotel and BBO! Finally, we’ll finish the year with our September and October ‘Birds of the Broome Region’ courses, which have been booked out for months – possibly in anticipation of fantastic birdwatching to be had with the return of the shorebirds and incredible concentrations of waterbirds and raptors on Roebuck Plains Station.