Wildlife at the BBO
Perspectives from a new Assistant Warden
Broome Bird Observatory has now been my home for over three weeks. Taking up the position of Assistant Warden, my primary reasons for embarking on this adventure were my drive to try something new, and my passion for birds. Coming from a background of working mainly with bush birds in the South-West of WA, it has been a steep learning curve educating and familiarising myself with the shorebirds and bush birds of the Broome region! However, during my experiences over the last couple of weeks, there have been numerous other wildlife encounters that deserve a mention!
Despite having an international reputation as a Bird Observatory, the BBO should also be known for its vast numbers of frogs! Two species are regularly seen at the Observatory - the Green Tree Frog and the smaller Desert Tree Frog. They can easily be found each night, solemnly observing the comings and goings of people from the rustic adventure loos! There is nothing quite like having a shower at night with multiple frogs observing from the rafters, as if showering was a spectator sport! They also seem to have fun each night pretending to be hamsters on a hamster wheel and jumping onto the toilet paper rolls which steadily unravel as they try to balance. After several mornings of 3-metre-long toilet paper trails through the toilets we decided that they were having too much fun and experimented with different ideas to stop them. At the moment the rolls are pegged with bulldog clips overnight to prevent the continual loss of vast quantities of toilet paper!
Reptilian life is also very active at the moment. Many a time we have had to stop for a monitor or a blue-tongued skink to finish crossing the road in front of us. There have also been a number of frilled-necked lizards around. If you have never seen a frilled-necked lizard running, then you are missing out. They look hilarious running on two legs. I still haven’t seen one with its frill up, but I guess it’s too humid for them to get hot and bothered about anything. Geckos are also present every night, especially around the sides of the shade-house. With the light inside attracting the moths to the outside of the shade-cloth, the geckos have a field-day picking them off one by one. They must be the fattest geckos around!
The main mammalian life around is the Agile Wallabies, which are generally very cautious and tentative. They occasionally make their way to the bird baths in the evening if there aren’t too many people around.
Walking around the observatory, on the roads or on the beach you’d be forgiven for thinking there were hundreds of people riding bicycles all over the place. In fact, the tracks that criss-cross all over the place and look so much like bicycle treads are made by hermit crabs. Very comical to watch at times! We’ve also seen big mud crabs down in the mangroves, as well as the gorgeous flame-backed fiddler crabs. The males have a very large claw which they use to wave around during courtship. They live up to their name and look like bright red jewels scattered among the mangroves.
And of course there are the much loved birds! There have been so many new highlights for me that it is hard to pick a favourite. Seeing Yellow Chats the first time we went looking for them was amazing. They were bright yellow and in full breeding plumage. Pheasant Coucals, Red-headed Honeyeaters, White-breasted Whistlers and Plumed Whistling Ducks have also been highlights among the many new bush birds I have seen. The flocks of shorebirds in the bay are also starting to colour up into breeding plumage ready for their long flight back to the Arctic. Soon we will be starting daily afternoon migration watches as we record the shorebirds leaving the bay. Public Migration Watch will be held on the 31st March when we invite people to come and join us for an afternoon to see this unique wildlife spectacle.
Other recent notable bird sightings have been a Black Honeyeater, which was photographed near the Crab Creek mangroves, and a Common Redshank which has been hanging around in the bay. An Australasian Swamphen and a Kimberley Flycatcher have also recently been spotted in the Crab Creek Mangroves.