A Change of Season
One of the most rewarding aspects of the warden role is seeing first hand the changing of the seasons. Far more complex than simply the ‘Wet’ and ‘Dry’, there are nuances to each season that we become more and more familiar with as we live at the Observatory. We are on Yawuru land and the Yawuru recognise six seasons. The arrival and departure of different species, their habits and foraging choices introduces us to the complexity in the hand over of seasons.
The recent change of seasons mid-April felt as sudden as the flick of a switch. We woke one morning to find the heavy humidity that has been with us since the beginning of the year was replaced by a dry easterly and cool nights. It’s fascinating to watch the changing of seasons become personified in the movements of the flora and fauna.
Masked Woodswallows have been passing overhead in their thousands, calling softly as they wheel over.
Pied Honeyeaters with the occasional Black Honeyeater have been flying over the Observatory and pausing to feed on the eucalyptus which is in flower. Again, they have been recorded in their hundreds, with a steady stream of flocks, ten strong at a time.
The monitors and Frill-necked Lizards that sauntered around the camp grounds the past couple of months have been noticeably absent the past couple of weeks, presumably they’re not as enthusiastic about the cooler nights as the staff are.
The bush birds that migrate throughout the continent, usually northward from southern Australia’s winter are starting to appear. The presence of Leaden Flycatcher at the bird baths and Grey Fantail’s in the pindan scrub are also signposts that we have entered a new season.
Nomadic species like Crimson Chat and Budgerigar have made regular appearances on the grassland, capitalising on the seed producing grasses.
Annual migrants to Broome such as Dollarbird and Channel-billed Cuckoo haven’t been seen for a week or so now as they have made the quick trip back to Asia, to return to our pindan scrub later in the year.
Plants have also been giving away clues. The beautiful Boabs that prosper in our campground have begun their annual leaf drop as they prepare for the long rain less period. Gyrocarpus americanus or Mirda, are also deciduous trees, as their leaves drop, the formerly hidden nests which were cryptically built through the Wet and protected among the large smooth leaves, are now exposed.
Lysiphyllum cunninghamii or Jigal trees have produced a flush of new leaves, ranging from lime green to a deep red we have found White-winged Trillers have been congregating in them first thing in the morning.
Of course, as well, we are nearing the end of the migration period for the shorebirds. Amongst the last to leave, the Red Knots and Whimbrels have been putting on a fantastic display as they arc over the Observatory heading for their northern breeding grounds.
We’re also preparing for another change in season- nomads of a different kind- as Broome’s busy season begins to click into gear. Our campground is ready; the Shadehouse on the precipice of chatter from keen visitors and the toilets have been de-frogged (as much as is possible...!) Staying at the Observatory even if just for a night or two, can provide you with a window into the complexity of the seasons in Broome and the dynamic variations that they bring.