In response to a dry Wet
Each year brings its variations and fluctuations in species diversity and density and 2019 has revealed some new trends of its own. There are many factors determining the movement of species within a local area and across the continent. The Wet of 2019 delivered a disappointing amount of rain – and perhaps this is influencing the birds we have recorded around the BBO the first half of this year.
Firstly, the bountiful inland wetlands, namely Lake Eda, Lake Campion and Taylor’s Lagoon are dry as of mid-June. This has meant our typical lakes recordings such as Wood Sandpiper, Green Pygmy-Goose, Comb-crested Jacanas and vagrant waders have been non-existent for the past few months.
We haven’t had any Long-tailed Finches recorded at the BBO since May. They are usually a fairly regular bird bath visitor, often accompanying Zebra Finch. Conversely, Zebra Finch have appeared to be in greater numbers than in previous years, and can be found almost at any time with the ubiquitous bird bath visitors; the Double-barred Finches.
Unusual Honeyeater activity has been the theme of the year as thousands of Pied and Black Honeyeater have been recorded on passage around the Observatory as early as March. With the flowering of the Hakea macrocarpa and the Lysiphyllum cunninghamii, the Pied and Black Honeyeaters have been stopping to feed. BBO guest, Alan Rose counted an incredible 16,000 in passage in a 24 hour period in May on Quandong Point. These birds may have been on a return journey from flowering trees on the Dampier Peninsula to their core habitat further south. Although many distribution maps show the Broome region lying outside the species’ range, their movement patterns are complex and similar passage has been observed in previous years (most recently 2012 and 2013). However, the 2019 numbers are orders of magnitude greater than these records! Also following the nectar bounty are Yellow-tinted Honeyeaters which weren’t recorded at all in the BBO campground in 2018 and once in 2017.
A terrific Honeyeater record was Assistant Warden Merryn’s Grey-headed Honeyeater, spotted on the beach track. Two Spiny-cheeked Honeyeaters were also seen earlier in the season, the first record for Broome in 20 years. Banded Honeyeaters have been seen somewhat regularly around the BBO grounds over the past couple of weeks.
Crimson Chats are another eruptive honeyeater that has been enjoying the dry plains of Roebuck Plains Station, just behind the BBO.
Red-winged Parrots have displayed an absolute surge in numbers of the past couple of weeks with flocks of up to 80 individuals seen flying over the Observatory and feeding in the Woodland on Roebuck Plains Station. Budgerigars have been passing over the Observatory in their tens for the past few months.
Perhaps a less glamorous, but equally noticeable change in bird population is the constant presence of Australian White Ibis at the Shadehouse bird baths. Unique to 2019, what began in February as a couple of individuals taking advantage of the water has turned into a morning ritual of 30+ Ibis sauntering around the bird baths. Australian White Ibis have been seen pecking the tails of stubborn Agile Wallabies but are quickly displaced when the Brown Goshwak visits for a drink.
A Kimberley Flycatcher (presumably the one individual) has been hanging around the mangroves of Little Crab Creek after being first seen in February this year. Kimberley Flycatcher’s are not normally seen reliably in the Crab Creek Mangroves, however this individual appears every so often during a Mangrove Tour.
Just a couple of other interesting sightings from this first half of the year include: Fairy Pitta at Matsos (February), Painted Finch at the Shadehouse bird baths (April), Flock Bronzewings at Sewerage Works (June), White-backed Swallow at Demco drive (July) and Black Falcon at Tagarana Bore (July).