Saturday, 19 December 2015

Esperance in December

On a recent trip to Esperance on Western Australia's south coast, I was able to spend a bit of time birding. We went via Kalgoorlie to break up the nine hour drive and stayed a night there. In the early hours of the morning I drove out of Kal to the Kurrawang Nature Reserve. This yielded very little - just a couple of White-fronted Honeyeaters.

Nearby is Lake Douglas and I decided to try my luck there. On the way through some beautiful scrub there was a flurry of activity so I stopped and hopped out. There were many little birds - Chestnut-rumped Thornbills, Redthroats and Fairywrens. I managed a clear shot of the illusive little Redthroat. A quick walk around the high side of Lake Douglas yielded Spiny-cheeked and Yellow-gaped Honeyeaters. There were only three water birds there - a lone Yellow Spoonbill on the island and a couple of  bedraggled domestic ducks.

We set off for Esperance and saw first-hand the extent of the recent fires. Large sections of the drive were through blackened landscapes - farms and bushland. We would see more of this devastation on our drive to Cape LeGrand.

Driving into Esperance on the Norseman Road takes you past the golf course. A quick glance down the driveway revealed some Cape Barren Geese which I had failed to see on my last trip. We stopped and the geese tolerated the photo shoot. It was great to see them again two days later on the islands in the Recherche Archipelago.

There was not much around the main bay that afternoon so I visited Lake Warden. Here I saw at least 60 Hooded Plovers - many were juveniles - and a flock of about 30 Red-necked Avocets.

On our last day, we took the Woody Island cruise which is a must. We sailed past three different Sea-eagle nests and a nesting colony of Black-faced Cormorants. The island itself has plenty of birds and no real predators so the birds aren't particularly wary of people. The Rock Parrots and Western Whistlers were almost tame. I didn't see the Brown Quail which was a pity. Next time, I'll camp there and spend more time looking around.

Cape Barren Goose, Esperance Golf Course 

Black-faced Cormorants changing shift

Redthroat, Lake Douglas

Malleefowl chick, Ongerup Malleefowl Centre 

Female Australian Furseal

Mute Swans, Northam

Purple-gaped Honeyeater, Northam

Malleefowl, Ongerup

Black-faced Cormorant

Tree Martin, Woody Island 

Red-necked Avocets, Bremer Bay 

Rock Parrot, Woody Island 

Western Whistler, Woody Island 

Cape Barren Geese 

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Broome Birding in July

A recent week at the Broome Bird Observatory was an awesome way to escape the winter chill. The trip yielded about 50 lifers and made a sizeable contribution to my Casual Big Year goal of 200 WA birds. 

The unsealed road from the highway to the BBO was 20 minutes of bone-shaking, headache-inducing corrugations - enough to loosen the bolts in your camper trailer. The modest little Micra I'd naively hired was no match for the bumps and shakes and slippery sand so I sheepishly turned back to town and switched it for a Pajero. 

Birding around the Observatory is easy. In the immediate vicinity are bird baths, bush walks and a viewing platform which all yielded great photo ops. Bee-eaters, babblers, gerygones, finches, bowerbirds and orioles are in residence. Then there's the raptors that fly in and over - goshawks, kites and eagles. 

Once I worked out the tides, I found the shores of Roebuck Bay were full of migratory and sedentary waders. Curlews, whimbrels, knots, stints, sandpipers... the list goes on. The shorebird tour the Observatory runs is a must for beginners; I learnt about identification, migration and, of course, the tides. Brahminy Kites, Whistling Kites, Black Kites and Sea-eagles are common sights overhead and in the mudflats Striated Heron lurk alongside egrets and oyster-catchers.

The bush plains tour at dusk was a real highlight for me. Seeing Brolgas and Bustards on the plains in the golden light at the end of the day was amazing. We spotted an Australian Pratincole on the edge of a brackish lake and a group of Yellow Chats popped up from the grass. Other birds we saw were Red-backed Kingfishers, Brown Falcons, Red-backed Fairy-wrens, Horsfield's Bushlarks, Brown Songlarks, Pipits and a row of about 10 Black-winged Kites on a fence. Best of all was the Spotted Harrier's aerial dance low over the plains.

Different mangroves yielded different birds. The town mangroves in Broome are a great place to see the Red-headed Honyeater. The mangroves near the Observatory are home to Dusky Gerygones, White-breasted Whistlers, Broad-billed Flycatchers and a female Mangrove Golden Whistler. In the Derby town mangroves I managed to find a Yellow-bellied Flyrobin - although this subspecies doesn't actually have a yellow belly.

The Broome Water Treatment site was fantastic. There were big numbers of Plumed Whistling Ducks, raptors, Royal Spoonbills and Masked Lapwings. In the bush around here I saw the different varieties of dove, a White-winged Triller, a Paperbark Flycatcher and fairy-wrens. 

Other places around town that were worthwhile were the bush walks along Cable Beach as well as the port where there are Brown Boobies (best bird name ever!) and the point where you can see a nesting Osprey.

The lagoon at Coconut Well was dry but in the trees nearby I saw a White-throated Honeyeater, Red-winged Parrots, White-gaped Honeyeaters, Mistletoe Birds and Paperbark Flycatchers. 

A day trip to Derby failed to result in a sighting of the Great-billed Heron which can apparently be seen in the tidal mudflats near the jetty. In town, the Yellow-tinted Honeyeaters are common. The Water Treatment site wasn't as good as Broome's but the little wetland nearby is where I saw a lovely little Golden-headed Cisticola. 

I don't recommend stopping off at Cockatoo Creek. When I got home and looked through my photos of the birds here, I saw crocodiles in some of my shots that I hadn't realised were there!

The BBO is a great place to stay; the staff and guests are wonderfully friendly and informative, the 'adventure toilets' were an adventure and the single dorm was basic but suited me well enough.

I will be back to Broome - next time in either April or October for a greater variety of birds - and this time I will know what type of vehicle to hire and where the crocs are.

Yellow White-eye 

Wedge-tailed Eagle

Lemon-bellied Flyrobin 

White-winged Triller

White-breasted Woodswallow

Golden-headed Cisticola

Whistling Kite 

Red-headed Honeyeater

Red-collared Lorikeet 

Red-winged Parrot 

Bar-tailed Godwits 



White-bellied Sea-eagle

Mistletoe Bird 

Variegated Fairy-wren 

Masked Lapwing

Yellow Chat 



Spotted Harrier

Brown Falcon 

Horsfield's Bushlark 

Brown Songlark 

Red-backed Kingfisher 
Black Kite 

Broad-billed Flycatcher 

Brown Honeyeater 

Brush Cuckoo 

White-breasted Whistler 

Double-barred Finch

Brown Goshawk

Olive-backed Oriole

Nankeen Kestrel

White-gaped Honeyeater 

Dusky Gerygone 

Rainbow Bee-eater 

Little Friarbird 

Paperbark Flycatcher 

Rainbow Bee-eaters 

Mangrove Grey Fantail

Plumed Whistling Duck 
Zebra Finch

Peaceful Dove 

White-throated Gerygone 

Tawny Frogmouth 
Bar-shouldered Dove 

Diamond Dove 

Brahmins Kite 

Rufous Whistler 

Pied Butcherbird 

Great Bowerbird

Australian Pratincole 

Grey-crowned Babbler 

Grey Shrike-thrush

Mangrove Golden Whistler 

Little Corellas 

Blue-winged Kookaburra 

Dark and light morph Brown Falcons

Long-tailed Finch 

Eastern Reef-egret 

Great Knots and Red Knots