It is always a highlight in late February and March to see the flocks of
Rainbow Bee-eaters congregate near the Argyle Diamond Mine village in the
north east Kimberley of WA. I have seen flocks of 100 to 150 roosting in
the village overnight. They are usually all in one large tree, although
sometimes they have been in two or three trees. They stay for a few days
and then continue their migration. I usually get back to the village too
late to see it, although sometimes you hear them very early in the morning.
I thought that they had all finished passing through on their passage north
for this year. I did a couple of Atlas surveys on Saturday afternoon, and
then I walked backed to the village just before dusk. I saw a flock of
about 30 fly to the village. This was followed by a few more, another
group of 20, a few more, and about another 15. In 5 minutes I counted
about 100. So it appears that they spread out around the area during the
day and then return at dusk to roost in the village. The birds I saw were
coming from the north of the village, so they weren't actually migrating.
Why would they choose the village to roost each year? There are a good
number of tall trees planted in the village, but there would be equally
good areas along a couple of the creeks. Is it the village lights perhaps?
But they don't roost in numbers near the airport or mine site offices which
are similarly lit and have some similar trees. There are usually 5 to 10
Rainbow Bee-eaters that are (resident??) in the village throughout the
year, although I have only one breeding record in 12 years which was in
distrubed soil near the rubbish tip which is not near the village.
Other good sightings over the weekend were Red-chested Button-quail,
Baillon's Crake, Magpie Goose, breeding Australasian Grebes, Dollarbird (my
latest record for Argyle), Black-tailed Treecreeper about 3 metres away,
Gouldian Finches (up to 4 have been in the village in the morning for over
a month), 6 immature Black-necked Storks, Royal Spoonbill, Sulphur-crested
Cockatoo, Grey Teal (two separate individuals flushed from grass doing a
'broken wing' display splashing around in the sewage ponds - one had a half
grown duckling but I could not find a nest), the first Tree Martins for the
season, high numbers of Sacred Kingfishers which are also mostly a wet
season visitor and passage migrant.
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