Arriving in Karratha, the list clocked up to 638, I
had planned a well earned night's rest, a leisurely drive to and birdwatch
around, Port Headland, and then a not too taxing drive through the edge of the
Great Sandy Desert to Broome. Adrian Boyle's message about a Blue and White
Flycatcher turning up in Broome changed all that. I rang him immediately. It was
ten o'clock on a Saturday night and he was out celebrating. He absolutely
insisted that I had to get to Broome immediately as this was such a spunky bird,
to miss it would be a crime against twitching.
And so, even though I had already been on the road
for seventeen hours, I couldn't resist and began the long drive to Broome. Now
for those of you concerned with my welfare, or more sensibly with the welfare of
other road users, I can assure you that the adrenaline rush I received from this
news was far more powerful than any stimulant you could ever buy over or under
the counter. And I did actually pull over just outside Port Headland for a
big sleep of an entire two hours.
And by about half past ten the next morning, I
pulled into Broome Bird Observatory, stumbled out of the car and was greeted
with the news that the bird had last been seen about two hours ago. (Damn, I
knew I shouldn't have had that sleep.) A quick search of the Observatory grounds
failed to produce, though I did see Yellow White-eye without
even registering it was a new bird for the year. So there was nothing for
it than to retire to the shade house and watch the fountain where the bird had
been initially seen.
As I began to focus on my surroundings, I
realised that there were a lot of people around. They hadn't all flown in
specifically to twitch the flycatcher, but were here for the wader banding fest
that was to begin the next day. The flycatcher was just an unexpected bonus.
Frank O'Connor was there and he was regaling me tales of the bird, making me
blue and white with envy. I decided I should get my camera in case it turned up
again and as soon as I left, I was recalled with cries that the bird had turned
And there it was, a stunning male Blue and
White Flycatcher, the first live Australian record. This is how all
mega rarities should be. Very confiding as it flitted about and just oh so
gorgeous. The satin blue of its back when caught by the intense
Broome sunlight simply shimmered. This was an absolute treat of a
But the fun didn't stop there. Having had my fill
of this stunner of a bird, I headed to Adrian's place where I was going to crash
and catch up on some well needed sleep. But he had other ideas. A huge rainstorm
had just hit, amazingly for the tropics dropping a load of hail. Adrian was
worried that this rain would encourage the birds to begin to move out of Broome
where they had been gathered and out onto plains. He insisted we simply had to
get down to the sewerage farm before it was too late.
And so continued what would turn out to be possibly
the greatest 24 hours birding in my life. We arrived at the Sewerage Farm
relieved that the only birds that had left were the Oriental Plovers which I had
fortunately seen the day before in Onslow. Within seconds we had two
Swinhoe's Snipe lined up in the scope obligingly posed for
close study of this most tricky to identify species. That was soon followed by
sightings of Yellow Wagtail, Little Curlew and
Long-toed Stint. And what did Adrian get most excited by?
A probable eclipse plumaged Chestnut Teal. Apparently they are very rare up
here, so everyone was happy. And before it got dark we had added Dusky
Gerygone and Yellow-tinted Honeyeater.
Up very early to catch the right tides, we were out
on the muddy shores of the famous Roebuck Bay soon after sunrise to be greeted
with great views of feeding waders including Redshank
and Asian Dowitcher, whilst in the mangroves
behind us we picked up Mangrove Grey Fantail and
White-breasted Whistler. Nearby I saw my first
Lesser Crested Tern for the year. Things were going pretty
well, the numbers on my wish list rapidly dwindling.
Determined to get them all, Adrian took me out onto
the saltmarsh to try for Yellow Chat. They weren't in their usual spot.
Everything else had come so easily, I knew it would all fall in a heap
sooner or later, and even though we had only been looking for twenty
minutes I could tell this was that moment. But moving five
hundred metres on we saw some small birds fly up to the fenceline, and yes,
there they were, Yellow Chat, with even a male in full chesty
For Sanderling, the last bird on my wishlist,
we thought we would have to travel further afield, but a quick check at a wader
roost just near the Observatory revealed a solitary Sanderling
amongst the thousands of Stints, Knots, Curlew, Sharp-tailed and even
Broad-billed Sandpipers. Returning to the Observatory in triumph and
to get more long looks at the divine Flycatcher, a small group of
Long-tailed Finch came into the bird bath to drink, giving me
an incredible sixteen additions to the list within less than twenty-four hours.
I had planned to stay in Broome for a few
days, and as sensational a spot as it is, there were no more likely
possibilities for me there. So next morning, with the list now on a
staggering 654 species, (650 being the Asian Dowitcher) I reluctantly left
Broome and headed into the Kimberleys.
It doesn't get much better than