As for the twitching to be done around Broome, Derby and the Roebuck
Plains, there are four groups of birds.
First, there are the mangrove birds. The mangroves adjacent to
Streeters Jetty near Chinatown and at Little Crab Creek [LCC - 3 km
from the BBO – park at one tree “hill” if you aren’t in a 4WD] are home
to Mangrove Fantails, Mangrove Golden Whistlers, White Breasted
Whistlers, Dusky Geregones, Broad-billed Flycatchers and Red-headed
Honeyeaters. There are also some very large mudskippers around LCC.
The mossies may or may not be out in force in the mangroves, so it is a
very good idea to cover yourself [including your shirt] with insect
repellent before venturing in to the mangroves. The BBO has a
selection of shoes for people going to LCC to borrow, so they don’t
muddy their own footwear.
Then there are the migratory waders than hang around mudflats. Roebuck
Bay is wader heaven, with thousands of hectares of productive mud for a
hungry bird. Virtually all the usual wader suspects turn up there in
large numbers – which can make it hard to find the rarer birds amongst
the thousands on the wader roosts. I don’t know how many birds are
there at peak season, but I suspect there would often be over 10,000
during the Austal summer.
Because the tides go out so far, you do your wader watching around high
tide. The neap high tides aren’t much use for flushing the birds up to
the wader roosts where you can get on to them, so you want to time your
visits to the BBO when the high tides are over 6.5 m [see
While the right high tides will concentrate the waders nicely, the
challenge is to get close enough to them to get within binocular/camera
range, as the birds are pretty flighty. The local raptors periodically
put swoop over the roosts and occasionally catch a bird that is
napping. I managed to creep up on a flock from behind some vegetation,
so managed to photograph an Asian Dowitcher [a bogey bird of mine] at a
range of 20 metres. Common Redshanks do periodically turn up around
LCC, but they aren’t a gimme.
Then there are the freshwater waders. There are a few productive
lagoons and wetlands on the Roebuck Plains. They are home to large
numbers of Wood Sandpipers, quite a few Long-toed Stints and Little
Curlews, the odd Ruff / Pectoral Sandpiper, and the very occasional
Spotted Redshank. There are also plenty of Aus. Prat.s and Oriental
Plovers on the surrounding flats. The problem is getting access, as
most of them are on pastoral leases. The fact that the BBO runs trips
or can arrange access for you to visit, is another good reason to stay
Publically accessible wetlands include the Broome and Derby STPs and
the Munkayarra Claypan [20 km south of Derby – see
http://birdingwa.iinet.net.au/ ]. It is pretty difficult to see
anything interesting at the Broome STP, but the Derby STP is well worth
a visit – even if the constructed wetland it isn’t as good as it was in
its glory days - you can get very close to the waders there.
Finally, there are the bush birds. The eating area at the BBO is a big
bird hide, and there were some Brown Goshawk chicks in a nearby tree in
late October. The main regular bush bird attraction, however, are the
Yellow Chats that can be found in the samphire etc at various points on
the plain, including a few sites close to the BBO.
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