Trip Report:Broome/west Kimberley,16Sept-1Oct '05

To: "birding-aus" <>
Subject: Trip Report:Broome/west Kimberley,16Sept-1Oct '05
From: "Dam Lamb" <>
Date: Wed, 30 Nov 2005 16:50:38 +1000
We arrived in Broome with hopes of cooler weather and plenty of waders.Fortunately both eventuated, and we had the bonus of hiting town during their annual Shinju Matsuri (pearl) festival with a variety of multicultural entertainments.We stayed in Broome for 2 weeks visiting many of the recommended birding sites , with a number of full and half days on the shores of Roebuck Bay.Good birds as easy to find in Broome, we got Lesser Frigatebird, Brown Booby and nesting Osprey at Cape Gantheaume just doing the tourist thing.Streeter's Jetty was visited a number of times as it's right in town and very accessible, I got Mangrove Golden Whistler, Mangrove Gerygone, Red-headed Honeyeater, Broad-billed Flycatcher,Yellow White-eye, Northern Fantail,Common Sandpiper as well as more usual species.Although I didn't attempt to get inside the wire at the sewerage ponds, good views were had from a slight rise on the perimeter track on the eastern side.Two visits produced a total of 38 species including my first Broome tick,a single Little Curlew.Other good birds included a single Ruff, Pacific Golden Plover,Marsh,Common,Curlew,Sharp-tailed and Wood Sandpipers.Plumed Whistling-Duck were in large numbers with a few Grey Teal, Hardhead and Pacific Black Duck.Whiskered Tern skimmed over the ponds with Whistling and Black Kites and a White-bellied Sea-Eagle soared higher.We also took to regular drives along Cable Beach( heading north from the patrolled beach) were we swam and relaxed watching small groups of Sanderling scuttling along the waters edge. I had not seen this bird for 13 years.Flocks of Silver Gull, Crested and Lesser Crested Terns loafed on the beach, with Red-capped Plover and Greater Sand Plover in ones and twos.We were surprised to see a solitary Oriental Plover also on the beach one day.Ruddy Turnstones were consistent on the few rocky outcrops along the beach.
 But the real reason to visit Broome is to experience the magic of Roebuck Bay, which I did on a number of occasions, visiting sites recommended by the wardens, most of whom were fully occupied with participants in their 5 day October course.The reported single Redshank eluded me on every visit, though I had fun scanning the waders, seeing yellow-flagged birds in numbers, and marvelling at the number of Broad-billed Sandpipers present, another bird I hadn't seen since my SA days.But it wasn't only waders I was after, and after hearing reports of Yellow Chat I walked the Malrus Track behind the BBO.After 30 mins I spied  movement in low shrubs beside a small wetland and then joyfully watched a pair of the elusive Yellow Chat perch in full view and full sun only 10 mtrs away.I pushed my luck and walked through the long grass for another hour hopeing to flush quail,and managed to put up two Brown Quail, but not the button-quail I had hoped for.I saw Spotted Harrier and Brolga before heading-off to Little Crab Creek.Plenty of loud whistler-type calls were heard from the mangroves fringing the creek and bay, but it would take an hour of peering into the trees before I figured if they wern't coming to me, I'd have to go to them.Within minutes of plunging into the mud I came face-to face with my target, a male White-breasted Whistler(tick)(You won't be surprised to learn I then saw them regularly and easily without the mud-trudge).As there was an exceptionally high tide that day (+9 mtrs), I spent some time watching flock after flock of waders fly up the bay to roosts back towards Broome.On my last visit to the Bay I managed to identify Dusky Gerygone(tick) which I suspect I had overlooked on previous visits.Mangrove Grey Fantail proved easier to locate.Lower high tides meant there were fewer mass movements so we contented ourselves with locating and observing roosting flocks of mixed waders and sharpening our wader id skills.Red-necked Avocet were in small numbers, but always lovely to see.
 We visited Coconut Wells only to find it bone dry and without a single bird (is this a wet season lagoon only?) so went further to Willie Creek.There we saw any number of Dusky Gerygone,as well as two beached Indonesian fishing boats recently impounded by Customs.Brolga were on the claypans, and a Black-breasted Buzzard rose from a dam on the trip home.
 Non- birding highlights included watching the AFL grand final at the Mangrove Hotel amongst (surprise, surprise) highly excited, and very loud,West Coast Eagle supporters.I thought Sydney deserved to win as they played the better rugby on the day, and should really be wearing the green & gold Wallaby strip.
It was time to move-on so we headed for Derby with the hope of a flight over the Buccaneer Archipelago.We had sought permission to visit Taylor's Lagoon on the way and spent an hour there watching a small party of Long-toed Stint work their way along the edges of some small islands.We were able to 'scope their yellow legs and observe the jacana-like feet (the stints are well named).All-up we saw 26 species on or near the lagoon, with 5 raptor species (Black-breasted Buzzard,Black Kite,Spotted Harrier, Wedgie, Nankeen Kestrel),Red-winged Parrot, Cockatiel,Red-necked Avocet,Common Greenshank, Common and Wood Sandpiper, and both Black-fronted Dotterel and Red-kneed Dotterel.On arriving in Derby we learnt we had scored two seats on that afternoons flight, a truely wonderful flight from Derby north to Point Torment,Stokes Bay, over King Sound,Cascade Bay, Strickland Bay and then Cockatoo and Koolan Islands. One can see how it's other name is Thousand Islands Archipelago, there are small islands everywhere, with the larger ones having sheer sandstone escarpments down to tiny mangrove-fringed bays. The flight then circled the Horizontal Waterfall before heading back to Derby by the more direct route over the McLarty and Wyndham Ranges.With still a couple of hours of daylight left, we headed for the Derby wharf, scaned the mudflats to the south and in fading light saw ,at long last, a Great-billed Heron(super-tick),the last of the bogey-birds I had carried for years.What a relief to have finally caught-up with it, and what a day it had been. Another two-tick day, with a great flight thrown-in.
We returned to the wharf next morning for further views of the heron before moving onto the www (waste water wetlands) south of town.Nothing much was seen from the very exposed platform overlooking the settling ponds, but the small ?natural wetland behind the ponds was very productive.We again saw Long-toed Stint as well as Red-necked Stint, Red-necked Avocet, Black-winged Stilt, Marsh and Wood Sandpiper and the usual common ducks.We headed east with the intention of spending more time in the Central Kimberleys, but furnace-like conditions of 43 degrees put paid to that.The plan now was to drive, drive, drive until we found cooler weather.
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