Birding around Willare Bridge
We have recently done another camping and birding trip just to the north east of Broome. It is perfect weather for camping at the moment with overnight minimums around 15c (60f) and daytime temperatures still a dry 32c (90f). We didn’t venture too far, as the plan was to relax away from computers and just enjoy the natural environment. You don’t actually have to go too far from Broome inland to find taller trees and different bird species. Cyclones prevent us having too many particularly tall trees along our coastline and if you can get yourself to a river or other water body you will soon discover a variety of different birdlife. We only went about 150 kilometres (93 miles) from home and found ourselves a lovely spot to observe birds….nice tall trees and the lower end of the Fitzroy River near the Willare Bridge.
The sun sets early and the last light was 6pm each night and the moon set shortly afterwards, so we really did sleep under a million stars. There is no such thing as the silence of the bush, well-not round there! It didn’t take long and we could hear Barking Owls, Southern Boobooks and Tawny Frogmouths. They did sound extremely close and we were lucky enough to see a Tawny Frogmouth near our camp.
In the early hours of the morning the silence was broken by the whimpering and moaning of the Bush Stone-curlew and we found its footprints nearby in the dust. We went for a wander to see what species were further upstream and accidentally flushed a Barking Owl. This was our first close encounter with a Barking Owl and we were not able to get close enough to get decent photographs without disturbing it further, so we satisfied ourselves with the visual experience. We soon came across White-bellied Cuckoo-shrikes and they are not found in Broome, but we do have the Black-faced Cuckoo-shrikes there. They call very similarly and land with the familiar flick of their wings, but are significantly smaller and paler.
We were fortunate enough to have two male and one female Leaden Flycatchers near where we camped, but they were so busy calling amongst themselves and flitting around the tall trees it was quite a challenge to get a photograph. We have Restless Flycatchers in Broome and this is another species with a similar scissor like grinding call, so you recognise the family group immediately.
Male Leaden Flycatcher
The Blue-winged Kookaburra was particularly vocal throughout the day, but thankfully quietened down during the night! We heard them a lot more than we saw them despite their size, but there were several Red-backed Kingfishers that were rather obliging for photograph opportunities.
Of course there are some of you thinking that we may have just come across a few crocodiles! Well, you are right! If you do a lap of Ski Lake, which starts at the highway and takes a couple of hours to circumnavigate you will often hear a splash. The crocodile will then float up and have a look around. The Common Sandpiper, Wood Sandpiper, Red-kneed and Black-fronted Dotterels, Great Egret, Little Pied Cormorants and Australian Pelicans were happy to tolerate the crocodiles.
Crocodile in Ski Lake
Alongside the river itself the crocodiles would float up quietly under the pandanus and just show their snouts.
Crocodile floats up under the pandanus
This area was a perfect break from a computer screen and we saw 82 bird species in this small area. There are several bird species here that you won’t see in the Broome area, so it is definitely worth a look.