Birding Kununurra late in the year
We have rarely visited Kununurra in November for a camping holiday due to the very hot weather that can also include some severe tropical storms. The last time we spent a significant time there in November was in 1999 on our way to Broome. On that visit we paddled from Lake Argyle back to Kununurra over three days and that was a magnificent experience. All of our visits since then for a holiday have been during the cooler months and it is interesting to observe which birds remain in the area all year and which arrive later in the year. Travelling to Kununurra in November this year it was very hot, but very enjoyable.
There had been very little fresh water at Marlgu Billabong, but there is always ample water around Kununurra due to the lakes and also the drainage channels for all of the agriculture. The drainage channels are a good place to stop and observe a huge variety of birds as you can see in the header photo. Masked Lapwings, Straw-necked Ibis, Plumed Whistling-Ducks, Magpie-larks, Cattle Egrets and Australian Pratincoles all gather around and in the drainage channel. As you cross each drain it pays to slow down and see what other birds are about and there are often Common Sandpipers on the vegetation in November. Common Sandpipers are one of the shorebirds that can be found both on the coast and at fresh water locations in Australia once they return from their northern migration each year.
All of the nice green vegetation around these drainage channels is very popular with the Cattle Egrets and by November they have some beautiful breeding plumage. The temperature was over 45c/113f when we were there and they really did look like they were panting in the heat.
Ivanhoe’s Crossing was flowing well and is permanently closed to vehicles nowadays. Swimming is not recommended due to the presence of crocodiles and strong currents and there have been deaths there in recent times, so it is sensible to heed the warnings. It is an excellent location for Buff-sided Robins, Shining Flycatchers and Crimson Finch alongside the small stream that flows close to the river. It is a popular fishing spot for Australian Pelicans, Little Pied Cormorants and Little Black Cormorants.
Birds fishing at Ivanhoe’s Crossing
Due to the extreme heat many of the Magpie Geese were to be found in the shade of the mango trees. Every shady spot around Kununurra had become a haven for birds and we observed eight Oriental Plovers stood under a tree on the golf course close to the highway.
Sadly the Hidden Valley National Park had recently been burnt, but we were still able to find White-quilled Rock Pigeon and Sandstone Shrike-thrush in their usual locations. Celebrity Tree Park is always worth a visit, because there are some substantial trees and also Lily Creek Lagoon for some other waterbirds. Comb-crested Jacana, Green Pygmy Geese, Blue-faced Honeyeater, Yellow Oriole and Australian Reed Warbler can be observed on most visits, but by visiting in November we were able to add a pair of Torresian Imperial Pigeons to our list. We have often encountered White-browed Crake near the platform, but the reeds had just been cut back and there were none visible on our visit. There was a Dusky Moorhen on Lily Creek Lagoon, though.
Torresian Imperial Pigeon
Despite all of the fresh water around Kununurra it is still worth visiting the Poo Ponds, because there are some birds that prefer that location to the lakes or drainage channels. Radjah Shelducks are easily found on the bank of the ponds and also Pied Herons, Grey Teal, Plumed Whistling-Ducks and Wood Sandpipers. There has been increased worry about crocodiles in the ponds despite the fence and a new sign has been erected! The birds have been warned!
Visiting Kununurra on a camping and birding holiday in November you are easily rewarded with over ninety bird species in a few hours. A good guide as to where to look can also be found on the eBird Australia hotspot website. You can mostly bird from your air-conditioned vehicle and if you don’t want to camp there are other accommodation options.
I will take this opportunity to wish you all an enjoyable festive season. We will spend Christmas Day doing a “Christmas Day Bird List” as we have done for many years now. The weather in Broome is predicted to be sunny with an overnight minimum of 29c/84f and a maximum of 35c/95f at this stage, which is cooler than Kununurra!