One of the best indications that we are going to get rain is that our pink Storm Lilies start to flower. The flowers above are Zephyranthes grandiflora and they are a small bulb that flowers when the air pressure drops. It doesn’t matter how much water you give them to encourage flowers, because a storm is required before they flower. We also have white Rain Lilies Pancratium zeylanicum that also depend on the air pressure changing to flower.

White Rain Lily

As you can see, both species of bulbs are flowering and there is a good reason for that. The first few days of 2023 have been extremely wet in Broome and surrounding areas and we have come off it lightly in town really. I know I suggested you could come and explore Australia, but it really does depend on where you want to go and when. A very reliable source of information for the highways in Western Australia is the Main Roads Travel Map. The north of Western Australia is no longer accessible by road due to unprecedented flooding.

Fitzroy Crossing in particular has suffered the most in the last few days with the town flooded and the bridge severely damaged. The river height reached 15.81m and the river height gauge then failed, but the water level is slowly dropping as it moves further downstream towards Langi Crossing and then the sea. If you can imagine the Low Level Crossing with an extra 15.81 metres of water height then you can understand it is a lot of extra water. The rain does not need to fall in a town that a river runs through for it to flood. The river catchment area is massive and it will continue to flow for many months now offering some serious challenges to the bridge structural engineers.

Broome has received a lot of rain these last few days, but we are now starting to dry out. Broome weather statistics are a mean average rainfall of 194.1mm for the whole of January, which is our wettest month normally. Our mean average is 627.6mm for the whole year. These records are from 1939 until 2022, but they will be adjusted after what we have just received. We have just had 565.4mm of rain in the first 6 days of January.

Broome rainfall

Tropical Cyclone Ellie had dropped to be an ex-cyclone, but she sat over Broome for a few days showing us that Mother Nature is in charge. Although it is a bit miserable having to stay inside watching your grass grow underwater it is even more miserable for the birds. For two days we didn’t see or hear birds other than Oriental Pratincoles that somehow managed to fight the wind and feed. On Friday, when the wind dropped, there were many of them just sat on the roads clearly exhausted.

There are very good storm drains around Broome and all of the rainwater goes into massive ditches and then is controlled to go out into Roebuck Bay. However, it is a lot of water to clear and it is still slowly moving through the drainage systems. Our blue sea has become a muddy colour for obvious reasons.

Storm water drains

Australian White Ibis in a storm water drain

The Plumed Whistling-Ducks have dispersed and we are hearing them overhead now and they have plenty of places to stand around in muddy water now.

Plumed Whistling-Ducks

The Masked Lapwings have been breeding and their young are having to deal with more puddles than they would normally have to.

Masked Lapwing chick

The Willie Wagtail is hardly standing still as it chases the flying ants and flits about constantly.

Willie Wagtail

As soon as we heard birds coming into our garden on Friday morning around 5.30am I went out to give them some food. They had really had a tough couple of days and anything we could do to help we would. There were soon a couple of dozen very hungry Double-barred Finch in the garden along with Bar-shouldered Doves.

Double-barred Finch

We have been looking for one of our Tawny Frogmouth families that still had young at Christmas and are yet to find them. No doubt they have been watching us and we hope to establish where they are now roosting. The Tawny Frogmouth that is blind in one eye remains in the middle of the dense tree in the middle of a roundabout and was clearly a bit tired after all of the rain.

Tawny Frogmouth having a yawn!

So, although we had a good day birding around Broome observing 113 bird species on January 1st we are now restricted on where we travel until the water level subsides. We can expect the highway south to offer excellent birding opportunities once we are allowed to travel on it again.

We can expect more rain in the coming weeks and months, because this is our “Wet Season”, but nobody was really expecting quite this much rain!

Written by Clare M
Clare and her husband, Grant, have lived permanently in Broome, Western Australia since 1999 after living in various outback locations around Western Australia and Darwin. She has lived in the Middle East and the United States and traveled extensively in Europe. She monitors Pied Oystercatchers breeding along a 23km stretch of Broome's coastline by bicycle and on foot. She chooses not to participate in social media, but rather wander off into the bush for peace and tranquility. Thankfully she can write posts in advance and get away from technology!