Last Sunday, February 3rd, we drove to Derby for the day from Broome. Derby is our closest town and is 220kms/137 miles away and you can get there in about two hours. There is very little traffic about at this time of year, but there are a lot of cattle wandering across the road and you need to be alert. Although we have not had much rain this year so far the land is now green. We were able to add a few new birds to the 2019 Year List and had a good day out.

We checked out the Derby Airport and there were Masked Lapwings there as usual and several other bird species at a small wetland that had formed from recent rain. The Derby Wharf was no good for observing Great-billed Herons, because the tide was right in and the wind was horrendous. The main purpose of our visit was to see the improvements at the Derby Poo Ponds and wetland. We knew from a previous visit last year that a hut had been built for bird-watching similar to the Barndarlmarda Hut in Broome.

The actual Poo Ponds themselves were busy with birds and we even observed a pair of Black-tailed Native-hens. There were Plumed Whistling-ducks, Hardhead, Pink-eared Ducks, Pacific Black Ducks, Eurasian Coot and Common Sandpipers on the banks of the ponds. The wetland area was very good for bird-watching due to the lack of tall grasses making it much easier to see what was there. Firstly we walked around the wetland and observed all of the mud and reeds in the overflow area. We could observe Sharp-tailed Sandpipers feeding on the mud through the reeds as we approached the overflow area.

Sharp-tailed Sandpiper

The overflow area was very busy with a huge variety of birds. There were Whiskered Terns, Australian White Ibis, Glossy Ibis, Australasian Swamphen, Black-winged Stilt and a Marsh Harrier was keeping the birds alert!

Overflow area at the wetlands

As we stood watching the area a pair of Australian Spotted Crake suddenly appeared from the dense vegetation. We continued to keep an eye out for smaller elusive species and a second pair of Australian Spotted Crake were suddenly chased from the reeds by a White-browed Crake. Often you need duller weather for these bird species to come out into the open, so we were more than delighted to see them mid-morning.

Two Australian Spotted Crake

Continuing round to the new hut we added several more species to our Derby Poo Ponds list and the views from the hut are very good. The hut offers views of the main pond and also the overflow area. There is information on the back wall of the hut about the artificial wetland. There is also a QR code for those of you with a smart phone and a QR code reader to submit your sightings to eBird.

Hut information

View from hut over main lake

View from hut out towards the overflow

The track around the area is pretty good and it is not far to circumnavigate. To maximise your observations you do need to stop and wait for a while and see what appears from the depths of the reeds. A scope would be ideal from the hut, but heat haze can also be a problem. The “eBird hotspot” information will give you an idea on the birds that you are likely to encounter. The improvements to the track to the Poo Ponds from the main highway are also good and it is accessible to regular vehicles.

Around fifty bird species were observed between 11:15am and 12:30pm. We would highly recommend a visit to the new improved Derby Poo Ponds and wetland!

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!