We continue to have restrictions on where we can drive around Broome, but there are no restrictions for the local bird-life and they continue to move around the landscape. It doesn’t really matter that we can’t leave the bitumen, because the birds are alongside the highway across Roebuck Plains to the south of Broome. There is a white rumble strip along the edge of the highway, so when the water is deeper and the highway remains open you know when you are getting too close to the edge when you are bird-watching!

When you first drive down towards the open area where the highway crosses Roebuck Plains there are often large groups of Egrets now. The water level continues to go up and down on an almost daily basis depending on the localised rainfall. Every time you drive across the open plains there are different bird-watching opportunities and there is always a surprise in store.

Often the Egrets take off as you drive onto the open area, but they soon settle and continue to feed along the edge of the highway. There are now plenty of tadpoles, frogs and small fish to satisfy them.

Egrets flying around on the edge of the plains

The Great Egrets will often land in a tall tree, which is not dissimilar to what one did a few years ago close to our garden.

Great Egret in a tree

One Little Egret completely mis-judged the depth of the water beside the culvert and soon realised it needed to make a move upwards.

Little Egret mis-judging the water depth

As we drove across the flooded section of the highway the Little Egrets were clearly the most common of the Egret species. Many of the birds have started to get their breeding plumage and there will be ample food for some time and we can expect to observe them here rather than on the coast in coming months. The Little Egrets are feeding in the shallow water in between the highway and the station fence, which is covered in dead vegetation after the recent floods. It is not always the best light in the afternoon, but we could clearly see that these Little Egrets were the sub-species Egretta garzetta immaculata, which do not have yellow feet.

Little Egret

Our surprise on our last drive across the flooded highway was a grey morph Eastern Reef Egret that had joined the Little Egrets in feeding along the edge of the highway. The shortest flight from the coast would be 17 kilometres in a straight line, but there would be water across the majority of that land after our recent floods. Maybe there was just so much water that it kept flying until it got to the highway!

Eastern Reef Egret crosses the highway

There is clearly a lot more easily available food around the highway than there is at the coast and you don’t have to consider the tides! The Little Egrets can go to the coast when the land dries out and the Eastern Reef Egrets can go inland when the land is flooded. You don’t have to follow the rules and “hug the coast” as per this information if you don’t want to!

There’s so much freedom to travel when you have wings!

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!