We try to make a trip to Geikie Gorge each year to go bush-walking and birdwatching, but the area is only open for a few months each year. Typically the area is open from around April to October, but this can vary a lot due to flooding rains or bushfires. Last year we were able to visit in May, but this year we had not been able to visit until this last weekend. The park had been closed to a bushfire the previous week, so we were lucky that we could visit before it closed. Last Sunday was a typically hot day for late September with temperatures over 30c as soon as the sun came up and rapidly increasing to over 40c in the shade. It was a hot and dry heat, so it was like walking into an oven albeit a fan-forced oven if you found a breeze!

We have encountered Purple-crowned Fairy-wrens in the area in two locations in the past. Last year they were very close to the car-park and on the long walk beside the river. The species is only in the north of Australia and they are often found in locations that are hard to get to year round. We have been able to observe Purple-crowned Fairy-wrens in a few locations across the north of Australia and they were quite easy to see in the car-park at Big Horse Creek in 2017.

Our encounter with Purple-crowned Fairy-wrens last weekend in the scorching heat was brief. It was partly due to the heat, but mostly due to the fact that we didn’t want to disturb them any more than necessary. Initially we heard them and then moved slightly closer to observe them and take some photos. The Purple-crowned Fairy-wren is a very small bird, so may not be clearly visible in the header photo. I will show you below where it is!

Female Purple-crowned Fairy-wren

We watched the female Purple-crowned Fairy-wren preen and then the male Purple-crowned Fairy-wren joined her. We were only in the area for three minutes to minimise disturbance, but by keeping our distance I was able to capture them behaving as if we were not present. We did try and take advantage of the little bit of shade that there was and so I won’t apologise for the lack of bright sunlight in the photos! Both the Purple-crowned Fairy-wrens and ourselves were trying to keep out of the direct heat of the sun where we could.

Female Purple-crowned Fairy-wren

Male Purple-crowned Fairy-wren

It was a memorable experience to observe the pair of Purple-crowned Fairy-wrens meet up on the branch and preen together.

Purple-crowned Fairy-wrens

I could have omitted the photos that had vegetation in them, but it helps you understand how easily they can disappear from view. Minimising disturbance is a lot more important than getting the “best” shot of such a tiny vulnerable bird. Over coming months there won’t be any access to the park and the Fitzroy River will be in flood once our wet season rains start. All of the inhabitants of the area will need to move to higher ground and hopefully we will return next year to observe them again.

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!