We have had a wet week in Broome with a tropical low to our north and further down the coast there is a cyclone. This cyclone has been named Cyclone Iggy and is a dominant circle on our satellite image of Western Australia. It has been amusing to listen to the “younger” weather people on the television unsure as to whether Iggy is a male or female name!! They were probably not born when Iggy Pop was famous! Someone at the Bureau of Meteorology must have thought it would be a good name for a cyclone when they were compiling the list! It’s looking quite large and nasty, so we hope it hits one of the many unpopulated areas along the north-west coast.

Cyclone Iggy Saturday 28th 7am

Our biggest rainfall so far has been over Friday night and has been over 50mm, but further up the coast they had 400mm in 48 hours. The ground soon becomes soft and flooded and access is restricted across the Kimberley region once the rivers rise. There are flood markers on the bitumen to warn people of the depth and it is not advisable to attempt to cross. The birds will be dispersing across the country and our garden has been rather quiet since the rain started. They will be seeking protection where they can and they will return as soon as the rain eases.

A wet garden without birds!

We have had incredibly high tides this week around the middle of the day and we were interested to see where the shorebirds would end up. There are very few areas in Roebuck Bay that shorebirds can roost on very high tides due to the cliffs and many of the larger species will go out onto the land behind the mangroves. We have been aware of large flocks of the smaller species using Cable Beach during the day and night on very high tides to roost for some years and decided to risk the weather and investigate. The sea has been rough and there has actually been some surf! Most people that live in Broome don’t get an opportunity to surf, but as soon as there’s a low pressure system you can count on a few waves and a few businesses will be missing some employees around high tide!

Stormy Cable Beach

We soon came across a flock of over 4000 shorebirds trying to find a piece of beach that was safe from the high tide and enough vision behind to alert them to the Brown Goshawk that patrols the dune system. We scanned through the flock thoroughly looking for individually marked birds and we had a Red-necked Stint that had been flagged and banded/ringed in Bohai Bay, China. The rest of the birds had been marked locally, but we still took down the details as the next time they are observed may well be in Taiwan, China or Korea. The flock was predominately Greater Sand Plover and Red-necked Stint, but there were also Sanderling and Lesser Sand Plover present. They are all starting to get their breeding plumage ready for their northward migration in the coming months. Oddly we had one lonely Grey-tailed Tattler, two Curlew Sandpipers and two Great Knot-maybe they missed the meeting on the “planned roost” for that day amongst their own species!

Shorebirds on Cable Beach

We found ourselves in one of the palm frond shelters for some time whilst it decided if it was going to just drizzle or really rain. We took the opportunity to just observe the birds and their antics. It was quite amusing to see how many of the Greater Sand Plovers were just planning on a quiet stand around for an hour or two, but others appeared bored with it all and would just run at another bird for no apparent reason! We actually saw a Sanderling stand still and put it’s bill under, which is a rare moment. Sanderling always seem to be running along the tide line feeding what ever the weather and you wonder if they ever slow down. All these birds really do live extreme lives between the weather both here and in the northern hemisphere.

A bonus of all the rain is all the new green growth and it makes for great hiding spots for the wallabies and Swinhoes Snipe . We did entice this wallaby to poke it’s head out and let us take a photograph-appropriately on “Australia Day” this week! The Swinhoes Snipe have avoided the camera so far!

Wallaby

We hope that Cyclone Iggy gives everyone the rain they need and crosses the coast causing minimal damage.

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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!