Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Birds of the Roebuck Plains

The town of Broome in Western Australia is a well-known birding destination. The tidal mudflats of Roebuck Bay play host to large numbers of migratory waders and it is on these shores that the Birdlife Australia Broome Bird Observatory is located. The observatory provides information, walking trails, bird hides and camping accommodation. It also offers tours and it was a tour called the Lakes Tour that I joined on 24 August 2012.

The trusty vehicle our guide had grown to love, Roebuck Plains
The tour gives access to land owned by the Roebuck Plains Cattle station. It is my understanding that the Roebuck Plains area was originally the massive delta of the Fitzroy River - a large river system that now flows into the King Sound. In "the wet" the plains are awash and impassable. The tour runs in the dry season and visits three residual shallow lakes as they dry out.

Our guide Theresa, a visiting Spanish ornithologist, was a gun at bird ID. This is Lake Campion. We are viewing birds on the other side of the lake.
I was impressed by the Google earth image showing a striking difference in the topography between the plains and the surrounding West Kimberley bush. This is not really appreciable as you zip along Highway One!

This was classic long-range birding using scopes and binoculars. Up close photographic opportunities were few but many species were identified including several lifers.
"Is there a particular bird you would like to see?" asked Theresa
"I have never seen Australian bustard." Sure enough we had our tick within the hour.
Four of a group of seven Australian bustard wandering away from the track
Our first stop was at Lake Eda - we were met with fine views of a White-bellied sea eagle. Brolga were readily seen around the area. Taken through the tinted windscreen of a slowly-moving car these photos are particularly poor but I am amused by the pictures of this bird descending with its landing gear down.
White-bellied sea eagle, Lake Eda

White-bellied sea eagle

Brolga descent and then grazing near Lake Eda
Lake Eda was followed by Lake Campion and then Taylor's Lagoon. At each lake I practiced trying to differentiate between the different waders present (Wood and Marsh sandpiper principally). I enjoyed my first ever sighting of Cockatiel (albeit at a great distance). Australian pratincole paraded obligingly.

Australian pratincole, Lake Eda
An across-the-lake view of a group of Cockatiel, Lake Eda
Not my kit .... unfortunately! Yes I was "out-lensed", Taylor's Lagoon
Red-backed kingfisher
Rainbow bee-eaters

Black-winged stilt

We had a few Zebra finch encounters (above) but my favourite photo opportunity of the day would have to be the Long-tailed finch that came down to drink near a magnificently placed branch!

Long-tailed finch, Taylor's Lagoon
77 species were seen in all including many ducks and other water fowl, budgerigar, raptors. You can see the entire list here (Eremaea website).

Sharing with Wild Bird Wednesday

Bird on!


  1. Great photos and what a fantastic place to visit.

  2. Wow, what a great post. I love all the birds and your photos. What a cool place to go birding!

  3. Oh those long tailed finches, cute doesn't cut it. I have seen lots of zebra finches in the North Flinders Ranges but never encountered those long tailed jobs. Lovely shots of the rainbow bee-eaters too,.

  4. Stunning part of the world - I get back there one day. "Out Lensed" or not the pictures are still good!

    Cheers and thanks for linking to WBW

    Stewart M - Melbourne

  5. The little birds always intrigue me for some reason. Your variety of shots is just wonderful!

  6. WOW!! I don't know where to start, Pete!! Your images never cease to amaze me and its always great to see them in a bigger format than on IG. You get to some amazing places to photograph birds. I'm incredibly keen to get to the Werribee Treatment plant next time I get down to Melbourne.
    You may have been "outlensed" but you do manage to get some awesome shots with what gear you have (which certainly "outlenses" my gear!!!)

  7. Wonderful series. I love the eagles and the bee-eaters.

  8. Great birds I don't think I would like to carry that lens far makes the telescopes look tiny.

  9. Cool place to visit. I like the 2nd pic of the bee eaters very much.

  10. Wow! What interesting and beautiful birds! Great shots!