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Tag: BBO

Rainbow Bee-eater

Rainbow Bee-eater

The Rainbow bee-eater apparently visits Perth and Rottnest island frequently.  I’ve never noticed one here, but on a recent visit to Broome they were everywhere. And yes, they do eat bees, and other flying insects.

Their hunting style is mesmerizing.  Each bird seems to have its favourite spot, a special barnch on a special tree.   

  From this perch it will launch itself out, perform some acrobatics mid
air,
 

and it successful return to its perch with a tasty morsel.

 

They nest by making burrows in the mounds of red pindan earth at the sides of the dirt tracks and can be seen swooping across the road in their signature loops in search of
bees.

More information

http://www.birdsinbackyards.net/species/Merops-ornatus
http://birdlife.org.au/bird-profile/rainbow-bee-eater

Broome Bird Observatory Part 2

Broome Bird Observatory Part 2

The
routine of the BBO is a mix of running tours for guest and day trippers
form Broome, and coordinating the more serious role that the Observatory holds for conservation and research.  Tours include the Lakes Tour, which we took, Plains tours
and search for the Yellow Chat.

On the weekend we were
there a canon netting was scheduled and we (kind-of) volunteered to
help.


The principle of canon netting is to set up a concealed net, wait for
a lot of interesting shore birds to start hanging out together on the beach, then to
explosively shoot the net out over the top of the birds without hurting
any of them, so they can be caught, weighed, measured and tagged.

You need a
very special license to do it, and you’re restricted as to when.  It’s a
game with the tide because you need the birds to be far enough away
from the net so you don’t hit them when it shoots out, and
far enough away from the water that you don’t drown any.

I
think I have mentioned before that birds can be well, flighty. Lots of
little things can cause a flock of birds to launch off at the last
moment, so all of us – the ‘volunteers’ were asked to wait out of sight
at the top of the cliff. We were given instructions that on the sound of
the canon we were to race down the steep, narrow path down the cliff
and onto the beach where each of us was to run to our designated spot to
make sure no birds were trapped in the water where the might drown.

On the day we missed out on catching any birds, and missed out on
seeing the ones we didn’t catch because we were hidden away at the top of the cliff.  Over all not the most satisfying experience, but one we can
chalk up to experience.

There were birds on the beach, in the right place, but not the right mix of species.

If
we’re honest we were both quite relieved- the idea of running down the
gully at break neck speed to make sure we get to the beach in time to
make sure no birds come to harm – not to mention making sure you DO NOT
WALK ON THE NET – well it was all starting to feel quite stressful.

The best part of the morning was helping roll up the net.


If you’re interested in knowing how it was meant to go, here are some other sites to check out.
http://www.pbase.com/footloose54/bbo
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cannon-netting

Broome Bird Observatory Part 1

Broome Bird Observatory Part 1


 When time is the things you’re short on you have to squeeze every bit out of what you have.  In September that meant taking a ‘roll your own’ long weekend up to Broome.

I’ve been to the Kimberley twice before and loved it both times.  This time I went with a specific purpose – to visit the Broome Bird Observatory.

In what seems to be be my developing travel style, I didn’t know a lot about it before booking.  My dad had been some years before and said good things about it, and I’d read a little online but that was it.

I bought a new zoom lens for the occasion, but I’m not doing it justice yet.

To the Obseravtory batdog!

The observatory is about 20 kms out of town along a pretty rough road, 4wd required, They don’t have an online booking system, so everything happens by email. That means you have a real live person on the other end of your message though and Mandy was very responsive.

We arranged to be picked up from the visitor centre, giving ourselves time to go take a short walk from the airport to the supermarket and pick up supplies first. As it happened we over catered – how unusual – but the left overs went to a worthy cause.

The observatory is a mix of research station and camp accommodation.  The staff were lovely as was our Camp Host, Wendy.  She and her husband were there to help out and keep the toilets and kitchen ship shape in exchange for free camping.  Sounds like something I would love to do one day.

Mandy, Hazel and Rick were the staff running the show. It takes a special kind of person to dedicate their lives to working in these far flung places and I think they are amazing. We were warned that Rick might not the most talkative guy going around but we got along just fine.  Botany is not his bag, but it isn’t mine either so no dramas there.

Accommodation is mixed. We stayed in the units, which are sort of a donga with beds and  a desk and not much else.  But what more do you need?  There is a shared bathroom / toilet facility so hot water and flushing toilets.  We’d call it ‘glamping’ if we were talking to our beautiful buddy Craig. There are also camp sites for those who prefer a tent, and one chalet which looked quite flash from the peeks inside we managed. The chalet does not count as ‘glamping’.

The Shadehouse is the share kitchen facility and it has everything you could ask for other than a microwave.  The power is solar with generator backing, so things that spike like hairdryers and microwaves are not a good idea up there. But there is a full size kitchen range, fridges, BBQ, pots, pan, plates, cutlery and even a can opener.

It also offers the company of resident green tree frogs and a view of
the bird baths. You get a range of views from here, including double
banded finch, wallabies and an occasional Brahman bull from the
neighbouring property. Somehow they all seem to get along.

Just outside the door to the shadehouse we had a mother and two young  restless flycatchers. I think mum will be pleased when these two leave home.

The funny thing about expectations, you have them even when you don’t know you have them. With my minuscule amount of research before this trip I expected to see;

  • a LOT of shorebirds – but didn’t
  • a few birds of prey – saw HEAPS
  • birds, birds, birds – saw them, but also lots of crabs, spiders, frogs and cattle
  • a lot of flies – surprisingly few
  • Clear blue skies and hot weather – and along with the blue skies we got… mist??

On the first morning we were there I got up early to go for a walk around one of the trails.  I was amazed by the mixture of mist and spider webs.  It was like wondering around in a faerie grotto. Totally unexpected – the weather seemed too warm to expect anything like mist. 

Once fully awake, fed and functional we started to investigate all the activities on offer at the Observatory…