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Mornington Wildlife Sanctuary
via Broome Trip Report
Broome STW
Day 1 Saturday 9 May 2021 Arrive Broome

It was good to be in dry warm Broome after so much wet weather in Sydney. The direct flight was a pleasure with Black Kites greeting us at the airport along with Australian White Ibis looking brilliant in the bright light. We launched into a birdy afternoon on the top balcony of the hotel overlooking sandhills down to the mangroves of Roebuck Bay – easy! Little Crows flocked in the shade, playing, a Grey-crowned Babbler called, Great Bowerbird delighted the small crowd, White-gaped and Singing Honeyeaters were abundant.

As it cooled we ventured forth to Dampier Creek where a front yard was full of Bar-shouldered Doves. White-breasted Woodswallows cuddled on the overhead wires and we were excited to ID a few Little Corellas; little did Glenda know what was in store later in the tour.

We were stopped on the way to the STW by a flock of Red-winged Parrots and stunning Rainbow Bee-eaters in the bank of a drain, and could hear whistling-ducks further down, 400 Plumed! Australian Pelicans were also numerous and a little yellow bird in the sunset light turned out to be a White-throated Gerygone. Dainty Peaceful Doves gathered on the ground to feed and the golf course had Straw-necked Ibis. All in all a great start with vibrant colours lulling us into Broome time.

Day 2 Sunday 10 May Broome Bird Observatory

A splendid turquoise and red sunrise saw restless birders out early with an unseen Mistletoebird taunting Diane; she had never seen one. After breakfast we got stuck in the carpark watching a Pheasant Coucal hurry to the kitchen we presumed, oblivious to us and providing beautiful views of the brown “striatedness” of this beguiling female bird. Great views of a Great Bowerbird too.

On the way to Broome Bird Observatory we stopped for Red-collared Lorikeets with heads in a hollow, perhaps feeding young. The rutty road ceased vibrating when Agile Wallabies gathered their pretty faces to be viewed.
Roebuck Plains by Jan Ritchie
Famous Roebuck Bay’s tide was right out so viewing was distant but Gull-billed Terns cruised close in: called by Jan. Whimbrels were feeding on the wonderful mud, two Brahminy Kites sat on a rock, Red-capped Plovers startlingly white wheeled on the tide line and a few Common Greenshanks took the middle ground/height. A Brown Falcon pestered by crows held its ground, giving fantastic views and Whistling Kites sailed back and forth.

Heading along the road we came across a mixed flock among the flowering acacias. Close views of sweet little Yellow White-eyes warm the crowd’s heart and a Horsfield’s Bronze-Cuckoo jump-started mine. Also White-throated Gerygone, Grey Fantail, Grey-crowned Babblers and the call of the elusive Mistletoebird.

After lunch Nigel, the warden at BBO, showed us some stunning birds, starting with Brown Songlarks, Horsfield’s Bushlarks and Australian Pipits, then the pindan provided great views of Grey-crowned Babblers but just the haunting call of the Mistletoebird. We graduated to the lazy flap of a Spotted Harrier, Swamp Harrier, Little Egrets, Common Greenshanks; Whiskered Terns whisked past us, Gull-billed Terns flew in front, Red-capped Plovers, Brolgas, Paperbark Flycatcher, Australian Bustards peered out from the long lush grass, flocks of Australian Pratincoles littered the road, 3 Black-necked Storks (one female looking as good as it gets!) and Yellow Chats shone in the glow of waning light.

On the way back from Duck Lake to the Observatory Northern Nail-tail Wallabies appeared with their very long curled tail and there was a Brown Falcon on every fence-post due to an abundant grasshopper population to feed on. Sensational day!

Day 3 Monday 11 May North to Willie Creek and Derby

An ambitious day starting early with Rufous-throated Honeyeaters found by Diane on a flowering tree perched on the incline down to the mangroves, again at our hotel, great spot! Little Friarbirds sang on the way to breakfast. Willie Creek had a small flock of dainty Little Egrets, a single Whimbrel that seemed to be everywhere we went, and smart Pied Oystercatchers. The Blue Track had a flock of 19 Brolgas rise up from the long grass, to our amazement. And a Brahminy Kite flew alongside the car.

The long drive to Derby made lunch in the paperbarks and huge boabs particularly refreshing. Bernice and Glenda had a Paperbark Flycatcher sit perfectly for them. Lots of butterflies and boabs made a mid-Kimberley stop ideal. In Derby Black-winged Stilts and perhaps a Red Knot stole the show at the jetty (not the lone Whimbrel). At the STW Plumed Whistling-Ducks were numerous, and Little Corellas that were apricot and pink from the soil, very pretty.

Day 4 Tuesday 12 May Flight to Mornington Sanctuary

Departing Broome the White-breasted Woodswallows were there to wave goodbye as we lifted over spectacular Kimberley country, the folds and ranges making you wonder how the Aboriginals could depict this so well in paintings without flying…

A Red-tailed Black Cockatoo was walking on the ground to show us to our tents at Mornington and Green Tree Frogs greeted us in the bathrooms of our luxurious tents. A visit to Bernice’s veranda yielded Crimson Finches nesting in the pandanus beside Annie Creek. Female Purple-crowned Finches with their gorgeous eye markings were on my veranda, Northern Fantails flitted and Glenda was welcomed by what became “her” flock of 400 Little Corellas.

As we walked to lunch the first Yellow-tinted Honeyeaters took our attention, briefly; lunches were good at Mornington. After lunch a stop at Annie Creek Crossing gave great views of a White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike and our first Gouldian Finch, hurray! We had a good view of a Red-backed Kingfisher through the scope, more Gouldians spotted by Joe in a tree delighted Diane through the scope. A couple of Pictorella Mannikins stopped briefly beside the truck as we continued through spinifex savannah to Sir John Gorge. A quick stop at Bluebush for the beauty of the river and then the King Leopold Ranges. Spinifex Pigeon was seen briefly by most as it hurtled up the hill. We got to the gorge as the sun was setting, magnificent red bloomed over the rock and White-quilled Rock-pigeons sat waiting for Diane and me to arrive from our refreshing swim.

Cheese and wine were served and as we departed the Spotted Nightjars emerged, swooping over the Fitzroy River hawking for insects. A more serene sight I have not witnessed. On the drive back to Camp there was a Bush-stone Curlew on the road, as was a Spotted Nightjar.

Annie Creek
Day 5 Wednesday 13 May Lake Gladstone, Mornington

We started before first light to get to Lake Gladstone and as we entered the gate Brolgas were down to our left, as were Magpie Geese; Little Woodswallows swooped and the temperature was perfect. Di and Trish cooked “quoll in the cave” for breakfast which we had difficulty leaving to go birdwatching, “Oh yeah, that’s why we’re here!” Green Pygmy-geese were on the lake, lots of Wandering Whistling-ducks for a change, a Royal Spoonbill, Whistling Kites, a Swamp Harrier cruised over the sedges, Hoary-headed and Australasian Grebes swam side by side, a Wedge-tailed Eagle flew high up against the daytime moon, Red-backed Fairy-wrens frolicked with a Little Grassbird; a first for the Mornington birdlist. Di spotted two Jacanas and as we left a couple of Brolgas flew in to take our place. What a spot!

The Hann River had Black Dotterel and Striated Pardalotes and a cuppa with chocolate cake, mmm.

Butterflies pulled us up by a dam but the Brolgas behind held us for the flock of Pictorella Mannikins, Long-tailed Finches, Double-barred and Zebra Finches, one Australian Pratincole and later a couple of Masked Finches seen by some.

Lunch under a couple of boabs extended by a flat tyre gave us great view of a Spotted Harrier catching and feasting on a small bird for some leisurely time, much enjoyed by all.

This long day ended with a walk on the airstrip as the sun was setting behind the ranges, the stars were crystal clear and temperature balmy; it just doesn’t get any better than this, except no birds. Adcock River Crossing had a fairyland of tiny lights on the bank edge and even into the water, most likely spiders of some sort. Perhaps a Sugar-glider was seen by Joe and back in the campground we hoped for the Barking Owl that we were hearing each night but only microbats and the milky-way showered us with starlight. What a night, what a day, no wonder we were tired!

Cadjeput by Jan Ritchie
Day 6 Thursday 14 May Mornington

A walk to Adcock Creek Crossing had 4 White-bellied Cuckoo-shrikes chasing each other over the trees and first light brought 2 Little Grassbirds up in full view, more evidence for the Mornington birdlist. Crossing Annie Creek we had 4 Gouldians in the trees, in the scope and in our hearts forever I suspect, just magnificent. The Adcock had a purple-crowned male fairy-wren that was seen by most. All before breakfast!

After brekkie we walked Annie Creek and on the way saw the male Mistletoebird finally, really well for Diane, double hurray! We sat in the cool beside the screw pandanus where for some time we scoped “Trish’s boyfriend”, the Buff-sided Robin. Ideal birding. Plus Archer fish and fruiting figs in this superb environment.

An excellent presentation on Purple-crowned Fairy-wrens followed lunch and we then went over to Cadjeput for a swim and Glenda noted Black-fronted Dotterels.

Back to the “purplies” site where 9 Rainbow Bee-eaters cuddled on a roost over the river, so cute. At Savanah Hill for sunset Joe strummed his guitar and sang just for us. Why do we have to leave tomorrow?

Day 7 Friday 15 July Flight to Broome

Our last morning to get the purple doughnuts for the couple of people who had not seen the crown, which we managed much to the delight of the said parties. On the way Glenda spotted a Red-faced Gouldian Finch in a tree and a splendid view was has by all. Northern Rosellas appeared but were seen better later. Di showed us Brown Honeyeaters and a White-throated Honeyeater, a first for the trip, and at Bird Walk a goanna turned out to be a huge fresh water croc; fantastic to watch as he made his way up the dry creek bed. Pictorella Mannikins bobbed by the last pool and we headed back to view the staggering herbarium collection of Kimberley plants collected by volunteer Helen from Whale Beach. A Peregrine Falcon and Brown Goshawk farewelled us and it was back to Broome with another wonderful flight over the obviously better cared-for Mornington Wildlife Sanctuary.

Streeters Arcade recommended by Di yielded Red-headed Honeyeater, Broad-billed Flycatcher and Mangrove Golden Whistler, wow, plus 2 Northern Fantails.

We did the Jetty and Cable Beach for human viewing…

Leopold Range
Day 8 Saturday 19 July Flights Home

Straight to the flowering tree at the Mangrove Hotel where the sun was rising over turquoise Roebuck Bay. The honeyeaters were running hot in the tree with Red-headed Honeyeater up first and then the now usual array of Singing, White-gaped, Little Friarbird and the now apparent Brown Honeyeaters. Further down 2 Brahminy Kites flew along the shoreline with a White-bellied Sea-eagle, a mystery flock of waders baffled us, perhaps Red Knots heading north. While walking around the township’s new and old unique architecture we happened upon an Osprey feasting on a Long Tom fish, and the flowers were fabulous.

We found the new swanky suburbs and views of Brahminy and Black Kite shone in the hot sun. Our favourite Arcade saw the Red-headed Honeyeater waiting and the lovely Yellow White-eyes, ending a wonderful 8 days with exceptional company, food, locals and birds! Thank you Glenda, Bernice, Jan and Diane for the opportunity to lead this trip.

By Janene Luff leading for FTB

Follow That Bird   Phone: 61 2 9973 1865
Fax: 61 2 9973 1875
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Avalon NSW 2107
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Photos of Variegated Fairy-wren and Little Tern courtesy of Neil Fifer