Tourists flock to Broome during Australia’s winter months to escape the cold weather from the more populated southern and eastern states. It is the dry season here, where the daily temperatures are around the warm 30° C to 34°C (86°F- 90°F). One of the iconic features which attracts tourists is Cable Beach (so named because this is where the overland telegraph cable connected with the world, passing from the mainland to Java in Indonesia in 1889) with its magnificent sunset.
The sunsets and long tides, Cable Beach is famous for.
And the several camel trains that give rides on the beach at sunset. These camels are just a few that have been tamed of the thousands that have become wild and breed in the central Australian desert, released by the Afghan camel workers after the telegraph cable was built. It has been said that there are more camels in Australia than in the Middle-East.
Hidden away from the tourist hum only 100 meters away, in the fine red pindan dust cliffs and embankments lives one of Australia’s smallest birds. Its small nesting tunnels can be seen, but are only noticed usually by observant birders.
Roger Smith a New Zealand birder we met on one of the Broome Bird Observatory tours, tipped us off about the Striated Pardalote nest, so we excitedly went to investigate. Check out some of Roger’s great photos of Broome birds on Flicka
My Bird of the Week – The Striated Pardalote.
Who would have thought that a tiny little bird could tunnel into this embankment and build its nest. We found male and female Striated Pardalote in the process of nest building, gathering grass and soft dry vegetation into the nest piece by piece. Click on photos to enlarge them.
There are now six different races of the Striated Pardalote described throughout Australia, including one race endemic to Tasmania, but not in the cenral deserts of Western Australia. The race uropygialis was found on Cable Beach. Similar to the Spotted Pardalote, I featured as My Bird of the Week several weeks ago, it looks very ordinary when viewed from below, but quite stunning when seen from above. It was difficult at times to catch a photo of the bird as it moves so fast in flight. Similar to the Spotted Pardalote it feeds on small insects and the scale lerps from under leaves. They are often found in breeding pairs, and not in large flocks.
Soon he returns to the nest at great speed, but lands on a nearby bush to check if we are a threat to him reaching the tunnel.
Then, within a second he flies to the hole, right past my head.
With point blank accuracy he reenters the hole all in a second flat. If it were not for the ‘sport burst feature’ on my SLR I would not have been able to capture these shots.
Unlike the Spotted Pardalote, the Striated Pardalote male and female look almost identical, except the female is a little smaller and lighter coloured. This male is bringing nest material. Notice the red wing dot near the white stripe. The mainland races all have this but the Tasmanian race striatus has a yellow dot, if you look carefully at the picture below.
As we were waiting for the return of the pardalote my wife noted a large unusual bird fishing behind the breakers on the beach. To our pleasant surprise it was another lifer in the Brown Booby, a large ocean bird which is seldom ever seen.
What a treat to be able to get such great shots from so far away, it fished for several minutes, so I was able to get some good shots. I had only seen its relative the Masked Booby at Lord Howe Island.
Next we were distracted away from the beach to the native pine trees growing nearby in the resort on the beach front where we heard the distinctive sound of lorikeets, which we know too well at home. These beautiful birds were flying about the trees. They are cousins to our east coast Rainbow Lorikeet and look very similar except for the red collar. The Rainbows have a greeny-yellow collar.
As we passed by the Sunset Bar and Grill (our favorite watering hole at Cable) in a tree next to the building were a pair of Lorikeets preening each other. Lorikeets, like other parrots and cockatoos pair for life, and it is rare to find them flying alone.
We decided to walk along the shoreline and get our feet wet, as the Silver Gulls rested in small groups on the huge beach, quite peacefully and undisturbed by our close passing.
A very young White-bellied Sea-Eagle flew overhead. These birds can be easily age determined because of the many changes they undergo till maturity. The wing and body markings indicate its first year of life.
The Masked Lapwing, found almost all over coastal Australia was present here on the beach. It is the sound of this bird which is often used in Australian movies. This bird is most unusual in looks and behaviour.
It was also a delight to see this pair of Pied Oystercatcher land on the beach. Sadly they took flight at my interest in them.
Later that afternoon we decided to check out Gantheaume Point, at the southern end of Cable Beach, where the dinosaur footprints are found on the reef at low tide. The lighthouse pictured above, has been the nesting sight for an Osprey family for many years. The second generation nest below. Sadly, there were no Osprey to be seen there.
We did not get to see the actual footprints on this occasion, though I have seen some on a previous visit to Broome. Broome boasts of having the greatest number of different dinosaur foot imprints, nine different types. A lone Pied Oystercatcher walked the reef. It was quite dangerous on the day to walk it being very slippery after tide change.
Then it happened! In the distance not far from the Osprey nest an Osprey flew past clutching what appeared to be, a large beheaded fish, but it did not return to the nest to eat it. The pics are dull because it was just about sunset when it occurred.
Just a day before we had encountered this juvenile Osprey at Town Beach (5 km away across the peninsula). I love the way (in the last of the above photos) how this young Osprey cricks it’s neck, and how it’s body looks with a displaced neck.
That night there was some cloud around after the storm from earlier in the afternoon. The sunset took on a beautiful finish for the day, reminding us that..
“The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice[b] goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.” – Psalm 19:1-4
This is enough for now, next week in Part 2, we will visit the Broome Bird Observatory and see what we found there.
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