After a very dry wet season, the bush surrounding the Broome Bird Observatory looked brown and dry. The sandy soils of this part of the Kimberley are dominated by Coffee Fruit (Grewia breviflora), Helicopter Trees (Gyrocarpus Americanus) and Broome Pindan Wattles (Acacia eriopoda), with diffused tufts of Spinifex grass in the understory. Although this habitat offers most abundant food in the wet, opportunistic feeders as the Agile Wallaby (Macropus agilis) are perfectly able to broaden their diet by shifting to alternative food resources, such as fruits, leaves and roots from other plants: the tracks that can be found on the beach every morning show those marsupials come to the mangroves to feed on propagules during the night.
But Agile Wallabies are not the only creatures that harvest the beach after dark. Every morning before the sun rises, thousands of Land Hermit Crabs or irramunga (Coenabita variabilis) commute between beach and bush after the collection of their newly found homes. A journey that many are not likely to survive when crossing Crab Creek road – a journey that unfortunately leaves many wallabies lethally injured too.
However, not the hazardous traffic, but the poor nutritional environment in the dry season is the biggest danger, leading to high mortality amongst dependent young. But as pouch occupancy is high year round, the population of Agile Wallabies around the Observatory is still so big they are impossible to miss. Just sitting still in the shadehouse delivers the best opportunities to see them cautiously moving towards the birdbaths for a drink – quickly vanishing again at the slightest sound or movement.