The Broome Bird Observatory offers tours in the different habits of Yawuru country, showcasing the enormous variety of birds in this beautiful corner of WA. I joined the tour to the saline grasslands, saltmarshes and claypans of Roebuck Plains Station, an iconic Kimberley property that covers 275,000 hectares and is home to 20,000 head of cattle. During the wet season the inundated plains are green and lush, abundant with fish, crabs and frogs, an enormous food bowl for thousands of water birds, but in the dry dust devils sweep through the vast open space, where water is only a memory of different times.
The majority of birdwatchers who join this tour are in search of the Yellow Chat (Epthianura crocea), a strikingly coloured passerine bird that can be seen on the plains relatively easy, and as it is one of the must-see species, the Broome Bird Observatory even runs the specific Yellow Chat twitch. I had some good views of this marvellous little bird through the telescopes provided, but unfortunately haven’t been able to get close enough for decent shots. But where some birders search for chats, I hoped to find the majestic Australian Crane or Brolga (Grus rubicunda) – and I did.
The grassy plains and marshes are the ideal habitat for these large cranes, where they feed on tubers, amphibians, molluscs and insects. As Brolgas mate for life, they can often be seen in pairs or small family groups, strengthening bonds with spectacular courtship displays.