Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Fellowship reflections (week 4)

Broome - Part 1: The amazing Roebuck Bay

Broome is some 2 hours flight north of Perth and was the destination for our field work on shorebirds. Broome, or specifically Roebuck Bay, is one of the world's best shorebird spots. The bay lies in a corner of the Indian Ocean where the topography is such that the tides are the largest in Australia. On the lowest tides there is more than 150km of intertidal flats. Bodiversity of marine organisms is extremely high and it therefore very attractive to the many shorebirds that winter here from the tundras and taigas of Russia.

February is wet season in Broome, though the days were sunny and hot (37oC) and the only rain we experienced was a couple of brief overnight showers and one spectacular electrical storm. This was in stark contrast to the summer I returned home to - and the three days of rain! We went to the outdoor movies the night of the storm - check out the tree in this photo...

Roebuck Bay holds maximum numbers of about 200,000 shorebirds (similar numbers to the whole of Victoria or Sth Australia). Some 20 species occur in internationally significant numbers. It was these birds that drew us to Broome. We were there to collect breeding plumage samples (breast and scapular feathers) before the birds headed north - these birds heading to Russia rather than Alaska. The three species we were working on specifically were Red Knot, Great Knot and Godwits. Here's a photo of one the final birds we released, a Great Knot...

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