It's been a while since I've been in the Pilbara and it's nice to be back for a few days after the almost zero visibility from thick smoke while I've been visiting Malaysia off and on this year. Smog that has resulted from a drier than normal monsoon in SE Asia and consequently fires smouldering away out of control everywhere.
Some of the many things that I love when I get back to Australia are the clear skies and fresh air even if the temperatures by mid-morning in northern WA are still persistently above 35°C. By mid-April everyone's looking for some of that wonderful dry season crispness in the air. But at least it was pleasantly cool when I drove south along the Roebourne - Wittenoom road in the early morning to the Kialrah Pool on the Jones River.
Kialrah pool was looking-glass flat at the day-break bird-song, reflecting the trees along the banks of the pool and the Cirrus clouds high in the clear blue morning sky. There was not the slightest breath of air to rustle the leaves or ruffle the still waters. In dry years this pool is alive with birds but this year the inland Pilbara river pools are well watered and the birds have dispersed far and wide.
Water Lilies are blooming along the banks of the pool and the spinifex has taken on its dry season pale-yellow mantle now that the summer rains have long since passed. While the birds were few in number I recorded 29 species and, apart from one, none of them were out-of-place. Lots of White-plumed Honey-eaters (Pilbara Canaries), Painted Finch and a few Star Finch; a squadron of Little Black Cormorant flew in; diving and surfacing in their usual foraging pack before resting wings extended on the bank in the morning sun.
The morning was starting to warm up, I was getting ready to leave as most of the birds in the vicinity had shown themselves when something unexpectedly diferent made a tantalisingly scant appearance in the high grasses along the banks of the pool. It darted about without revealing itself properly as it should. All I could tell is that it was a Finch of sorts. Different from the locals with a dark face and a whitish throat, tail up, collecting nesting material and flying off rapidly into the distance. I'm flicking through my guide book and keeping one eye out in case it returns which it does but just as clandestinely, rushing off again with more nesting material in it's bill.
I wait. It should come back but maybe it's found a better source of nesting material. A Spinifex Pigeon puts in an appearance and I'm distracted photographing it. A lone Galah and a dozen Cockateil land by the water's edge for a drink... out of the corner of my eye and unanounced my birds are back, three of them, a little further away this time as they've also come down for a drink ... fortunately long enough for me to get a distant photo and a good ID with my binoculars.
While it's a little hard to see in the photo they are Pictorella Mannikins (or Finchs or Munias) and according to my bird guides and eBird, unusual this far west. The guide books I use have them stopping their westerly distribution in the Kimberley. I'd be interested in any other reports of them in the Pilbara.
Anyway, here is the list, 20th April 2014, Kialrah Pool, WA 06:30 - 10:30 a.m.
|Little Black Cormorant|
|Port Lincoln Parrot|
This rather fuzzy photo is of a... well take your pick... it's a Australasian, Singing or Horsfield's Bushlark, down for a drink beside the main pool. It's quite orangy-brown on the flanks. They are quite common here. They fly up out of the grass, flutter along at low level then plunge out of sight again.