Andrew Hunter reports back on 2018 Congress and Campout

This year’s Congress was themed around the unique characteristics of Roebuck Bay and 80 Mile Beach that make Broome and its surroundings such a draw card for both birds and the people that love them. 

The keynote speaker Danny Rogers kicked things off with a deep dive into the migratory shorebirds that Roebuck Bay supports and research along the East Asian-Australasian Flyway working to save them.  We then heard from others working on shorebirds and about their projects and initiatives to protect these amazing birds including BirdLife Australia’s Shorebirds 2020 program, studies into shorebird benthic food sources and how a key stop-over in the Yellow Sea affects birds migrating to Roebuck Bay.

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Shorebirds were most definitely front and centre but there is more to this area than these amazing migrants.  We also learned about Broome’s famous dinosaur tracks and their significance to local indigenous groups, Roebuck Bays’ marine mammal diversity including Snubfin Dolphins, the wonders and importance of seagrass to the entire ecological system, and finally we were brought along the journey to the rediscovery of the Night Parrot in WA - a crowd favourite with attendees literally on the edge of their seats in the lead up to the first recorded call!


Finally, one of the biggest takeaways for me was the power of the Broome community and their work to protect this amazing part of the world. 

From locals developing community engagement projects like the ‘International Bird Airport’ puppet show and the annual Mud and Salt Water Short Film Festival to Traditional Owners and Indigenous Rangers working to establish greater protections for the area and co-managing these areas combining western science with traditional knowledge the local community is fully behind Roebuck Bay and its bird life.

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The campout took place at the Broome Bird Observatory, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary.  As I turned 30 earlier this year I can appreciate this massive mile-stone and it was great to be on hand to help celebrate.

It was a fantastic two days filled with heaps of great birding, nature walks, and lectures. Some highlights included seeing Yellow Chats in the Kidney Bean Claypan, a flock of close to 10,000 shorebirds on a local beach and finding one of two Common Redshanks that were currently in Australia. 

The BBO Warden, Nigel Jackett, led a shorebird ID lecture with tips on distinguishing the many plovers and sandpipers found in the area, I can now say my confidence in Shorebird identification has improved from around 5% to maybe 60%!

Over 50 people attended the campout from every corner of Australia, from the NSW highlands to the Cocos Islands and everywhere in between. Everyone was more than happy to take the time to help each other out with a tricky ID or to make sure everyone had a chance to see the Yellow Chat or Redshank.

The Campout was a great reminder for me to the diversity and breadth of knowledge that the BirdLife network can call upon.

I am so proud to work and support such a great organisation that represents so many people that are working hard to protect and conserve our birds and to increase the public’s awareness around our great avian assets. 

Thanks to Chris Hassell and the Broome Bird Observatory team for putting on a great Congress and Campout it will be hard to top!