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  • Writer's pictureGeorgina Steytler

Eyre Bird Observatory

Major Mitchell's Cockatoo (Lophochroa leadbeateri) (F8, 1/3200, ISO640) photographed against the white sand dunes

Tucked away on the south-eastern coast of Western Australia, just under 300 kilometres from the South Australian border and 50 kilometres off the Eyre Highway down a sandy track, is a little jewel in the Australian birding crown, the Eyre Bird Observatory (EBO).

Established by Birds Australia (as it then was) in 1977 from the remains of an old telegraph station, EBO today plays a critical role in collecting and monitoring the wildlife in this remote, and otherwise forgotten, corner of Australia.

Since 1978, a daily log of bird species, and where possible numbers, has been recorded as well as weekly bird counts along Kanidal beach. To date, over 250 different bird species have been recorded at the station.

But let's be honest. There is one bird species in particular that continues to lure birders down the long, and very sandy, track (it turns out when they say reduce your tyre pressure to 20 p.s.i - they really mean 20 p.s.i!!!) - the Major Mitchell's cockatoos. And for a very good reason - they are spectacular birds over-brimming with personality. An old friend of mine, Brice Wells, used to be a warden at EBO along with his wife Gail. He told me stories of the cockies sliding down the corrugated roofs of the buildings on their backsides, getting up, flying to the top and doing it again. Now, what wouldn't you do to see that?

The main reason the cockies and other birds come to EBO is to drink water from one of the bird baths. There is nothing better than to sit on the veranda and watch them fly in, calling softly to their mates, before taking a long, thirst-quenching drink. Of course, the hotter and drier the weather, the more bird species you are likely to see come in for a drink.

But be warned! This is no guaranteed birding paradise. The vast majority of bird species skulk amongst the mallee scrub, making birding quite difficult. If photographing birds at a bird bath is not your style, or if you are after the more elusive species that rarely come in, then what you get out of EBO, will depend directly on the effort you put in. And that means getting up early and trekking for kilometres through bush and/or over sweeping white sand dunes.

Below is a snapshot of the images I took when I was at EBO in October 2019. I have divided them into shots taken at the bird bath and those taken further afield (mainly in the dunes). I hope this will give you a sense of the place and the kinds of opportunities it offers for some unique images, not just of the birds but also of the flora and landscape. More information about EBO will be given below.



Major Mitchell's Cockatoo (Lophochroa leadbeateri) (F7.1, 1/5000, ISO800)

New Holland Honeyeater (Phylidonyris novaehollandiae) (F9, 1/3200, ISO1000)

New Holland Honeyeater (Phylidonyris novaehollandiae) (F8, 1/3200, ISO1600)

Brush Bronzewing (Phaps elegans) (F8, 1/1000, ISO3200)

Silvereye (Zosterops lateralis) (F14, 1/2500, ISO1000)

Major Mitchell's Cockatoo (Lophochroa leadbeateri) (F5.6, 1/8000, ISO500)

Brown Honeyeater (Lichmera indistincta) (F14, 1/2500, ISO1600)

Silvereye (Zosterops lateralis) (F9, 1/3200, ISO1000) in One Shot Mode (accidental) hence a little 'soft' - let that be a lesson to make sure you always shoot in Al Servo (continuous focus) mode.

Singing Honeyeater (Lichenostomus virescens) (F8, 1/6400, ISO3200)

Major Mitchell's Cockatoo (Lophochroa leadbeateri) (F8, 1/1600, ISO1000)

Dougie Dugite (Pseudonaja affinis) F5.6, 1/2500, ISO400) - Looks can be deceptive, he's actually very cuddly...

Major Mitchell's Cockatoo (Lophochroa leadbeateri) (F8, 1/8000, ISO1000)

Brush Bronzewing (Phaps elegans) (F16, 1/1600, ISO2500)

New Holland Honeyeater (Phylidonyris novaehollandiae) (F8, 1/2500, ISO2000)

Welcome Swallow (Hirundo neoxena) (F5, 1/640, ISO640)

Major Mitchell's Cockatoo (Lophochroa leadbeateri) (F4, 1/3200, ISO6400)

Grey Currawong (Strepera versicolor) (F5, 1/1600, ISO2500)

Major Mitchell's Cockatoo (Lophochroa leadbeateri) (F8, 1/1600, ISO1000)

Brush Bronzewing (Phaps elegans) (F8, 1/640, ISO3200)



From the photos below, you will see that I was mesmerised by the beautiful sand dunes along the coast. Just a short walk from the EBO, and the photo opportunities were endless.

Sand Dunes (F11, 6 secs, ISO100 @16mm), Tripod

Major Mitchell's Cockatoo (Lophochroa leadbeateri) (F5.6, 1/8000, ISO1000) photographed amongst the sand dunes

Australian Raven (Corvus coronoides) (F5.6, 1/640, ISO6400)

Sand Dunes (F11, 1/640, ISO100 @21mm), Tripod

Major Mitchell's Cockatoo (Lophochroa leadbeateri) (F5.6, 1/3200, ISO1000)

Dune vegetation (F11, 1/500, ISO400 @100mm Macro)

Major Mitchell's Cockatoo (Lophochroa leadbeateri) (F4, 1/3200, ISO6400)

Dune vegetation (F11, 1/800, ISO400 Macro@100mm)

Grey Currawong (Strepera versicolor) (F4, 1/3200, ISO1600)

Sand Dunes (F5.6, 1/4000, ISO3200)

Bug...(F6.3, 1/1250, ISO1600)

Australian Raven (Corvus coronoides) (F5.6, 1/640, ISO6400)

Major Mitchell's Cockatoo (Lophochroa leadbeateri) (F8, 1/3200, ISO640)

Dune vegetation (F11, 1/200, ISO1000 @35mm)

Sand Dunes (F11, 1/1000, ISO4000 @600mm)


Rainbow Bee-eater (Merops ornatus) (F5.6, 1/8000, ISO1600)

Rainbow Bee-eater (Merops ornatus) (F5.6, 1/2500, ISO1600)

Sand dragon (Ctenophorus) F5.6, 1/3200, ISO800)

Rainbow Bee-eater (Merops ornatus) (F5.6, 1/5000, ISO1000)

Grey Shrike-thrush (Colluricincla harmonica) (F4, 1/5000, ISO500)

Rainbow Bee-eater (Merops ornatus) (F5.6, 1/4000, ISO1600)


Red-capped Plover (Charadrius ruficapillus) (F5.6, 1/400, ISO3200)

Greater Sand Plover (Charadrius leschenaultii) (F6.3, 1/3200, ISO500)

Sanderling (Calidris alba) (F5.6, 1/4000, ISO500)

Pacific Golden Plover (Pluvialis fulva) (F5.6, 1/1250, ISO800)

Red-capped Plover (Charadrius ruficapillus) (F4, 1/800, ISO3200)

Whiskered Tern (Chlidonias hybrida) (F5.6, 1/8000, ISO800)

Red-capped Plover (Charadrius ruficapillus) (F4, 1/1000, ISO3200)



There is a limited number of rooms available onsite, for $95 per person per night (including meals). Bookings are essential.

Day visitors are welcome at $10 per vehicle.

Every year the EBO hosts numerous courses, including a bird photography course run by Keith Lightbody and Field Techniques in Bird Studies by Tegan Douglas, each at the bargain basement price of $590 for 6 nights (includes accommodation AND food).

The 2020 courses are scheduled to begin in November. Obviously, due to coronavirus, this might change. To find out more about EBO and it's courses, send an email to:

Loo with a view!

Eyre Weather Station - ever wanted to see how to take the weather readings? The wardens can show you as they do it twice a day and it's really interesting!

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