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.