Derby Birding Sites

Key Species : Garganey (small chance), Great-billed Heron (chance), Grey Goshawk (small chance), Black Falcon (good chance), Brolga, Chestnut Rail (small chance), Swinhoe's Snipe, Little Curlew, Wood Sandpiper, Long-toed Stint, Ruff (chance), Little Ringed Plover (chance), Oriental Plover, Red-kneed Dotterel, Oriental Pratincole, Australian Pratincole, Brush Cuckoo, Little Bronze-Cuckoo, Oriental Cuckoo (chance), Collared Kingfisher, Dollarbird, Black-tailed Treecreeper, Red-browed Pardalote, Dusky Gerygone, Mangrove Gerygone, Bar-breasted Honeyeater, Lemon-bellied (Kimberley) Flycatcher, Mangrove Robin, Mangrove Golden Whistler, White-breasted Whistler, Broad-billed Flycatcher, Mangrove Grey Fantail, Yellow Wagtail (summer), Black-backed Wagtail (vagrant), Barn Swallow (summer).

Derby (Post Office S17 18 14" E123 37 51") is about 225kms by road from Broome.  There are excellent birding sites such as the mangroves at the port and the sewage works that should be high on your list of places to bird, even just for a day trip from Broome, especially between October and April.  Check at the Derby Tourist Bureau in Clarendon Street (08 9191 1426).  The tourist bureau has a bird list for the area or see the attached bird list.  Derby is located at the southern end of the Gibb River Road, along which there are many good birding locations.


1. Derby Town

Derby Small Boat Ramp (S17 17 40" E123 36 31") - Just before you get to the wharf, there is a sign on a fence saying Derby Export Facility and a road off to the left.  Follow this until you see a small boat ramp with blue and white PARKING signs either side.  This area is very good for Mangrove Robin, Lemon-bellied (Kimberley) and Broad-billed Flycatcher, Little Bronze-Cuckoo, Mangrove Gerygone, White-breasted and Mangrove Golden Whistler, etc.  You can walk into the mangroves on the right side of the ramp.  The mud is very sticky and slippery when wet but you can walk in to the edge of a tidal creek.  The birds usually respond to pishing and whistling.  Beware of saltwater crocodiles which are reported occasionally!  You can along the back of the mangroves on the left side of the ramp.  If you continue along the track, you get to the main boat ramp close to the conveyor belt and main wharf, but I have seldom seen much of added interest here.

Derby Wharf (S17 17 43" E123 36 32") - At the left end of the wharf look for Collared Kingfisher and waders on the mud and the edge of the mangroves, and Barn Swallows on the power line.  At the right end of the wharf (S17 17 27" E123 36 32"), there is a tidal gully where there have been occasional sightings of Chestnut Rail and Great-billed Heron, but it would be your lucky day especially for the former.  Sit on the rocks and wait.  I have been informed that you can enter these mangroves from the salt flats by going back past the fenced enclosure.  A Black-backed Wagtail was reported by Pam Masters near the Wharf's Restaurant (S17 17 26" E123 36 32") in late December 1995.

Derby Sewage Ponds (Platform S17 20 07" E123 38 54") - As you drive into Derby, turn left along Conway Street for 1.0km.  The sewage ponds are located behind the south end of the rubbish tip.  You can't get inside the fence, but by following the track around the fence you will reach a viewing platform from where you can see a variety of waterbirds and waders.  I have seen Garganey on the ponds and Oriental Cuckoo in the boab trees here in January 1995, and a Channel-billed Cuckoo in January 2004.  Cattle Egret, Australian Shelduck and Grey (white phase) Goshawk have been recorded at the ponds.  The general area near the sewage ponds is excellent for raptors.

Derby Sewage Overflow (Gate S17 20 09" E123 38 49") - From the viewing platform drive away from the ponds and you will reach a fenced off area.  This overflow area was one of the best birding sites in Australia until much of the water was used for the Derby Golf Course and the site was developed between 2000 and 2002.  However, it is still an area that is very worthwhile to visit.  Walk slowly around the area (inside or outside the fence).  The trick is to see and identify the birds before they flush, as they are very skittish.  Look for the 'freshwater' waders such as Red-kneed Dotterel, Long-toed Stint, Oriental Pratincole, Marsh SandpiperWood SandpiperSharp-tailed Sandpiper, Swinhoe's Snipe, Black-tailed Godwit, etc and I have also seen Little Ringed Plover, Australian Spotted Crake, Buff-banded Rail, Barn Swallow, Yellow Wagtail, Australian Shelduck, etc.  There is usually a flock of Brolga out on the flats and sometimes some terns.  A Yellow Chat was also recorded here.  Clamorous Reed-warbler and Golden-headed Cisticola were fairly common, and Oriental Reed-warbler has been reported.

Derby Town Ovals (S17 18 34" E123 38 32") - The town ovals are very good locations in the wet season to look for Straw-necked Ibis, Masked Lapwing and the migratory Little Curlew. Other possibilities are Yellow Wagtail, Swinhoe's Snipe and Pacific Golden Plover.

Derby Airport (S17 22 12" E123 39 42") - The Derby airport is worth a quick look across the nearby flats for Brolga, pratincoles and terns.  I saw about 10,000 Oriental Pratincoles here in late January 2002.


2. Start of Gibb River Road

May River - Check with Pam for the exact directions.  There is a corrugated road to Meda Station on the left about 34km from the start of the Gibb River Road.  Follow this for about 6km and veer right where the road forks.  You will need to pass through at least one gate.  This a good site for honeyeaters (including Bar-breasted and Yellow-tinted) and White-throated Gerygone.  Please do not intrude on the homestead and beware of saltwater crocodiles!

Rainforest Springs - There are a few very small patches of semi rainforest out in the tidal mud flats north of Derby.  Private access is not permitted, but I believe that there is a tour available.  I have been told that Rose-crowned Fruit-Dove is possible.

Stock dams - There are a few stock dams close to the Gibb River Road where birds come into drink.


3. Derby to Fitzroy River

Munkayarra Claypan (S17 26 03" E123 43 13") - As you head north towards Derby, you pass through a few low sand dunes.  Between two dunes, about 50 metres before the Derby 20km sign, there is a track on the left (west) leading to a gate (S17 26 02" E123 44 27").  Follow this 4WD track for 2km, until you come to a wetland on the left.  In good seasons this will have some water for most of the year.  This pool can be excellent for 'freshwater' waterbirds such as ducks, Magpie Goose, Brolga, egrets, herons, ibis, spoonbills, Brolga, Masked Lapwing, cormorants, Australasian Grebe and sometimes Green Pygmy-Goose and Comb-crested Jacana.  The birds are often skittish as some shooting still occurs, so approach slowly.  This is a good site for raptors and a Grey Falcon was reported by Pam Masters in July 1997.  The nearby woodland is good for honeyeaters, Varied Sittella, Sacred Kingfisher, Black-tailed Treecreeper, Grey-crowned Babbler and Jacky Winter.  A Sabine's Gull was here in August 2006.  The best time is May to August, but you can walk from the gate in the wet season if the track is impassable.  Note that this is part of the Mowanjum Community.

North Munkayarra Claypan (S17 25 44" E123 43 13") - If you walk 600 metres north over the sand dune there is a claypan which dries up shortly after the wet season.  If there is water, you should find terns, migratory waders, Red-kneed Dotterel, etc.  The Sabine's Gull spent a lot of time here also.  You can drive to this claypan.  There is a track 1.2km north of the track to Munkayarra Claypan, and follow this for 1.5km.  There is a small borrow pit just to the west of the highway, and the track is just to the north of that.

Derby to Curtin Airport Turnoff - It can be worth while walking in some of the open eucalypt woodland to look for Black-tailed Treecreeper, Red-browed Pardalote, honeyeaters, etc.  Just inside the gate to Munkayarra Claypan can be a good place.

Willare Bridge (S17 44 05" E123 38 50") - There are a few birds around the Willare Roadhouse (S17 43 38" E123 39 18") including Red-browed Pardalote.  There is a picnic area on the far side of the bridge where you can look in the gallery forest along the edge of the Fitzroy River.  Honeyeaters (including Black-chinned and Bar-breasted) are common, especially when the cadjebut is flowering.  This is the distribution limit for Silver-crowned FriarbirdBrush Cuckoo has been seen here all year around.  Read the signs about the Noogoora Burr Quarantine Area and beware of crocodiles.

Ski Lake (S17 44 28" E123 36 14") - There is often a good lake to look for waterbirds and is usually worth a stop.

Minnie Bridge (S17 44 35" E123 35 28") - This is usually disappointing but it occasionally has a few waterbirds.

Cockatoo Creek (S17 44 23" E123 34 33") - This is about the best of the sites near Willare Bridge.  There is an area of short grass on the Derby side of the bridge that is a very likely place for Oriental Plover, Oriental Pratincole, etc in the wet season.


4. Camballin Area

Camballin Irrigation Area - I haven't been to Camballin, but it has been highly recommended.  From Derby, head south and take the turnoff to Fitzroy Crossing.  41km from the turnoff, turn right (south) towards Camballin and Liveringa.  After about 23km, turn left (east) towards Camballin for about 30km.  Camballin was an irrigation area, but this has been abandoned.  It has been recommended as a place to see Flock Bronzewing, Yellow Chat, finches (including Pictorella Mannikin, Painted Finch and Star Finch), waterbirds, etc.

Myroodah Crossing - Instead of turning left to Camballin, keep going straight, and continue past Liveringa Station to the Fitzroy River.  Note that this is a Noogoora Burr Quarantine Area, but you can camp if you get a permit from the Agriculture Protection Board in Derby (08 9191 1555) or Fitzroy Crossing (08 9191 5148), and permission from Liveringa Station (08 9191 4811).  Azure Kingfisher has been seen near the crossing.  Saltwater crocodiles are still possible.


5. Dampier Archipelago

Koolan Island - I visited Koolan Island briefly in May 1993 during a boat trip around the west Kimberley.  The highlights were Black-eared Cuckoo, Northern Fantail and Northern Rosella.  Boat trips are available from Derby.

Cockatoo Island - On the same trip we also visited Cockatoo Island.  Although we missed seeing it, Rose-crowned Fruit-Dove has often been reported.  Boat trips are available from Derby.

Derby Tourist Bureau, Clarendon Street (08 9191 1426 Email

Department of Conservation & Land Management (CALM), Holman Street (08 9191 5121).

Derby Bird List (Microsoft Word 95) (37KB)

Copyright Frank O'Connor 1997-2006 Visits Last Modified 20th October 2006