While we were waiting for the tyre to be replaced Eric was doing some last minute work on the 'household accounts' on the internet before we moved away into more remote territory, and out of telephone and internet range for several days.Just as well he did because something had happened to his credit card - he couldn't access his account on-line nor could he get hold of his bank on the phone.This inevitably delayed our departure even further while he tried, unsuccessfully, to sort things out, and meant that we didn't arrive at our next destination, the Broome Bird Observatory (BBO) until late in the afternoon as the sun was going down.From the turn off from the highway, the road to the BBO was a shuddering 15km drive along a rough, red sandy track. Once we checked in we were sent to a site which involved trying to negotiate very narrow tracks through the trees and bushes, and which proved to be far too small to accommodate Annie.After some very tight manoeuvring to get around the campground to try out other sites, which also proved impossible to get into, poor Annie ended up with a few scratches.This, on top of the earlier hassle that day which was going to be a worry until we could get in touch with the bank some days later, resulted in Eric feeling very grumpy.If it hadn't been so late in the day we would probably have given the place up as a bad job and headed back to Broome.But the wardens at the BBO were very relaxed, accommodating and helpful and let us park up outside the office.This meant that we didn't have access to power or water so we had to rely on our own resources, and Annie proved herself to be well up to the task.What made Eric even more grumpy was that he'd forgotten to put beers in the fridge.But, Warden Pete to the rescue - he brought us over a couple of cold beers (Sol lager, the first non 'indigenous' beer we've had since leaving the UK last August).And boy are glad we stayed, because this was a real highlight for us.It was haven of peace and tranquillity and the birdlife was fantastic.Being situated in the bush around 200 metres from Roebuck Bay it has the advantage of access to a huge range of birds, although the main focus seems to be on migrant waders.Every evening at 6.30 everyone gathers in the Shadehouse where the campers cook their meals and sip their wine and beers while a roll call is taken of the birds seen that day.This can go on for as long as 45 minutes because 200+ species frequent the area making it one of the premier bird watching sites in the southern hemisphere, if not the world. Some of the campers were a bit 'twitchery' but we all enjoyed a good crack and some cheek from us Scots.On our last day we bumped into Sue and Ken whom we'd first met in Cervantes at the beginning of June when we went on the tour of the Pinnacles - it was good to see them again albeit briefly.Our time generally was spent walking along the beach with binoculars and cameras in hand, walking through some of the bush trails, and at the bird hide trying to spot and identify as many birds as we could.We certainly spotted a lot and, no surprise, took loads of photos (see Brome Bird Observatory photo album).There were signs all around the general area of Broome warning us that we were now in saltwater crocodile country (yes, they do attack and eat people) so at first we were a bit wary of getting too near the water's edge, especially near the mangroves.But there was enough activity on the shoreline so we ventured forth.One day, after our general wander along the shoreline we headed back to the camp for a coffee to see a crowd of people heading off in a fleet of 4WDs.We bumped into Pete who told us they were off to do cannon netting and asked if we wanted to join them - he'd give us lift. "What's cannon netting?" we asked.He explained that there is an ongoing survey of waders returning from Asia and the Arctic and every so often they need to catch birds to see how many are returning and to ring, identify, weigh, measure them etc.This involves setting a hidden net on a part of the beach where birds normally congregate and when there are enough of them they launch the net by firing explosives. This was all too tempting to refuse so Pete drove us down to our group of volunteers.We thought we were just going along to watch - confirmed by the reaction of the group of volunteers we joined when they asked if we'd done this before and if we'd had the detailed briefing!Where the volunteers come in is to carry equipment down to the beach, carry the birds caught in the net to cages set up on the beach, help as needed afterwards and follow orders.But it quickly became clear that the organisers would take any help they could get (some of the volunteers that were roped in had only come to the BBO for the day - we wonder how they would have managed without us all). So after a quick briefing we were ready to join the group. We sat quietly among the dunes listening to radio contact between groups of people and the leader at various points on the beach as they tried to get the birds to land where they wanted them.At one point it seemed that nothing might happen because the birds were reluctant to land because of things like birds of prey flying overhead, tinnies (little tin fishing boats) approaching the shore (out of one boat jumped a young woman who dashed behind a rock for a pee completely oblivious to the dozens of people scanning the area through powerful binoculars) and other distractions which made the birds skittish.However, at last the call came that hundreds of birds had landed and suddenly BOOM, the net was fired and we were off, grabbing cages and as much equipment as we could carry and scrambling down on to the shore. The net was bubbling with birds (Red Knots, Great Knots, Bar Tailed and Black Tailed Godwits etc and even the rare and endangered Asian Dowitcher).We had to act fast to get the cages up so that the birds could be moved quickly, and soon we were pressed into service running back and forth carrying birds between the net and the cages.It all seemed very chaotic with lots of shouting and running around, but the experts knew what they were doing and it was necessary because everything had to be completed otherwise the birds would have to be released unprocessed when it got too dark.It was really exciting stuff.The birds look quite fragile but in fact were stronger and heavier than we imagined.Eric tried to get away with carrying only one bird at a time but was told in no uncertain terms that he could manage two - and so he did. All in all we had netted nearly 300 birds so you can imagine the activity.Once all the birds were in their cages Margaret was pressed into service to take and write up the record for Great Knots, working with two experts who were ringing, measuring and weighing the birds.Everything had to be done correctly in accordance with a recognised colour coding/ringing identification system.Each expert was dealing with a bird simultaneously and Margaret had to ensure that the data and colour coding for each bird was correct and no mistakes were made - it was like being back at work!Meanwhile, Eric was with another expert working with the Red Knots, who told him to stick to his task.He was in charge of applying the glue to the colour coded rings around the birds' legs, plus the occasional weighing, taking birds to the blood testing group and releasing the birds.The Red Knots were particularly important because they are endangered and his team were pleased to complete all the data and ringing of all Red Knots caught as the last of the light drained from the western sky. We learned that it's important when releasing the birds to ensure that there are no birds of prey in the area (and the place is heaving with all sorts of birds of prey).Occasionally there would be a shout to HOLD ON there's a kite overhead, and once we were thrilled to see a beautiful White Bellied Sea Eagle flying low overhead and amongst a huge flock of seabirds.It was hard work and we had to walk the 2km back to camp in the dark, but it was very satisfying and felt we really earned our beer that evening.In all Eric's time as a member of the RSPB back in the UK he's never done anything remotely like this.But we'd definitely love to do something similar again and may hunt out other opportunities.