Friday, January 27, 2006

Look out for...

It's that time of year when 2 species put on a show that's worth looking out for. The most obvious are the muttonbirds--Short-tailed Shearwater--often now to be seen close inshore in great wheeling flocks. The Derwent River is one of the best vantage points, and the flocks regularly reach the Tasman Bridge and beyond. The second, is the White-throated Needletail, known to most of us as plain 'swifts'--they appear to have had several name changes. Although in some parts of the state they are regularly seen--notably the West Coast, in the South East they generally appear from about now and on into Autumn. They often need some finding, flying high and barely noticeable to the naked eye. A good time to look is before a thunderstorm front, I think they are attracted by the insects borne up by the fast rising air mass. It's often worth scanning the clouds with binoculars. They are also attracted to the thermals rising from the tops of hills on warm days. Normally they're seen dashing hither and thither across the sky chasing insects, but last Summer, I saw a flock of 60 odd over Bellerive, in a loose flock and flying in a straight line. By coincidence, in flight, both species are surprisingly similar, although they rarely occupy the same habitat. It's worth looking too amongst the Needletails for the rarely seen (in Tasmania) Fork-tailed Swift. I have yet to see one here, but I keep looking!

1 comment:

John & Shirley Tongue said...

We saw three muttonbirds flying DOWN the Derwent while sailing on the Lady Nelson, with a men's group from our church on the 16th of December last year - probably a bit early for them to have been so close in shore?? I'm not very familiar with the habits of most of our sea birds, having moved from inland NSW only a litte over three years ago. Have also seen the needletails in a few scattered spots around the state - as Alan said, more by chance than good spotting!!