Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Needletails

John & Shirley Tongue write : The activity of White-throated Needletails, a species we haven't observed often, is generally associated with the approach of storm fronts. It's assumed they're attracted by the insects stirred up by rising air currents connected with the approaching front. An experience we had on Monday, indicates that this isn't always the case. While we were on a brief visit to North Bruny Island to try to photograph Forty-spotted Pardalotes, we happened upon the largest flock of Needletails we have ever seen. Just before we reached the lookout at Bull Bay, we noticed something flash by low down, which at first we assumed was some sort of falcon, with the fleeting glimpse we got. We pulled over to investigate, and realised we had seen one of a flock of about 50-70 Needletails! They were very low down, swooping over the tree tops, and out over the bay. In fact, some of the time, we were looking down on the birds. There was a gusty westerly blowing, and so perhaps in the lee of the island there were turbulent air currents stirring up insects. Certainly, when we stopped nearby to search for the pardalotes, (which we saw, but couldn't get a decent photograph) there were huge swarms of insects hovering around just above the tree tops. Perhaps, again, we just happened to be in the right spot at the right time to witness this amazing spectacle. Needless to say, they are extremely difficult to photograph.

3 comments:

BirdingTas said...

On cold days round the West Coast, I've seen Needletails flying past me at ankle height, much as Welcome Swallows do. Presumably catching insects I'd disturbed as I walked. On the same theme, it wasn't unusual to see Tree Martins feeding on the ground. Both of these type of events no doubt caused by
it being too cold for insects to be flying.

BirdingTas said...

Just noted several Needletails passing over Bellerive at c1130am. heading North at couple of hundred feet. Scanned nearby hill and found a few more and 10+ Dusky Woodswallows in the thermal over the hill. Very humid morning after the light drizzle early.

John Tongue said...

Comin back from the north of the State on Sat afternoon, I observed a flock of about 20 Needletails hunting low over a paddock just south of Cressy. Then there were about 6 or 8 other individuals in various spots further south. There were AMAZING swarms of insects rising out of the Gorse and other bushes in the hedgerows, as the state of my windscreen can verify!!