Sunday, September 10, 2006

In Search of Waders

I paid an early morning visit to the Marion Bay Spit on Friday morning, largely in the hope of seeing some newly arrived migrant waders. A typically cool, if not cold, Spring morning greeted me. Fortunately there was only a light Sou'westerly wind blowing, as I plodded along the Blackman Bay side of the spit. I noted the few pairs of Pied Oystercatchers that seem to have taken up territory, a group of around 30 Pelicans, roosting on a distant point and a constant stream of Black-faced Cormorant, to and from the navigation towers. Nearing the spit end, I came across about a dozen pairs of adult Pacific Gulls in a loose, roosting flock, but not a Kelp Gull to be seen. I wondered whether the kelpies had stolen a march on the 'P.Gs', by occupying the prime sites at the breeding grounds on nearby Visscher Island. On the shore of the entrance to the bay, was a flock of five Bar-tailed Godwit, feeding on the rising tide, none showing any real signs of breeding plumage. Were these newly arived or had they overwintered? At least they allowed fairly close approach for the shots at top and bottom. Further on were a group of Crested Terns, but on scanning the bay, I could see many more, probably 200+, roosting on the oyster racks. Some of these birds were engaged in nuptial chases and others were carrying small fish, no doubt to strengthen the pair bonds. Further on still, was a group of 3 Sooty Oystercatchers, all non breeding youngsters. But my expectation of seeing other migrants were dashed. I wandered back along the ocean beach side, noting about 5 pairs of 'territorial' Pied Oystercatchers. I had just about given up on seeing any other waders, when, out of the corner of my eye, I caught sight of 6 Hooded Plover. If they hadn't moved, I wouldn't have noticed them, hard up against the dune. They are very cryptically marked, as can be seen in the photo of them in flight. Not much in the way of migrant waders today, but they should be here very soon.

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