Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Summer Stunner--Satin Flycatcher

It was with some trepidation that I ventured back into the Meehan Range, the first time since the fires. One of my goals was to see whether the breeding habitat of one of the most stunning of Summer migrants, the Satin Flycatcher, had survived the fires. As I trundled up the track, I could see the mosaic of burnt areas and recall the birds that until recently, occupied them. I think the biggest losers were probably the Tasmanian Scrubwrens, that always seem to have a tenuous hold here at the best of times, surviving as they do, in the depths of the thickets in the creek gully, much of it now gone. On the brighter side, I counted no less than 7 pairs of Scarlet Robins, with males busily singing, as I walked the kilometre or so to the area usually frequented by the Satin Flycatchers.
As I arrived at my destination, I flushed a pair of Kookaburras. I can't say that they're my favourite bird in this habitat, being all too deadly on small birds, as I've witnessed on many occasions. After they had departed, I
saw a succession of small birds, including, Silvereyes, Brown Thornbills, Grey Fantails, Superb Fairy Wrens, Dusky and Scarlet Robins. Overhead the entire time I was there, rather like an all seeing surveillance drone, I could hear and sometimes see a Swamp Harrier. A succession of honeyeaters kept me interested, Strong-billed and Black-headed, a pair of Eastern Spinebills, and a solitary Yellowthroated. At last, in the distance I could see a male Satin Flycatcher. It was slowly approaching, feeding on the odd flying insect as it did. It then stopped and called. This is when all the action took place! Another male, having approached unseen by me, responded. Both now had a "verbal" duel. Their rasping calls, brought the females into view. Obviously the 2 pairs must have a common territorial boundary about where I was standing, because shortly, there was a brief, but spirited fight between the males, before they both retreated back into their own domains. I had chosen my spot well, apparently, because during this exchange, I managed to get a few shots of one of the males, pictured. I never think that any photograph really does them justice. The depth of colour and the way that it changes as they move, is difficult, if not impossible, to convey. But I was releived to see they were back and in a relatively unburnt area. I no doubt will return to try again to photograph them during the Summer.

7 comments:

John & Shirley Tongue said...

Hi Alan,
As you know, we had our 'bird-calls' outing at the Meehan Range a few weeks ago. We began with listening to a range of recorded calls, but we did that down near the gate, partly to avoid upsetting too many of the birds with established territories further up the gully. However, the range of birds which came to check out our recording was astounding. This included a few Satin Flycatchers, even though we didn't have any recordings of them!

I hope you didn't encounter the 'dog-lady' again while you were there. We all did, and one of our group especially. She went for an early walk before the rest of us arrived, met the dog-lady with her four dogs off leash, and was bitten by one of them. She came back to us as we just arrived, asking if anyone had a first-aid kit to treat her bite. Then the dog-lady came walking out, with the culprit now on a leash, but the other three still running free. She offered no apologies, assistance, or sympathy. She only said that there weren't usually any people around at this time of day! As if that makes it all right! She lives in a house just back along Belbins Rd. And we all encouraged the lady who was bitten to go to the Police or Council, so we sincerely hope she does.

BirdingTas said...

Yes i did encounter the dog lady--I use that latter term loosely! I did a big detour, passed her, and then came face to face with THE dog in question! Fortunately, it appeared to be extremely tired and totally indifferent to my presence. I believe I know the persons name. I can't believe she is so indifferent about the issue. It could have been a child, and then there could be serious repercussions. Her excuse is that she's been doing it for 20 years and, presumably, that gives her some perceived rights!

BirdingTas said...

Forgot to comment on your obs.. I haven't usually found them near the entrance, but they have bred, and probably still do, in the hillside woodland to the East of the first quarry--about 3 or 4 hundred metres in and in the wooded area to the West of the bridge. At one time that was the only place I ever found them. As the area recovered from the mid 80s fire, several more appeared farther in, closer to the "pond". That now appears to be the more favoured spot.

John Tongue said...

I think the two or three that turned up near the entry gate were females, though I was a bit distracted managing the tape recorder, etc., so wouldn't be absolutely sure. I don't recall coming upon any further in along the track, but we were a bit spread out as a group, so some may have seen birds while others missed out. I've a feeling that at least one of the females we encountered came flying in from the direction of the eastern woodland section. We didn't see much near the pond, as a group, though a few weeks ago there were Black Currawongs, and a Blue-winged Parrot landed high in a big tree nearby, checking me out.

I think the lady with the dogs could be in trouble if any of the victims cared to press charges. If your dog bites someone, you are legally responsible - and especially so in an area where dogs off-leash are expressly forbidden, long-term resident or not.

BirdingTas said...

Interesting finding "satins" near the gate, as I can't recall ever seeing them there except post breeding, although you can occasionally hear them calling from nearby hills on still mornings. They could have been displaced by the fires, but the gate area is not exactly typical "satin" habitat! I did note 2 Bluewinged Parrots near the "pond", along with numerous Green Rosellas, "Clinking" Currawongs and the odd S/c Cockatoo.

Duncan said...

Great shots of a wonderful bird, I tried the other day and only got iridescent blurs!!

BirdingTas said...

Thanks Duncan. It does help balance the ledger against all the times when I fail to get a result. Satins are almost as bad as Grey Fantails--very "fidgety"! Knowing the area pretty well was a big help too.