Thursday, December 28, 2006
A Visit to "My" Waterhole.
Dragging myself out of the lethargy that seems to have settled over me of late, I recently revisited one of my favourite haunts, the Meehan Range at Cambridge. I set my sights on a few hours of photography at "my" waterhole, that I last visited in early December. Even at that visit, there was little water and it was covered in an uninviting green algae. As I wandered up the track, I was struck by the quietness of the bush, partly I suspect as a result of the dry weather, but equally likely was that for many species, the breeding season has ended. A few birds had gathered at the bridge over the creek, bathing and drinking water that had collected in the vehicle ruts. Superb Fairy-wrens, a few Tasmanian Scrubwrens, Brown Thornbills, Green Rosellas, and Goldfinches, making the most of the few inches of remnant water. On to the waterhole, admittedly with some apprehension. From some way off, there seemed to be a surprising number of birds about. Thornbills in the bushes on the crest of the dam, a few Yellow-throated Honeyeaters and more wrens calling, and Green Rosellas in the Native Cherry bushes. My expectations rose. I made my way up the bank toward the crest, noticing recently broken twigs that suggested that others had been here. The moment of truth! No water--big let down! As I stood there, disappointed (major understatement), I surveyed the waterhole, noting the small dark brown spot where the last of the water had obviously recently been, contrasting against the white of the dead and bleached algae covering the rest. As I stood there contemplating, I became aware that many of the usual visitors were still about. Over the next hour I watched and photographed, the rather sad procession of birds coming, presumably out of habit, to this now dry pool. Many, like the Strong-billed Honeyeater (top right), standing, apparently uncomprehending, on the dry bed. Common Bronzewing Pigeons, Grey Fantails, Silvereyes, Brown Thornbills, Superb Fairy-wrens, Green Rosellas, Blackbirds, Golden Whistlers, and Satin Flycatchers, all paid a visit. Dusky Robins, (photo at middle left), and Scarlet Robins (photo at bottom right, male with juvenile), also visited, but in their case, I suspect they were more interested in the insect life, although both species regularly bathe here. It was all rather sad, and I did wonder how much longer they would continue to return. With very little water available to them in the reserve, what strategy will they employ? Do they do without, go in search of it, or what? The welcome rain over the Christmas period was very patchy and in any event, seemed to dissipate very rapidly. No doubt this is a problem that they have to deal with at some stage during the warmer months, it's just happened so much earlier this Summer. Some of our birds are starting to look distinctly dishevelled at the moment (like the male Scarlet Robin above), but that's principally a result of them starting to moult. For some, regular washing seems to be more of an issue as they lose the waxy sheathes of their new feathers. Possibly the small pieces of 'wax' become an irritant. Hopefully by then, we will have had the much needed rain.