Saturday, March 24, 2007

Departing Curlew Sandpipers

The few remaining Curlew Sandpiper will soon be departing for their breeding grounds in the high Arctic. Before they go, a few individuals will substantially acquire their spectacular breeding plumage, as shown in the images here. These shots were taken in Ralph's Bay near South Arm recently. From my observations here in Southern Tasmania, most of our migratory waders depart in dribs and drabs, rather than in the large flocks one mentally associates with migrating birds. One possible explanation of this, is that they do their final 'bulking up' for the journey in such areas as the far NW of Tasmania or Southern Victoria. This return journey to the breeding grounds is achieved in a series of long hauls between what might be described as refuelling stops en route. It's quite possible that some birds will fly from Tasmania to Northern Western Australia or even further, non stop. To achieve this they will store fat by making a weight gain that is quite remarkable. Some years ago, my son Matthew and I, mist netted one particular Curlew Sand. only a stone's throw from where these photos were taken. Caught, if my memory serves me correctly, in early April, this bird weighed in at 100 grams. This compares with an average weight of around 65 grams, a weight gain of over 50%.
I estimated the South Arm floc
k of waders to be around the 1,000 mark. This was made up of about a dozen Curlew Sands., a small number of Double-banded and Red-capped Plover, and the rest Red-necked Stint. The latter, also soon to depart.
If you want to see these birds in their finery, nows the time to do it.

1 comment:

John Tongue said...

Thanks Alan for these glorious shots of the Curlew Sandpipers in their finery. I've only ever seen them in their drab greys. I hope to be able to get out for a look at them before they (and we) go to more northern climes.