Monday, March 05, 2007

A Lone Whimbrel

Despite a less than favourable forecast "showers and a top temperature of only 16C", I opted for a visit to Marion Bay. It proved to be a good decision, but only just. I walked to the end of the spit and was hopeful of finding a range of waders. On arrival I found only gulls and terns. I shouldn't really have said only, because at this time of year they are exhibiting an interesting range of plumages. I photographed adult and juvenile Crested and Caspian Terns and Kelp and Pacific Gulls in a variety of plumages too. But apart from a flock of Pied Oystercatchers, no waders. A little disappointed, I turned for home. As I did so I caught sight of a flock of 22 Bar-tailed Godwit flying low over the bay. Well I've photographed them here on several occasions, so I didn't get too excited, but I quickly moved away from the shore in the hope they would land. They did. While watching them I realised that there was a lone Whimbrel amongst them. It's a species I haven't previously recorded out at the spit, although I have seen them in other parts of the bay, usually on rocky shores. They are a bit thin on the ground this far South, but do regularly occur in small numbers in the Tamar River (in Northern Tasmania). I think they could reasonably be described as uncommon, and I hadn't previously managed to get anywhere remotely close enough to photograph them. I knew from previous visits that with care I can usually get fairly close to the Bartails. The only issue was that with a stiff NW'ly breeze blowing, and the birds prefering to face into it, and the sun from the SE, didn't make photography easy. Oh well, can't expect everything to be right! I approached the flock with some care. They were a little flighty, mainly because of the presence of the larger gulls, but seem to tolerate my fairly close approach and then I went to town! Couldn't help taking 'just one more' shot, but I did manage to restrain myself and only publish 3.
The top image gives a fair indication of the ralative size of the 2 species. It's also interesting to note that the barring on the Whimbrel covers almost its' entire body, something I was unaware of. I had considered writing a humurous caption for the middle shot, something on the lines of the Bartails mentioning that the Whimbrel appeared to have a 'droop' problem, but decided against it!! A great morning, and it did rain, just as I was backing down my drive.


John & Shirley Tongue said...

Hi Alan,
Great shots - as usual! It is a comic contrast between the beaks in the middle shot. We also encountered a LONE whimbrel among about 95 Eastern Curlew during the Great Tassie Twitch.

We'll soon have to be your 'Northern Correspondents' for the Bolg, as we'll be moving to Ulverstone just after Easter, to take up a Parish there. Hopefully we'll still have lots of shots and info to contribute from another area of beautiful Tassie.

Duncan said...

Handsome birds Whimbrels, Alan, love that flying shot. Reminded me of the one I saw early in the season, flying close by, west along the coast, and eying me as it went past.

BirdingTas said...

Hi John & Shirley,
It'll be great to have someone contributing that doesn't live in the SE of Tas.! I guess you'll have mixed feelings about moving, but you will have a whole new area to explore. Hope the move goes smoothly.

BirdingTas said...

Hi Duncan,
I must confess that I've never thought of the Whimbrel as being handsome! But after seeing one close up, I think I'll have to change my mind. The markings are exquisite (for a wader!). Rarely get the chance here in Tassie to have any sort of close encounter with them.