Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Peter Murrell Reserve and 40 Spotted Pardalotes

I spent a very still, sunny morning in the Peter Murrell Reserve earlier this week. I usually opt for just such a morning to visit here, as those conditions make it so much easier to pick up the Forty-spotted Pardalotes in particular, but of course, many others species too. I feel rather cheated if I haven't at least picked out a few 40 spots, wistfully hoping that a photo opportunity might even present itself. It usually doesn't! As usual I walked round the top of the upper dam (at the carpark), before setting off down the main South heading track. At this stage I noticed a fellow walker, with dog, following me, having walked past the notice quite clearly indicating "no dogs". Which reminds me that I also had a run in with another dog owner here recently, this time with a dog quite legally off lead. However, the 'substantial' sized dog attempted to jump up at me, something that I objected to. The owner told me that this was a dog exercise area, and if I didn't like dogs I shouldn't be there! Please note, this is a conservation area first and foremost, set aside for it's natural heritage. I'm glad I got that off my chest!
From the dam, I could see flocks of Black-headed Honeyeaters and a solitary Yellow Wattlebird feeding overhead. Three Tas. Native Hens swam past,
(displaced by the dog)--they're actually quite accomplished swimmers, and in this reserve they get plenty of practice. A group of Superb Fairy-wrens, feeding among the Bulrushes, stayed long enough for a photograph. On the second dam there were 2 Hoary-headed Grebes, a solitary Australasian Grebe and a pair of Black Swans. A lone Brown Falcon flew past above the trees. In quick succession, I recorded a male Golden Whistler, Grey Shrike-thrush, numerous New Holland, Crescent and Yellow-throated Honeyeaters, Eastern Spinebills, Brown Thornbills and Silvereyes. They were all putting up a racket at an unidentified 'being', which turned out to be a Kookaburra. Turning down the track at the gate, I could hear numbers of Spotted Pardalotea high above in the canopy, but still no 40 spots. Near the creek, I found Dusky, Flame and Scarlet Robins hawking from the fence. I can't recall seeing all 3 together before. Along the creek line there are numerous, mature eucalyptus viminalis, the White Gum, much favoured by the 40 spots. It was here that I finally tracked them down, in loose association with the Spotted Pardalotes. The Spotteds are usually quite easy to find as their contact call is almost incessant. Scanning them , I realised that there were several Foryspots feeding with them in the canopy. If you listen carefully you can often hear the 40 spots calling with their much quieter and less often given, monotone double note call. Here, their calls were overwhelmed by their cousins. The next hour was occupied watching them and the accompanying images were taken as a few ventured lower down. In the bottom shot, you may be able to see, what I'm reasonably sure are, bits of lerps adhering to the bill, (you may need to click to enlarge), one of their favoured foods. (Lerps are the protective covers of psyllids which excrete honeydew from leaves, and are found on the underside of leaves). The shots aren't great, but I rarely get the chance to take any. As far as I could tell, most of the 40 spots were paired, at least that's the impression I had. Walking back parallel to the creek, I found more 40 spots also in loose association with Spotteds, in all probably totaling around 30 birds. So if you're looking for 40 Spots, I suggest the mature White Gums along the creek below the second dam is a good place to start.


John Tongue said...

Hi Alan,
I guess it's hard to please a perfectionist,but for 40-spots, I think these are pretty terrific shots!

BirdingTas said...

Thanks for the compliment, John. I think my family might have a bit of a chuckle at my being called a "perfectionist". I think I'm more of a near enough is good enough type. Having said that, I do try to keep a certain standard with the images. It does tend to make a rod for my own back though, as I reject stories because I don't think the shots are up to scratch.

Mona Loofs-Samorzewski said...

I agree with John, I think they are excellent photos and I'm most impressed.

I've been wondering for a while why I don't see 40 spots where I live up on Strickland Ave, backing on to the mountain reserve. We have plenty of Euc. viminalis here, and my husband Meika is sure he's seen a 40 spot once but I haven't! Are there other colonies around Hobart apart from the Peter Murrell Reserve?


John & Shirley Tongue said...

Hi Mona,
I haven't heard of any other 'colonies' around Hobart, but there must be the odd vagrant. A few years back, people gathered in Hobart for a National Birds meeting (Birds Australia??) at UTAS happened on a couple in the Uni grounds. I guess you just have to 'fluke' it some times - like Meika's Owlet Nightjar! We're still looking. We now live in Ulverstone, so parhaps we'll find on in the North West.

BirdingTas said...

Hi Mona,
Thanks for the compliment, I do try to maintain a certain standard of photography, but fall short at times. I often wonder whether readers of this and other birding blogs realise the effort required to maintain a blog, especially if they exhibit images.But there again I guess bloggers only have themselves to blame!
As John says, 40spots are recorded around the southern Hobart suburbs from time to time, mainly in the non breeding season. All the breeding sites that I can recall are in coastal areas, the next nearest in the Tinderbox area. Keep your fingers crossed, it's just possible you might get a visit by one (or more) one of these days!

Murray Lord said...

Now test your Photoshop skills and get rid of that branch sticking out of the bird's throat in the top pic!

40 spots must move around a bit. At Mt Nelson Ken Harris had a few in the 1970s, and then we had them regularly from about 1988-1993 but I don't think they have been seen there by my parents since then.

BirdingTas said...

Hi Murray,
Yes the stick doesn't improve the aesthetics of the shot, but as I've shot better images in the past, and reluctant to "Photoshop" images for the blog, you'll just have to put up with it! I say all that to cover for the fact that my "Photoshopping" skills are not that great. Thanks for commenting.

johnboy said...

Over the last few years I've become a very keen bird photographer, especially of Tasmanian birds. Having recently 'captured' a Pink Robin (in People's Park, Strahan)I'm now hoping to add the Forty Spotted to my list - I guess it's at the top of that list! Congratulations to the photographer who took these graet photos - although this is now some time down the track, I'll be looking at my chance at Peter Murrell soon.
In the last few days I've captuterd some shots of a Dusky Woodswallow feeding its young in a nest: I'd like to add that to a blog, and will - when I sort out how to do it!

caroline said...

Hi Alan, Great pics!
Yesterday, 14th Jan '10, I am sure I saw a 40 spotted pardalote, 4 ks away from my home on the Eastern Shore. It was feeding in a Viminalis. I couldnt pick up its call as I have trouble identifying it. (I could hear other pardalotes.)
If it was a positive sighting, is this significant? I had plenty of time to have a really good look as it ccame out of the canopy and stayed quite close and still for a little while.

BirdingTas said...

Hi Caroline,
Thank you for your great comments! If you have indeed seen a 40Spot on the Eastern Shore, it would be very noteworthy. I would just mention at this point that in the past there has been some false alarms over there occurrence away from the traditional spots (Peter Murell, Bruny and Maria Islands and a few other sites). At this time of year there are many Spotted Pardalote youngsters about and they are usually the "culprits". They lack the colouring and have faint spots, and even for experienced birders they can "deceive", especially when they're feeding in the tree canopy. Perhaps with that in mind, you could look again and let the blog know? It would be great to find them here on the Eastern Shore.

caroline said...

I must comment again on your fabulous pictures; they are brilliant!
I am trying not to harp on about seeing a 40 spot, but the spots on the wing were so amazingly clear; I could almost count them. I immediately looked it up as I had my books with me, so I wasnt really in any doubt as it didnt look anything like the other pardalotes. The spots were only on the wing. I went back today for a couple of hours but could only see/hear spotted pardalotes. I take on board your comments about young spotted ones but the spots on the one I saw were so identical to all pics I have seen. I think I was lucky as lighting was in my favour and it gave me such a clear view. If only I had a camera like yours!

BirdingTas said...

Hi Caroline,
I'm not sure how familiar you are with the Spotted Pardalote, which makes it more difficult to comment on your sighting. 40spots are much harder to notice the spots than the 'spotted' and of course much rarer. Thanks again for your comments, although I'm not sure hat these 40spot images are all I would like them to be! Having a suitable camera is only the beginning and I'm definitely still learning--steep curve.