Friday, November 30, 2007

Gould's Lagoon Crakes

Visited Gould's Lagoon this morning, hopeful of getting a few shots of the Clamorous Reed-Warblers or better still, the Little Grassbirds. As I usually do, my first port of call there was the bird hide.(I should just say at this point, that this hide is in a deplorable state. It's obviously used as a drinking venue, smells of urine, and all the signs have graffiti on them, so approach with caution!) Fair number of duck about, mainly Chestnut Teal, but a few Black Duck and Shoveller. I managed a few distant shots of the Reed-Warblers, they appear to be feeding flying young, and a Purple Swamphen. As the water level is pretty low at the moment, I hoped that I might see a Spotless Crake, as those conditions have been fruitful in the past, and I've even managed to photograph them here. But despite waiting in the hide for sometime, no crakes. However, there's almost always plenty going on in the area, and I noted Galahs, Eastern Rosellas, Musk Lorikeets, a single Swift Parrot, Swamp Harriers, Yellow Wattlebirds, several families of Welcome Swallows feeding over the reed beds, to name a few, as I waited. I eventually tired of the wait, and opted instead for a walk down the footpath through the reeds. I stopped several times on this path, just listening for bird calls from the reeds. As I neared the end of the reed bed, I glanced back, just in time to see a crake running rapidly across the track. I was fairly certain it was a Spotless Crake, so I walked back towards where I had see it and waited. It briefly re-emerged, just long enough to confirm my original ID, before dashing back. Wasn't having much luck this morning as far as photography goes, so I re-traced my steps to the hide. As I walked along the raised walkway, I flushed a crake off the mud, from just a few metres away. It flew and dropped into the reed bed. Definetly another Spotless Crake. I waited back at the hide, hoping it would come back onto the mud to feed. I couldn't see the area in question from the hide, so I slowly walked back towards the area watching for any sign of movement in the deep shade of the reeds. A flicking tail movement gave away a crake creeping around, and I stood stock still hoping it would emerge. It did, just enough for me to realise that it was in fact a Spotted Crake (now properly called Australian Crake) and not the Spotless that I'd expected. Great Joy! Haven't seen one for possibly 25 years, the last also at this lagoon. I took several 'record' shots, but not what I was after. A passing Harrier caused the local Masked Lapwing to start 'screaming', which in turn caused the crake to seek refuge back among the reeds. Damn! Back to the hide and another wait. Well, as you can see from the images, it finally had a happy outcome. Take 2 saw the Australian Crake feed out away from the reeds, and eventually came quite close to my position. A Spotless Crake also appeared briefly, although noticeably more timid, keeping very close to cover. The 2 crakes fed within half a metre of one another for a time, without seemingly being aware of each others presence. Both species are very 'restless' feeders, constantly on the go, with rapid body movements and the tail held mostly vertical and constantly flicked. Eventually they both walked back into the reeds. For me, it had turned into a memorable morning. It isn't often I get to photograph a 'new' species, and especially one that has such skulking habits.


John Tongue said...

Hi Alan,
We are green with envy about the Spotted Crake, which would be a lifer for us. What time of day did you see it? Does it need to be early morning, or during the day. Others have seen it, too, so it may be worth a dash!

BirdingTas said...

Hi John,
Haven't heard that anyone else has seen it, but I've now seen it on 2 occasions, so I'm guessing that it's been around awhile.On both occasions, it was around 8 to 9.30ish, but I've no idea at what time anyone else has seen it.Overnight it has rained around 12mm here, and I suspect that may have a 'detrimental' effect on your chances of seeing it. Presumably it's about all the time and the low water level has "forced" it into the open. Good luck!

Murray Lord said...

Now all you need to complete the set is a Baillon's Crake - on a fifth floor window ledge perhaps :-)

BirdingTas said...

Hi Murray,
They never did give that ledge any reserve status! I think that was the last time I saw that species. I'm quite confident that I also heard a Water Rail calling from the reedbed at Gould's. It's rained around an inch in the last 24hrs--much needed--and I suspect finding the crakes has got a whole lot harder!