Sunday, March 30, 2008

"Happy Hour" at Gould's Lagoon.

Nearly a week ago, with rain forecast for later in the day, I decided to make a dash out to Gould's Lagoon in the hope that there might be sufficient exposed mud for the crakes to put in an appearance. In that regard I was out of luck, and there was little on the lagoon to excite me, with only 40 odd Coot, and a few duck, mainly Chestnut Teal. I wandered down to the bird hide, (which I think the council has given up on cleaning, and who can blame them!) From the hide I noted a few Purple Swamphens, 2 Kelp Gulls, and the roost of Little Pied and Little Black Cormorants in a tree overlooking the lagoon. I emerged from the hide just in time to note a passing Caspian Tern, a species I've rarely recorded here, but is often seen hawking over the nearby Derwent Marshes at this time of year. A little deflated by the lack of birds, I drove back to the highway, parked, and start my rounds of that side of the lagoon, just as the sun came out. This seemed to mark the start of a hive of activity, starting with a fly by over the nearby marsh, of a White-breasted Sea Eagle, hotly pursued by a number of Kelp Gulls. Perhaps it was this that started a procession of ducks, mostly Black Duck and Chestnut Teal, with a few Blue-winged Shoveler, winging in from the Derwent River. As I walked along the side of the highway, the 2 Black Swan pictured at top, came low over the road and alighted among the reeds. A few steps later and several Crested Terns, including a few juvenile birds, started hunting over the open water, occasionally diving, seemingly unsuccessfully, while their young sat atop posts, calling for food. The large gathering of Masked Plover sitting on top of the railway embankment started to get very agitated, calling loudly. I stopped and looked around, half expecting to see a Swamp Harrier, a common sight during the Summer, but most have departed. Deciding that whatever had disturbed them had passed on, I nearly missed the high speed pass of an Australian Hobby. My reaction was to try to photograph it, which really was a nonsense! It flew very low, very fast, over the northern end of the reserve, heading towards the river, picking up yet more speed as it passed the rail line, and down to the marshes. A fantastic sight, and the first time I've recorded this species here. (I think I should just mention at this point that I thought I sighted a wagtail! My view was against the light, and near the railway embankment, and very briefly, as it flew in the typical undulating flight, disappearing over the bank. I did look for it, without success, and the probability is that I was mistaken.)
I ambled back towards the car, stopping to photograph a male Blue-winged Shoveler (bottom right), a species that is a regular here and in the nearby Derwent Marshes. As I stood there, I heard the unmistakable screeches of an approaching Sulphur-crested Cockatoo. Landing among the 50 odd roosting cormorants, still screeching, proved too much for the cormorants, and they took flight, circling the lagoon. A bonus for me, as I took numerous shots as they passed. The roost was largely composed of Little Pied (c.30) and Little Black (c.20), and a few Great. While I was here, I also photographed 2 individual Little Black Cormorants carrying 'vegetation', one of which is illustrated at lower left. This suggests to me, that they may well be breeding nearby-- both birds flew off heading North. This species has been recorded breeding locally before, but there are relatively few recent breeding records for Tasmania.
The above episode had taken less than an hour, so despite missing out on the crakes, I think I can justifiably say that I had indeed had a "happy hour" at Gould's!
[NB Before someone corrects me, the Blue-winged Shoveler is now known as the Australasian Shoveler--at least it is according to my field guide!]

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