Sunday, July 27, 2008

Of Barbs & Barbed Wire

A few days ago, I made one of what, recently, has become a regular haunt, the Waterview Sanctuary at Sorell. I always start by making a b-line for the water's edge, looking, almost in vain these days, for any migrant waders that might be feeding on the mudflats. Surprise, surprise! A solitary, overwintering, Eastern Curlew, feeding among a small group of Chestnut Teal, but sadly that was the sum total. A quick scan of the fence poles surrounding the chicken factory to sus out the almost resident Brown Goshawk drew a blank, so I wandered along the line of African Boxthorns, bordering the factory. These boxthorns, a noxious weed in Tasmania, are presently the home and a food source for many small birds. As you walk along this line of shrubs, you can see why they were once popular in place of fences. With their long sharp spines, and their ability to grow almost anywhere, and forming impenetrable thickets, they must have been a godsend for early settlers looking for cheap 'fencing'.
On this particular morning, there were numerous New Holland Honeyeaters, many of them now in pairs, several Crescent Honeyeaters, almost all males, small flocks of Silvereyes, feeding on the still green seed pods of the boxthorn, family groups of Superb Fairy-wrens, and the ever present Blackbirds and House Sparrows. As I walked towards the link fence of the chicken factory, the honeyeaters frequent calling, stilled, and almost simultaneously I realised that about 30 metres away, atop a fence post was the immature Brown Goshawk, very animated, and obviously intent on catching breakfast, no doubt drawn there by the to'ing and fro'ing of birds. I say the Brown Goshawk (pictured top right), as there has been one here most of the Autumn and Winter.
Although I tried back tracking, my presence was obviously too much for the hawk, and it soon flew off, flying only a few centimetres above the ground, before propping again atop another post. The hawk was briefly mobbed by a few Forest Ravens, but the hawk seemed unperturbed and they soon gave up. The honeyeaters reappeared from their thorny refuges, many sitting on the topmost parts of the boxthorns, keeping a wary eye out. In the case of the New Hollands, (pictured at right), they were also keeping an eye on each other, and they spent a deal of time chasing one another. As I wandered back to my car, I was delighted to see what was once a common resident here, White-fronted Chat. A pair were sitting on a strand of barbed wire and seemingly reluctant to fly. I photographed them (female at left). Perhaps they're making a welcome return to this area, but I think it more likely they're on their way to nearby Orielton Lagoon. There may not be many waders these days, but the Waterview Sanctuary is still worth a visit, with the possible bonus of the Brown Goshawk.
[ I should add that I also recorded: Hoary-headed Grebe, Little Pied Cormorant, White-faced Heron, Great Egret, Tas. Native Hen, Pied Oystercatcher, all 3 gulls, Galah, Musk Lorikeet, Skylark, Grey Fantail, Brown and Yellow-rumped Thornbills, Yellow and Little Wattlebirds, Yellow-throated Honeyeater, Spotted Pardalote, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Starling as well as those mentioned]

8 comments:

John Tongue said...

Hi Alan,
I wonder if the Goshawks nest somewhere nearby? I have a memorable childhood photo somewhere (on the old 'film') of a female Brown Goshawk zeroing in on me, as I was sitting in a tree right beside her nest! It wasn't a place I stayed very long, let me say, with one very angry mother attacking me. She didn't like the idea of me trying to get close-ups of her nest and eggs.

BirdingTas said...

Hi John,
It's conceivable that they might nest in the nearby small Blue Gum plantation. However, I think this youngster is attracted by the variety of birds and vermin that the area appears to support. I'm not sure that a nesting pair of any raptor would take kindly to the presence of a competitor. I've noted a similar, young Brown Goshawk that "terrorises" the local bird population at Kingston. It also seems to be drawn by the large number of birds attracted in turn by hand feeding by locals. I think that surviving their first Winter is difficult for many birds, but especially so for raptors. The Sorell bird still seems to have to put in a lot of effort for a feed. I'm surprised that it hasn't shown any evidence of moulting into adult plumage yet.

Penny said...

I find juvenile raptors a joy to photograph - the young ones almost sit and smile at the camera. As the weeks go the young Brown Goshawk especially, becomes more wary of a human presence, until sightings become rare and fleeting. I have yet to photograph an adult Brown Goshawk, as any thing but a gray/brown blur destined for the computers trash. I thought my luck had changed at the weekend when I recorded an obliging subject seemingly in adult B.Goshawk plumage - I'm fairly certain however it was a collared sparrowhawk, which would explain the more amenable behaviour. On the same day I also sighted a small raptor, pale sandy colour underneath, square, shortish tail, with a prominant black band across the bottom. Could this have been a Nankeen Kestrel?

BirdingTas said...

Hi Penny,
I must say that the Sorell Brown Goshawk has given me a few photo opps! But I've yet to get as close as I would wish, photographically speaking. I've yet to photograph a Collared Sparrowhawk, and they seem to be a bit thin on the ground, although their habitat choice of more densely wooded areas, possibly accounts for some of this. Your unIDed raptor sounds like a possible Nankeen Kestrel, a rarity in the south of Tasmania. You'd better tell us where you saw it!!!
A single Kestrel overwintered regularly at Sorell many years ago, taking up residency at a wheat store, now converted into a machinery shed. Mice seemed to be the main prey, swallowed whole. It was very easy to approach.

Penny said...

Hi Alan,
My possible Nankeen Kestrel sighting was at Nicholls Rivulet nr Cygnet. It appeared out of open forest that borders native grasslands and alighted onto a dry central spar of a tall gum above a maturing blackwood windbreak (Shelter to dozens of thornbills, silvereyes,green rosellas etc). This is a newly found site for me, out in the open enough that the smaller raptors if found there tend
to sit rather than flee - I have managed to photograph a Peregrine Falcon and Collared Sparrowhawk here. Needless to say my camera and binos were several hundred metres away when I sighted the bird in question. I shall have to be more vigilant!

Mosura said...

Great photos as usual. Sounds like an interesting spot. May I ask, what street/road does one access 'Waterview Sanctuary' from? I cannot find it on a map.

BirdingTas said...

Hi Mosura,
Waterview Sanctuary is off the highway through Sorell. After the Sorell Causeway, you will see a sign on the right indicating the chicken processors, turn right at the next right (Giblin Drive), right on the bend. In less than 100 metres, the road bears sharp left, but you need to go straight ahead past the recycling centre. and 50 metres or so past that is a barrier and a turning circle, usually muddy!! Park there, keeping the turning circle clear if possible. You will see the sign indicating the site. The sanctuary and the adjoining area only amount to a few acres. It was set aside mainly for viewing waders, but native shrubs planted there by BOAT, (now Birds Tasmania), and Sorell School, attract a range of birds as per the blogs. It's not the most salubrious of birding spots, but on a good day, you can rack up a good range of species.

Mosura said...

Thanks for that. I've copied your directions for the next time I'm down that way.