Friday, August 08, 2008

Denizens of the Deep.....Shade that is!

After several days of birding the South Arm area, yesterday I decided to try my luck in some of the wet forest areas, and opted for a visit to the Wielangta Forest. Specifically, I birded both ends of the Sandspit River Track, in fact I have to admit to never having walked the whole length of this track, perhaps this Summer? I stopped off at the picnic huts at the southern end, noticing that the sun had yet to clear the tree tops, so the area was still in deep shade. I always listen out for the resident male Pink Robin here, and wasn't disappointed, noting another 'Pink' answering his call from the other side of the road. I walked a few yards, looking for the robin, without success, and anyway deemed the area too 'gloomy' for photography, and set off for the northern end. While still at the northern car park, getting geared up, I noted several more Pink Robins calling in the very still conditions. Tasmanian Thornbills scolded me from the riverside vegetation, and I could hear a distant Golden Whistler calling, as well as a nearby Scarlet Robin. As I neared the forested area, I realised that although I had recorded several species, I had seen very little, and this seemed to be the norm for much of the next couple of hours. The lesson here is, make sure you know your bird calls, otherwise you could have a very frustrating visit! I heard numerous Eastern Spinebills and Strong-billed Honeyeaters, but saw neither. I did see a few of the numerous and very vocal Crescent Honeyeaters, and a glimpse of an Olive Whistler, a common, but retiring resident. I arrived at a spot where I've photographed Scrubtits on previous visits, and I hoped for a repeat performance. The area is primarily of Man Ferns surrounded by thick scrub, with overmature acacias growing up through it. It's main attraction from a photographic stand point, is that a recently dozed firetrail runs close to it, allowing more light into the area. Despite that, it's still not the easiest of spots, and I usually manage to collect leeches as I wander through it, one of those beings that I have an unhealthy loathing of. But, at least on this morning, it proved to be worth the effort, as I quickly found the resident pair of Scrubtits. Scrubtits are thornbill size birds, very active, and often shy, The accompanying images are a few that passed muster, most exhibiting movement of bird or camera, or both, in the less than ideal conditions. Perhaps that's why there seems to be so few images of Scrubtits to be found on the www. Eventually, the pair just disappeared into the scrub, and that was that. I wandered a little farther down the track, but apart from a fleeting view of a Brush Bronzewing, little else was seen. Time to call it a day, well, morning. I did however stop at the picnic huts on my return journey, and walk down to the creek, hoping to see the Pink Robin, which I did, but also in search of more Scrubtits, which I didn't. But I did spot a Bassian Thrush, scraping among the leaf litter in a verdant patch of rainforest. Despite the dingy conditions, I took several shots while it continued feeding. Later, looking at enlarged views of what it was feeding on, I was surprised to see that its prey was mostly winged insects. It continued feeding despite my close approach, and I eventually managed to get a few usable shots, including the accompanying image. For those of a photographic bent, the image was taken at 1/20th second, with a tele lens and no tripod, which says a lot for the Canon image stabilisation system! At least these thrushes do spend a lot of time standing stock still, in much the same way as their cousins, the European Blackbirds do, in many of our suburban gardens.Eventually it flew up onto an overhanging branch some 6 or 7 metres above me, which was something of a surprise, as I've rarely seen them more than a few metres above the ground, they were after all known as the Ground Thrush for many years.

12 comments:

Mosura said...

After 2 years back in Tasmania, I haven't even seen a Scrubtit yet although I've seen plenty of Bassian Thrushes. Excellent images as usual.

BirdingTas said...

Hi Mosura,
I think that finding Scrubtits has become easier after many excursions looking for them. I still dip out surprisingly often, but I've seen far more Scrubtits than Bassian Thrushes, a species that until fairly recently I hadn't managed to photograph at all.

Penny said...

Great photos Alan - I'm beginning to realise the patience & time needed for these 'small bird' captures!
Pink Robins were the subject of my first lesson in 'the consequences of loss of habitat' when I had to replace overgrown boundary fences to run stock on a newly acquired property 15+ years ago. I never again sighted the Pink Robins that had made the blackberry hedges home. That is until today! I was busying myself burning rubbish near a boundary fence which traversed an overgrown creekbed, when a dainty visitor dropped to the ground not 10 feet infront of me. The fawn wing bars were unmistakenable, & the call from further up the creek
from her mate, let me know I had found where the Pink Robins had gone!

Kris said...

Great shots yet again, and the text is fantastic too.

I am reading, even if I don't have much to say!

BirdingTas said...

Hi Penny & Kris,
All, perhaps that should read, any, comments are welcome! I must confess to being a reader, rather than a 'commenter' on other people's blogs.
Photographically, most small birds are a challenge. I have found that it's often better to wait for situations that present themselves, rather than "targeting" them (with a few exceptions as per the Scrubtit!). I've only recently managed to get reasonable shots of Yellow-rumped Thornbills, despite coming across them regularly.
I don't believe that anyone acquainted with me, would list "patience" among my attributes. My writing, over many years, was almost solely confined to reports for Govt. departments, and has suffered accordingly! So, your remarks about my writing is gratefully received, although I've usually thought of it as being a bit staid, being unable to adequately express the great enjoyment of combining photography and birding, or indeed, of just being out there!!

Denis Wilson said...

Hi Alan
Great post. Lovely Bassian Thrush. They are difficult to photograph I find, often because they love the dark patches of forest floor.
Your Scrub Tits are amazingly bright photos. Don't know how you did that. Well done.
I am intrigued that you and Penny both report Pink Robins already. I would have assumed that would be on migration in Victoria or NSW now.
Denis

BirdingTas said...

Hi Denis,
You're quite right about the Bassian Thrushes, they are often in what, photographically speaking, is at the limit of what most camera gear can cope with. Flash photography would be a possible way round that, but it would destroy the 'essence' of the habitat they utilise. The Scrubtit photographs highlight the value of digital imaging. Providing that the original image is reasonably sharp and well exposed, you have a range of possibilities to enhance that image in commonly used editing programmes. The editing can be as important as the image captured.
Pink Robins, at least the males, are sedentary, and can be found in the same areas year round. Certainly immature Pinks wander widely, often even far from the type of habitat that we have come to associate with this species. I think that you may be referring to Tasmanian Flame Robins, some at least, are believed to move to the Australian Mainland during Winter. From my recent observations, they are now occupying their breeding sites.

Penny said...

Good advice Alan, about waiting for a photographic situation to present itself. I was very keen to see if I could find my female Pink Robin today, & take a snap at least for formal identification purposes. Of course it was a no show - several Scarlets & Flames, but no Pink. I got on with the job at hand & 30 mins later like magic she appeared. Despite the gloomy light & at a distance I managed a couple of non-award winning shots which show she has a pale pink wash on her breast.
As for migratory/non migratory habits of Flame Robins, I can report that they don't appear to have left this area over winter. We are however still in the grip of unprecedented drought, winter creeks are not running, & major rivulets have very little water in them. It would make for milder conditions in the bush.

Denis Wilson said...

Hi Alan
Well, I've learnt something there. On the mainland they are certainly mobile, for the move into Canberra and other areas in winter, but I didn't know where they came from. Rose Robins breed in the mountains above Canberra, but not the Pinks. So, maybe they move north from Victoria.
Great photos anyway - even if Photoshopped. We all try it, a bit, but as you say, you have to start with a good image in the first place.
Denis

BirdingTas said...

Hi Penny,
The local Flame Robins seem to have spent most of the Winter in the general area of their breeding grounds, and are now very vocal and setting up territory. I have seen flocks of 20 or 30 Flames during Winter, but only in the coastal strip of the West Coast.
I have often set off in hope of photographing a specific species, and found a situation that has enabled me to get acceptable images of a totally different one. The lesson is, take what's on offer, even if you've photographed it many times before. There's always room for improvement!

BirdingTas said...

Hi Denis,
I suspect that immature Pink Robins are more mobile than we think. I recall mist netting one, many miles from any suitable habitat, but, even in the hand, it was not easy to ID from other non breeding plumaged robins. In the field, they possibly get mis IDed. I rarely resort to Photoshop, which is probably just as well, as I'm not that conversant with it, however, when dealing with 'difficult' images, it can 'rescue' shots. I normally use Picasa, a freebie image editor available on the internet. I often wonder, and worry, about how the final image is viewed, as I've had 'issues' with a recent monitor that made them appear rather 'dark' on other monitors. Few of us have correctly set up monitors, and that includes mine!

BirdingTas said...

Hi Denis,
I should have added that many of the shots are taken relatively early in the morning, when the light is more intense, and sometimes reveals absolutely brilliant colours. I took a shot of a Flame Robin last week and the red is nothing short of stunning. Just a pity it wouldn't let me get close enough to really show it off!