Saturday, September 20, 2008

It's Plan B Again.

On a recent bright and clear morning, I decided it was past time to look for migrant waders. I knew they were about because, on a trip to Sorell a couple of weeks back, I nearly "collected" a flock of around 25 Bar-tailed Godwits as they shot between my car and another coming from the opposite direction, as we crossed the causeway. Knowing that the tide should be high, first stop was at Lauderdale. Well I didn't actually stop, as a quick look at the spit as I drove past, showed that there were only a handful of waders, probably Redcaps and stint, so on to Pipeclay Lagoon. Nearing the Cremorne turnoff, I looked out for 'the' Swamp Harrier which I had seen in the paddock alongside of the road on several previous visits, and sure enough, it was there this morning. With commuter traffic not yet in evidence, I was able to park alongside the paddock, and took the shot of what I believe is a female, Swamp Harrier (shown at right). On to Pipeclay Lagoon, where, disappointingly, the tide was obviously not going to be high enough to force the waders to roost. I parked and walked off to look at their usual roost sites beyond the Oyster sheds, with little expectation. There were a few around, drawn, as they often are when they first arrive back, to the the local Red-capped Plovers that nest along the edge of the marsh. I approached the small mixed flock of Curlew Sandpipers and Red-necked Stint (about 9 of the former, and 70-80 of the latter), but much chasing among the redcaps was obviously making them nervous, and they soon took flight. But as usual, the redcaps were soon back, and this drew the 'migrants' back too. I managed a few shots, including the one at left, of a Curlew Sandpiper, still showing the remnants of its summer plumage. You might notice too, that its carrying a band on the right leg, perhaps one of the many banded here, some good few years back now, by the Shorebird Study Group, of which I have fond memories. Well I had only been out a short while and with such 'low' high tides, I needed a plan B. So I fell back on my 'usual', Goat Bluff a few kilometres away.
At this time of year, Goat Bluff is reaching its most interesting. The summer migrants are arriving, and the locals are breeding, or about to. Add that to the few species that are making the most of the last of the flowering shrubs, before heading off to breed, and you have a great mix. I shouldn't forget the sea birds either, with gulls, terns, cormorants and the odd Australasian Gannet. This may all seem idyllic, but you have to be prepared, at times, to share the area with a range of other users, and unfortunately, abusers (but I won't rant on about that). I wandered down the eastern side of the bluff, enjoying the early morning sun, towards the clifftop overlooking a small cove some 60 metres down. Here, recently arrived Tree Martins, and a pair of Welcome Swallows, were hawking for insects in the updraught of the cliff, and over the nearby stunted heath, propping occasionally atop the fence wire. While attempting to photograph a swallow on this wire, I spotted, first a Striated Fieldwren, and then a Flame Robin, both on this same wire. Forgetting the swallow, I concentrated on the fieldwren. I have to confess at this point, and some readers may have noticed, that I've published numerous shots of this species over the months. It's becoming, or perhaps already is, the single species that I've photographed most (could it be that I hold an unlikely World record!!!). For some reason, I find them fascinating. Perhaps its because on some visits, no amount of searching will turn one up, on others, as was to be the case on this visit, they appear 'everywhere'. Much of the area is covered by low heath, much of it less than knee high, interspersed with other dense plants, such as acacia and correa, rarely more than a metre high. So their ability to elude birders looking out for them, is legendary. (I note that the Bird Atlas does not appear to have any records for anywhere on the South Arm peninsula, where it is in fact quite common). Conversely, or perhaps, perversely, I've walked up to within a couple of metres of a calling fieldwren, without seeming to faze it. The photo at bottom left, illustrates, perhaps, their ability to blend into the 'country', and I watched this bird as it foraged among the foliage and grasses, occasionally breaking cover to run along the narrow tracks, before 'plunging' once more into cover.
I shouldn't neglect to add, that other species present on the bluff included Fan-tailed and Horfield's Bronze-Cuckoo, Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos, many Yellow-throated and Newholland Honeyeaters and soon to be departing, Crescent Honeyeaters. Brown and Yellow-rumped Thornbills, Scarlet and Flame Robins, flocks of Silvereye, and pairs of both Spotted and Striated Pardalotes. Soaring White-bellied Sea Eagle and Swamp Harrier, and singles of Brown Falcon and Brown Goshawk. An interesting morning, despite the earlier disappointment.

10 comments:

Mosura said...

Looks like a great day. Birdata shows plenty of Striated Fieldwren records around my way but I still haven't seen one.

Snail said...

Plan A, Plan B ... they're all good! Love your pictures of the fieldwren. As someone who is just about managing to identify fairy-wrens, I find your pics very helpful. Keep 'em coming.

BirdingTas said...

Hi Mosura,
I think the first requirement in finding fieldwrens is a believe that they're actually in an area! I recall doing some surveying in the SW of Tasmanian where skilled observers had been doing transects through button grass and had failed to find a single one in the course of a fortnight. I joined them and we found one within 15 minutes. I'm not implying that I have any special skill, only that I was sure they were there and set about looking for them. Incidentally, those on the West, and I presume the NW, are of a different sub species to those we have down here.

BirdingTas said...

Hi Snail,
Thanks for your comments. I almost always have a plan B (and C etc). We're very fortunate in Tasmania, as there is almost always a very different habitat probably only a stones throw away. I can reach the sea in a few minutes walk, and drive to the top of a 4000ft mountain within 30 minutes. And there's a lot in between!

Penny said...

Thanks for the wonderful, detailed info. As a novice birdwatcher like me it's easy to miss what's infront of you , if you don't know what you are looking for! I have yet to see a Striated Fieldwren.
Great Photos - you make it look so easy!

BirdingTas said...

Thanks Penny,
It's the fieldwrens that make it easy! The area that they occupy doesn't look that interesting, or indeed likely to hold many birds, which is possibly why birders don't find them. If they have a quick look and don't find them, it confirms their convictions. Which is why I mentioned in another 'comment', that you have to be a "believer" when looking for them!

Duncan said...

Great little bird the field wren, great photos too Alan.

BirdingTas said...

Thanks Duncan,
They are indeed a "great little bird", although for a wren, they're surprisingly robust. Perhaps they suffer from appearing to be a somewhat nondescript looking species. On closer acquaintance, however, they are actually beautifully marked.

mick said...

Sorry I missed seeing this post until now. Great photo of the Curlew Sandpiper. I saw several at Inskip Point, Qld, on the 2nd September still with some breeding plumage like yours. Great photo - mine were only distant shots.

BirdingTas said...

Hi Mick,
Absolutely no need to apologise, I'm only too grateful for any comment. Getting close to waders of any description can prove to be a challenge, but after doing surveys and cannon netting for many years, I've found a formula for at least giving me an evens chance of photography. Have considered using a hide, but I'm not the most patient person, and I sometimes surprise myself at the results I occasionally get. You need plenty of luck.