Saturday, June 20, 2009

Seek and Ye Shall Find... ....Flame Robin

Well suggesting that I was seeking is not strictly true. With the prolonged period of rain that SE Tasmania has had, and all the farm dams brimming over, I made a detour on the way home from birding Goat Bluff. My main interest was whether Clear Lagoon, an ephemeral shallow lagoon at Sandford, had any water in. It was full, the first time in many years. If this lagoon holds any water during the summer months, it often hosts good numbers of waders, especially Curlew Sandpipers and Red-necked Stint. This day it held a small number of Chestnut Teal, 2 Black Duck, a few Black Swans and a score of Kelp Gulls. A short walk around the shore, produced about 20 or more Australasian Pipits and a few Eurasian Skylarks. I drove on to nearby Rushy Lagoon, a considerably larger lagoon, which also now held large areas of water. Here there were substantial numbers of Wood Duck and Chestnut Teal. A squabble among some distant Black Swans drew my attention, and while watching them I noted a solitary Black-fronted Plover, a normally fairly common bird around waterway perimeters, but sadly lacking over the past several very dry years. It was while searching for more blackfronts, there were 4 in all, I noticed a small 'orange ball' around 300 metres away in the deep vegetation. Although I couldn't be sure of the ID, I was fairly confident that it was a Flame Robin. Further scanning, produced 5 'orange balls', and a number of other 'plain brown' birds that as they worked their way in ragged line abreast towards me, were patently Flame Robins. I counted 17 birds at any one time, although I'm confident that the flock numbered around 25 or more, quite the biggest flock I've seen for over 20 years.
I decided to attempt to photograph them, but realised that if I got out of my vehicle, they were unlikely to come anywhere near me. I parked along the fence line, reasoning that as they were spread out over a hundred metre wide band as they fed, I might just fluke a shot or two. A brief "dread" when many of them flew into nearby bushes, almost dashed my hopes, but they returned shortly after, and were now nearing me. I eventually scrambled shots of 3 individuals, 2 of them shown here, as they reached the fence line, before crossing the road into another paddock and were lost to my view in dead ground.
After my recent post, I was heartened to find so many Flames. Whether they're normally here, or perhaps the recent weather played a part, I don't know. But I will be making more detours in the next few months! Perhaps the recent rain is responsible for the 'spat' of nesting Masked Plover. I noted 3 pairs with eggs in the Sandford area, a fairly early start.


John Tongue said...

Beaut shots of the Flame Robins, Alan - and great to know ther are still some flocks about!

BirdingTas said...

Thanks John,
Yes it is good to see a decent number of Flame Robins. They have diminished over the last decade or so, and I suspect these birds are nomads from another area, because I've never seen a flock of more than 6 or so on the South Arm peninsula before. I was very fortunate that the birds propped on the roadside vegetation, before moving on. Mixture of frustration and excitement as they neared me, as you might expect. Well you win some...

Michael Dempsey said...


I went to Cape Raoul on the Tasman Peninsula on Sunday, and in the paddock at the start of the walk, there was a flock of about 20 flame robins. Very nice, and a mixture of males and females, but lots of males. The paddock had heaps of water (Port Arthur had about 70mm of rain on saturday). Easily the largest flock I have seen for awhile in tasmania. Cheers Michael Dempsey