Monday, January 18, 2010

Birds of Ironhouse Point

Ironhouse Point is situated on Tasmania's Eastcoast to the East of St. Mary's, and although it's not a recognised birding spot, the birds here are fairly typical of those of much of the coast from the Freycinet Peninsula to St. Helens. I spent around a week here, at a resort, with friends and family over the Christmas break, so birding was conducted somewhat ad hoc. Much of the forested area was 'devastated' in the extensive bushfires around 3 years ago, and is now mostly typical after fire regrowth.
I managed to bird most mornings, before everyone roused, and from many years of birding during the Summer months on the Eastcoast, this is the pick of the day, before the almost inevitable, euphemistically called, sea breeze comes in--a cooling, often strong, onshore wind. I totalled just over 50 species of birds, which included a few, such as Australasian Gannet and Black-faced Cormorant, only seen offshore, and single pairs of both Hooded Plover and Pied Oystercatcher on the beach. Surprisingly, honeyeaters were 'light on', the commonest and most widespread being Little Wattlebird, but also the odd Yellow Wattlebird, numerous New Holland, and several Yellow-throated. Most mornings found a range of birds sunning themselves in the early sun, including Pallid, Fan-tailed and Horsfield's Bronze cuckoos , but also Australasian Pipit (common, no skylarks), Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike, Dusky Woodswallow and Welcome Swallow.
The resort here boasts a substantial impoundment (stocked with trout), which attracted Great Cormorant, Pelican, Black Swan and a pair of Musk Duck. A drying swamp area behind the dunes held a surprise. While watching Superb Fairy-wrens, I could hear a solitary Striated Fieldwren calling, and in trying to find it, flushed first one, then another Latham's Snipe, an uncommon bird on this coast.
Brown and Yellow-rumped Thornbills were common, as were Grey Fantail. I recorded both Flame and Dusky Robins, but no Scarlets. Silvereye were widespread, particularly in the coastal wattles, as were the fairy-wrens, some seen carrying nesting material. A few White-fronted Chat were seen, all in the dunes or feeding among the beach wrack. While on the subject of small passerines, I noted in the Bird Atlas records, that the only thornbill recorded here was the Tasmanian, whereas I saw and photographed both Brown and Yellowrumped only. It's a point that has "worried" me for some years, and this habitat is not typical Tasmanian Thornbill country. This isn't an isolated instance, and I feel that some birders at least, are unable to tell 'brown' from 'Tasmanian'. I would suggest that if in doubt, they omit. I have to admit to sometimes having difficulty myself!
Both Striated and Spotted Pardalotes were common here, but I failed to record a single raptor, although I had seen a Sea Eagle a few miles to the South. The 'higher' predators seem to consist of a few Grey Butcherbird, Grey Shrike-thrush and Kookaburra. The only parrot species observed was a few Green Rosella. Around the buildings were the inevitable House Sparrow, Goldfinch, Starling, and Blackbird, but surprisingly, I didn't see a single Greenfinch, a common bird in coastal wattles A large family of Tasmanian Native Hens utilised the grassed areas, competing at times with wallabies and wombats. The accompanying images were all shot at Ironhouse Point. Great to get away from my usual haunts and a great family holiday too.


Anonymous said...

I enjoyed reading this report very much - I enjoy birding on the east coast (particuarly the north-east)and get out there as often as I can. I found the report of two Lathams Snipe particuarly interesting! On the thornbills; I have personally only seen Brown and Yellow-rumped in the St Helens and Falmouth region - however, I have seen photographs of Tas. Thornbills taken by other birders taken in St Helens area, Freycinet, St Marys, Scamander and Dianas Basin.

BirdingTas said...

Hi, thanks for your comments.
The distribution and habitat utilised by Tasmanian Thornbills is interesting, and varies around the state. Distribution appears to be generally related to rainfall. That means that in some areas, 'pockets' of suitable habitat may occur. My comments are really about birders taking more care over their observations. For example, it would be quite likely that the hills to the West of Ironhouse Point hold Tasmanian rather than Browns. St Mary's certainly would be an area I would expect to see Tasmanians, as would areas away from the coastal strip, in the areas that you mention. If distribution records are to have any validity, it is imperative that more care needs to be taken and if observers are unsure they shouldn't just take a punt!

Bill ( said...

I cannot leave your page without commenting on your Photos which are of most excellent quality. Thank you.
I did not find though the bird I was looking for. Not being a birder I have to search every where.
Thanks again.
PS I would be very interested in knowing your camera and lenses used, would that be possible? Tripod used?