Sunday, November 18, 2012

Not Far from the Madding Crowd.....Australian Reed-Warbler

The grandchildren had opted for a visit to Zoodoo, not far from Richmond (southern Tasmania), a few weeks back. I have a somewhat ambivalent attitude towards zoos, but concede that for the children, it's a great day out. Our ritual when we're in the Richmond area, has to include a visit to the local bakery for lunch, followed by a visit to the sweet shop and then on to the "bridge" to see the ducks. 
   The day had proved to be unusually mild and the village was choked with people and parked cars. The bakery was full of like-minded visitors all vying for the diminishing choice of pies and sandwiches. Not my scene at all, and I couldn't wait to move on. I hadn't felt the best from the outset and my patience was fast running out. I avoided going into the crowded "old world" sweet shop, giving the grandchildren some money instead, and warning them of the dire consequences of spending more than the very modest limit I had set. On to the bridge and the ducks.
For many visitors to the village, Richmond Bridge is the one "must see" site. Completed in 1825, it's the oldest bridge in Australia that's still in use. It's showing its' age
      The grandchildren spilled out of the vehicles and ran down the grassy banks to the river. A photographer was ushering a wedding party into position, while other visitors took the inevitable images of the view through the bridge arches. I tried to relax by the vehicles, keeping a watchful eye on the young ones. A chainsaw roared intermittently nearby as did a number of lawnmowers, a group of bikers crossed the bridge, briefly raising the noise level to new heights, but even amongst all this hubbub, I suddenly became aware of the unmistakable sounds of a bird persistently calling-- an Australian Reed-Warbler. The day took on a whole new perspective, my spirits raised. Amazing what one small, as yet unseen, bird can do!
I strode down to the river bank about 50 metres away and listened, trying to locate the calling bird among a small area of phragmites reed on the opposite bank. A Tasmanian Native Hen swam towards me, 'escaping' an off lead dog. A Little Black Cormorant nervously passed, diving after unseen prey. A Black Duck ushered her youngsters away from me and a single Eurasian Coot sought refuge among the reeds. The reed-warbler sang on, still hidden among the reeds. An eel rose, taking bites out of passing slices of bread thrown by visitors, and Welcome Swallows collected mud for their nests from the river bank--and the bird sang on. Finally, it appeared on a stem on the outer edges of the phragmites clump, giving me my first view, still calling, with  its' rich, rasping notes now seemingly drowning out all other noises around me. A great moment.

       A few days later I returned to Richmond and took the accompanying images. It required rather more patience than I can usually muster and had its' moments of sheer frustration. From my observations, it appears that 2 pairs of Australian Reed-warblers were present. This species is not rare in Tasmania, but is fairly thinly distributed in the south. Most are summer migrants to this state, but on bright sunny days in mid winter, I've heard them calling in the Tamar Marshes, probably the stronghold for this species in Tasmania. Gould's Lagoon at Granton was for many years the "surefire" place around Hobart to see them, but in the last few years they have been almost absent. A single bird, late last summer, is my only record from there for the past 2 years.


Amanda said...

Great pics! It took me forever to work out what was calling all the time at the wetlands in Mildura! So frustrating, it wasn't until I was with someone from the club that they said what it was.

BirdingTas said...

Thank you Amanda. My early birding was in the UK--a lifetime ago--and Reed Warblers and their close cousins, Sedge Warblers, were quite common where I lived. While they don't have quite the same calls, the similarities are sufficient for me to have readily IDed the local species, even though, as you suggested, they often call, unseen, from the depths of reed beds.

Mick Brown said...

Lovely shots Alan - your patience was well-rewarded!

BirdingTas said...

Thanks Mick. As always, I had a hope of getting better shots. Of late I have been much less mobile (a few health issues), so I don't regret spending a little more time on such situations. Not sure that I'm actually getting more patient though!

David Seymour said...

Hi Alan, these are great and very characterful photos. I particularly like the bird caught in mid-warble! Also, these shots come across very much as "bird in environment" captures, which adds an extra element of interest. Thanks for sharing these!

BirdingTas said...

Thanks David, once again. I must confess to being torn between "environmental" images and "bird on a stick" images. The latter can be more alluring, when looking entirely at the aesthetics. The former gives so much more information about the bird. Much of the time when trying to photograph birds, the "environment" is all too difficult to avoid!

narf7 said...

I have only seen the Richmond bridge twice...once in the day where I enjoyed its wonderful construction and once at night on a rush trip to pick up a new pup from the Hobart airport. It sounds like it might be time to take another Hobart trip but we will be sure to avoid that bakery! The Tamar marshes? Sounds like I might need to take a visit to my daughters in Riverside and walk down early and hear these beautiful birds for myself. Thank you for sharing these beautiful birds with us :)

BirdingTas said...

Hi "narf7" (Fran & Steve);
The Tamar Island reserve just north of Launceston on the West Tamar is always worth a visit. It's one of the best spots to find 2 of Tasmanians more elusive birds--Reed Warbler and Little Grassbird. You might have to excersise patience!
BTW The Richmond bakery is an excellent, if at times crowded, eatery.