Thursday, November 09, 2006

Dusky Woodswallows

Briefly mentioned in my recent piece about Spotted
Pardalotes, these Dusky Woodswallows were photographed in the Peter Murrell Reserve last weekend. For me, they are a much anticipated summer migrant, usually arriving in October. I think they have what one might call "character". They are surprisingly confiding while nesting, and these birds pictured, were obviously setting up territory. I say obviously because they were chasing off any other birds that came close. That included 2 Eastern Rosellas, which they really got stuck into. Unfortunately, there has been a noticeable decline in numbers over the years, at least in Southern Tasmania, and I suspect elsewhere. Some of the decline around Hobart could be put down to development of housing estates and the destruction of the open dry eucalypt areas, preferred by this species. I can take you to many areas around the South that had colonies of woodswallows breeding about 20 years ago. Nowadays, they are noticeable by their absence. At one time I believed that there were more woodswallows here in wetter years, but in the mists of time, I can't really recall what I based that on!
In the Autumn they can be seen in small groups hawking from power lines and fences. Occasionally in much larger flocks, rising in the thermals, sometimes with Needletails, feeding on flying insects. One Autumn, I watched a large flock of woodswallows at Bridport, rise in a thermal to several hundred feet, and disappear offshore to the North. I also had a sighting of a flock of around 200 birds, this time on the East Coast of Flinders Island, that as late as June, that did similarly. I think both instances were probably examples of bird migration, a rarely seen event in Tasmania. Some years, a few overwinter.

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