Sunday, April 22, 2007

On the Move

No I'm not going anywhere, (although I'm seriously contemplating setting up a website as an adjunct or perhaps even in place of this blog). No, this is about , for me at least, a rare event that I witnessed on Friday morning. Friday was one of those top shelf days that we get during a Tasmanian Autumn. Clear blue sky, no wind, and the only decision to be made was where to go.
I chose Marion Bay Spit, which I fondly felt that with a rising tide, would produce a good chance of waders and gulls in good numbers. From that perspective, the morning was something of a let down. True I did find a lone male Flame Robin hawking from the fence as I approached, and a solitary Sooty Oystercatcher feeding amongst the recently beach cast kelp. Nearer the spit I found a few Pied Oystercatcher and a single Doublebanded Plover. Around 20, mostly adult Pacific Gulls at the spit, and numbers of Crested Terns and Black-faced Cormorants flying to and fro in the channel, rounded off the sightings.
I turned for home, noting as I did a few Crescent
Honeyeaters calling from the last few bushes on the southern end of the dunes. Having recently missed out on photographing them, I thought I should look a little closer. Well after several minutes watching mostly Crescent and New Holland Honeyeaters in these shrubs, I realised what they were up to. A few individuals were taking up position at the top of the bushes and spending some few minutes looking around and when they thought it was all clear, taking off across the mouth of Blackman Bay, to the southern side, a distance of around 800 metres.
This in itself would probably not be worth mentioning, but in the approximately 45 minutes I watched, well over 300 individuals made the journey. Mostly each group consisted of no more than 10 birds, but as they set off they were quickly replaced by the next group from amongst the low acacia scrub that covers the dunes. Every now and again a few Eastern Spinebills, such as the one at middle right, would climb to the shrub top, look very warily around, and then head off, often followed by others that had hitherto remained
concealed. The Spinebills were more prone to having second thoughts and several times they aborted the attempt and hid back in the acacias. These 'movers' were mainly Crescent and New Holland Honeyeaters, and Eastern Spinebills, and they would travel in mixed species flocks, but other species that tagged along included Silvereyes and Greenfinches.
An altogether interesting morning and one of the few occasions that I could be sure that the birds were truly involved in a 'movement'. From my experience, a rarely sighted event here in Tasmania. To top it off, I also got my shots of a Crescent Honeyeater (male, top right), not forgetting the adult New Holland Honeyeater (bottom right). As I drove back along the access track, I also noted several Striated Fieldwrens, definitely a morning to remember!


Anonymous said...

Hi Alan,

I was down at Marion Bay over the weekend after Easter. The Spit area was a bit disaapointing, lots of gulls and not much else. However on the way home, we detoured via Boomer Bay, sort of round the back of the Spit area. Anyway, great spot for birds, probably saw about 60 white faced herons feeding as well 9 Great Egret, at least 2 Little Egret and 1 cattle Egret. First time I have seen all three of the commoner egrets in one spot.Too far away to photograph well, but good to see.


Felix Wilson

BirdingTas said...

Hi Felix,
Did note a few Little Egrets near the Marion Bay causeway, early in March, my first for the year. On the way back there were about 8 Cattle Egrets feeding among horses close to Sorell township.With such dry conditions on the Mainland, we just might see more herons/egrets in Tasmania.

Anonymous said...

Hi Alan,
Like you, I've nevere seen such a mass movement of honeyeaters in Tassie, though mainlanders often comment on mass migrations particularly of Yellow-faced Honeyeaters. I wonder where these guys were going, and why?

BirdingTas said...

Hi John,
Well I've often "felt" that I was observing movements of birds, notably in the Meehan Range, but in this case because there was a large 'gap' to traverse, it became obvious. As to where they were going, I can only surmise that the coastal strip of the Forestier and Tasman Peninsulas was their goal. Perhaps to the coastal heaths where the Banksias are in flower. There's not much of that around Marion Bay.