Thursday, May 03, 2007

"Deep South" Visit

Early on Monday morning, tired of sitting in front of a PC, I opted for a visit to the Arve Valley, south of Hobart. As it turned out, it probably wasn't the best day for birding, with fairly constant light drizzle and fog much of the time. The turn off to the Arve Valley is at Geeveston, but my approach coincided with a minor downpour, so I decided on a quick visit to the Hastings Caves area, further south, hoping to see the Superb Lyrebirds. That turned out well, as I sighted my first Lyrebird shortly after leaving the reception area at the Thermal Springs. It was a male, which on first sighting from some distance, I thought was a Forest Raven! That was largely because it hopped sideways across the road, before flying, when its long tail gave it away. I have almost always seen at least one Lyrebird from the boardwalk on the approach to the caves entrance, and sure enough, I sighted a female almost immediately. This bird was scratching around alongside the track, before crossing the walkway and disappearing into the scrub on the otherside. There were few other birds about, but I noted a flock of Strong-billed Honeyeaters, several Green Rosellas and a solitary Grey Shrike-thrush. Returning back towards the reception centre, I found another male Lyrebird on the roadside, which made a quick exit into the bush only to emerge almost immediately to cross to the other side. I followed it, hoping to get a photograph, but all in vain. However I did have the consolation of hearing it call--fantastic! It went through a repertoire that included Grey Shrike-thrush, Green Rosella and Black Currawong, and its own 'liquid' call. The sheer tonal quality and volume of the mimicry, far exceeds the call of the birds mimicked.
Back to Geeveston and with the weather barely improved, I set off down the Arve Road, finally deciding on a stop at the riverside picnic reserve, having seen very little apart from numerous flocks of Green Rosellas feeding alongside the road. Here there is a 10 minute walk through the rainforest, which I took, as it seemed the best option in the conditions. I saw little apart from Strong-billed Honeyeaters, Tasmanian Thornbills and a passing flock of Yellow-tail
ed Black Cockatoos, until I was almost back to the car. At this point, among the tree ferns skirting the road, I came across a flock of about half a dozen Scrubtits. Although practically dark, photographically speaking, I tried my hand at photographing them. I wound the ISO reading up, and hoped for the best. The accompanying shots of Scrubtits are the only ones that were close to being any good, and they were shot at 1/40th second exposure, hand held! Despite that, I had the enjoyment of being among this flock as they went about their business. I did notice that they spent much of their time feeding low down on trunks of trees and ferns, and often on the ground, mostly picking up insects, one of which appeared to be a species of flying ant. This contrasted with my usual experience of them feeding well above ground level, but perhaps the weather played its part there. They were joined briefly by a few Tasmanian Scrubwrens that, unlike the Scrubtits, found me, and spent several minutes scolding me, before moving on. A male Pink Robin also put in a brief appearance, I think probably coming to see what the scrubwrens were on about.
I stopped off at a water point, a small dam, on the way back, hoping to add a few more species. I found no more birds of note, but I was rewarded with a close 'swim by' by the Platypus pictured. So a pretty fair mornings outing, despite the conditions.

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