Saturday, May 12, 2007

The Elusive Little Grassbird

Gould's Lagoon and the nearby marshes hold a good number of Little Grassbirds. During Spring and Summer their thin plaintive tee tee tee call can often be heard. But apart from an occasional, usually brief, view of them as the fly low from reed mass to reed mass, you seldom get much of a sight of them. But this morning I finally managed to get a reasonable shot of one.
With still, sunny conditions prevailing I thought that Gould's Lagoon might be worth another visit. A sighting of a Swamp Harrier quartering the Derwent Marshes as I approached the lagoon seemed to be a good omen. The reality was rather more mundane, with few waterfowl present. These were mainly Coot, a few pairs of Blue-winged Shoveler and the odd Black Duck. I think the high water level may have contributed to the low numbers, as even the Purple Swamphen were feeding on nearby grassed areas as well as the front gardens of nearby houses, as were a few Tasmanian Native-hen. I had hoped there might still be Clamorous Reed-warbler present, as I have a feeling that, contrary to the generally held view, they don't all migrate. I thought I heard their short contact calls, but couldn't be sure. Disappointed with the lack of waterfowl or obviously present Reed-warblers, I resorted to photographing a pair of Superb Fairy-wrens that were actively feeding among the reeds near the bird hide. It was while taking some shots, that I noticed a third, similar sized bird among the reeds and close to the wrens. By sheer luck I used the camera, rather than my binoculars to identify it. It briefly appeared on the outside of the reeds, just long enough to take the shot shown above. In a few seconds it was back in among the reeds, although I did notice it fly to another clump of reeds some time later.
Little Grassbirds do seem to have a more restricted distribution in the South East of Tasmania these days, probably as a result of recent dry years. I can recall seeing them at Sorell around the Waterview Reserve, both on the island and among the South African Boxthorns, as well as Rushy Lagoon, but are now almost certainly absent from both venues. There are still good numbers along the Derwent shore around Granton, and at Lake Meadowbank, to name a few spots. Anyone contemplating looking for this secretive bird would be well advised to learn the call first, and perhaps wait until Spring when they become much more vocal, but perhaps, like me, you could just be lucky.


Anonymous said...

Hi Alan,
I think your fantastic shot of this very elusive bird-as with much of birdwatching-is lots of luck!

Lucky you to be able to get such a shot.

BirdingTas said...

Hi John,
Thanks for your comments, I must say I think I was overdue for a slice of luck! With the run of windy weather, I haven't had many photo ops. lately, so I was doubly pleased, although I would like the chance to get better shots.

Anonymous said...

Alan, a nice shot of a very difficult to photograph species. They are so small, wary and fast, it is quite a feat to get a usable photograph of one.
I would be interested in hearing about how you are finding the sigma 50-500, having considered this lens myself a a good way to get more focal length at "relatively" little cost, was this shot taken with it?
Interesting comments regarding the Clamorous Reed warbler, I have not seen them around Gould's in winter, but if they are not calling actively, they would be difficult to spot.
Also, have you considered contributing to Wikipedia? I have just written a brief article on the native-hen(, but there are many other Tasmanian bird articles needed, and photos too.


Felix Wilson

BirdingTas said...

Hi Felix,
Thanks for your comments and questions. I did indeed take the shot of the Little Grassbird with the 50-500 lens. I don't think it's the best, but most probably the most cost effective way to get 500mm lens without selling the house! The only other option, for you, would be the Canon 100-400mm, which is probably a better all round lens, but more expensive.
I have heard the Clamorous Reed-warbler calling in the middle of Winter, most recently on the Tamar River. They were still present at Gould's in late April and calling, and as you say, they're not easily seen.
I haven't considered contributing directly to Wikipedia, but this blog is the link for Tasmanian Birds, so perhaps I could be considered to be a contributor! I do seem to get better support from around the World than I do from Tasmanians, which is one reason I'm contemplating on moving to a website rather than a blog.