Sunday, July 01, 2007

Another "Overwinterer"--Grey-tailed Tattler

A brief e-mail from Priscilla Park alerting me to the presence of a Grey-tailed Tattler 'awakened' me from my recent lethargy, which has curtailed my blogging. In my defence, I have had a computer melt down, photographic equipment failure and more than a touch of mid Winter blues! But back to the Tattler. Priscilla mentioned that she had seen it on the northern side of Lauderdale Spit at high tide, but described it as "v. nervous". So as the sun was rising the following day, I could be found wandering through the salt marsh that backs the spit. I could already see that there were a number of small waders feeding on the edge of the rising tide, their white parts standing out in the early sun. I stopped and scanned them with my binoculars. There were probably around 60 or so birds, made up of Red-necked Stint, Double-banded and Red-capped Plovers, but no other waders. I scanned around the shoreline. Two flocks of Pied Oystercatcher totaling around 80 birds, many hundreds of Silver Gulls and odd Kelp and Pacific Gulls, but that was about it. I could at least take the opportunity to get a few shots of the Double-banded Plover, now in a wide range of plumages ranging from almost no chest bands to almost full breeding plumage, as seen in the lower image. I closed on the spit, taking care not to disturb the roosting Oystercatcher flock. At this point I noticed a yellow legged wader running out of the marsh and onto the sand--the Grey-tailed Tattler! It's the first I've seen for some few years, so I was more than a little pleased. There was a time when small groups of up to 6 birds, could regularly be seen at Sorell and Orielton Lagoon area, and occasionally at South Arm, but the numbers recorded have declined in recent years. So this Tattler is an uncommon Summer visitor to Tasmania, and rarely recorded in Winter, and I don't know of another Winter record from southern Tasmania. I spent much of the next half hour trying to get close enough for a reasonable shot. In the past, I've nearly always found Tattler easily approached, although this was the first time I've tried photographing them. This individual had effectively "embedded" itself in among the plovers, so if they became edgy, so did the Tattler. I never managed to get as close as I would have liked, but the benefits of digital imaging came to my aid, as you can see in the upper image. Later, I did spend a good while comparing it with images of Wandering Tattler, an as yet unrecorded species in Tasmania I believe. I now know why many field guides say that the 2 species are not easily distinguished in Winter plumage! I live in hope.


Anonymous said...

We're hoping to see some Tattlers on the Northern Wader Count in a few weeks time.

BirdingTas said...

You might be lucky John, Tattlers are generally more commonly seen in the North of the state, but overwintering is unusual. I seem to recall seeing them most often at Georgetown during the Summer.