Monday, November 26, 2007

Lauderdale Spit ---More Than Just Waders

I've spent quite a bit of time in recent days, on the Lauderdale Spit. I guess, like me, most of the local birders think of the spit as mainly a good spot for waders, which of course it is, but there's often more going on here. Lauderdale Spit consists of about, (I'm guessing), less than a hectare of saltmarsh, often substantially covered by seawater on "king tides". There are a few stunted bushes and the odd she oak growing on a bank probably formed when the drainage ditch was dug. It forms part of the Ralph's Bay Conservation Area and is under threat of being turned into, of all things, a housing development! At its base there is a major highway that effectively isolates it. I'm attracted to the area for the relative ease of finding migrant waders, and I've blogged some of my visits. My latest forays there have seen my attempting to photograph some of these waders in flight, not an easy ask at the best of times. No doubt I'll publish those shots sometime. But that brings me back to my point, that there's more to interest birders here than just the waders. While esconced amomg the low vegetation awaiting flybys by the small wader flock, consisting of Bar-tailed Godwit and a lone Whimbrel, I had close encounters with other species. The predominant one at the moment is the White-fronted Chat, (male, top right; female, bottom left), both photographed during my vigil. There appeared to be 3 or 4 pairs of them, and by their reaction to me, are breeding here, and have young in the nest. The chats usually nest in the tall spikey clumps of grass, or in low shrubs, and when they feel threatened, flutter down and along the ground, as if injured, to draw your attention from the nest or young. This action appeared to be more likely to be performed by the female. This will, in all probability, be their second, or third attempt at breeding, not all necessarily at this location, for chats are great nomads.
Other species that I noted as I lay there, included several Silvereyes, Little Wattlebirds, Yellow-tailed and Brown Thornbills, Starlings and House Sparrows, Goldfinches and Greenfinches. Apart from the passerines, there were Crested Terns, vying for position atop the remnant posts of an old jetty, Pacific, Kelp and Silver Gulls, a lone White-faced Heron and a pair of Chestnut Teal. Two pairs of Pied Oystercatcher nested here, and both appear to have young, one of which took to the water and swam off, when, earlier, I had walked towards the spit end, causing me to beat a hasty retreat. Occasionally, flocks of Pied Oystercatchers, probably moved by the incoming tide or human disturbance, made for the spit end. This sent the resident pairs into a frenzy, running at the interlopers with head down and much calling. This usually moved them on, but occasionally they had to resort to an aerial attack on some of the more stubborn ones. A fascinating place, best visited around high tide, but try to minimise disturbance.

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