Thursday, November 08, 2007

Work in Progress........Scrubtit

I've spent quite a few hours in the Wielangta Forest lately. My prime aim has been to get shots of the Scrubtit, arguably the most difficult of the Tasmanian endemic birds to photograph. It's not that they're uncommon, but they do inhabit the darkest of bird habitats, the fern gullies of wet temperate forests. I've posted here a few of the many shots I've taken, most of which ended up in the "bin". It's the longest time I've ever watched Scrubtits, and it's changed some of my beliefs. Until now, I've seen them almost exclusively feeding on the vertical trunks of rough barked eucalypts, behaving more like a treecreeper. Perhaps it's because they're breeding at the moment, but most of the feeding has taken place in the understorey scrub, in close proximity of the man ferns in which they appear to have their nests. They feed in much the same way as thornbills, gleaning food off the leaves and only occasionally feeding on the trunks of the same scrub. I've found the Scrubtits to be very timid, probably one of the reasons they're often not found, even in areas known to hold them. A sudden breeze would send them back into the deep scrub, and a calling Olive Whistler entering their domain, sent them into a frenzy approaching apoplexy! In the area that I have been, there appeared to be about five pairs alongside a watercourse, in a distance of 200 metres. I only witnessed the occasional interaction between pairs, initially squaring off, with crown feathers raised, followed by a brief chase, and all over in seconds. A spin off during my vigils, has allowed me to get shots of other species, such as Tasmanian Thornbill, Olive Whistler and the odd Tasmanian Scrubwren, and the enjoyment of watching a Platypus going about its business. I also found an occupied Bassian Thrush nest, complete with sitting adult, and of course, observed other species such as Brush Bronzewing and Satin Flycatcher. I'll probably publish some of these in due course. One thing that has surprised me from the photographs, is that the bill is both longer and more decurved than I realised (despite seeing a large number over the years) and that few of the field guides seem to show this. Overall, I suspect I've never really watched this species critically or intensively before. All too frequently, I've had only a brief sighting, and been glad to have that. Although I've now taken many shots, I'm still looking for that 'defining' image, and will no doubt return to try again.


Anonymous said...

Hi Alan,
Great shots of a very elusive and "difficult" subject. Like you, we associate them with deep tree-fern gullies, mostly working the trunks and branches of trees, though sometimes foraging across the ground. However, the clearest view of one we ever had was on the Dove Lake circuit at Cradle Mountain, where we came across a Scrubtit foraging, very tree-creeper-like high in the branches of a bare, dead Eucalypt, about 5m to 6m up, and totally exposed in full sunlight. Unfortunately, it would not sit still for a photo, and eventually flew of into another patch of scrub, well off the walking track. Most unusual behaviour!

BirdingTas said...

Hi John & Shirley,
Thanks for commenting. One of the pairs had a territory close to a burnt area, and I was surprised to see one of the Scrubtits foraging in burnt scrub far from any real cover, so perhaps (when they're feeling brave), they forage more widely than we generally believe. The 'integrated' use of the area by Tas Thornbills, Tas Scrubwrens, Bassian Thrushes and Pink Robins is worthy of further study.

Anonymous said...

G'day Alan

Wow these are really nice shots of a bird I was beginning to believe did not exist. After living in Tassie all of 1971 and not seeing any Scrubtits my wife and I allocated two weeks around Hobart to try and find them. It took twelve days to located them! Sharland said they were getting scarce around Fern Tree fifty years ago but as people were reporting them from there recently we looked until we found them. Again wish we had seen your blog before our return trip. Many thanks for some good photos.