Saturday, May 30, 2009

Decline of Flame Robins

I keep a list of birds that I would like better images of, and high on that list is, and has been for some time, the Flame Robin. In fact, during the last several months, I've only managed to take the rather 'distant' shot (at left) of a Flame, this one an immature male, and it's not for want of looking. I photographed this bird on Goat Bluff, South Arm early in April, a venue that in the past has been a reliable spot for finding at least one, and sometimes, several pairs. I've also dipped out on recording them at several other 'reliable' spots. The lack of Flames contrasts with the relative abundance of the more sedentary, Scarlet Robin. Locally, I know of numerous venues that I can be sure of finding pairs of Scarlets, still in the vicinity of their breeding territories, and they are one of the species that I most often photograph (male Scarlet at lower right). I've even seen many more Pink Robins v Flames during the last year, a decidedly more elusive species.

Looking back through the literature, it's plain to see that there numbers have been significantly decreasing for many years. Michael Sharland, not a person given to exaggeration, wrote in his "Tasmanian Birds"(published after WW2) "very common", and of the Scarlet, "common". Bob Green, in his 1989 revised edition of "Birds of Tasmania", describes the Flame as a "numerous trans-Bass Strait migrant". He also describes the Pink Robin as "uncommon and nomadic". I also note an apparent decline that emerges after comparing the 2 Atlases of Australian Birds, published in 1984 and 2003. Perhaps they should all be compared to John Gould's comment, in his 1849 "Birds of Australia", when describing the Flame Robin as very common in Tasmania, goes on to say " I have even taken its nest from a shelving bank in the streets of Hobart Town". Those were the days!

Although my lack of sightings of Flame Robins may just be 'one of those things', I'd be interested in other perspectives on their apparently declining numbers.