Friday, August 28, 2009

Brief Encounter...............Swift Parrots

Just a short note to recount an all too brief encounter with Swift Parrots this morning.
The first reasonable day for sometime, but still windy, I decided to bird the Mortimer Bay reserve. Little action at first, probably not helped by the temperature hovering around 8C, but as it warmed up, so did the birding. While trying to get close enough for a few shots of a Dusky Robin, I heard a single, rather metallic, sharp call. Although I felt sure I should know what was calling, I couldn't at first place it. However as I neared what I thought was the source, the bird repeated it several times, and then gave the "giveaway" screech of a departing Swift Parrot--my first for the season. It wasn't a bird that I expected in this area as this parrot is more usually encountered on the western side of the Derwent River. It has bred here in the distant past, but that's was 30 years ago when the area was farmed. I followed in the general direction of the departing bird, which fortunately gave the same single note occasionally, enough to eventually find it. As you can see from the accompanying shots, it remained high in the dead branches of a eucalypt, not very conducive to great images. After a few minutes it took flight, at which time I realised there was in fact a pair. During the course of the mornings birding, I heard distant screeching from at least 3 pairs, but there may have been more. Perhaps they have been drawn here by the lack of Blue Gum flowering so far locally, and the fairly profuse flowering at "Mortimer" of the local peppermints. So if you haven't found any of the returning "swifties" yet, it's time to get out there!

Monday, August 24, 2009

All Change at Ralph's Bay

An ongoing illness and the wettest weather for many years, has kept my birding to a minimum. I've also chosen "soft" areas to bird, when I have managed to get out--those that require less walking, and some that don't even require me to get out of my vehicle! Ralph's Bay at Lauderdale is one of former, but it can be one of the best. So on a driveby, ten days ago, I noted several Double-banded Plovers, most resplendent in their summer plumage, and worth an attempt at photography. They were in a mixed flock with about 20 Red-capped Plovers, all feeding on the edge of a retreating tide. Both these species are surprisingly tame, but in a flock they are rather more inclined to fly, and they did, albeit only a short distance. However, I had "help" at hand. An elderly gentleman decided to walk along the beach, through the flock, much to my annoyance. But, It did enable me to take the shot at top left, as those of the flock that didn't fly, ran along the beach towards me, taking flight only when they realised they were caught in a pincer movement! Among the flock I noticed a banded Double-banded, and on closer inspection, realised that it was "double banded", colour banded that is. I stalked it and scrambled a few shots, one at left. An enquiry as to where it was banded, brought a swift reply, (although there appeared to be some confusion). It appears most probable that it was banded in the Tasman River area of New Zealand--about mid South Island.
So, last weekend, hoping to get better shots of the DBPs, before they head off for New Zealand, I returned to Lauderdale. A quick scan of the area revealed a total lack of DBPs, and only a handful of Red-caps. Undeterred, I wandered along the shoreline to a stony area they sometimes roost on, the tide fairly high and coming in. I had only taken a few steps when I was buzzed by a flock of Bar-tailed Godwit, wheeling rapidly across the bay. I walked away from the beach beyond the low vegetation and watched. After several circuits of the bay, they alighted less than a hundred metres away alongside the spit, in an area they often roost on, which I assumed they were about to do. So I was surprised that instead they walked towards me, into the shallow water, and started feeding, coming ever closer as they did so.
It's times like this that never cease to excite me. By standing quite still and just waiting, this flock of 23 birds, came within 20 metres or so, and continued feeding. Much of the time they would feed in a tight pack, all walking in the same direction, probing deep into the soft mud, sometimes immersing their heads to get at their unseen prey. I watched and photographed them for 20 minutes or so, before retreating and leaving them to continue feeding.
So once again I had failed to get the sort of shots of DBPs that I'd hoped for, well there's always next year. However, it did occur to me that with all the gale force westerly winds we've had lately, that these plovers probably got to New Zealand a damn sight quicker than we ever could from Tasmania, having no direct link these days, and having to go via Melbourne, with all the security checks etc..... but don't start me on that one.