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.


Denis Wilson said...

Nice Post, Alan
Hope the health improves, as well as the weather.
With what is going past up here, at present, the main risk the birds would have would be over-flying their destination.
Good to see a banded Double-banded.
Nice capture.

tilcheff said...

Beautiful images, Alan!
The first and the fourth photos are my favorites.
Similar to your previous Fantail experience, it's amazing sometimes when birds come closer than usual, co-operating the photographer in an unexpected way.

BirdingTas said...

Hi Denis,
Thanks for your comments, particularly on my health! That issue has been frustrating (as well as inhibiting), particularly at this time of year when so much is happening in the bird world. I've been limited to taking shots of the local ferals (birds that is!) I rather liked the DBP shot myself--reminded me of a prop forward I once played rugby with!

BirdingTas said...

Hi tilcheff,
Thank you for enthusiastic remarks on the images--sometimes you get lucky, and this was one off the top. Since the fantail episode, I had another encounter, this time with a Striated Pardalote--another returnee. I obviously got too close to its' nest site, as it too sat, very briefly, on my bush hat as I was attempting to photograph it. I quickly backed off, but they are usually very approachable, and forgiving.