Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Peter Murrell Reserve Surprise

In need of a change of birding venue, midweek I birded the Peter Murrell reserve at Kingston. Having recently photographed both Spotted and Striated Pardalotes, I fondly thought I might have a good show of doing similarly with the 40 spots. In that I totally missed out--I didn't even see one. Starting at the northern carpark, I wandered along the western boundary, stopping to get a few distant images of Australasian Pipits and Yellow-rumped Thornbills. The latter, a particularly numerous species this Spring. On, past both ponds, I turned down over the bridge and looked (in vain) for the 40 spots--I find this is usually one of the best areas. There were numerous Black-headed Honeyeaters, and 2 or more pairs of Yellow Wattlebirds, but only Striated and Spotted Pardalotes. Following the horse riding track, I walked on into the large paddock to the South. At the far end of the paddock I no
ted a pair of Swamp Harriers in what I assume was some kind of nuptial chasing, as they flew in unison among the gums. Having missed out on the pardalotes, I thought they might prove to be worth an attempt at photography, so I ploughed on. Approaching the far side of the paddock, I flushed the female swampie out of a tree, and managed a few shots as she wheeled over me, gaining height. At this spot, adjacent to a large area of ferns and Blackberry entanglements, I noted a number of pairs of Superb Fairy-wrens popping up among the vegetation. Rarely missing an opportunity to photograph these exquisitely plumaged birds, I tried my luck. I moved back along the edge of the ferns, managing every now and then to get the odd shot or two of the males (one top right) . While photographing a calling male, I realised that he had some competition, as a number of other birds were calling. When I finally concentrated on IDing them, I was delighted to find they were Striated Fieldwre
ns, two of them pictured here. While these Fieldwrens are not uncommon in Tasmania, they certainly are elusive, and in probably 50 or more visits to the Peter Murrell, I have never seen them here. In the next 30 minutes or so, I watched and occasionally photographed them, and concluded that there were probably 10 or a dozen here, and as they appear to be breeding, I would expect that number to soon grow.

I looked up the Bird Atlas--no records, and emailed some of the "regulars", and it appears that they have been seen in this reserve in the distant past, but not in recent years. So if birders are seeking this species, this may prove one of the easier sites to see them. I have been asked for sites to see this species more often than almost any other and as this reserve is already a much frequented place for visiting birders, this may add to its' allure.


Penny said...

Hi Alan, great shots of the striated field wren. Just for the record I scrambled a distant shot of one at the Peter Murrell on the fence strainer above the second dam in march this year. Along with the SwampHarrier, yet another species that could be displaced if the proposed 71ha housing development goes ahead on the adjacent Huntingfield Site.

BirdingTas said...

Hi Penny,
Thanks for your comments. From your comments it may well be more widespread at the PM. Given that it's probably the most birded area in the state, it's amazing that this obviously flourishing 'colony' of fieldwrens hasn't been reported. Perhaps because it's in a large paddock with little else to commend it for birding.
Like you I am alarmed to see buildings of various shades creeping (more rampant than that) ever closer to the boundaries of the PM. It's already subject to a range of uses that are not in keeping with a conservation area. I could hear two off-road bikes 'hooning' around in the rehabilitation area while there.

James said...

Hello Alan,
Excellent report and photos!
I'm planning a trip (my first to Peter Murrell) for the end of October.Hopefully I'll be able to photograph the field wrens, I've never had a decent view of this bird ever. Also hopefully the forty spots will be there to!

BirdingTas said...

Thanks James,
It's interesting to compare the PM fieldwrens with the Goat Bluff birds. The Goat Bluff birds are in a very different habitat and the pairs have much bigger territories. But they do have one plus--they're much easier to approach, probably due to much greater interaction with humans, and that makes them much easier to photograph. I must have several hundred images!