Friday, November 27, 2009

Vibrant Gould's Lagoon

I've made a couple of 'pilgrimages' to Gould's Lagoon at Granton this week, largely to get usable shots of Little Grassbirds. In the case of the grassbirds, it's still work in progress, for although I've shown the image at right, I've still got a way to go before I get what I'm after. Grassbirds aside, the visits have certainly been worthwhile, with evidence of a range of birds successfully breeding there.
My first surprise, as I stood watching the grassbirds, some carrying food, flit from reed clump to reed clump, was a family of Eurasian Coot, with four newly hatched chicks. I haven't noted any coot breeding here before, and during my visits this week, I counted a total of 4 pairs with young or eggs. While this may not be surprising given the large numbers often seen around this state, coot breeding in Tasmania is a relatively recent event. As recently as 1995, Bob Green in his "Fauna of Tasmania", reported "only rarely is it found breeding here". Other species with young included Chestnut Teal, Black Duck, Purple Swamphen, and Tasmanian Native Hen. As a local remarked, "they'll probably end up as harrier food", and indeed the local Swamp Harriers frequently patrol the reed beds.
I had received an email from a reader, saying that she had seen a Latham's Snipe at "Gould's", and indicating that it was near the "barking dogs" on the northern side of the lagoon. Not seeing that many snipe in recent years, I thought it was worth a look. Sure enough, as I walked along the track (and despite the accompaniment of barking dogs), I heard the snipe as it flushed and I watched as it sought shelter in the delta of a nearby stream. I sought a better view, but before I got there, a second individual flushed, which in turn flushed the first, and all I could do is watch as they flew the length of the lagoon and pitched down near the main road.
On my second visit (in light rain), and despite my wary approach, I flushed an individual, which once again pitched down in the nearby streamside vegetation. I walked back to the bank above said stream and stood scanning the heavily vegetated far bank. After what seemed ages, and as I was about to venture closer, I realised I was looking straight at the snipe, perhaps 20 metres away! I took several shots, all identical, one shown above. How lucky can you get!. When reviewing the shots on my PC, I realised what an exquisitely marked bird this snipe is--absolutely beautiful. Once again, Gould's Lagoon is worth a visit.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Spirit of King Canute...Red Knot

One of the few Latin bird names I remember is that of the Red Knot, Calidris canutus. It stems from my now distant childhood and the story of King Canute. As I recall, it was then suggested that his courtiers told him that he was so powerful that he could command the tide not to come in and he got very wet in the process--stupid git! Today, I see that the boot's on the other foot, so to speak. It's now suggested that he got wet to prove to his courtiers that he was not more powerful than God.
For many years I thought that this event was immortalised in the Latin canutus referring to the Knot. I fondly watched Knot feed on the tide line, and occasionally take to the water, reinforcing this thought. The truth is that the call of the Knot is written as "knut knut", which also happens to be the old Norse word for Canute. I think I prefer my version--another childhood story shattered.
Recently the spit at Lauderdale, in Ralph's Bay, has been graced with the presence of first one, and more recently two, Red Knot. Not that uncommon in Tasmania, and often seen in the company of Bar-tailed Godwit, numbers in recent years suggest a decline. Surprisingly tame, I took the opportunity to get numerous images, a few shown here, while looking for a mystery wader that was reported to be among the Red-necked Stint flock. One bird that I did see, as I parked my vehicle alongside of the nearby canal, was a sandpiper that I suspect was a Common Sandpiper--a decidedly uncommon sandpiper in Tasmania. I did subsequently see 'the' reported Common Sandpiper at the mouth of the Clarence Plains Rivulet, across the bay from Lauderdale.
While in the area, I visited the now full, Clear and Rushy Lagoons, observing a flock of 30+ Hardhead, another uncommon species in this state.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Ralph's Bay's Feisty Locals

Perhaps mirroring the fight that locals (and many others) fought over the Ralph's Bay Conservation Area at Lauderdale, I witnessed the event, pictured at left, a few days ago.
For many years a pair of Pied Oystercatchers have nested on the end of the Lauderdale Spit. Unfortunately for this resident pair, it's also a spot where many other birds choose to roost at the top of the tide. Mostly they have to contend with other oystercatchers, sometimes numbering a hundred or more, one of the largest roosts you'll find anywhere. But they also need to defend their territory against gulls, Silver, Kelp and Pacific, and, as you can see, the odd White-faced Heron. The pair of oystercatchers at left of the image, started on the oystercatchers that I had disturbed from further down this little peninsula, and once 'wound up', took on all-comers. This hapless heron, that had been fishing in the drainage ditch as the tide rose, lobbed down almost in front of them and immediately became the centre of their attention. Confused at first, it tried several times to find another spot to land, but these oystercatchers were determined that shouldn't happen! Amazing what determined locals can do when their 'space' is threatened!