Saturday, December 19, 2009

Park Hotspot

I've spent many hours wandering the more distant parts of Risdon Brook Park, near Risdon Vale, on the eastern shore of the Derwent River. This area is a popular spot for walkers, cyclists, joggers and families, although they largely keep to the impoundments perimeter track. Visiting in early December, I took a track along the side of a small valley that I've found to be a good birding spot. My 'schedule' for this spot, is to stand and listen, noting the calling birds. First 'cab off the rank' on this morning was the unmistakable "tinkling" call of a Blue-winged Parrot. They usually call from the tops of the dead trees higher up the side of the valley, but are hard to spot, and I failed to find them on this morning, but I had consolation of finding a juvenile Flame Robin, still being fed by its parents. Calls came thick and fast after that, the distinctive call of a Satin Flycatcher and competing Golden Whistlers, contact calls of foraging Silvereyes, Green Rosellas and Musk Lorikeets. Close by Brown Thornbills and Superb Fairy-wrens scolded me as I passed. As I stopped to watch them I noticed a bird that I couldn't ID, rapidly cross the valley, and I spent a while trying to locate it. It turned out to be a juvenile Horsfields Bronze-cuckoo, which appeared to be begging food from both the thornbills and wrens. While still focused on these birds, I heard the distinctive, somewhat mournful call of a Beautiful Firetail from the depths of the thick scrub lining the small creek running through the valley. Not uncommon in this reserve, I often hear them calling, but much less often see them. I stopped and sat at a vantage point overlooking the valley and was soon rewarded. Rarely getting to see them, let alone photograph them, this proved to be a red letter day. At least 2 pairs of Firetails, one seeming to have a helper in tow, were nest building. They were taking the material, in this case long grass stems, most measuring 30 cms or more, from high up the valley side, down into the scrub at the bottom. They passed many times, slowly and cautiously up, and rapidly down. As you can see by the accompanying images, they sometimes gave me a "photo opp.". It appeared that only one of the pair carried the material, the other riding shotgun. In the middle of all this excitement, I had several times heard a hawk calling from the canopy of nearby gums, but was reluctant to move. In the end curiosity got the better of me, and after some time searching, located the nest of a Brown Goshawk, high in a (photograhically) distant eucalypt. Surprisingly, since I was clearly visible to the female goshawk in the photo., she remained on the nest. I watched for sometime before the hawk eventually flew off and I wandered back to my 'firetail'
spot. In the next half hour or so, I was visited by Yellow Throated and Black-headed Honeyeaters, Silvereyes, a calling male Satin Flycatcher, Grey Shrike-thrush, and a Golden Whistler. I briefly heard a Swift Parrot from one of the tall blue gums, a species I have suspected may breed here. The goshawk continued to visit the nest, which almost certainly contained young, always calling as it neared, and only the female. Where was the male? I soon found out. A pair of Grey Currawong approached and was vigorously attacked by the previously unseen male, which briefly perched on a dead limb across the valley, before, presumably, returning to his vantage spot overlooking the nest site. Perhaps this was why the female called when approaching the nest? Didn't want to be mistaken for an intruder! As the morning wore on, the area quietened down, and I reluctantly left, having had another rewarding day in the park.