Saturday, January 30, 2010

Rumblings at Gould's Lagoon.......Crakes

Suffering from some undiagnosed 'issue' with my lower leg, and having limited mobility, I have taken the opportunity to visit Gould's Lagoon at Granton several times and just sit among the reeds and watch and wait. The main aim of this exercise was to get some shots of Little Grassbirds, which at the moment are both numerous and active. Most are juvenile birds from what appears to have been a successful breeding season. On my first visit in early January, most of the youngsters were still at least partly dependent on their parents for food and the birds called frequently, so I got a good idea of their whereabouts--rather useful in thick reedbeds! It also meant that by imitating their call (a series of 2 to 4 rather mournful whistles), I had a chance of attracting them. However, this often meant their approach was rather skulking, and, frustratingly, I could see them only a metre or so away, looking at me rather quizzically through the mass of reeds, and certainly quite impossible to photograph.
While I sat there, trying hard not to dwell too much on the fact that my backside was getting ever damper, I noticed a movement to my left, low among the reeds several metres away. Feeding avidly on unseen invertebrates in the shallow (stinking!) water, and approaching ever closer, was an adult Australian Crake. I can't say that it was entirely unexpected, as I had seen a Spotless Crake in an adjacent reedbed from the roadway, but a great find nonetheless. I should mention here that it was a very still morning, no wind, and the sounds and smells from nearby houses were wafting my way. The crake, one of three I saw that first morning, seemed unfazed by sounds of large construction vehicles passing, a goods train, passing cyclists talking loudly, or even my camera shutter, which in the still, sounded like a machine gun. It was soon joined by a youngster (seen above), which kept close in to the reeds. Presumably it hadn't yet quite got used to the sounds of "civilisation", because the slightest sound saw it disappear into the vegetation. The adult came ever closer, and I took many shots. It's pertinent to mention here that these birds are only the size of a starling (with rather larger legs), so close is "good". I couldn't believe it hadn't seen me as I wasn't hidden, and the sound of the shutter seemed so loud. Well, I've found one noise it definitely didn't like--the rumblings of my stomach! I'm afraid I've 'suffered' all my adult life with a grumbling stomach. I've kept meetings amused, certainly when among people I know, but among strangers it can be embarrassing, and I've taken to sitting in the back row if possible. The crake took off at lightning speed, and at first I looked around for the cause, but a repeat performance half an hour later, revealed me as the culprit.
I've been back a few times since, and the juvenile crake image was taken more recently and it's now beginning to show the typical crake markings. I've also managed several shots of the grassbirds, but they appear without warning to feed on the edge of the reeds, and several times I've missed great opportunities while watching the crakes. One is sometimes faced with a dilemma, do I concentrate on the crakes or the grassbirds, and although I must have taken hundreds of shots of the crakes and few of the grassbirds, I do still find the crakes rather fascinating. I just hope they'll forgive my stomach.
Perhaps I should have added a possible explanation to the "rumblings" before you dismiss the story as fanciful or worse. The various inhabitants communicate in the reedbeds by various calls, these crakes by a single note not dissimilar to a quieter, less harsh version of the swamphen's. They share this environment with Purple Swamphen, Tasmanian Native Hen, the occasional Coot, other crakes and possibly Lewin's Rail. Between them they have a variety of calls, many could be described as grunts or guttural in nature. So I suspect the crake with a youngster in tow on hearing a rumbling stomach, mistook it for one of these other inhabitants and using the precautionary principle, took off. Certainly the arrival of an adult Swamphen with juvenile in tow, caused a similar flap.
NB. If you wish to see more images of the crakes, click "Alan Fletcher's Bird Photo's" link at right, then click "Wetland Birds" .

1 comment:

The Blog of Birds said...

Beautiful photo!
Just started my blog and hope to be able to take as good photos.