Sunday, March 14, 2010

Clear Lagoon.....Black-fronted Dotterel

Clear Lagoon, situated at Sandford (but only a stone's throw from Ralph's Bay at Lauderdale) is probably best described as a shallow, ephemeral water body, certainly in the last 10 or so years its few hectares have been totally dry. Good rains last Winter and early Spring filled it to capacity, attracting waterfowl from far and wide. A few Chestnut Teal and Black Swan managed to breed there, as apparently did a pair of Hoary-headed Grebe, surprisingly, given how shallow the lagoon is.
Predictably, after the recent warm Summer, the area of water has been drastically reduced, but it's surrounded by mud, glorious mud.
A few days ago I stopped along Forest Road, which runs along the southern side of the lagoon, to 'scope' the area. Distantly I could see 2 or 3 hundred waterfowl roosting in the remaining water and on closer inspection these turned out to be almost all Chestnut Teal, with a group of a dozen or so Wood Duck and a solitary Black Swan, the latter I suspect has been injured. I could also see a few grey blobs, which from their number I guessed were probably Red-necked Stint that had flown over from Lauderdale. Anyway it was worth a closer look.
My initial concern on entering this reserve, was to avoid flushing the waterfowl, since the duck shooting season had started the previous weekend. (Why oh why do we still allow duck shooting--and call it 'sport'!). When I got a better view of the "stint", they turned out to be Black-fronted Dotterel, in fact 44 of them, one of the largest groups I've seen in Tasmania. Among them was a solitary Red-necked Stint and a Double-banded Plover. By the number of juvenile plumaged blackfronts, they've had a good year.
I can still recall my first Tasmanian sighting of a blackfront. It was in the Tasmanian Midlands at Tunbridge. I was crossing the Tin Dish River (a stream) and flushed a bird from the stony shore. It flew a few metres (yards actually, this was in the Summer of 1971) and propped, giving me a chance to identify it. I have the event recorded in the margin of my copy of Sharland's "Tasmanian Birds", a bird he described as "uncommon". Since that time there has been a modest increase and they can no longer be considered as uncommon in the drier parts of the state.
After counting the dotterels ( I usually call them plover, but I was taken to task after my blog on them. In my defence, I feel it's only a matter of time that they, like other past "dotterels" will be renamed plovers), I wandered around the perimeter, noting the swarms of insects, which in turn was attracting good numbers of Welcome Swallows and Tree Martins. Flocks of White-fronted Chats were at the feast too, although getting close enough to photograph them in an area with little cover, proved a challenge. Small flocks of Australasian Pipits and Yellow-rumped Thornbills flushed from the dry grass as I passed. A group of the blackfronts that had been feeding out on the mud started to feed on the lagoon edge too and briefly gave a 'photo opp', as did the sole Double-banded Plover. So it was pleasing to once again add Clear Lagoon to my list of places worth a visit after so many dry and, from a birders perspective, barren years.

1 comment:

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