Sunday, August 08, 2010

Free Feed Pierson's Point

Before you rush off to partake, this feed is strictly for the birds.
A recent outing with my son's family to the Peter Murrell Reserve at Kingston, in part to find Forty-spotted Pardalote, ended in a visit to nearby Pierson's Point. We had failed to find any 40spots, and thought that we'd give this area at Tinderbox a look. It was late morning by the time we got there, and I set off round the perimeter of the small reserve, looking in the gums in areas that I have found 40spots in the past. Again I failed, but on rejoining the others found that I had really missed all the action. My son, Matthew, himself a keen birder and photographer, had taken excellent shots of Green Rosellas and Dusky Robins. I hurriedly tried to emulate him, but the best of the day had passed and it was now quite overcast and the children were hankering after the promised lunch at "Maccas". I made a mental note to return.
So about a fortnight later, I made an early morning return visit which turned up trumps.
The local council is undertaking a "beautification" exercise of this area, which is the grounds of the old gun battery, WWII vintage, which overlooks the Derwent River estuary.
My first shots were of members of a group of Dusky Robins, enjoying the spoils from the newly disturbed soil, and utilising the newly installed picnic tables as vantage points to spot insects. Also enjoying it were two groups of Superb Fairy-wrens. But there were many more birds feeding on the ground. It was about now the penny dropped, I'm not sure why it took so long. The attraction was the newly sown grass seed. Green and Eastern Rosellas, Yellow-rumped Thornbills, and Tasmanian Native Hen were all feasting on the seed, and their desire to feed made them easier to approach.
There is a concrete lookout, no doubt originally the control centre for the guns, now windowless, and a large Blue Gum, in the middle of the reserve, and with the gum in flower was attracting a range of birds. I made my way over to the blockhouse, entered and happened to glance through a 'window' on the far side of the room. By one of the picnic tables some 30 metres away, was what I first thought were small animals, but on closer inspection were a covey of Brown Quail, six in all. They too were enjoying the free feed. Although not uncommon, quail seem to have made something of a recovery in the last 12 months. Until last summer, I had rarely seen quail around my usual haunts for some years, but following good Spring rain in 2009, I have noted them in several local reserves.
They were too far away for quality images, but it was fascinating watching them over 30 minutes or more. It was the first time for many years that I've been able to see much more than their tail end after flushing them. They spent most of their time fairly tightly grouped as they fed, and allowed cars to come and go without bothering them unduly. Eventually I must have made one movement too many and alarmed them. They scuttled off keeping closely bunched, heads down, again looking more like a large articulated mammal.
I was more than pleased to have such good views of the quail, but there were other 'delights' about. Two Swift Parrots calling from the top of nearby gums were my first of the season, and a calling Shining Bronze-cuckoo, also present in the Peter Murrell, suggest that this species has made an unusually early arrival. Black-headed, Crescent and New Holland Honeyeaters were particularly active, as were both Spotted and (also newly arrived) Striated Pardalotes, but still no 40spots sighted, although with all the action, I only made a somewhat half hearted attempt to find them. Despite not seeing the 40Spots, it was a most enjoyable morning.