Friday, March 25, 2011

"Fat Man" and Robin

Monday morning and hankering to go out birding before the rain forecast for the rest of the week. The 'mountain' was clear; to Hobartians the 'mountain' refers to Mt. Wellington that is often a good indication of weather to come. So I headed off to one of the many walking tracks on the mountain. It was still early and quite mild as I climbed towards the Organ Pipes (a rock feature of the Mtn.) and it at least sounded promising with the still air filled with the familiar sound of calling Crescent Honeyeaters. Although these honeyeaters are not really flocking birds, during autumn they are often found in groups just after sunrise, calling loudly. Loudly enough in fact to drown out all other bird calls. Most appeared to be juveniles and soon started to disperse through the light scrub, some feeding on the flowering banksia, some chasing flying insects and yet others, mostly males, chasing each other. A few Tasmanian Scrubwren quietly disappeared into the scrub as I approached, emerging soon after I'd passed, but this promising start was cut short by light rain, followed by increasing wind and I beat a retreat to the car. Somewhat frustrated, and hoping that the rain was only around the mountain, I decided to try the nearby Waterworks Reserve which is more sheltered and at a lower altitude.

I drove to the far car park and headed off. Almost immediately stopping to ID a bird call that I was sure I knew but couldn't place. Eventually the 'penny dropped', it was a Bassian Thrush, well actually three, presumably males announcing occupation of their respective territories. I've rarely seen these birds at this reserve, although I suspect they're quite common here, and as they continued to call, headed off in 'pursuit'. Before I could get a good bearing on them, they stopped calling, and light rain began to fall. I wandered on, hoping that it would improve, it didn't. I took shelter in the scrub alongside the track under towering gums.

It proved to be a good move, not perhaps photographically, but certainly for birding. Perhaps insects were being disturbed by the light rain, perhaps the birds were taking shelter too, whatever, I was soon 'surrounded' by numerous birds. Strong-billed Honeyeaters overhead, Silvereyes 'tanging' their way through the shrubs, The occasional Tasmanian Thornbill scolded me, as did several scrubwrens. Grey Fantails flitted round me, as did the Golden Whistler pictured, often coming within a few feet of me. Very exciting and it was difficult to know where to look next!

After the initial excitement, I began hoping for a chance to get a few shots, despite the appallingly poor light for photography. A weak call that sounded like the contact call of a distant Dusky Robin, grabbed my attention, and on a dead branch lower down the slope I spotted a small bird that by it's 'rotundness' I realised was a Beautiful Firetail. I immediately named it "fat man". I managed to get a few usable shots of this juvenile firetail as it sat forlornly calling, to no avail, for the next several minutes. I had hoped its' parents might put in an appearance, but they didn't. A 'real' Dusky Robin call heralded the appearance of a family group of 4 or 5 of them, as they foraged around for insects, occasionally coming close enough for a photo. opp., before the arrival of a group of Grey-shrike Thrush caused them a brief panic. They too were after insects, sometimes on the ground, but more often on the trunks of the gums. The robins were soon back, and a juvenile Fan-tailed Cuckoo put in a brief appearance, but the rain persisted and, reluctantly, I headed back to the car. An excellent morning's birding despite, or perhaps because of, the weather, giving me enough memories to last me through a very wet week.


Denis Wilson said...

Love your "Fat Man" shot.
Well done.
I know how elusive these birds are.

BirdingTas said...

Hi Denis,
I can rarely find firetails "on demand", even where I know they're present, and if this bird hadn't been calling, it would probably have remained unseen.
I was concerned that some of my "friends" might have IDed me as the "fat man". I only admit to be a little overweight, not fat