Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Always a Challenge....Pink Robin

One of my favourite birds is the Pink Robin, but they are often elusive, live in dense forest, and are mainly dark in colour and photographing them is often a challenge. I've found that spring is the best time to attempt photography, usually when the male is "announcing" his territorial rights. My philosophy on photographing this species is to visit various local known sites and hope. Hope for a "collision" of events--a cooperative bird, the right situation and the right light. That's not too much to hope for, is it! The other option is to wait for winter when these robins often frequent the edges of their usual wet forest habitat.
So during early spring I did the rounds of local sites, such as the Snug Falls reserve, Myrtle Forest at Collinsvale, Truganini Reserve at Taroona, and the Wielangta Forest. I found Pink Robins at all sites except the Truganini Reserve. At this reserve, much of the 'usual' site has been cleared, possibly to clear fallen trees or invasive weeds. The good news is that this area seems to have been taken over by Eastern Spinebill (several pairs) and Dusky Robins. I also found a pair of Beautiful Firetail nest building close to the track. But it was only at the W
ielangta Forest that the "collision" occurred.
I've made a few trips to the Wielangta Forest this spring, few have produced much in the way of bird images, but it's a good venue for wet forest and rainforest species if you're prepared to put in the effort. The road is now open again, but not in great nick, and care is especially needed around the new bridge. The walking tracks are generally overgrown and have numerous fallen trees across them both large and small, making a walk more like a steeple chase. But from personal experience, there's no lack of leeches.
The visit that I finally managed some shots on was about a month ago and as often happens, I wasn't expecting it. I had only walked a few hundred metres from the road, when I heard an Olive Whistler calling, and stopped to find it. This was shortly followed by first a Bassian Thrush, then a Flame Robin calling, both from nearby dense bush. I endeavoured to locate them, but failed on all counts. A Tasmanian Thornbill and a Tasmanian Scrubwren scolded me as I pushed deeper into the scrub, arriving at a small clearing surrounded by dead or dying shrubs largely covered in lichens. I stood and surveyed the area, hoping to at least find the still calling Olive Whistler. I knew from previous visits that this was a likely spot for the whistler. A movement to my right caught my eye and a Pink Robin appeared. I stood completely still to allow a hopefully close approach. He called, flew to another branch and called again. There was dappled light passing through the forest canopy, and several potential perches around the clearing, and despite the low light level, I began to get quite excited at the possibilities. However this was tempered somewhat by previous attempts which didn't exactly measure up to my expectations.

As you can see by the accompanying images, I did manage to get some useable images, but as always I was left with the feeling "maybe next time". [I could have used flash, but that would have"killed" the ambience, and affect the birds' behaviour.] Over the next 40 minutes I stood, watched, and occasionally photographed this robin as he went about his business. Mostly he took food from among the leaf litter and moss covered ground, pouncing on it from a perch, although I couldn't identify exactly what his prey was. On a number of occasions he came within a metre or so of me, looking, I thought, rather accusingly at me, but otherwise seemed unfazed by my presence. At close quarters, it's size becomes very apparent--it's small (c.12cms), as does the sheer beauty of the pink breast contrasting with the sooty colour of the head and body--so hard to adequately capture in photographs. The female put in a brief appearance, as did several Tasmanian Thornbills, gleaning insects from beneath the leaves of various shrubs. Eventually the wind rose and scudding clouds appeared followed by light rain. Time to leave. I hoped that I had not intruded in this birds' life in vain, but at the very least I had been 'privileged' to spend time watching this sometimes hard to find bird.