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.


Duncan said...

Just beautiful, Alan.

BirdingTas said...

Hi Duncan,
You've made my day, maybe week! They are perhaps a little understated,but exquisitely beautiful birds on close acquaintance. Thanks for your comments.

John Tongue said...

Hi Alan,
I think I'd be extremely happy with shots of Pink Robin as 'usable' as this. Brilliant!

Penny said...

A lovely post that with your considered words enables the reader to share a priveleged view. It is obvious from the included photos your presence and actions at the scene were accepted by the Pink Robin as non threatening.
In contrast I have just read an entry on a popular photo site from a person who states they recently spent four hours following the sounds of a Forty-spotted Pardalote at the Peter Murrell Reserve in order to obtain a photo. Considering that this is an endangered bird and its breeding season is in progress I see these actions as totally irresponsible,and by posting to a public forum worry that other people may see this style as acceptable.
I find on my quest of photographing birds that if the situation is not going my way reminding myself how I would feel if I was the bird is an excellent moderator!

BirdingTas said...

Hi John,
Thank you for your comment. I was pleased with the results, but perhaps I owe an explanation:
Photographing birds during my birding outings is a never ending quest for better results, it's one of the things that drives me to take more. As I process the images on my PC, I find that invariably the shots don't live up to my expectations. After all, the 'collected' representation of a bird is a poor substitute for the real thing! Having seen this particular bird at very close range, the results just don't do it justice. It's frustrating.
Occasionally I get an image that's better than my average result, but a quick look at some of the great bird images on the internet quickly dispels any feeling of complacency on my part. I know my place!

John Tongue said...

Mmmm! And when I campare many of my shots to ones I see on your blog, I know my place, too!!

oanh said...

I think this might be my first comment, though I've been reading along for a while.

These shots are astounding! And what a cutie the pink robin is. I very much admire your persistence and am think these photos are lovely: clear and characterful. I never even see a little bird this clearly, let alone manage a photograph.

BirdingTas said...

Good one John!
You should see some of my images on an "off" day. We all have our 'triumphs' and 'failures', and I only show my all too infrequent 'triumphs'.
All said and down it's really about birds. I hope that the images might entice people to go and look for themselves and realise what 'treasures' they have been missing.

John Tongue said...

And the Pink Robins certainly are "treasures"!! Keep up the inspiration, Alan.

Carole M. said...

oh MY, what a treasure; so eye-catching and appealing. I love the robins though don't have them here at all. I saw a yellow-breasted robin in the Blue Mntns years back; that's the closest encounter...yours is STUNNING. Great photos.

heroinsight said...

wow...absolutely stunning shots, although I can relate to the feeling of being disappointed at the end results after a seemingly serendipitous day of bird watching. Not that I would be disappointed at all with these shots-the light and detail you've captured are superb. As a Gippslander these days myself (I did live in Tassie for around 10 years then inner city Melbourne prior), I too have tried to capture this exquisitely-coloured robin as it is also one of my favourites, but I have yet to get even just one decent shot given the difficulties you described so aptly. Your photos and prose have inspired this enthusiastic amateur however to re-attempt what seemed an impossible task,in the hope that one day, with more experience and Lady Luck to aid me, I will manage to capture just one photo as beautiful as the ones here. Thank you for the chance to see your work and share in your wonderful Pink Robin birding experience, it truly is a privilege and delight for the viewer!

BirdingTas said...

Hi Carole,
I must admit the subject matter, in this case the Pink Robin male, lends itself to some potentially great images. I suspect that if I had the same shots of the rather drab female, they may have passed unsung! Thank you for your kind comments.

BirdingTas said...

Hi Penny,
I share your exasperation at the actions of some photographers, some even calling themselves birders! Their real interest in birds is minimal.I have thought about these forums at length and I'm coming to the conclusion that by their very nature they're competitive. In that lies the problem. It's amazing what we're all capable of doing in a competitive environment!
BTW, did you see my cameo appearance in the ABC's piece?

BirdingTas said...

Hi Cindy,
I see you understand the frustrations of bird photography. How many times have I returned in the belief that I have some good shots, only to be brought back to reality on viewing them on the PC! A new "problem" has begun to rear its' head--increasingly I find I can't hold the camera as steady as I once could. Old age is catching up with me. Fortunately, I can still enjoy the birding.
Thank you for your wonderful post.

Unknown said...

Hi ,just a thought , pink ribbon , cancer awareness campaign , might like your beautiful pink colour

BirdingTas said...

Hi Robin,
Thanks for your comments. I have to admit that I hadn't made the connection. These images of Pink Robin (and some from my pbase site) are widely used by others on the internet--many hundreds of times. Not sure what the ethics are, but I do feel a little flattered that others like them so much.