Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Fence Sitters

A few weeks back, I had returned to Pipeclay Lagoon to try to find a single Sanderling (a small migrant wader) I had seen there a few days earlier. To say I had "seen" it, doesn't tell the whole story. I wanted to try my hand at video, and had decided that shooting a small flock of waders would be a cinch, it wasn't! But as I reviewed the footage on my PC, I realised that among the Red-necked Stint was the aforementioned Sanderling. This species is mainly found on ocean beaches, and I don't recall ever seeing one in the Hobart area. So I had returned to try taking some 'stills'. I quickly located the wader flock of around 100 stint, but clearly the Sanderling was absent. As I was walking back through the tussock grass, I became entangled in discarded old fencing wire, fell full length, saved the camera, but aggravated a recent leg injury--yes, very amusing! 
      So my recent outings have been limited to birding from my vehicle, with occasional forays close by. I guess the good news is that a vehicle makes a great hide, and it's amazing how trusting birds are to their approach. So the accompanying shots were taken from my vehicle around the perimeter of the lagoon. All of the birds were at some part of their breeding cycle. 
       The Australasian Pipit, found    Australia-wide, was carrying food, in this instance a large spider, to a nearby nest among the tussocks, stopping off atop the fence post to survey the area for possible threats. I've rarely photographed them, although quite common in many open areas of the state. They sometimes occur in close proximity to the more commonly found Eurasian Skylark, a species introduced in the mid 19th century. These 2 species are very similar in appearance, and can present an ID challenge as you flush them from grasslands. The pipits form small flocks in winter, and live a nomadic life. One winter's morning, in a gale, a flock took refuge in my and surrounding gardens, very much in suburbia. Not exactly pipit habitat.
           The White-fronted Chat, another nomad, was among several pairs feeding nestlings, again using the fence as a vantage point. They appear to breed throughout the spring and well into summer, appearing suddenly in an area, breeding, and just as quickly moving on. Usually found in family groups, they flock in the colder months, forming substantial flocks, often seen roaming the open countryside.
           Lastly, and size-wise, the least, I photographed a pair of Striated Pardalote nest building, also using the fence as a vantage point. In the open country around Pipeclay Lagoon, they nest in holes in the ground or in sandy banks, but in wooded areas, they usually choose holes in trees, sometimes several in the same tree. I spotted this pair carrying long lengths of dry grass to their nearby nest hole. Of the 3 mentioned, they are the only true migrants, moving to the Mainland in winter, although a few may remain .
           Of course these 3 species are by no means the only 'fence sitters', but I'm grateful for their cooperation!  


Carole M. said...

sorry to hear about your unfortunate stumble and consequences (good you didn't ditch your camera though). Nice photos; enjoy seeing your birdlife.

owheelj said...

Also sorry to hear about your fall.

I was wondering if you have any advice for differentiating skylarks and pipits? I've had some difficulty at Orielton Lagoon lately. Do skylarks always have their crest?

BirdingTas said...

Hi Carole,
Thanks for your comments. Falling appears to have become an occupational hazard of late. I have the bruises to prove it!

BirdingTas said...

Hi Jeremy,
You raise an interesting point that I have 'mulled' over for sometime. I had that issue for many years, and nowadays I appear to just know! Must be a series of indefinables that give clues--usually known as the jizz. Certainly the pipit, as a close relation to the wagtails (European), rise with an undulating flight as against the skylark's 'hovering' flight. The pipits usually call at least once with their "tweez" call.
I'm not sure that that really helps--I worked hard at it until I became very familiar with both. As your comments suggest, they often frequent the same habitat, at least around Hobart.