Sunday, October 13, 2013

Hard Spring?

        Looking back over the last several weeks, my impression is of at best a mixed Spring for birds. In southern Tasmania we've had one of the wettest (and windiest) Springs for several years, but after the extreme dryness of last Summer, I vowed never to complain when it rains. So far I've stuck to my vow. It has made birding something of a challenge and I often wonder what the impact is on our wildlife, and on the birds in particular. No doubt there are winners and losers.
        My impression is, after birding several sites around Hobart, of a decline in bush bird numbers, possibly as result of the last season's dry Summer.  Migrant species such as Grey Fantail, Silvereye and Striated Pardalote certainly seem well down in numbers, and overwintering flocks of Silvereye were few and far between. Most of the returning migrants have arrived, but at the time of writing, I've yet to see or hear a Satin Flycatcher. The Pallid, Fan-tailed and Shining Bronze Cuckoos arrived much earlier than usual, although the actual arrival date of the latter two is somewhat obscured by overwintering birds.
        There are perils for early arriving migrants. I took this rather poor photograph of a rather dejected looking Tree Martin that had almost certainly just arrived (21st August). I was driving round the edge of Pipeclay Lagoon not long after sunrise on a frosty morning. The temperature was around zero Celsius, and with the stiff breeze the apparent temperature was several degrees lower. I caught sight of  a group of birds sitting on a wire fence and as I drove closer, I identified them as mostly White-fronted Chats together with 5 Tree Martins, the first I had seen this season. I took a distant shot of one of the martins, giving what I thought was a fair impression of a penguin! All 'blown up" to retain body temperature, but as they feed almost exclusively on flying insects, they were in for a long wait. On the West Coast, where the colder and wetter days are more frequent, Tree Martins often forage for insects on the ground, something these 5 might have to resort to.
           In late September there was a noticeable movement of Eastern Spinebills through gardens and bushland on Hobart's eastern shore, made more noticeable by their frequent calls, and at least they gave the occasional  "photo opp.".
       October is the main month that many bush birds breed and I've observed many collecting nesting material. Depending on the season ,breeding may extend into December and beyond. But there are a few early starters, and the Tasmanian Scrubwren is one. The scrubwren pictured gave me an unexpected chance of photography (they are great skulkers) and seemed unusually agitated. The "penny dropped" when I noticed a movement in the leaf litter and realised that I was close to their newly fledged youngster. I made a hasty retreat.
         Out of necessity, I've upgraded my computers in the last few months and things have not gone smoothly. Like many things in my life, I procrastinated over an upgrade until it became absolutely imperative! I still can't get my monitor colour calibration as I would like it, probably not so surprisingly as I always buy cheap monitors. So bear with me if the images seem strangely coloured! My Spring at least seems to have been hard