Thursday, April 24, 2014

"E-Day" at Gould's Lagoon....Great Egret

A recent mention of several Great Egrets at Gould's Lagoon reminded me of a similar incident I had witnessed there in January. Great Egrets are normally considered winter visitors to Tasmania, usually in quite small numbers. I suspect that the same ideal breeding conditions on the Mainland, of a few years ago, that caused the sightings of so many 'rare' ducks in Tasmania and especially so at this lagoon, also proved beneficial to  these egrets.
    I usually arrive at this lagoon with some expectation of an interesting sighting, but after the excitement of so many rarities last year, which included Pink-eared and Freckled Ducks and Baillon's Crake, I was not that optimistic on this occasion. A quick scan of the lagoon from the road showed there were few duck, save for several Australasian Shoveler and a single Freckled Duck. A solitary Australian Crake scuttled away into the reeds, Usually considered a good sighting, it's become almost commonplace here recently, and I rarely pay a visit without seeing one or more. Lastly I looked at the trees on the far side of the lagoon, that often houses roosting cormorants, sighting 40 or so Little Black Cormorants together with a few Great and Little Pied Cormorants, and at the very tops there were at least 10 Great Egrets. It warranted a closer inspection.
  From the hide walkway I counted 14 Great Egrets, a high number for this lagoon, scattered among the tops of the eucalypts. There's often one or two egrets here, particularly during the winter, as there are in the nearby bays and marshes of the Derwent River. I suspect that the very high tides at the time, had forced them to this roost site.
  I decided on a closer inspection, stopping briefly to photograph the Australian Crake that usually hangs out around, and occasionally under, the walkway. I took several shots of the egret roost (top left), but they were clearly very nervous of my presence so I retreated back to the hide.
            A few minutes later the entire roost took flight when two walkers passed underneath the roost. The cormorants flew off, but the egrets scattered around the lagoons on both sides of the main road. From the roadway I watched those on the main lagoon for the next 30 minutes or so. Roosting sites were obviously at a premium, as the image of the two in flight show, as they jockey for position on top of a defunct nest box. Another individual picked up a large stick, carrying it around and later flying off with it. I'm not sure why, although it's easy to make assumptions.
Having had my fill of photographing and watching those egrets on the main lagoon, I wandered over to the other smaller lagoon, where 5 had alighted. They were clearly uneasy, but the presence of a White-faced Heron feeding along the water's edge, unfazed by me, seemed to calm them down. All was well until an empty log train passed by, causing all the egrets to take flight, flying around until it had long passed. The heron continued feeding oblivious to the train and the panicked egrets. They finally alighted in a group as shown in the lower shot. Not wishing to add further to their nervousness, I left. An enjoyable, and at least in Tasmania, an unusual event.