Tuesday, 26 December 2017

Australasian Gannett

Australasian Gannett

Hooded Plover

Hooded Plover Thinornis rubricollis cucullatus

I love these birds. They’re small but braver than their size suggests. You find them on beaches, including the largest, wildest and stormiest. There will usually be two of them, but sometimes more (including offspring). As you walk along the beach, they will walk away from you, which is how they avoid you but also lead you away from their nest. After a little while, they will fly back around you, and, if nesting, check their nest (but only when you’re not obviously watching).
The nest is found above the high tide line, in the sand, shingle or dune-edges. Try not to walk close to dunes, especially if you see them wandering about the beach. Walk below the high tide line, as they are smart enough not to nest there.
These two were on Roaring Beach on the Tasman Peninsula. I saw them there earlier in the year, and very recently went back to try to photograph them with the new lens. They were still about, and led me up and down the beach, dutifully protecting a nest. I also attempted to get them votes in the Guardian’s Australian Bird of the Year award. They didn’t win, but I still think they’re the pluckiest little birds in the book*.
There’s a problem with the naming of this bird – “they” seem to have changed their name to Thinornis cucullatus, and there are two sub-species. In addition, of course, they’re also known as the Hooded Dotterel, and there's a lengthy online article explaining why they are NOT dotterels.

Nikon D7200, Nikkor 200-500mm@500mm.
1/1000s, f8, ISO 100.

*So, what book? Well, it’s Watt’s Standard Book of Tasmanian Birds**, the unexpurgated version, with the Gannet*** (Australasian).
**Ok, really it’s the Field Guide to Tasmanian Birds by Dave Watts. Buy one, it’s great!
***Like this one

Little Wattlebird

Little Wattlebird Anthochaera chrysoptera

This bird was very active and gymnastic, bouncing from tree to tree looking for food. I found him at the Franklin riverside walk, along with a couple of others in this calendar. He wasn’t too concerned about me, presumably having correctly assessed my chances of climbing the tree he was in. They have a red-brown patch under their wings. I like these birds, they’re sort of cheeky. I like to think he’d say “Thanks mate, got me looking all undignified. And then put it in the calendar. Champion!”

Nikon D7200, Nikkor 200-500mm@500mm.
1/800s, f5.6, ISO 2500.

Masked Lapwing Chick (“Plover”)

Masked Lapwing Chick (“Plover”) Vanellus Miles

The parents are supposed to stop me getting this close, but the parents of this chick at Franklin had obviously become used to cars being around the Wooden Boat School, and also tolerated a bloke gardening nearby. This was shot out the car window. They are very cute, especially when they waggle their tiny wings. If you email me, I’ll send you a picture of that. This one has now grown into a normal angry plover.

Nikon D7200, Nikkor 200-500mm@500mm.
1/1000s, f5.6, ISO 160.

Superb Fairy-wren

Superb Fairy-wren Malurus cyaneus

These beautiful little birds are fairly shy, and getting close enough can be tricky. They’re also quick. This fellow was at Franklin on the riverside walk north of the Wooden Boat School. You have to sneak about slowly. The alternative method of photographing some birds is to drive around in a car. They don’t worry about cars in some circumstances, and you can fire away out the window with impunity. The lady Fairy-wrens are brown, round and sort of cute. Only the blokes have the pretty blue. Some close observers will also note that I misspelt this bird’s scientific name in the early versions of the calendar.

Nikon D7200, Nikkor 200-500mm@500mm.
1/1000s, f5.6, ISO 250.

Sooty Oystercatcher

Sooty Oystercatcher Haematopus fuliginosus

Another Pirates Bay photo, this one on a stormy and rainy day. The oystercatchers will watch you very carefully as you walk along a beach, calling angrily as you close, then fly around you back to the beach, rather like the Hooded Plover does. I think for once I tracked this one perfectly in flight. Birds-in-flight are even harder than birds-avoiding-humans. Like the Hooded Plover, they maintain a nest on or near the beach among rocks, seaweed and the like, and their angry calls are warnings to stay away.

Nikon D7000, Nikkor 70-300mm@300mm.
1/3200s, f8, ISO 800.

Black Currawong

Black Currawong Strepera fuliginosa

The quintessential currawong, so emblematic of the Tasmanian bush. This one was strutting about at Ridgeway, quite unconcerned about my presence. He knows he can fly away if I make a move. I don’t know if there’s an actual collective noun for them, but I use a “carry-on” of currawongs. That’s more, “Well, some carry-on that was”, rather than reminiscent of a tacky English movie called “Carry On Currawong”. I recently read they prey on other birds; chicks, mothers, fathers. The claws and beak aren’t just for show.

Nikon D7200, Nikkor 200-500mm@200mm.
1/1000s, f5.6, ISO 560.