Monday, 9 January 2017

A prowl on the Plain

As it is some fair time since we first noted the Whiskered Terns nesting in the Marsh on the Plain I took myself back there to see if there were any chicks.  Cutting to the chase, there were.  However there were also lots of other interesting things before getting to them.

Before even getting to the Marsh a Spotted Harrier wafted over, and then wafted off on the breeze towards Woolcara. This species was regular in the area a few years ago but has rarely been sighted in recent times.

Here is the habitat.  When walking through that at 30+oC it is important not to think about the words "Tiger" or "Snake".  But don't keep your eyes down all the time otr you'llmiss the Latham's Snipe and Baillon's Crake as they flush.
 As a naturalist friend commented "Reeds are round and Sedges have edges"so this is a sedge of some variety.
The first birds noticed were 9 White-faced Herons most of which moved off as I arrived.  Two perched on fence posts.
Also of the heronish persuasion were 4 Straw-necked Ibis.  After being regular in 2014 and 2015 they have been very hard to find for the past 12 months.
Beating through the undergrowth the amount of insect life was staggering.  Thousands of small grasshoppers and dragonflies were throughout the vegetation.  The presence of the grasshoppers could explain the return of the Ibis  There were also large numbers of these large flies, which I think are part of the family Asilidae (Robber flies).

 There were quite a few Anoplognathus rugosus (Christmas Beetles).  The small fly was by-catch.
The masses of insects in the grass explains why the terns at times go soe hundreds of metres away from the water, hawking over the rank grassland.  I didn't pursue them in flight but went digiscoping towards nearby nests.  My estimate when I arrived was about 40 birds in flight with at least 15 active nests, some of which were occupied by 2 birds.  My guess was a minimum of 60 birds.

This was the closest nest to where I could get.  The following photos were taken by digiscoping with my phone.  An adult in situ.  It spent some time 'gardening' around the nest.
 With the benefit of seeing later photographs I now realise there is a chick under the left wing.
 A more obvious chick.  Several of the birds seemed to be panting: did I mention it was over 30oC at about 10:30?
 Clearly 2 chicks.
 A second adult makes a delivery.
 This is the avian version of food for the domicile-bound:  "Meals on Wings"?
All up a very successful outing.

No comments: