Thursday, 30 July 2009

2008: Herdsman Lake Land Birds, Perth

Little Eagle

The stilts weren't my first bird identification problem. As soon as I got clear of the car park, a raptor tilted and wheeled over sedge beds across the lake. That behaviour back home would have made it all harrier but I was getting some distinctive underwing patterns that didn't match any of the circus genus in the field guide. These birds of prey do indirectly get that taxonomic label from their performing skills: they circle round each other when courting. This bird didn't circle. It disappeared.

No matter. I wasn't going to win them all and I hoped to get a more comfortable view from the Visitor Centre. I had no problem getting in but a sign demanded a gold coin to use the facilities. What was this? A pirate economy? Did I also need a tot of rum and a dead man’s chest? I wondered where to get these gold coins. Tourist Information? It was too late for that, so I roughed it outside.

My raptor, or maybe another one, reappeared and by dint of checking a very useful four pages of overhead drawings in my Morcombe, I pencilled in little eagle for another lifer. I was still racking up the waterbirds with ease but I had more trouble in an area of paperbarks and flooded gums right by the Centre. Various wee birdies there would only keep still long enough for me to be certain of one new species – western gerygone (pronounced jerry-gone-ee with the stress at the end of jerry; I only learned this a month later).

In the more open areas I made the reacquaintance of willie-wagtail. This bold, little, black-and-white, long-tailed flycatcher, not a million miles unrelated to the magpie-lark, would also be a constant companion the breadth of Australia. I added further lifers with a flock of little corellas and, disappointingly, laughing doves. They should have been no closer than India. Finally, a singing honeyeater became world bird number 870 for ten lifers in a couple of hours.

Those hours had taken a slight toll of my skin too and I could feel my face burning. It was time to spend my last sleepless night in Perth.

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