Saturday, 6 November 2010

Shorebirds at Breamlea

Another beautiful day in paradise today so I rose early and headed on a shorebird hunt.

One of my favourite spots for plovers and other small shorebirds is Point Impossible between Breamlea and Torquay (see map). There are at least two pairs of Hooded Plover that frequent the beaches either side of the mouth of Thompson Creek along with (seasonal) mixed flocks of Red-necked Stint, Double-banded Plover and Red-capped Plover.

I arrived there early and scanned the beaches in both directions but nothing but gulls :-(

Heading back along Point Impossible Road there's a spot where the road is very close to the bend in Thompson Creek and a flicker of white caught my eye on the creek bank so I pulled over for a closer look. A single Common Greenshank was feeding about 400 metres upstream but I was almost due west of the bird and looking directly into the sun so shooting from here was not going to be much use. Tripod over my shoulder, I crossed the creek (only just over knee deep at low tide) and slowly stalked the bird from the other side, hoping to get close enough to get the sun side-lighting the bird and close enough for at least a good record shot, never having seen this species here before. I got to within about 150 metres and sat on the sandy bank (another good reason to cross the river - the south bank is sandy with dune sand blowing inland, the north bank is mud) to let the bird settle (it had started to get twitchy as I approached). I soon realised that it was not me that was making the bird nervous as two small terriers ran along the shore from the opposite direction barking at each other and the bird flew up stream away from me. Ah well...back to the car.

As the tide was out and Thompson Creek is tidal almost all the way up its length, I drove into Breamlea and parked at the end of Horwood Drive where it meets the creek, just in case the Greenshank had landed on the mudflats further upstream. No Greenshank but there was a pair of Whimbrel a long way upstream.

Whimbrel, Thompson Creek, Breamlea

Stalking them proved fruitless as wading birds obviously have a considerably higher foot surface area to body mass ratio than humans so are much better adapted at walking on the sandy mud flats of the creek than I am. They were not particularly concerned about me but were walking upstream as they fed and the further we walked, the further away they got so I stopped, lowered the tripod and knelt down in a sandy(ish) spot hoping they would come back my way and get close enough for some good shots.

As I waited, three Red-capped Plover landed on the sandy bank about 50 metres away from me so I slowly crept up on them on two knees and three tripod feet until I was close enough to one of them

Red-capped Plover, Thompson Creek, Breamlea

...and as I was about to try and get even closer, a Common Greenshank flew over me and landed in the creek on the other side of the sand bank.

Common Greenshank, Thompson Creek, Breamlea

No idea if it was the same bird I saw downstream half an hour earlier but highly likely. The two Whimbrel never came back. 

So, dipped at Point Impossible but very happy with the morning...muddy knees and feet and all.

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