Sunday, 4 January 2015

Kerang Lakes - Part 1 Lake Tutchewop

Having enviously read reports of sightings of the first recorded Long-billed Dowitcher in Australia at Lake Tutchewop while I was travelling overseas and keeping up family and domestic duties during November and December, I finally bit the bullet and decided to head north this weekend to see if I could find and photograph this bird. I initially planned this trip for yesterday but, with the predicted high winds and temperatures in the 40s, dedicated Saturday to painting deck rails and furniture and decided to wait for the cooler weather today for birding.

After a few hours sleep to prepare for the long day of driving, I was woken by the alarm at 4:00 and was out they door by 4:11AM, arriving at Lake Tutchewop just on 8:30AM to find large flocks of Australian Pelicans, Australian Shelducks and small waders resting around the water's edge.

Australian Pelican, Lake Tutchewop, Kerang
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x2 adaptor), ISO 400, f/5.6 1/800
Australian Shelduck + small waders, Lake Tutchewop, Kerang
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x2 adaptor), ISO 400, f/5.6 1/1000

I spent two hours searching the south end of the lake, particularly around the area of salt marsh, grasses and reeds surrounding the inlet channel (Lake Tutchewop is a drain for irrigation water) where the bird had most often been reported) but no Dowitcher in sight.

I did manage to get a few shots of other birds making the most of the inlet channel. White-Fronted Chats were flitting about the vegetation, the males occasionally perching long enough for me to catch a shot, where the females stayed low in the vegetation.

White-fronted Chat (male), Lake Tutchewop, Kerang
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x2 adaptor), ISO 400, f/5.6 1/320

There were many Red-capped Plovers racing around the mud flats looking for food

Red-capped Plover (male), Lake Tutchewop, Kerang
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x2 adaptor), ISO 400, f/5.6 1/800
Red-capped Plover (immature), Lake Tutchewop, Kerang
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x2 adaptor), ISO 400, f/5.6 1/640

along with a few Red-necked Stints, one of which walked closely past me as I was photographing the Plovers.

Red-necked Stint, Lake Tutchewop, Kerang
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x2 adaptor), ISO 400, f/5.6 1/1000

By far the most numerous waders were Sharp-tailed Sandpipers, most of which were congregated a few hundred metres 'offshore'

Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Lake Tutchewop, Kerang
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x2 adaptor), ISO 400, f/5.6 1/1000

but a few flew in closer,

Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Lake Tutchewop, Kerang
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x2 adaptor), ISO 400, f/5.6 1/800

some feeding along the water's edge,

Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Lake Tutchewop, Kerang
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x2 adaptor), ISO 400, f/5.6 1/1000
Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Lake Tutchewop, Kerang
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x2 adaptor), ISO 400, f/8 1/400
Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Lake Tutchewop, Kerang
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x2 adaptor), ISO 400, f/8 1/400

others 'hiding' among the vegetation,

Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Lake Tutchewop, Kerang
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x2 adaptor), ISO 400, f/8 1/640

and two posing for portraits.

Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Lake Tutchewop, Kerang
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x2 adaptor), ISO 400, f/8 1/320
Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Lake Tutchewop, Kerang
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x2 adaptor), ISO 400, f/8 1/400

Further out on the lake, among the pelicans and ducks, was a pair of Great Cormorants and a solo Gull-billed Tern

Great Cormorant, Lake Tutchewop, Kerang
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x2 adaptor), ISO 400, f/5.6 1/400
Gull-billed Tern, Lake Tutchewop, Kerang
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x2 adaptor), ISO 400, f/5.6 1/640

and several Black Kites were circling over the lake picking up thermals.

Black Kite, Lake Tutchewop, Kerang
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x2 adaptor), ISO 400, f/5.6 1/2000

A little disappointed but not to be beaten, I called it quits at this location and headed around the lake to check out the northern shore but there was very little bird life anywhere else I could get to on the lake and, more importantly, no Dowitcher. 

It was early afternoon by the time I got back to the southern end of Lake Tutchewop and by now there were several other birders out on the mudflats scoping the offshore flocks for the odd one out. The water level in the lake was receding quickly (the water's edge was now at least 100 metres further out than it had been this morning) so the flocks of Australian Shelduck and small waders were further away. The distance and heat haze made it difficult to photograph much

Australian Shelduck, Lake Tutchewop, Kerang
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x2 adaptor), ISO 400, f/5.6 1/2000
Small waders, Lake Tutchewop, Kerang
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x2 adaptor), ISO 400, f/5.6 1/1600

but there was nothing larger or different from what I had seen this morning so I headed for the Reedy Lakes Ibis Rookery to see what I could find before returning here for one last attempt later this afternoon.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Although you did not see the bird you were looking for you did see a god number of waders etc. I have never seen the white fronted chat so that was good, I have seen all the others. I see you now have posted another post, I wonder did you find the bird in that post. Off to look now.

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