My Birding Blogs

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Wandering Tattler at Boat Harbour, Sydney

01 April 2007. 3pm - 5pm. Intertidal rock platforms at Boat Harbour, Sydnay. During high tide, the platform areas are submerged. This is a part of Boat Harbour Aquatic Reserve.

The reef at Boat Harbour is a roosting and feeding site for many coastal birds including Sooty Oystercatcher(big black birds in pic above), Great Crested Tern, Commorants, Double-banded Sandplover, Red-necked Stint, etc.

Special Temporary Resident in Sydney

The current attraction of the site among local birdwatchers is this dull grey looking lone visitor from Alaska - Wandering Tattler (Heteroscelus incanus).

Waders are often shy and would fly away when being approached by human being. I was very careful while following this bird and was patient enough that the bird eventually became oblivious of my presense and started feeding 5 meters infront of me.

It was 4pm and the tide was 1m and rising. The tattler was trugding on the wave-washed rock platform, hunting for small crabs.

At some moments, the ocean wave became so strong and it had to retreat to higher ground and it was so close in front of me. What a sight!

It is a survival skill that some animals have evolved to feed at such hostile environment. It seems that the tattler will get washed by the wave any time.

From this photo, one can barely see the nasal groove extend more than half of the bill. This is one of the features to distinguish it from closely resembled Grey-tailed Tattler.

According to most field guides, the primary tip of Wandering Tattler extends well beyond the tail tip. However, in this individual the primary is at same length as the tail tip.
Thanks to the mention of birding-aus e-forum member G.Clancy on the scales of the leg. According to Handbook of Australian, New Zealand & Antarctic Birds (HANZAB) Vol 3, 1996, page 186, that for Wandering Tattler, "the scales on rear of tarsus is reticulate, whereas it is scutellate (scaly) in Grey-tailed."

Also note that barred rump (barely visible in pic left and above) is not mentioned in most field guides. This is a feature more prominent in Grey-tailed Tattler. However it does occur in some Wandering Tattler, as mentioned in Handbook of Australian, New Zealand & Antarctic Birds (HANZAB) Vol 3, 1996, page 191 that "....on feathers of rump and uppertail-coverts, very thin inconspicuous withish fringes, which quickly wear off....." - No wonder the rump of Wandering Tattler is known as plain grey in most illustrations.

At 4:45pm the feeding time was finally over and the tattler took an afternoon nap at dry platform. A father and son swimmers walked past and were curious what I was stalking at. I was pleased to show them the bird through my scope. Hope they will pick up birdwatching one day. When the father made a quick squatting motion to look at the bird through my spotting scope, bird were spooked and utterred a trill 'Ti-ti-ti-ti-ti-ti-ti-ti-ti-ti' and flew to the southern end of the reef. That had concluded my good day.

At the tidal platform, 3 Red-necked Stints were feeding on the shallow pools. Some had shown colourful breeding plumage, with red neck!

Farewell to Boat Harbour. The small standing birds are Double-banded Plovers, visitors from New Zealand.

Back at home, I compare with a Grey-tailed Tattler that I had photographed in 2004 at Taren Point. It seems that the tattler at Boat Harbour fits into Wandering Tattler as it shows the species most well known diagnostic feature - a nasal groove that extends to about 3/4 of the bill, whereas the Grey-tailed Tattler's nasal groove extends only half of bill length.



  • Nice photos-You seem to know a lot about these birds.

    By Blogger Larry, at 4:23 PM  

  • this site is crap..where are you real birds

    By Blogger Jase, at 8:13 PM  

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