Rare Vagrant causes a stir down at Herdsman Lake
Late in 2018, the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DBCA) slashed a Bulrush (Typha orientalis) area which historically was a paddock but had deeply overgrown with weeds. The spot is located on the southern side of Herdsman Lake, near Moondine Drive, just a few hundred metres from WA Gould League’s- Herdsman Lake Wildlife Centre.
By early 2019 we were rewarded with an open wading area which had attracted some interesting waders, including Pectoral Sandpiper (Calidris melanotos), Red-kneed dotterel (Erythrogonys cinctus), Black-fronted dotterel (Elseyornis melanops) and Long-toed stints (Calidris subminuta).
However, the real craze didn't start until an unusual bird was spotted and birdos from around the country got extremely excited as a Collared Pratincole (Glareola pratincola), was listed on the well-known internet bird sites. Every day over the past month, the site would fill with people carrying cameras and spotting scopes hoping to get a shot of this bird and add a new tick to their life long bird list. There were even reports of people travelling from as far away as Sydney, Melbourne and Darwin just to get a look.
This Collared Pratincole was clearly a vagrant bird and it was considered rare for it to be out of this range and suddenly turn up in Perth. Collared Pratincoles are a resident of tropical Africa in winter, but breed in the warmer southern European countries, so it was about 9,000km away from where it should be.
Collared Pratincoles are typically found in flocks, so to have just one bird was also quite unusual. They are considered a wading bird, but unlike other waders who walk around and probe and poke to feed, this bird prefers to feed on the wing to catch flying insects. It not a big bird, being around 30cm and when in flight it shows its distinctive long tail and very long pointed wings (65cm) which are typically found in birds who make long distance flights.
We are indebted to the many birdwatchers that have dropped into WA Gould League’s- Herdsman Lake Wildlife Centre, to ensure we didn’t miss out spotting it and particularly to Bill Betts for permission to publish his beautiful photos.
Well done to DBCA for creating yet another habitat, a wading zone, on this beautiful lake the Nyungars called Noonkenburra. Hopefully we continue to see more unusual waders in this new habitat. If you do have any unusual sightings of birds around Herdsman Lake, please let us know!