Grasswrens and fairy-wrens

Subject: Grasswrens and fairy-wrens
From: Graeme Chapman <>
Date: Tue, 12 May 2015 10:45:19 +1000
Martin, what can I say but thank you.

I do get a certain number of appreciative emails, mainly from beginners, but 
nothing like this. I guess that experienced ornithologists like you seldom see 
the need, or even have the time, to refer to websites like mine because they 
know most of it already.

Sadly for me, in recent times the bottom has dropped out of picture sales 
(which help to keep the website afloat), partly a result of difficult times and 
environment bashing by the coalition governments around the country, but also 
because of the advent of an absolutely brilliant range of digital images by all 
the newer and younger photographers. I hold some of them in awe!

In regard to White-throated Grasswrens, it certainly hasn't been for the want 
of trying by you. I agree Gunlom in recent years has been badly affected by 
fire and is no longer an easy place to find them, but they are known from many 
other places, all very much more difficult of access. Maybe you are lucky you 
didn't wander in above Jim Jim falls - the last person to do this had a very 
scary incident with a wild buffalo! Incidentally, I've had two more people 
reply to say that the White-throated was their first grasswren - I guess when 
Gunlom was OK it was fairly easy. If you do get onto them they are quite noisy, 
not like most other grasswrens.

About the escarpment walking trail, I'm not familiar with it, but the birds are 
known from near Birdie Creek which is up in that general area on the south side 
of the Katherine River. The secret is to try to locate an area that has been 
burnt very little - if there are any. I really don't understand why there is so 
much fire in these remote areas - I suppose once they start they are impossible 
to control in such rugged terrain.

In regard to the Sandhill Grasswren, they have been seen again recently near 
the carpark for the sunset viewing area at Uluru - if you go there in the 
morning there's nobody there. They have been known from that place for a long 
time - the trouble in that area is that you are not supposed to wander off into 
the scrub.

Your eclipse male Splendid F/W at Goyder Lagoon is certainly a long way out of 
the known range and that is an area that has been surveyed intensively. The 
most likely explanation is that you actually saw (in the heat of the moment!!) 
an immature Blue and White. In winter plumage they are fairly alike - both have 
blue wings and tail and younger B & W males take nearly four years to acquire 
adult plumage. Have a look at my pic #535210D. In a few months that bird would 
have had a black bill and easily be mistaken for a winter Splendid male. We all 
make mistakes - my wife keeps reminding me more and more.

Best wishes

Graeme Chapman
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