Grasswrens and fairy-wrens

To: Graeme Chapman <>
Subject: Grasswrens and fairy-wrens
From: martin cachard <>
Date: Tue, 26 May 2015 23:53:48 +0000

Hi Graeme,
Please accept my humble apologies for my long delay in getting back to you...

Firstly, I need to say here that it was your pioneering work on Grasswrens that 
gave me the kick that I needed to actually get out there for myself to see 
them. Then there was your amazing article in an old 'Wingspan' years ago that 
really spurred me on further, & from then on, I was categorically hooked!  I 
constantly referred back & forth to your great web-site for more & more 
information as I needed it.
So thank you Graeme for that...

Secondly, thanks for your tip on here re looking for White-throated Grasswrens 
- I'd imagine that they would be even a tad louder than the already noisy Black 
Grasswrens, with White-throated being a slightly bigger bird.  So Graeme, is it 
so that White-throated GW are noticeably much louder in the field than Black 
GW, or just a little louder ??I reckon that you would be the only person who 
could answer that question with any real authority - and I've always wanted to 
know the answer, given that I have never heard a White-throated GW personally. 
I recall fondly my very first encounter with Black Grasswrens - I found a very 
noisy & inquisitive bunch of them on the Mitchell Plateau running around only a 
metre or 3 in front of me, & just after a quick storm had passed over.After 
checking out this busy bunch of birds for about 10 mins, I then decided to just 
sit under a rock that was nearby, keeping myself very quiet & motionless, and 
in the general direction of where I thought they were going to be heading.  
Then presto!! They scampered right into where I was, hopped around a bit, 
called a little in contact, and then left a few minutes later. A couple of them 
even came right up to my boots, which were still attached to my feet at the 
time!! Then straight after these guys moved on & while still sitting in the 
same spot, I had an equally close encounter with a gorgeous male Variegated 
Fairy-wren (Kimberley race 'rogersi' ) in fine form, being early December at 
the time.
All of this without any use of recorded bird voice (I'm pretty sure most on 
here know already that I don't use any recorded bird sounds when looking for 
birds - I just find it totally un-sporting - but of course, each to their own). 
It just goes to show that getting ahead of a foraging group of birds, & just 
waiting quietly & patiently for them to enter your space, actually pays great 
dividends with extremely close encounters - your space becomes theirs & they 
are more relaxed as they have chosen to enter that same space... Well, that's 
my method anyway, especially with seed-eating, & therefore, water-drinking 

And finally Graeme, I need to thank you for correcting my error in thinking 
with some certainty that I had seen a rather misplaced male eclipse Splendid 
Fairy-wren at Goyder's Lagoon.
I had a very good look at that image (#535210D) of yours on your web-site of a 
3rd year immature Blue & White (or White-winged) Fairy-wren. And of course, you 
are absolutely spot-on. That is exactly what I saw, except that the bird I saw 
appeared to have no blue on body at all - just blue on its flight feathers & 
tail. I just saw the blue tail, blue on wings, dark blackish looking bill, & 
thought well, it just has to be a Splendid - and all of this at the crack of 
dawn in very low light, & what's more, being very rudely interrupted by a Grey 
But what really confirmed to me back then that I had seen a 'lost' eclipse male 
'Splendid' was when I returned home a couple of weeks later. It was what I read 
in my HANZAB (please refer to vol.5, p.295) under the Similar Species section 
of the account for Splendid Fairy-wren. At the bottom of that page in the LH 
column of text it says in one sentence the following:  ..."Adult & immature 
non-breeding male easily distinguished from other brown-plumaged fairy-wrens by 
diagnostic combination of mostly brown plumage, turquoise upperwing and 
turquoise or bluish tail." It was the presence of 2 words in that very sentence 
that threw me towards a definite Splendid FW, despite the location (easily and 
diagnostic).   And further, there is no specific mention at all of White-winged 
(or Blue & White) Fairy-wren in that Similar Species section for Splendid FW.
So it's easy to see where I went wrong.But Graeme, I had not gone to your 
wonderful website back then to check this out any further. Obviously, if I had 
done that as well at the time, then I may well have seen your image #535210D 
and learned something new -  that I had not seen a lost Splendid Fairy-wren 
after all. It was something else!! Now people, what a perfect example of the 
value of Graeme Chapman's work...   So thank you, Sir Graeme Chapman, for 
teaching me something new   ...again!! cheers,martin cachard,trinity beach, 

*** see Graeme's last comment to me on this thread below... > 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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