Grasswrens and fairy-wrens

To: martin cachard <>
Subject: Grasswrens and fairy-wrens
From: Tim Siggs <>
Date: Wed, 27 May 2015 05:26:59 +0000
Hi Martin and Graham.

This thread has reminded me of my own Grass Wren experiences and whilst I
have never been to the Kimberleys to see the Blacks, ( can't wait ) I do
recall with some fondness my first and only encounter with the
White-throated Grass Wrens.

It was at the top of Gunlom in April 95. Shortly after the early morning
ascent, I walked through an open section with escarpment both sides and sat
on a rock. I thought to myself, " this must be perfect habitat for them". I
had probably been there for ten minutes just scanning when I heard a Grass
Wren type call some way off. I sat tight and in a short while, I had picked
them up through the bins. The group loosely consisted of about 5 birds and
they were coming my way ! I started 'pishing' very quietly and sat tight.
To my amazement, they came closer and closer. In fact at one point, they
were right at my feet. My binoculars were hopeless so I resorted to
enjoying them with the naked eye ! Fantastic birds.

The whole morning was memorable with Sandstone Shrike Thrush and Chestnut
Quilled Rock Pigeon at close quarters. Once I was back, I recounted my
experience to the Ranger who expressed that they were becoming more
difficult to see. He asked me to draw a mud map to show where the Wrens
were. I obliged on the understanding that he send me a copy. He never did.

Anyway, for many years, the Black was the only species that I had yet to
see but these days, there are more excuses to 'go West' again !

Happy birding.

BTW Graham, I live very close to you...I think. I also have a copy of that
old Wingspan Magazine.


On Wed, May 27, 2015 at 9:53 AM, martin cachard <>

> 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 birds.
> 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 Grasswren!!
> 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, cairns
> *** 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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