When travel restrictions were in place for much of 2020 and with no choice but to explore our Tassie backyard, Devonport photographer and ecologist Tom Sayers was lucky to see the critically endangered Swift Parrot mere minutes from his home.
Tom took the wonderful footage above of two Swift Parrots taking a bath in Don Reserve in mid September. He’d been keeping an eye out for them after he started hearing their calls.
Tom said it was a drizzly day and he was photographing other things when he spotted the pair. “I’m not used to seeing the birds on the ground - they’re usually swooping through the canopy - and the light above really showed up their beautiful colours,” he said.
There are estimated to be fewer than 1,000 breeding pairs of Swift Parrots left in the wild. They breed only in Tasmania in spring and summer before flying to the mainland to live.
“They’re pretty rare to see,” Tom explained. “They’re not always in the same area. They depend on two species of eucalypt to forage on. And depending where they’re flowering, that’s where the parrots set up their nesting hollows.
“So this year it appears one of the euctalypt species is flowering up on Kelsey Tier and also in Don Reserve. It’s all happening in Devonport at the moment.”
Update on Swift Parrot post. A pair were inspecting hollows (1 is inside) in E. ovata forest today. Shot was taken at 600mm & is heavily cropped to avoid disturbing them, though it is right next to the exercise track.. @BirdlifeOz @BirdLifeTas @ausgeo @ParrotOfTheDay @TassieWild pic.twitter.com/yxLm448wQZ— Thomas D.J. Sayers (@tdjsayers) September 24, 2020
As an ecologist, Tom studies the interactions between animals and their environment, so is no stranger to hanging around documenting the natural world. Having just finished his PHD, Tom’s been looking for a job in his field so has been using his spare time to do what he loves best.
“I’m trying to use my interest in a valuable way and the best way for me to do that right now is to document what’s occurring in my own backyard in Devonport,” he said.
Tom says he's spotted at least 10 Swift Parrots at Don Reserve and about 20 at Kelsey Tier, plus a whole host of animals over winter.
His time spent in Don Reserve this winter - listening, observing, photographing and filming - has resulted in a 25 minute video showcaing the biodiversity there, featuring 60 native vertebrate species (50 birds, 6 mammals, 4 reptiles) and native invertebrates and flora.
There are plans to show his documentary at the Devonport Visitor Centre inside the paranaple arts centre and hopefully also outside on the big screen at Providore Place.
Phil Hrstich, the Natural Resources Management Officer at Devonport City Council, says Devonport is lucky to have some amazing reserves and walkways where locals can see the endangered Swift Parrots and other wildlife in their natural habitat.
Here’s hoping the Swift Parrots have a good breeding season and come back to Devonport next year too.