It comes as no surprise that Birdos go out for various reasons. For some it might be to see a new area and see what birds are about, for others a trip to a location to add one more bird to the great bird list. Others enjoy the chance to see birds in their habitat doing bird things. For others it might just be the keeping track of the birds and any environmental changes. Others go because the birds are there. Some even go to take cameras and record something of what they have seen.
For others, like us, it is even more intangible. We just love to see them, to watch their antics and to enjoy a day out in the wide open spaces. ”A bad day in the bush is better than a good day in the office” or so the bumper sticker goes.
Which leads us to driving down the Beach Road to the Werribee Treatment Plant.
There have been plenty of reports of Black Falcons in the area, but in-spite of trying hard, we hadn’t had any success, and figured while it would be nice, probably not this season.
Till we got to the Beach Road/29 Mile Road junction on Monday, and in the trees in front of us there were two black shapes. Probably didn’t get the car parked right, and we ended up a bit too far away, and I didn’t want to tramp down the road and send them into the air, but I needn’t have worried. They spent about 10 minutes or so in personal grooming, and then both took to the air, to work their way up and around in an air current off the road. Then they spent about 5 minutes overhead and around us, playing in the breeze. With a bit of exercise behind them, they both pursued every Raven, Magpie, Pigeon, and any other birds flying by. The intention didn’t seem to be direct attack, but rather close passes just because they could.
Tiring of this game they hunted on down the tree line becoming the usual black blobs in the distance, then both turned and gained height before plunging down the roadway and racing past at incredible speeds, just where we were standing.
The speed was phenomenal. It would make a Peregrine look up and take notice, and then with a dash of wing tip, they would turn on nothing and repeat the performance up the road again. This is our first encounter with these birds, and it goes with out saying, we were simply awestruck at the speed and agility. Satisfied with themselves, they proceeded down the 29 Mile Road and we lost sight of them.
Our next encounter in the evening light was a Black-shouldered Kite that had just taken a mouse. Again I missed with parking the car, and ended up about 10 metres too far back. So the shot is a bit from the back of the bird. But it polished off the mouse in record time and went to look for another.
Our next major find was to engross us both for the best part of half an hour. We had just turned off the main track past the Little River Ford, when we noticed two Brown Falcons about 60 metres further down on the roadway. What ensued next was worthy of David Attenborough.
They began to play chasing games, which led to aerial dogfights and then a game of hide-and-seek among the shrubs and bushes, one would disappear and the other would trundle (how else do you describe the way they walk about) along until both would leap into the air in mock attack. This lead to another game which has to be called “king of the castle’. One took up a position on a high clump of weeds, and then the other would move around trying to gain attack advantage. When it was in position it would crouch down in the same was as a cat or dog might and then leap up and onto the stack, hoping to push the other one off.
It became clear to us that the ‘king’ had the advantage and didn’t get dethroned. So after about 10 minutes, the attacker trundled down the road to its own grass heap, and the other bird came down to attack. It then turned into a game of sneak aerial attack, as it swooped over the head of the ‘king’ causing it to duck and weave.
When we next looked at the time, over 3o minutes had gone by and the light was rapidly fading. Both seemed to have tired of the games and went to hunt.
I will put up a number of images from the sequence on another page in the next day or so. Such an interesting pair.