We, Dorothy, I and Mr An Onymous, took a trip down to the WTP on Thursday. It was the only day in the week when the weather people could give a definitive, no rain. But some got a bit overenthusiastic with the little weather icons and put the Sunny Day one. Hmm, never believe an icon. We go there early morning, and already I was looking for the coffee shop. When the exposure is F/8 at a week, I begin to worry. Still we motored up to Ryan’s (former) swamp for a looksee and came acoss a lone Black Kite in a tree by the side of the road.
I whipped out the tripod with the new Wimberley Gimbal head and set it all up. The patient Kite sat through all that, and allowed me to take its pic. It was, rather unkindly, I thought, suggested that by the time I’d have it all setup, the bird would have died of old age. But. Not so.
The Wimberley head is such a piece of engineering. I’d like it even it it didn’t hold the camera. Which is does, and elegantly and securely. The main advantage is the weight of camera/lens is balanced, (like a see-saw) over the centre point of the lens/camera combo, and the centre weight of the lens. Dah dah the lens becomes for all intents and purposes “weightless”.And will move effortlessly and stay in position without tightening up anything. However, it does need to be setup, and that takes a couple of minutes. If we owned a Toorak Tractor then I’d leave it set up in the back and just open up the bombbay and outload the whole thing. But.
From there we travelled back to Paradise road, with the intention of finding the elusive Northern Shoveller. Truth is, its still elusive. Perhaps Illusive.
But we did find a pair of Nankeen Kestrels hunting just east of the pumphouse and they’ve been there a couple of weeks. So the hunting must be good.
On toward the East end of the plant, and we found the no go zone while the Orange Bellied Parrots are in session. Not wanting to be the ones that scared the last Orange Bellied Parrot to death, we turned toward 15E Outlet. Which is just as well, because by the time I’d got the Wimberley set up again, just about all the ducks, cormorants and small birds in the area, put to wing and were gone! Strange I thought. Not because of the remarkably attractive Wimberley I hope. And before you could say, “Was that a Whistling Kite call I heard?” The sky above us was filled with Black Kites. I counted 38 in the area I was looking at. EE numbered 30, and Mr O saw another 15 or more in the other direction. Had to be over 70 of these massive birds all in the same area, all circling with no real height gain, and all in easy photo reach. Now I know why they say such good things about the Wimberley. It works. Standing in one spot, following circling birds while holding a big 500mm lens is really hard on the arms. about a minute at a time I reckon. But with the big W. I stood photographing those in sight, looking to find the next one, easily swinging the lens about. 10 minutes passed and it seemed like 10 seconds. As they finally peeled away and move out along the shore line, 3 grown adults laughed, and yelled, exhausted by the intensity of the moment, and yet overwhelmed by the sheer size of the flock and their casual moments. More birds in 10 minutes than in days down there.
So it couldn’t get better. This is the place that John Barkla calls a “magic place’, and it had more to show yet.
We stopped to watch a Brown Falcon on a pole just on the Little River crossing. A Swamp Harrier swung in and landed about 10 metres from the Falcon. We were getting into position to photograph it, when it leapt into the air, circled to gain height and then thew itself at the completely surprised Brown Falcon. The Falcon rose up in defence, but it was pretty much a wasted effort. The long surgical legs swung in and it grabbed the falcon’s wing with feathers going everywhere. The falcon immediately dropped to the tall grass below with the Kite in hot pursuit. The Harrier then ‘harried’ over the area for about 2 minutes then landed back on the road and peered into the grass. After a few minutes of that it took off for other parts. The images on Flickr show the event and the said damage to the wing of the Falcon.
It emerged about 5 minutes later and flew off seemingly none the worse for wear, but a lot wiser in the way of Harriers.
Had the Harrier grasped some important bone on the wing, no doubt it would have crippled the falcon who would be no match for it in a straight fight. The Harrier being twice the falcon’s fighting weight.
We took a trip around Borrie, and there found two Sea-Eagles engaged in a battle. Locked together they cascaded out of the sky and into the water about 10 metres apart. Would have been great to get it all on file, but I managed only the evacuation from the water and the get-away. What surprised me was the speed and strength the birds came up out of the water, having been just about completely submerged.
And just to finish off a nice day, a Whistling Kite came out in the small break of sunshine and enjoyed the strong off shore wind.
Having filled one memory card for the day, I was pretty happy with the events, even if the icon got the weather wrong.