Family gig took up much of the morning, so another trip to Goschen was pretty much ruled out.
“Gardener Ed, (he works the gardens at the Murray Downs Resort), has some birds you should go and see.” So a chat with Ed, and yes its true he does have birds, and yes we would be welcome to go look see, so 11am, on the dot Mr An Onymous and I assembled in the carpark and then followed Ed back to look at his collection. And a fine find it was too. An was pretty happy as he managed to score a couple of tail feathers from Red-tailed Cockatoos.
Ed lives out at Woorinen South, and we’d only driven through there the previous day, so now we did the “explorer” thing and drove round to see the Lake, the Football Ground, and the Water supply. Pretty exciting stuff. Even saw where I’d skinned me knee as a little tacker climbing in an old Malle Pine.
Now this sort of driving may seem a bit out of place and fraught with the possibility of getting lost, but the area was originally blocked off for soldier settler blocks, and so the roads all either run north/south or east/west, so its really just driving on a checkerboard. We rounded a corner and there in the sky was a Black Kite, first for the day, so pretty excited we stopped, got out and started to photograph the bird as it leisurely sweep over the crops. First mistake. Second mistake was doing it just outside the driveway of the local Neighbourhood Watch. Before we’d managed to get 2 frames exposed, said NW was in the vehicle and coming down the track to see, what we were doing. Now I’ve little time for explaining to folk that don’t want to listen that “We’re photographing birds, Mate!” That is NOT, I have discovered the answer to the question of “What the …..##$%% do you think you’re doing, and what .###%%% right do you have to do it here!!!!!&&&&###”
Now I’ve also been made aware it’s not much point debating the issue of the lack(?) of “Bill of Rights” in Australia, and that the correct lawful response to such demands is,”I believe this to be public land, and as you have not identified yourself as a member of a constituted law enforcement agency, I am minding my own business.” Too may verbs and nouns in that sentence for your average NW. Besides which, NW carry things like shotguns and work on a different set of rules “Shot first and ask questions afterward“.
So with a quick flourish of cameras, we abandoned the Black Kite and resumed the safety of the car. NW proceeded slowly, (almost wrote menacingly) out of the driveway and headed in our direction. I slowly, and politely, turned back on the roadway and looked straight ahead as we passed him. NW went down to the corner, (read above if you are geographically embarrassed at this point) turned around, and slowly followed us back along the road. Then after stopping at his gate to be sure we were really leaving the area, turned back into said driveway. Mr An and I pondered that at least we’d given him something to do for the morning.
Enough excitement in that area, so we proceeded to cross the Murray Valley Highway, and were now deep into Murraydale. This area was for the most part still well watered, and the home of a thriving dairy and beef industry.
The roads running east/west eventually run into the Murray River; only 5-10 Kilometres away as the Crow flies. So we tried several of the roads to see if we could find some good views along the river.
First up we found a pair of Australian Kestrels, hard at work trying to move on (I believe) a Brown Falcon. So it was pretty certain they had young in the area.
We were discussing the merits of Round Hay bales vs Square Hay bales, (You can see immediately what a wonderful travelling companion I have), when a Whistling Kite made an appearance over the tree line. More stopping, but no NW this time, so all was well. Now some of the tracks don’t run to the river. They end up in a farmer’s front yard, so while Mr An looked for birds, I tried to keep us from visiting long lost members of the family. EE’s family had a long association with Murraydale. The elders of the clan had worked a dairy farm as far back as the 1930s, and several of the latter part of the clan had run as share–farmers out here. One still had a caravan parked on the riverside on one of the properties. On the other hand trying to explain, “We’re photographing birds, Mate!, and we are related to…… “, or “Oh, I went to school with your brother Peter ,” didn’t seem to have any more ring of likely success, so I tried to avoid the driveways. Besides, farmers have bigger guns, and dogs with really, really sharp teeth.
We turned on to The River Road, and went past the Abattoir. “Why are we going down here?” quizzically asked. “For Black Kites’, I replied. “But there’s hardly likely to be any down here”. As one black kite flew by the front windscreen, then another lifted over the road, and by the time I’d stopped we had 5 or more Kites circling quietly over the road. “Oh”.
We eased on down the road to the turn-around area for the stock-trucks, and then climbed up on to the river bank. Then. Out of the trees on the other side, a White-bellied Sea Eagle threw, gathered speed across the river and went over the treetops above us. I am pretty convinced it’s done this manoeuvre more than once, as it flew across the paddock, found a thermal, and in seconds was heavenwards. Taking with it the flotilla of Black Kites. Again, have to say, not sure they were in pursuit, as it was a no contest, those huge wings just pick up the air. The grins on both of our faces said it all. I gained points as bird finder and expedition leader, and Mr An had a new story to tell of Sea Eagles over the inland Murray.
Update***The shots show it in brown plumage and its certainly a juvenile.
Time for a coffee, and after circling a roundabout of decision making, both figuratively and literally, we were soon reunited with family and I enjoyed a Vienna Coffee and fired up Flickr on the Macbook Air.