This past Sunday was one of those great days for photography. Beaut sun, a little cloud, some good breeze for the big birds. I wrote previously about the pair of Australian Kestrels at play, but while all that was going on a small clan of Flame Robins was feeding in the area.
I was sitting on the ground with my feet hanging over the cliffs, like a schoolboy at the pier, watching the work of a Black Kite over the nearby treeline when I heard the familiar “chip chip” contact call of a Flame Robin. There on the roadway behind me were two males, feeding, with several juveniles on the fence line behind.
I moved to a spot next to a melaleuca shrub, and settled in to see if they would approach. And down the road they marched. It gave me the chance to get enough shots to be able to differentiate between them. One became Mr Yellow Feather because his bright yellow chest feather, and the other Mr Red, as he is a brilliant Scarlet red. While they didn’t get very close, it was a start.
I worked out that the turn around time in the feeding is just about 30 minutes, and there was a definite pattern to the moving around, with the exception that bike riders and people with dogs would turn them to fly way down the paddock and be inaccessible So I sat and waited and within the 30 mins they were back. In this clan there are 4 or 5 juveniles, perhaps 3 females, and the two males. One of the females is the Matriarch, and she is the one which controls the clan movement. One chirp from her and they are gone.
Because of the lack of trees in the area, its much harder photographic work than the birds in a Grey Box forest with plenty of perching locations. But they manage. The fence lines are the obvious, and the big patches of grass also work well.
My closest encounter for the day was the Matriarch. She landed in the back of the melaleuca bush behind me and I could hear her distinctly calling to the group, and I may be wrong, but it seemed the conversation went like this.
“See this big dopey photographer, stay away.” “I don’t like the look of that big eye he keeps pointing at us.”. “I’m going to get closer for a better look”. Then an alarm chirrup, and she flew right by my ear, less than a handspan away. Heard the little wings coming, but I’ve learned that its best not to react, as the bird already has the flight path worked out. What I noted was the whirring of the wings was normal flight sound, not the fast pulsing sound of a panic mode.
She landed directly opposite me on the fence and another Chrrriip, which I took to be “He’s probably benign, you can ignore him”, then she hunted on the grass on the far side of the fence. “Benign” is a term that Jon Young uses in his book, ‘What the Robin Knows’ and refers to local birds concluding that the human presence is of no threat, and they will work in settled, not panic mode. A young cheeky juvenile landed near by, and I concluded that the lesson for me was over for the day.