Black Falcon(s) up close and personal

It has been said by some, that, “I’ve lost my bird Karama,’ or more particularly that I’ve used it all up.  And given that I respect the insight of such greater thinkers, then it probably is true.  And no doubt the facts are on their side, most certainly in the case of hunting down the ever elusive White-bellied Sea-Eagle. My mate Lynzwee reckons it more a matter of wearing the incorrect “Bird Repellant”.  He might be right too.

But. That doesn’t stop me so much from going out and trying.  Well at least I rationalise that I can enjoy the fresh air and a well brewed Earl of Grey.

So as the weather turns we found ourselves on The Beach Road at the Treatment Plant.  Rumour had it that some Cattle Egrets were down there. (Truth be told, and don’t spread it around, we too had already seen them in the area, so didn’t go completely blind.)

The cattle have been let in to graze on the recently harvested maize stubble.  I think I talked about this in the “The Curious Tale of the Clever Kestrel”.

When we settled the car in close to the fence to get a good look at the Cattle Egrets, we also noted that said Kestrel, Black-shouldered Kites, Whistling, Black and Brown Goshawk were also working in the area.  Along with an ever increasing number of cars with birdos and photographers pulling up to share the action.

And that is what we all got.  At one stage 20 or more Kites were sitting post by post on the roadside and landing within arms reach of the bird counters in the car.  The photographers were using up lots of memory card space and batteries inbetween bouts of stories,  “Oh, I remember I was backpacking along the Birdsville Track and a Black Kite with a water bottle dropped down and gave me a drink, saved my life.” “Oh, I saw a Budgerigar attack a white morph Black Kite once”, and “Oh, look there’s a Light Morph Juvenile Brown Falcon with a mouse.”,” No, I think by the colouring on the left wing primaries that its a Dark Morph Light Brown Falcon, and what its got is a field mouse, probably one of a litter of 12 or 15.  You often see them, when…”

My eyes glaze over.

Another convoy arrive.  “Have you seen the Bittern, we’re looking for the Bittern, anythingheretosee”,  said while swinging Swavoroskis around nearly knocking me over. “There are some Cattle Egrets,” I volunteered.  “Where!”

“They’d be the big white things over there in the paddock with the cattle,” quoth I.  EE kicked me in the ankle under the car door.  “No Bittern”, Insert Sound of Departing convoy Here.

Fast!  Let me tell you.

It went over my shoulder, and I never even saw it coming.  (Most of the bird discussers never saw it going either), At that rate, and that shape, I got the camera up, grabbed several frames and called “Black Falcon, A pair”.

To which the flurry of cameras, binoculars, smart phone apps and someone still writing things on a field note book all searched the surrounding sky, grass, fence and paddock.
“Oh, look a Black Falcon,” cried one. “A Black Falcon,’ cried another. We’ll ignore the numbers of “Where?” as they outnumber significantly. Another flotilla of Land-cruisers and Subaru Foresters pulled up.  “Oh, look a Black Falcon”, cried one of the new comers.  “We must have frightened it up when we arrived”. (big sigh here).

“There is a pair”, quoth I.

“look look look, there’s a second one,”,  At last!

‘Our’ pair sailed down the Beach Road at fence height putting to flight all the dozing kites on the fence. Something about a black shape at 60kph bearing down on you to awaken your feathers and wing muscles enough to get airborne.

A foolishly lone Little Raven got a right dusting up by both birds as they barrelled across the road.  Mostly I think it was all in fun. They were just out for an afternoon’s entertainment.  A Magpie with some food also got a pretty good chase about, but no damage was done, and Magpie eventually made it off the paddock with its prize.

Then, they streaked back up the paddock, amused perhaps by the photographers, app users or maybe they wanted to admire the emerald green Subi.

No matter how I write it, it was the right place, the right light and the right distance.  All one had to do was point the camera, press the shutter and follow the action.  That is except for those who took a shot, then spent the next 10 seconds ‘Chimping’, you know, hunched up looking at the rear LCD image and going “ooh, ooh, ooh”

Now one Falcon is pretty awesome two, outstanding.   But off course everyone was following the one that had zoomed overhead and was now rattling down the paddock away from us.  As I looked about, (I’ve learned to do that), the second one came ever closer and was soon filling my viewfinder.  In the end, I called “the other one is closer now!”, to which all eyes peering down the little tunnel of the viewfinder had to readjust to the bright light and try to re-position the camera for a second series.

Bored with messing with our minds, (and let’s face it, that didn’t take long), they spun round overhead and headed off across the paddocks. Leaving us with. “Well, its probably a second year bird with a juvenile, … ” “I’ll have to get on birdline and report this.’, and “Let’s go. We are due home for dinner”.   INSERT CAR DOORS SLAMMING HERE


I offered EE another Earl of Grey and we waited for the Cattle Egrets to come back.