Saturday Evening Post #163 : Stoic by Nature

Spent an afternoon in a Grey Box forest recently.  Not often we get to spend time in a forest.  Yet, once upon a time, in a universe somewhere around the corner, this blog started keeping track of my visits to Woodlands Grey Box forest.
And most of the subjects of the time were bush birds.

However just on 8 years, (my, doesn’t time fly), we moved home to an area that is pretty much bereft of any sort of forest stand and is primarily open Basalt Plains Grasslands.

Gone are the small forest birds like Robins and in their place are numbers of small, but difficult to locate grass dwellers.
At the top of the food chain are the raptors—Kites and Falcons.

Most are nomadic at best, but usually Brown Falcon is local. Working a territory and not travelling too far to follow the food.  Being pretty catholic in diet, they have plenty to choose from in the grasslands.

That’s the thing about Browns.  Hot or Cold.  They are there.
The scorching 40 degree days of summer.  The high windy gale-force days.  The days of incessant, if not persistent rain. No matter what.
Brown sits and waits. It is their nature.

In some respects if we were to anthropomorphise, I’d be inclined to call them Stoic.
But as we don’t anthropomorphise, I won’t. 🙂

One of the tenets of Stoicism was (is?)”in accordance with nature.” Because of this:
the Stoics thought the best indication of an individual’s philosophy was not what a person said but how a person behaved. To live a good life, one had to understand the rules of the natural order since they thought everything was rooted in nature.

I am convinced that Browns really do understand the nature order around them.  To watch one slip off a branch, and head along the paddock as just a few cms over the ground, dodging branches, bushes and the like is to watch a bird that has ‘plotted’ the area.
The other day, as we were watching with Cassia, of Cinnamon, she suddenly picked up her skirts and moved to a tree about 50m away, but more out in the open. I said to Mr An and EE, but more likely I just said it out loud as commentary, “Brown Falcons, don’t just move from one tree to another for no purpose.  She has moved for her reason and no doubt it we wait a little bit it will become apparent.”  Don’t want to sound like a Falcon prophet or some-such,  but we waited.  Within 5 minutes the Male turned up with lunch.  The more open tree was the perfect place for a quick food exchange.
No doubt she had seen or heard him when he was a long way out and prepared herself to receive the delivery.

During nesting season, it is a little hard not to have sympathy with their main food source of the young.  Cassia, of Cinnamon and her mate, have a likeness for Pipits and Skylarks.  Both of which nest in the grasses on the ground, and must be, for a hovering Falcon, an easy mark. Or for a Falcon with an intimate knowledge fo the area as it scans from a post, or tree—although there are not too many trees on your average grasslands.

Brown’s are not noted for their amazing hovering ability, but given a good breeze, they can make a pretty fair fist of it. And so at present, he is bringing in for the three young fledglings, a pipit or skylark most deliveries.

For their part the hapless grass birds have two advantages.  One they outnumber the falcons.  And they are capable of several nestings a season, so once the urgency of the falcons passes the little birds should be fairly successful.

The falcons presumably will go back to hunting grasshoppers, crickets and the occasional snake.
The young will move off to find their own territories and the exhausted local pair will go back to sitting quietly, watching for the next convenient meal.

And the Pipits can resume sitting on the fence posts without fear.


Interludes: Growing Up

We made a trip to Point Cook with Mr An Onymous to have a look at the growing Brown Flacon clutch.

Managed a sunny day, and the young have been out of the nest for a few days and quite adept as flyers.  Also very quickly adopting the Brown Falcon sit and contemplate the world stance as well.

Here are a few from the outing

About to release
Plenty of control as it slides away from the perch
Landing is still a little tricky, but each time the skills improve
The three amigos. How hard it can be to get them together, and all looking in the same direction at the same time.
Cassia, of Cinnamon arrives with a mid-morning snack. Now who is going to get it.
When its your turn, its ok to step on your sibling’s head to get to the front of the queue.
Manners are forgotten and its ok to push their head into the branch.
Mum will still sort out whose turn it is
Thanks Mum
Miffed at missing out this one departed to watch from afar
Food arrives and while the male holds still, Cassia swoops in to collect it.
His job done, he departs for a rest.

Saturday Evening Post #162 : On the Wall

It’s  funny thing in someways.  We don’t have many photographs on the walls of our unit.  It is not that space is limited so much, as that we have chosen not to fill it up with photos.

All the family memories and moments are in carefully curated Photo-books that are the result of one of us having  flirted with the Scrapbooking era.

For our bird encounters I  produced numerous Photo Books, first using Apple’s remarkable, and never copied, Aperture photo management programme, and Apple’s Book publishing service, and of late using Blurb, both directly and via the connection with Adobe Lightroom.

But every-so often, I make an image that above all others of recent times really cries out to me for a print on the wall.

Such is the Brown Falcon header for this blog.

The bird, or course, is Cassia, of Cinnamon. She has left a perch some 200 m from her fledged young, (they are in the tree behind me) and is making her way over to—in a motherly way—check on the kids.  Well isolated from the trees in the background, the focus on the D500, attached and held for her flight across the paddock,  at about head (mine) height.

I’ve sat with this bird through, now, four nesting seasons, and while she is not that enamoured by my presence it is fair to say that I am no longer considered a threat, and her approach is not an attack, but rather the simplest way to move to her young.

The one thing I’ve noted this time, and I have to say, I’ve missed it before, is that she ‘talks’ to the young when up close.  It is a very quiet, but distinct, ‘cluck-cluck-cluck’ very soft and very ‘motherly.’ Much in the same we humans interact with our offspring.  Cooing and Mumma and Dadda are just a few examples.
What ever she is saying seems to be done in a very warm and if I can anthropomorphise, passioned way.
Brown Falcons are more noted for their raucous calling as they barrel across the sky. Easy to pick, even when they are a long way off.

So with all of that, it really struck  me that her ‘mother’ intentions are much more than at first might be thought of for a hard working raptor.
A time for me of enlightenment.
Worthy of a place on the wall.

Here tis.



And for extra points here is another one from a much closer viewpoint from that run across the field.

Little Journeys: Three to Go

The weather has to coin a phrase, has been less than kind of late.  Cold, windy, rain, overcast and just plain miserable and stay-at-home-able.

It is nearly Summer, but here we are with the heaters turned on and thick clothes, shivering in the cold.

We had decided to go to the River and have another look for the elusive Sacred Kingfishers.   It has become a task that rivals the search for Tutankhamen’s Tomb.

As we travelled to make yet another morning attempt, we decided at the last moment to abandon the project for the day, and instead travel on to see how Cassia, of Cinnamon’s young were doing.

At first sight of the nest we could only see one little rich ginger brown head bobbing about.  Then, looking further over the tree, right at the very top stood the other two young.  Looking very confident, and balancing precariously on the top most fronds of the pine tree.  No mean feat for a well developed bird I would have thought.

While we were there we managed to see two food exchanges and a number of wing-flap trails by the young birds.  No doubt they will be on the wing in the next few days.

Here is a small selection from the morning


A food exchange as Cassia slips aside to prepare the meal
The male moves on for a quick rest before heading out again
All prepared and now to deliver to hungry mouths.
Is there any for me!
Rested and ready to hunt again, the male heads out. He is a much lighter marked bird.
Just a little too cheeky.
Cassia had found the nest of either a Wattlebird or perhaps even a Magpie. But she was hunted off very quickly by the local Neighbourhood Watch.
While they wait for the next round of food, there is plenty of time for some wing exercises.
I found this series interesting as it shows the ‘rowing’ action that is typical of Brown Falcon flight. No doubt by our next visit they will be on the move.


Saturday Evening Post #161 Surprised by the Ordinary

I have of recent days been ‘repairing’ some damage that I inflicted upon my photo library.

Now before we all spring to ‘backups’ and backup strategy, and ‘don’t leave home without it’, the backup actually eventually became part of the problem as it literally was a copy of the error in thinking I’d made some weeks earlier.

However all was not lost, as I had an off-site copy of the original files, so it was simply a matter of reclaiming them.  But then the work of getting them back into order, curated, and settled became the marathon journey.

Of course the good side of that was I have been forced to revisit the photos of 2019 and 2020, and relive some of the outings we had enjoyed in what seems post lockdown, so, so long ago.

Those that follow along on Flickr will have seen some of those being posted more regularly as they emerge from their cocoon on the master drive(s)

None more so than the time we spent with Cassia, of Cinnamon and her two young. So instead of a disaster, it has turned into a rather pleasing journey.

Sitting with a very relaxed Brown Falcon, reminded me of some words from Henry Thoreau.

The old naturalists were so sensitive and sympathetic to nature that they were not surprised by the ordinary events of life. It was an incessant miracle to them, and therefore gorgeous gorgons and flying dragons were not incredible to them. The greatest and saddest defect is not incredulity, but our habitual forgetfulness that our science is ignorance.
March 8, 1860 Journal Entry.

One of the amazing things with this bird was her lack of concern about my presence.
I could sit by one of the trees or perches she regularly used, and just wait until her arrival.  I am convinced they know where they are going to land before they leave the perch, and will follow a course that takes them to that spot. (Not necessarily directly). I  can’t recall her shying away because I was near the landing spot. So much so, that it was no longer incredible to me, more an endless miracle.


Saturday Evening Post #160: Walking the Walk

It is reported that J. R. R. Tolkein,  once said, “It is a dangerous business… going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept to.”

I wonder, like dog owners, am I taking  the camera for a walk, or is the camera taking me?
Some dog owners seem so detached from their dog as they walk about, I am convinced that the dog is indeed walking them.
Dogs seem to be easily distracted.  A smell here, a sight there, a movement over there. All needs to be carefully examined and if time permits to be explored.
No matter how long or short a lead, a dog will always run at the limit. (Locked down bird photographers are no different)

The problem, if it is indeed a problem, of walking with a camera is that I lose track not of where I am, so much, as to time and place.  A few minutes planned stroll becomes an hour or more in one location.

All sorts of shapes, and tones and picture possibilities hijack me and I am, as Chris Orwig says, “Swept away by it all” (Visual Poetry, p 208)

You can, as Elliott Erwitt once remarked, “You can find pictures anywhere. It’s simply a matter of noticing things and organising them visually.”

Working with birds the ‘organising them visually’ is quite the challenge. Small birds flee, others chose to simper in the deepest of bushes, knowing that any attempt at a photograph is useless.  Larger birds sulk and turn away. It’s easy to develop the ‘Oh, if only I was…” attitude.

We have after nearly 18 months been given the freedom to move about again.  For some it’s a trip to the shopping mall, a coffee in a piazza, new shoes, a haircut, or a visit to an art gallery.  For most of us it’s time with family and friends who’ve been similarly isolated.

So as we begin to take our first tentative steps back out into the field, so many opportunities seem to present themselves.
To quote Elliott again, “It has little to do with the things you see, and everything to do with the way you see them.”

Time to step out and enjoy the sunshine, the rain, the wind and the wonderful things that will grace our lenses.