Saturday Evening Post #171 : Hide and Seek

When I first became interested in photographing birds, and I knowingly told myself “How easy will this be!’, one of the first books I acquired was written by Australian doctor, David Hollands, titled, “Eagles, Hawks and Falcons of Australia“.
My copy is getting somewhat dilapidated from use, but I learned several important lessons from that book.
The photos all would have been shot on ‘filum’, and no doubt most with manual focus lenses.  Or perhaps autofocus that was a precursor to the algorithms in our modern slick digital cameras.
The second thing was a very thorough field guide in the back that had great info on id of birds.
The third thing was the stories he wrote of encounters and searches for the raptors across Australia.
And, the fourth thing was the empathetic, glowing way that he described those encounters.  A style that I have tried, in a humble way, to emulate in the stories that roll of the press here in BirdsasPoetry.

David had released a new book.  Not an update or revision, but a new book. “Birds of Prey of Australia
My copy turned up this week.
Now this is not a book review nor an encouragement to rush out and buy the book, that is not what happens on my blog.

The new book has new photos, new stories and is quite different in size and weight to the previous book.  Infact it’s over 700 pages and would keep the average table quite secure if it was sitting on it and a hurricane tore through the house 😉

Some of the stories are quite interesting to me, as they tell of the same encounters with the same birds we have experienced.
He tells of an Osprey that visited for awhile out of its normal territory.  Many will recall Eloise who gave many a heart turn to those of us on the Werribee River about the same time
He also recounts the iteration of around 40 Black-shouldered Kites behind Avalon Airport a couple of years ago.  Photographing so many Kites in the mist is a memorable experience.
And finally his recent encounters with a family of Australian Hobbys as they grew up on a golfclub fairway.

There is also a full page of a Brown Falcon at WTP, and I’m pretty confident from the markings that I’ve featured that bird several times here and on Flickr.  Search here for “My Kitchen Rules

There is so much in his writing  that I pause and say, “Oh, yes, I’ve seen just that exact behaviour and wondered about it.” It’s like sitting having a fireside chat and being able to part of the discussion.

His website is:
or Andrew Isles Books:

Here is the cover.

And a page spread of the Brahminy Kite a bird that I would dearly love to photograph.  I also turned over the dustjacket flap as there is a small shot of David sitting alongside an Osprey as it enjoys its meal.  Fascinating.



We went back for another morning with the young Collared Sparrowhawks.  We might have guessed that the previous few days flying about would come to an end.
It did.
Instead we found them among the pines in the carpark playing what can only be described as “Hide and Seek”.  No doubt I’ve got it wrong, but it seemed that the object of the exercise was two-fold.  One.  Learn to sit quietly and still in the tree so noone can see you, and Two. Learn to search through the trees to find a prey sitting quietly and still to be avoided.
Once discovered there were the usual screams of delight and defeat, both birds would fly out and about and resume the game.  I’ve no idea if they changed places from hunter to hunted.

Finding a Sparrowhawk sitting in a tree is an art that even EE baulks at.  So without that superwoman power, the rest of us are ‘outtaluck’.

I was searching for ten or fifteen minutes through the trees when the game change-over occurred and this bird dropped into the tree in front of me. I moved a few steps and was able to get a clear shot as it settled into its wait and see mode.
The softer light filtering through the tree enabled a great look at the three main features of distinguishing a Sparrowhawk from a Goshawk.
The ‘stare’ rather than ‘beetle-brow look’, the longer middle toe, and the square-tail.

The light also melded well over the form and shape to give the bird a real presence, even if it wanted to be inconspicuous.

12 thoughts on “Saturday Evening Post #171 : Hide and Seek

  1. Lovely image. It almost seems as though you were looking through a narrow tunnel that allowed you to take the image, which also resulted in a great natural frame.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello Miguel, to be honest in the end the bird ‘found’ me. I knew they were working the thick trees, mostly pines, and could only get a glimpse of them flying about.
      This one trying to be extra sneaky went into the pines and then flew to the gum tree just where I was standing. I did have to take a couple of steps to get a clearer shot.


  2. A splendid image of the Sparrohawk with a great look at the key indicators for ID. As for finding them in a tree, I did once – but only because I spotted it flying in!
    Good to have a sneak preview of David’s new book! I have one on order!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. G’day David, they are such tricky birds, mostly very difficult to locate, and one on which EE gives up.
      Hope you enjoy the book, a lot of new material is shot on the Western Plains and in spots that we can all work.
      I wish the Spotted Harriers would come back for a visit.


      1. That has really whetted my appetite for the book, David.
        Yes a Spotted or two would be nice to see, it has been a while!


  3. G’day David. This is such a great photo of the young Sparrowhawk! If not for your very entertaining description of the circumstances one could be excused for thinking this is a shot from some bird show in a “wildlife park” (I’ve never seen one live but that’s the idea I’ve got watching TV).
    I really appreciate your review of David Hollands’ book. It seems to me to be a must have.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. hi Adam, Glad you liked it. I too think its one of the best I’ve made. The bird helped by coming in close and then ‘freezing’ on the spot.
      They are, as already remarked, seriously difficult to locate ad-hoc. Unless you see one fly in, or have it call, they can be passed by completely unaware.

      There is a great UK doco showing them ‘plotting’ their course through the forest.Once they have it all mapped they just fly the course. Makes them incredibly stealthy.


  4. That is a textbook worthy photo David with the major features well illustrated. The extended central toe, glaring, spindly long legs etc You gave David’s book a great rap, looks and sounds a worthy purchase. His cover photo is amazing capture with the opposing talons placed ready and such a focused look. Both of you have enjoyed some wonderful raptor experiences which you could share in common which is a sector of birding I would like to experience, though we see very few here in Sydney. Enjoy your week my friend.


  5. Lovely blog, of great interest to us birders, photographers and naturalists alike. The phrase “a picture paints a thousand words” doesn’t mean we cant wax lyrical. The stories(Hollands and yours) are always well worth a read and is by far the best part of my taking of photos. That is, being apart / accepted into their world. A number of times lately I have ignored the lens and just soaked up the “moment”, given to us and shared by these amazing creatures. Decided a while back with my limited exposure to such moments(due to work or lack of better surroundings) and limited photographic skill set etc etc that the “moment” was worth more than “oo look I have a photo”. Certainly envy those who have better consistency and access to these moments and can provide both. Very grateful they can share them with us mere mortals through, blogs, photos or books. These “touch the real world” experiences exposes the constant dopamine drip feed (many social media users are addicted too) for what it really is, the total absence of anything nourishing. But that’s another rant.

    Still waiting on my copy of David’s book, glad to hear it gets a thumbs up.
    In a world where human interaction and toleration is on the ropes, its nice to see that mother nature still throws us a lifeline back to our souls.


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