Along the Track: Territory is Everything

In realestate they say that position is everything.

We’ve been away the past week or so with the rellies on the family acres. So, not much birding to be done, let alone photography—if you bypass the usual family happy snaps.

We passed by a dam yesterday, and the eagle-eyed among us cried, “White-necked Heron”. But with the traffic and the icecream melting in the back, there was no stopping for such a rare event. Interestingly the day before that, we’d spied two White-necked Herons in a local water-retaining basin that was drying out. (But that’s another story)

Had it go back out past the dam this morning to get to the shopping centre, so loaded up the camera this time, well, you know. Just in case.

No case.

As I headed for home I noted on a comms tower at the end of the old road where we’d been photographing Black-shouldered Kites, (and we always look, just in case one might return), sitting on said tower was a Nankeen Kestrel, and with no icecream to worry about, I went for the looksee.

Looking very relaxed it was, and I moved up the little hillside for a better angle and view.
Suddenly the air was filled, (as they say in the classics), with the lovely quivering sound of Kestrel talk.
And a second one swung in, intent it seemed to unseat the present incumbent and take control of the tower.

Backstory behind us, here are the photo-moments.

A female, looking very relaxed and comfortable.
A crisp quiverous cry that is so typical of a Kestrel, she warned the approaching bird off.
Out of mischief or malice, the second one swung in, in full cry.
Had to wonder if there were two adults in the area, or whether these were siblings from a recent clutch.
No quarter given, or taken.
A second pass dislodged the original bird and it slipped down the tower trying to hold on, both to its position and dignity
With a lot of name calling it was time to think of a new plan
From its uncomfortable perch it dropped away to make its own attack.
But to no avail as it was swept from the tower.
If I thought it was all in fun, then then next few moments showed how serious they both were.
Both birds capable of giving as good as they got
It was interesting to see how quickly they could recover from being attacked to being the aggressor
But like all realestate disputes, it’s hard to reach agreement.
Several more cackling calls and it was all over and one flew out across the paddock to safer ground
While the victor took up a perch on a nearby power pole and resumed normal business. It seemed to me, that this would not be the last of the encounters.


Along The Track: Mudlark Magic #2

I had thought that by now the little Magpie-larks would have been on the wing.

But, No.

I’ve ventured out each morning the past few days, and as only Melbourne can do, it has been freezing cold, windy, and on one morning, a thin sleet running on the wind.

Feel a bit self-indulgent about putting up another set of these little birds on nest and feeding.
However, as is so typical, I’ve grown rather fond of the fluffly little hyperactive feather balls. They seem to be fed about every 10-15 minutes and it’s not unsual for first one, and then the other parent to arrive to keep them filled up.

Today, as the nest is now, well, well overcrowded, one of them ventured out on to the branch. Mum came by and in scolding Muddie calles shoo’d it back into the nest. In the nest they are very accommodating of the other’s needs for a wing-stretch or a preen, and it’s not unual for one to bob down into the nest so the other one has room to flex the tiny wings. Hard to describe but heartwarming to watch.
Here is a couple of days of activity.

I’ve tried it as a gallery, so click on an image for a larger view and slide show.


Along the Track: Mudlarks

Those that know me well, will tell you that I have a distinct appreciation for Magpie-larks.
Goes all the way back to a young kid chasing them along the irrigation channels where I grew up.
Muddies, Mudlarks, Peewees, all names that these fiesty little birds have been called.

I think we all appreciated as little kids that Muddies could play about in puddles of water, and not get told off. A sneaking respect for them so developed.

Their antics are numerous, and among them are the range of calls that they have. Ask them, “How deep is the water?” and they’ll respond with a shrill, “Knee-deep”. They also have a charming duet call, first he calls, then she answers.
They also love to fly together, land, and go through a wing-waving technique with lots of shrill calls.

They also have the into and out of the nest down to an art form. The incoming one calls to announce arrival, and as it drops in, the other one departs.
To a casual observer it would seem that a bird flew into, and then out of the tree. The amount of time for the change over, is not much more than the blink of an eye.

We have one that visits the local front garden, its a female. She has worked out, I think, that the concrete aand metal fences nearby will amplify her call, and it is really quite penetrating.

Recently I also learned that their mud-nest building is a little more complicated and explains an odd thing that I’ve seen from time to time. Occassionally I would find a nest in one tree, and another nest nearby, but the second nest was never used. Seems that Muddies get a bit confused, or excited about nest building, and after looking at several sites, they seem to select one, and start work, but also begin work on a second one as well. Eventually, both harmonise and one nest gets completed.

This clutch is at least their second for this season, and there was no confusion about the nest location. Both worked on it.

The pictures tell the rest of the story.

All complete and she settles down to laying and beginning to brood
They share the brooding process
The young are hatched in around 18 days, and a clutch is usually 3. I have seen one clutch of 4
Within a few days, they have packed on the weight, and developed feathers and are nearly ready to leave
A wing stretch that overflows the nest
Mum arrives with a top-up
Plenty of begging, but she knows which one is next
And in it goes
Still, it doesn’t hurt to ask
Maybe a wing-flap might attract attention
But, that’s it for this round.

Once they fly, there will be no holding them, so its all over so quickly.


Along The Track: Duck Season

Warning: This blog contains details and images that may cause distress to some readers.
I see that just about every night on the tv news, and I’m not sure what you are expected to do. Change channels, turn tv off. Close your eyes?

When I was a little kid, I remember a Loony Tunes cartoon of Elmer Fudd, the duckhunter, and Daffy Duck eluding him. The hapless Elemer never seemed to be able to take home a duck dinner.
Currently our Victorian Government seem to be in the same sort of dilemna about banning Duck Season 2023.

In the meantime, down at the the Western Treatment Plant, a White-bellied Sea Eagle is not the least preturbed by a possible closure of duck season.

Thanks to the headsup of its likely presence by my Flickrmate Don, and a couple of other birdos, we were planning to make a trip to WTP to see what, well, what we could see.

The family were coming for Australia Day, so we were planning to go the following day, but, best laid plans as Robbie Burns would write, and family decided that to come the day after Aussie-Day-Maaate.
How Un-Australian is that! I wonder if they disappeared as happens in the Sam Keckovic Lamb tv ad.

So rearranging our schedule we headed for the Treatment Plant. I’m not a great fan of going there on public holidays and weekends. Once the plant was visited by keen birders who took time to see and id as many birds as possible, and it was very laid back and tranquil.

These days it seems to be photographers who hurry from one end of the plant to the other to get just that one shot. Sometimes its seems to resemble a badly run motorcrosse event. And I’ve photographed a goodly number of motorcrosse events, and participated in a few historic rally runs so have a vague idea about proceedings.

So weekends are not my fav time in the plant.

Rant over, back to Sea Eagles. Well, one in particular.

The smart money seemed to suggest it would be on Lake Borrie, that’s where it was the day before. Every heard that advice. “Oh, yes, I saw it just there, yesterday.”

We parked conveniently about mid-way along the road and started to scan. Nothing in close. Of course not, did you really expect it?

Then EE made a gesture, way out in the middle of the lake. A white spec, that could have been a refigerator as far as normal eye sight would know. Through the binos, it was indeed a White-bellied Sea Eagle, perched high on a tree with great views of the menu (eer. ducks) all around.

It sat. We despaired at getting a sharp image at that distance and with the sun rising, heat-haze began to make it presence felt.
Then the bird jumped, went to the deck and moved about 300m up the lake. Just about every duck in that direction took to the air and flew the opposite way. Better to fly first and ask where later on.
Still too far out, but, just that little bit closer. Another long sit, and as soon as I turned away, it dropped down on to a log at water level.
Missed that.
Another long wait. But the bird kept turning its head to the left, and it had obviously locked on to something. More waiting.

Then, unfurling the wings it took off, quite leisurely it seemed, almost stealth mode.
And while I didn’t really see it though the viewfinder, somewhere out there a Chestnut Teal had nodded off to sleep.
Bad career move.
There was no second chance. The eagle swiftly despatched the duck, and sat on the waterline with it for a good 15 minutes, then scooping up its prize flew down the lake to a suitable dining table.

Event Log

When a Sea Eagle flys East, the wise among the ducks fly West
Swinging In to land
Locked for landing
Viewing the Menu from the best position in town
After a very long wait, it dropped down on to a waterline log for a drink
It kept looking to the left, obviously some opportunity had presented itself
Like all raptors there is no wasted energy, the time to move has to be just right.
Time to recover
Now to relocate to a more suitable dining table
A handy perch
cenare all’aria aperta