Before anyone starts writing to me about the following encounter, please read the disclaimer at the bottom of the blog. Thanks.
We were deep in Cassia, of Cinnamon Country. Part of the pair’s territory includes an area known by locals as, “The Duck Pond”. A small ephemeral pond(?) created with good intentions, but unsuccessful in the sandy beach area. However there is a good stand of trees and some favourite perches for the Good Lady of the Manor and her handsome companion.
The long winter rains had filled the Duck Pond and it made a perfect nursery for a number of water birds to raise their young. We were monitoring a pair of Little Aussie Battlers, who were risking it all for a second clutch before the pond dries out.
Given the Grebes mistrust of humans, while EE made a close approach I stayed on the outside of the tree line and watched proceedings, and also kept an eye across the paddock.
I spotted a dark shape moving over the dried grasses of the paddock, and after a few seconds decided to put the camera on it for a better look. It was Cassia, of Cinnamon.
She was heading across the paddock in the general diretion of the tree line. I am convinced that Brown Falcons do not fly whilly-nilly about but each move is determined and with purpose.
She kept coming. It didn’t take me too long to figure out that she was on a direct line to where I was standing. And, I began to make a frame or two. The approach was typical Falcon. Low and fast. And, to make it more complex for the photographer, she was coming out of the sun, so it was mostly a glare in the viewfinder.
She crossed a fence line just in front of me, and swept up, and into the sun.
Blinded momentarily, I didn’t see where she went and I turned around but couldn’t see her flying through.
EE helped by pointing up.
And there, just above my head sat a very calm Brown Falcon. I tippy-toed out from under the tree for a better view. Would she move?
She settled in to preening. As I stepped back I noticed that her companion, he is a most handsome light coloured bird, was in a tree on the other side of the pond.
Some detective work afterward, suggested he had brought in a snack, but, had dropped it when challenged by a passing Hobby or Peregrine.
Being glued to the narrow view through the lens, I’d missed all the extra activity.
And that no doubt was why Cassia had made the journey. I found a fresh caught prey in the grass near the fence a little later on, and suspect that it was the piece contested. Also there is no doubt that Cassia knew exactely where it was and would reclaim it later.
She made no effort to move from her perch while I moved about for a better angle, and when I finally walked further down the tree line, she also moved to see what I was doing (perhaps?- am I that interesting?) Which allowed me to make several different portaits.
40 minutes later (I checked the camera time data) and she still was in no hurry to move on. So we left her to do what Browns seem to do so well.
It is worth checking her tail set in these frames as she is well on the way to moulting in a new set of feathers to replace the summer worn out ones. And there are a few wing feathers that need replacing too.
Some recent blog posts show her worn feathers.
No doubt in a couple of weeks, her new wardrobe will be complete.
As I was preparing this post, I came across some interesting and relevant info on Brad Hill’s Natural Art Images website on field techniqes
This paragraph is about getting close.
Getting Close: Hiding in Plain Sight.
This is my preferred method of getting close to and working with wildlife. The goal of this approach is to have the wildlife, over time, come to accept my presence and have THEM approach me (rather than chasing them across the landscape).
The biggest downside of hiding in plain sight is that can be very time consuming. While I can think of worse things than sitting out in the wilderness for hours or days on end (though it can be decidedly uncomfortable at times), it does take extreme patience and focused attention (so it’s unlikely any today’s teenagers will ever practice this technique). Interestingly, I can’t count the times where I’ve captured memorable – and totally unexpected – images (like this Lorquin’s Admiral) while hiding in plain sight.
This ability to watch ALL around me while hiding in plain sight is extremely valuable (and the inability to do so one of the main reasons I don’t like sitting in an enclosed blind).
Don’t think I’m holding back information on this “hide in plain sight” technique – it doesn’t involve any form of animal “whispering” or zen-like connection with the wildlife. There’s nothing magical, special, or even difficult about it, other than finding the discipline and time to practise it.