Little Visits: Dressing for Autumn

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.


Flying low across the paddock. And just in case you should wonder. She is looking directly at me, and is well aware of my presence.
Just about to get lost in the Sun. She is sweeping up to land in the tree directly over my head
I think she might still be watching the Hobby high in the sky overhead
Also spotted her handsome companion. He is a wonderful light coloured bird. But has a zero tolerance policy for the human condition.
A view of the double tail as the new tail feathers grow into place.
Sometimes preening is a neverous reaction, other times it’s down to the serious business of looking your best for WordPress
Did I mention he is human intolerant. TIme to depart.
I like the look here, “Now where is he going?”
We moved back down the pond area, and she also relocated. Gave me some casual portaits
Changes of light and angle give different aspects. One legged pose suggests she is quite comfortable
I’d be confident she was working out the best appoach to pickup the dropped carcass.

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.

Disclaimer policy.
This bird is completely wild.
There is no baiting, or use of calls, or other methods to encourage the bird to approach.
It’s her choice to fly aross the paddock and land where-ever she wants to.
We’ve worked with the pair for a number of seasons and are careful to treat them both with respect and care.
I take her confidence very seriously and feel we are fortunate to be graced by her presence.

We don’t get a close encounter on every trip, and should she be put to wing in my presence, I am the lesser for the carelessness.

14 thoughts on “Little Visits: Dressing for Autumn

  1. Another fascinating Blog thanks David. You’ve worked long and and patiently to earn the trust of some beautiful birds; may this rapport continue for many years to come!
    You’ve made some interesting comments about hiding in plain view. Doing so means – apart from anything else – that the bird can see you and can then make an informed decision: trust you and land in your general location, of fear you and head for a safer landing zone. Hiding in plain view has given you some wonderful experiences!
    I could go on but its 12.30am, so I guess I’d better shut my phone off but thanks for sharing this special encounter with this beautiful bird…!
    One other thing: I never knew birds grew new sets of feathers, so thanks for educating me!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Lance, Perhaps its true that we do take a few more liberties with her than we would with some other Falcons. But there is as Jon Young says, a thread built up and I’m always prepared to back off.
      I’ve never used stealth techniques. Birds always know where we are. We once had a pair of Eastern Yellow Robins that used to wait to welcome EE into the area.
      Moulting varies from species to species. Raptors tend to lose some feathers while new ones grow.


    1. Hello Eleanor, She is a lovely bird and we really do value the times we spend. (Sometimes too long and get nothing else done.)
      Must be the season for emails and stuff, as I had one the other day about a small bird I’d only seen once on a fence.
      Sometimes I hesitate about posting some pics.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I suppose there are people even in the bird photography world, who go round looking for something to criticise. I remember being told a long time ago that when someone points an accusing finger at me, they are pointing the other three back at themselves. A nice little bit of pop psychology!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. A fine series of images, David! I have been meaning to read this for days!
    She is such a beautiful Lady.
    And yes, hiding in plain sight – in the best Pinkerton fashion – is the best approach. It allows the birds, or other wildlife to set the terms of any relationship they have with us!
    Anyone who would accuse you of unethical birding has obviously never been in the field with you!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ha, we do a bird count at a locality called, “Pinkerton”, took me a second to get your connection. Made me laugh.
      Sometimes it seems to others that we do make bold and seemingly take liberties with some birds. But as you point out, it’s hardly unethical.
      I learned a long time ago from Jon Young, that ” People with little experience in the natural world and no real experience with birds never open their senses to bird language”.
      For you and I, and others, we reap the rewards. 🙂


  4. I am so glad I remembered to click this. The bird was looking right at me, or you. 😉 I usually comment as I am reading something, but I am glad I did this one differently. This felt like you gave me the gift of being able to ride with you via camera lens. I appreciate your shared post very greatly. I would not have been able to see these photos without your skill, unique lens and hours spent watching these birds. I think what I learned is that your beautiful shots come from you being a bird watcher and photographer, knowing the behavior of those that you are so skilled at watching, watching being the key word. Then taking pictures of, which is why your work is so unique. I was going to get into bird watching actually, just forgot to.. because I was drinking/using. It looks fun. Thank you for sharing this, it inspired me to check out a new hobby.


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