From the FieldNotes Book: Little Troubles

We were, Mr An Onymous and I, out looking for some elusive Flame Robins around the 100 Steps to Federation park at Altona. The park was previously a rubbish dump, and as Mr A is oft to quote, “Some of my rubbish is under that hill!”

They were here the last time I looked. But, not today. We did find and get close to one lone female, and were consoling our selves that a trip back to The Esplanade and a coffee from The Norfolk Cafe and a sit on the beach area and watch people instead of birds for a while would be a fine thing to do in the warm sunshine.

In the meantime the antics of a pair of Nankeen Kestrels kept us amused as they swept in and out of a tree-line. Just too far away for photos, but I volunteered, “Let’s go check it out anyway on the way back to the vehicles.”

When on a sudden a dark shape quite close swept over my head, —big bird I thought.
By the time I’d looked up and around it had gone to ground about 20m from where I stood. The best I could determine was a big brownish wing being folded down behind the saltbush.

Options were Whistling Kite or perhaps Swamp Harrier, or maybe, well I can dream, a Spotted Harrier.
We could sit and wait, but there was a little of the ‘thrill of the chase’ in this one, so we negotiated the old barbed wire fence and worked our collective ways toward the saltbush. Not too close else if it flew, it would overfill the frame, so we only needed a few metres inside the fence.

And we waited.

The action started when a small flotilla of young Magpies turned up, and decided that what ever was behind the bush needed a good bit of hurry up, and so they set to diving on the bird on the other side of the saltbush. First one, then another, and another. Regroup then return and repeat. The numbers of young Magpies wanting to join in increased and the bush was repeatedly swooped with urgently calling Maggies.

I waited, figuring the bird would take off from behind the bush and up and away from me.
Wrong!
It must have had enough room behind the bush, out of my line of sight to get airborne and swept out from behind the bush directly to my left, low and fast.

A Little Eagle! And the flotilla of Maggies in hot pursuit. This is the type of action they love. Slow moving bird, plenty of support to control the direction and distract it from gaining speed and height.

The chase was on.

Thrilled with the opportunity to harass the Eagle the Maggies pressed home their attack. The big bird circled wide out to escape and I guessed that would be the last I’d see, but the clever Maggies drove it around, and I guess that an updraft of the edges of the 100 steps hillside would work to its advantage. So it tightly circled past me came around, found some air and began to climb. The Maggies were now having to work very hard to maintain station. They still had the speed to attack, but the Little Eagle now had the advantage of its larger wing surface in the rising air, and wasn’t using any energy. The resolute defenders of their airspace began to lose steam, and slowly began to drop away and only one or two, then only one continued the fruitless cause.

The eagle now reached a comfortable cruising speed and altitude and the Maggies were done.

While the Little Eagle drifted away in the breeze, the Magpies landed together on a nearby tree and called out to congratulate each other on a job well done, and to brag about who had come the closest to the victim.

Little Journeys: Strollin’

One thing our lockdown for the CovidCrisis has highlighted for us, is the chance to enjoy a walk around some of our local areas. Normally we’d be out and about in regular birding locations.

And of course, being local, there is not likely to be much in the way of highly sought out birds in the area.

Or
So we thought.

Not much more than a stroll from home is a new housing estate. It has been built on what, of course, was old farming land. And in our area, that would have been vegetable farming. A small, seasonal creek runs through the area, and because it is of environmental significance because of among other things, the habitat of  Growling Grass Frogs (Litoria raniformis) a fairly wide verge has been created, and partly sculptured with a well formed footpath and open grass.

The rest of the creek proper, thanks to the developers, the local council and Melbourne Water, has been turned into runoff water retarding basins. As the creek was originally a set of water holes rather than a flowing creek, they have used the natural lay of the land to develop the area.

The past few days we’ve had a good amount of rain. In our gauge alone  showed over an inch and a half  (about 39mm).   The new development with its sealed roads, footpaths, lawns and of course house roofs has indeed provided plenty of run off.  As we walked today there was plenty of evidence of at least a metre or more water having recently been through the reed beds. But thanks to clever Melb Water development, the water level has subsided quite quickly.

About half an hour walk from home is an aptly named coffee shop, The Little Growling, and it makes a good spot to turn around and return.  With a freshly brewed coffee to go, thanks very much.

As we walked out of our village at the start of our stroll, I heard the call of a Rosella, I’ve been hearing it occasionally over the past few weeks, and had even spotted it on a fence-line a couple of times. This time it was in one of the street trees, and to my surprise, a Crimson juvenile was with it, so there was much calling.  (Whether they nested locally or not is still open to supposition). I am beginning to have my doubts about the Eastern id, perhaps it is a hybrid?

Not a bird we’d normally see locally, so it was not only a pleasant surprise, but quite enchanting.

Enjoy.

Eastern Rosella, or a hybrid with buff cheeks.

Juvenile Crimson Rosella.

The last of our local Black Swans. The rest of the family seems to have moved on. Perhaps this one is reluctant to leave a good feeding location

Magpie Drama. For reasons I’ve never been sure of the adults seem to single out one of the young and peck away at it. No one seems to be hurt and the young one will pickup and move on as if nothing happened.

Enjoying breakfast together.

Maned Duck Drama. This male has a family of 5 trying to move across open ground. About 20 ravens thought there might be a quick snack or two for an enterprising attempt.
In the end, EE and I moved down the paddock and put the ravens to wing. Not that it would last for long, but sufficient to get the little ones safely to water.

The little family made it safely to the water, and were able to paddle away.

Australian Reed Warblers are either feeding young or building new nests.

Food delivery

Now that is something you don’t see in the average housing estate. Fortunately it was in no hurry to stop and chat

Like all housing estates, there are plenty of opportunists.

And this is why they call her EE.
“Buff-banded Rail,” she cried. True to form, it was. A most unusual find in a housing estate. We have been known to drive around the Treatment Plant for hours and never see one.

Little Visits: You Yangs on Sunday

One of the first times EE and I have been out just looking about.
We had been hoping to find some Eastern Yellow Robins, and or some evidences of the Scarlet Robins at the You Yangs, and EE also wanted to visit her water feature near the Big Rock carpark.

In the end, the big surprise was a family of Sittella,  and their young recently fledged clan. I’m going to do a separate blog on that encounter.

In the meantime in spite of all the disaster that is around, and the challenges of the rest of summer ahead of us, it was good to see the birds had new life on the way.

Silvereye at the Water Feature

Young Australian Magpie engaged in some serious preening, while reminding the parents of its presence.

One of several juvenile Grey Shrike Thrush working in the area

A Yellow-faced Honeyeater waits, nervously and politely for its turn at the water.

Varied Sittella, circling the branch

Two young Varied Sittella preening and resting while the family feed nearby

A young Scarlet Robin, one of the first we’ve seen in many months. Presumably its a male beginning to moult in.

Spotty the Pardalote. This is the male that I showed feeding his young on my Flickr steam.

Well not every shot is a winner, but I rather liked the colour set of the Sittella wings

Saturday Evening Post #63 : Big Annoucement—The Magnificent Magpie project 2020

I’ve spent part of the holiday time reading, or studying, a book called “Australian Magpie”, by Gisela Kapplan (see here)

One of the things that struck me was from her detailed observations, how often I’ve seen the same or similar behaviour, yet how little of it I have actually photographed.  And I put it down to, “Oh, they are just Magpies”, while I was looking for that ‘elusive’ new species I needed to locate. 🙂
I think I wrote about that last week.

I’ve just finished a project with another group and wondered what I might contribute in 2020.
Which is why I’ve decided to spend the year collecting as many Magpie Pictures as I can.

So welcome to the announcement of the beginning of “The Magnificent Magpie project 2020”.  Magnificent being the Magpie not the project, just so we’re all clear on that.

Rather than fill pages and pages of WordPress blog, I’m going to make it mostly a visual journey.
To do that, the photos will appear on a SMUGMUG folio.

Yes, I know all the flickr folk shudder at Smugmug, but they do make it very easy to create photo galleries and link the work in various threads.
And yes, I did spend a buck or two for the page, (50% off for Flickr pro members—no, its not a paid sales incentive remark, just explaining).

And I figured if I put some funds up front, I’d be more likely to consider it of value and the project might have continuity for the year.

Here is a link. https://birdsaspoetry.smugmug.com

My plan is to take photos of habitat, behaviour, activities, interaction, and other character qualities making each a gallery that is added to on a somewhat ad hoc basis as I come across Magpies in their day to day lives.
One good thing, is they are hardly rare, so I’m probably not going to get stuck for subjects.

Those that follow will see the galleries expand as move along with the project.

There are places to comment, and there are at the moment several other galleries in place with other images, as I began to figure out how it all worked. Hope you enjoy the way SmugMug shows of the images.  There is a full page quad arrow for a bigger size.

I might also expand it for Local Birds, in my neighbourhood, and then birds from various locations that we visit. Like “the office”

Feeling good about a project that is not only interesting, but achievable.

Hope to see you over at SmugMug some time.  I’ll put the occasional update page here just to keep it linked.
Yes, Birdsaspoety.com will continue, this is just a parallel work.

I can hear magpies calling as I write. 🙂

Drama in Several Acts

We’d be chatting, Mr An Onymous and I, about the history and development of Greek Drama and Tragedy. And the role of Satyr as a political statement. Among the playwrights were Sophocles, and Euripides, and how they used the stage to create the Spectacle and allow the characters and drama to develop.  Anyway, you get the idea. 

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“The Rise and Rise of the Brown Falcon in Unfamiliar Territory”

All good plays need a title that might throw the unwary viewer in the wrong direction.

Curtain Rises.

Act 1

Scene 1.  A roadway somewhere along the Western Treatment Plant.  Single treeline along roadway.  Magpies embedded in trees carolling among themselves.

Enter Stage Left.  Single Brown Falcon, flying about tree height toward the roadway. Point to note.  Brown is flying slowly and deliberately.

Scene 2.  Brown approaches treeline directly toward Magpies. Still slow and deliberate.

Continue reading “Drama in Several Acts”

SnapShots: The Account of The Magpie and the Little Eagle

All good tales have a protagonist and of course the antagonist.  From Romeo and Juliet to Jane Eyre, or a Hitchcock movie, the ‘player of the first part’, has always to experience the consequences of decisions.

So as our hero the Little Eagle made its way across the paddocks in the sunshine, oblivious of the dangers, it was soon to learn that not all skies are clear, blue and free.

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Continue reading “SnapShots: The Account of The Magpie and the Little Eagle”

You Yangs Interlude: Some Days are Diamonds

Been a bit frantic with a number of projects the past week or so, and have a bit more to add to Studio Werkz.
EE suggested a bit of a break from serious bird photography, and an early morning at the You Yangs Park sounded about right.

Continue reading “You Yangs Interlude: Some Days are Diamonds”

First Catch your Snake. Magpie 1 Snake 0

Fresh from watching Alfred the Brown Falcon give hunting pointers for snakes, we were out at the WTP in the wind and the cold this afternoon, and to our collective surprise, a Magpie plopped down in the grass nearby.

With in a few seconds it emerged and with much delight took to the air with a snake in its beak.  Then we were lucky enough that it landed on a roadway about 50m up and so we went to looksee.
Maggie wasn’t that impressed with spectators, and after a bit of relocating sat down to the work of despatching said snake.
The high wind made it a bit more difficult for Maggie to concentrate, and to be honest,  I think it was quite cautious about its approach and even when the head had been removed after some difficulty, any slight movement of the carcass would have Maggie on the defensive and two steps back.
But it persisted and eventually got down to enjoying the remainder of the meal.

Well done Maggie.  And just to add a word of warning to others as much as ourselves we had not more than 10 minutes before been standing in that area working with a Black-shouldered Kite.   Time methinks to reconsider where we are standing.
Enjoy.

Maggie was on the alert all the time, any movement was considered with apprehension.
Maggie was on the alert all the time, any movement was considered with apprehension.

When you've only a beak, sometimes you have to be clever in the pickup.
When you’ve only a beak, sometimes you have to be clever in the pickup.

Quickly consumed.
Quickly consumed.

If it moves give it a jolly good shaking.
If it moves give it a jolly good shaking.

Hold, Rip and devour.
Hold, Rip and devour.