Interludes: A Sky full of Kites

With a touch of sunshine, and a free morning, EE and I decided it was time to followup on a lead we’d been given about the possibility of a Little Eagle’s nest along the Werribee River.
Now it was hardly an expedition that would rival Bourke and Wills, or even the great Major Thomas Mitchell.  It was more likely the ‘expotition’ of Winnie the Pooh in search for the North Pole.

Still any day out with good weather, good company and a flask of the good Earl’s finest, was looking better than another locked down day in our four walls.

We set off to find that the access gate we were hoping to use was locked, and as Arlo Guthie sings, “With a big chain, and a lock and a sign saying “Closed for Covid”.”  (Alice’s Restaurant)

So off to plan B. Not sure Bourke and Wills and certainly not Pooh Bear, ever had a plan B.

We parked and walked in. Well it was a sunny day.
And just as well, for to be honest.  If there was a Little Eagle’s nest along the roadway I missed it. And if EE missed it, well, it wasn’t there.  If it had been in Argentina, she would have spotted it anyway.  It is a 6th Sense, or at least borders on some kind of extra-sensory perception.

However as we walked the track, what came to visit us was several squadrons of Black and Whistling Kites.  First just a few but as quickly as we could count the numbers grew to about twenty five birds filling the sky.
Among some of the interest was a Black Kite that had a rabbit carcass tucked up, and was not giving it up for any of its ‘friends’.
And a bit of an aerial duel between some Black and Whistling Kites.
Next several Ravens decided that having so many free-loaders in their nesting area was not going to happen and another battle ensued.

A good day out for with some bonus Australian Hobby secrets discovered as well, but that is certainly for another post.

Saturday Evening Post #125 : Simples

Front light is one of our most basic light forms.

Nicéphore Niépce used it for his first ‘heliograph’ made in 1826 or 27.  An 8 hour or more exposure taken through an upstairs window of his Burgundy estate.

Front light was the staple light of George Eastman’s Kodak. The small aperture and low sensitivity meant that bright light was indeed the order of the day.

The (in)Famous “Sunny Sixteen Rule” relies on bright sunshine—a couple of hours after sunup and before sundown— to give correct exposure.

I admit to still using a variation of the Sunny Sixteen, when I shoot in M for Manual on the D500. Normally I use ISO400, and f/5.6 on the 500mm PF with a shutter speed of 1/2500-for white birds 1/3200.  The good old Reciprocity Rule at work before your very eyes.

My dear old Mum’s favourite photo-adage, “Keep the sun over your left shoulder dear”, is just another variation on that theme.

Front Light in sunny daylight gives beginners several advantages:
The subject is evenly lit.
No heavy shadows to spoil the colours. The shadows fall away behind the subject.
Colours are rich and expressive.
Metering is easy, or just the Sunny 16.
The form and shape are lost in a flat looking surface.
A uplifting, bright mood is established.

And of course a couple of disadvantages:
Lack of Drama (most times)
Lack of form and shape because of the loss of shadows
Hard for subject not to squint as they peer toward the bright light.
Birds tend to look away for the same reason, and perhaps because it’s easier to see prey in the bird’s front light.

So on any given day in the field, my first choice is Mum’s Rule. But of course it depends on the mood I want.
Light coming from behind the subject robs us of rich colour and often detail.

So it is not without consequence that EE and I were out at the Western Treatment Plant on a sunny afternoon.

We found the Black Kite sitting conspicuously on a branch high on a tree near the roadway.
We slowed and stopped, the light was coming from behind the bird and the most we really could see was a shape in shadow.

I glanced in the rear view mirror and several cars were coming up behind us. We had stopped well off the road, so there was plenty of room to pass.  To my surprise, they too stopped, several cameras with people attached got out, some cameras stayed in the cars with the windows wound down.  A few shutter clicks, and quick ‘chimp’ at the results, and the vehicles moved on looking for something else to record.

I didn’t have to see the results to know they had a black, Black Kite. All shadow, no detail.
After the dust settled and with the bird still in good view, we moved up the roadway about 75m, and the Kite was now in “full front, sunlight”, dial in the sunny 16, and increase the shutter speed slightly to keep the highlights in the feathers, wait, wait, wait for a head turn, there is the eye catchlight. Click. Job done.

I know in the field, the excitement of seeing a bird is more than enough to make a record shot. I’ve got half a disk-drive full of them.  But getting the best colour, or mood or feel takes a few moment to consider the vision that I have of the results, and then making the necessary steps to work to achieve that.

Do I always use front light?  No, is the loud reply. But it is my light of choice if I am after those rich feather colours and details



PS: For Nikon Users Only. Canon and Sony users, move along-nothing to see here. 🙂
Over on ArtfromSience web site, Ed Dozier has an interesting test series on the Auto Focus on the D500, D850, D6.  His methods and conclusion bring some interesting thoughts to the accuracy and how to get the best out of it, of the Nikon AF system. Hope it helps.
Optimizing Autofocus Efficiency in Nikons



Off Topic: It Isn’t Even Playing the Game

One of my early mentors for colour printing, mostly dye-sublimation and ink-jet (giclee for the arty folk) is a great craftsmen and writer, Ctein.

Today he wrote a newsletter that struck a real chord.

Unfortunately I can’t add a link for you to see, as it’s a by subscription only, but here is a couple of quotes and a comment. Drop me an email and I’ll send it on to you.  He is much more vocal and lucid than I.  birdsaspoetry  at icloud dot com.

He likens the current Covid-19 pandemic to a circling raptor and the birds that try to get rid of it from their area to the frenetic attempts to contain the virus.

“For birds, it is not good fences but great distances that make good neighbors. This distance is not great enough…

Sometimes the ravens whirl and loop. There is considerable vocalization. In action and words they say to the hawk, “Look, we are superior in every respect, physically and mentally. You are overshadowed. Take a hike.”

DJ: Locally the Ravens and Magpies go to no end of effort to move on a passing Kite, Eagle or Harrier. I’ve seen ravens fly for 20 minutes or more after a Wedge-tailed Eagle, until it reaches a point high up in the sky, where the raven must flap harder to keep up, and the eagle can just drip its huge sails into the breeze and slips away. Exhausted the raven plummets back to earth.

Ctein, “Finally, the ravens give up — they get frustrated and, worse, bored. They go off to find some more entertaining mischief, and the hawk continues doing what it’s been doing all along.”

The hawk wins every time because it isn’t even playing the game!

Ctein, “I feel like the ravens do. I am tired and I’m bored and I’m frustrated and depressed and, most of all, exhausted by four months of navigating through this Brave New World, of living in Plague Times. God knows I’ve done my part, more than my part. I need a break.”

DJ: Unfortunately, the virus is like a hawk. It doesn’t care what we individually or collectively think or our frustration and our need of a break.

Ctein, “We don’t have the luxury of letting down our guards and relaxing our extraordinarily inconvenient and uncomfortable protections because we are exhausted (and, make no mistake, we ARE exhausted). The hawk just hovers in the updraft, thinking its minimal, hawkish thoughts and waiting for hawkish opportunity.

Stay Safe. Never Underestimate the Power of Stupid People in Large Groups. Stay Aware.
The Hawk is circling.

The Doona Hermit


For those interested Ctein is here

Cteinnewsletter mailing list

All in-quotes italics material is copyright and expressly owned by Ctein.
Used as quote only. See Website for further details. 




Saturday Evening Post #70 : Exposure by Cat’s Eye.

If you are like me, and let’s hope that is not in too many ways, 🙂 then no doubt you’ll have pondered from the day you first picked up a camera,
“What is Correct Exposure?”

And… haven’t there been any number of ‘friends, family, websites, blogs, books, faceblot pages, and courses to set you on the right road.

Luckily this is not going to add to the incessant chatter.

I think, “What is correct exposure?” is about as useful as asking, ‘What colour should I wear?’ Because of so many variables.

T’would be easy to offer advice, such as, “Oh for my bird shots I use the fastest shutter speed, blah, blah.”

The great New York newspaper, Wegee,  is reputed to have said, “f/8 and be there!”

So let’s go at this another way.  How to you-royal plural-determine correct exposure?

Well in this modern day and age, you point the camera, press the shutter and all is well. (most of the time, with the exceptions of the critical moments, when its wrong!)
No doubt modern camera design is at pains to get it as close for most general picture making as possible.  Else people wouldn’t buy the cameras. So hats of to the manufacturers for their great work.

All sorts of hand-held exposure meters have been used in the past, and each had their adherents. And if you think camera blog discussions get heated and verbose, you’ve never heard the disciples of one sort of meter lampooning the other less informed individuals of lesser choice meters. 🙂
When I started, the choice was pretty simple, English company Sangamo Weston had a Weston Master meter. I confess to owning several during my lifetime, and have just purchased one from ebay, as much for sentimental as much as practical reasons.

As time went on and studio requirements changes, so did my choice and Sekonic meters came (and went)

Note I’m not into, here, whether fast shutter, or large or small aperture are the creative issue.
And don’t start me on the poorly defined “Exposure Triangle”.

Just a lighthearted stroll through the thorny subject of how we determine from the light available, and our photographic intention, what settings might best bring out our intent and feel for the subject.
Simply, how to measure the amount of light off the subject. (Or just for completeness for the Incident Method die-hards, how much is going to strike the subject)

What is the average reflectance of a scene has also bought in its wake, a host of disagreements.

For the record, Kodak scientists in the early 1900s arrived that in bright sunlight about 13.4% And then based their recommended exposure settings for their filums upon that basis.
Not good enough cried Fred Picker and St. Ansel, and they  cajouled Kodak into making their measurements at 18%.
Dah Dah, enter the great Kodak 18%-90% reflectance Card. Kodak Publication No. R-27.  Cat 152 7795.  Which, distinctly says on the outside of the package.
Designed for use with and exposure meter in artificial light. For use with Kodak Ektacolor and Vericolour Films.

Makes me smile when I see the card recommended for use in daylight by some controversial exposure determining system. And also in camera reviews that say—Oh, the manufacturer has set the basic exposure wrongly as it overexposes by 1/3 stop. Sure does. It’s easy to speculate when you don’t grasp the theory.

Then there’s the Sunny Sixteen Rule. Used to be on the leaflet inside each roll of filum.
Set the shutter speed to 1/ISO and aperture to f/16 and in bright daylight you’ll get correct exposure.
And if you’ve never done this, then next time your out in bright sunshine, set the camera to Manual. Dial in 100ISO, set the shutter to 1/125 (closest to 100) dial in an aperture of f/16, and sun over-your-shoulder. Bet is so close  to acceptable as to be scary. 🙂 But who wants to shoot at f/16. Not me.

You could try the Nicéphore Niépce method:  8 hours out the back window of the house. Yep, first recorded exposure ever! And no shadows in the scene. Give you HDR folk something to ponder. 😉 Actually there is more recent research that suggests it might have been several days exposure!   Think about that the next time you choose 1/4000th.

Which brings us to Exposure by a Cat Eye.

Enter: Oscar Gustav Rejlander, the year is 1857, and he is embarking on a rather risque work called, “Two ways of Life”. Here’s a link

To quote from Rodger Cicala over at,

“Rejlander’s photographic career was remarkable. It wasn’t possible to practice “street photography” in those days, so Rejlander would use models to recreate scenes he observed of the poor in Britain at that time, producing haunting photographs that are collected in museums around the world today.
 He was also the first to use a light meter— sort of, anyway. He would bring his cat into the studio: if the cat’s eye’s were like slits he used a short exposure, if more open a long exposure, and if the cat’s pupils were wide open he knew there wasn’t enough light to photograph!”

So there you are.  The next time you struggle with “Should I add or subtract EV for this shot?” Just remember there is a long history of incorrect exposures littering the photographic biosphere.
And take heart, I’m responsible for a good many of them 🙂

Here’s a visiting Black Kite, just back to re-establish its breeding territory I think.
Guess which exposure method I used?  Oh, and to help, I don’t own or have access to a cat;-)


Eynesbury Gems: Take #3

Been pondering anew, my approach to Bird Photography, again.  Yes dear reader, tis that time of year again for tinsel, things red and white, muzak that dumbs the mind at the shopping centre and of course my annual “where is my photography going to bend in 2019”. But

Fear not, this is not that blog.
Great gasps of relaxation and sighs of relief heard across the ‘blogosphere’.


I really wanted to get the remainder of the shots from our Eynesbury excursions, (incursions?) out.

So rather than belabour, here is the best of the rest sort of feature.
There is still one more chapter to put up, but I’m going to do that as a Snapshots type blog as it concerns our favourite Jackys and their now well fledged young.  Might even get that done the next few days.

Here tis.

After about 20 attempts this is as good as it got. A Tree Martin flying in with food for the young. I think that Tree Martins have multiple families at nest inside the hollows.


A very young Black Kite. We sat with the young bird for several hours over three days, but didnot see the adults come to the nest.
However there was a constant overflying as they kept check on the young one for above.


Another from the Black Kite at Play series


Another from the Black Kite at Play series. It is coming out of a turn and heading into the wind using all the speed it gained on the run with the wind


Black-faced Cuckooshrike


Overenthusiastic young one just about unperches the adult. I love the look on the adutls face.


This looks like family fun, however food is involved and when the adult arrived to feed the lower bird, the upper one flew in. Then to get in a better position to be fed, it ‘stepped’ over its rival.
The adult sovled the problem by flying off the end of the branch, circling and landing nearer the lower bird. It’s not always the loudest and largest beak that gets filled.


Little Eagle. Eynesbury has a resident pair of Little Eagle. I suspect, from the calls, that there is a nest located on the western side of the forest, but have to say I’ve been out of luck locating it.


And of course Jacky Winter

Watching Jacky feed is quite interesting. The young don’t cry out for food. Most times they don’t even respond to Mum or Dad arriving. Then there must be a quiet call, and they quickly pop up, the food is delivered and they both settle straight down. It’s also not unusual for the adult to spend a few minutes alongside the nest making sure all is well before flying off.


Point Cook sunny day with Meetup Bird Photographic Group

What a difference to mood a bit of sunshine makes.
We were looking for a day out at the Point Cook Coastal Park with Graham Harkom and the Meetup Bird Photography Group, and as usual Graham managed to put on a picture perfect day.

We arrived in good time to find the park gates still locked, and so we stood around discussing the day’s activities and soon enough the gate was open. Just as well we were a little late starting as a few late-comers thought they’d arrived on time.

Within a  few moments of getting out of the car, EE had discovered “Brown” the resident Brown Falcon, and he seemed quite happy to sit in the sunshine. Then, for reasons falcon, he took to the air and patrolled along the treeline by the carpark. Much of course to the chagrin of every magpie in the area.  So we started with some good views of Brown in being harassed by first one, then another magpie.
Through the gate and along the track out to the Monument, we also managed some Flame Robins, White-fronted Chats and a particularly good view of several Striated Fieldwrens.

From there we wended out way back along the beach-line and found a small flock of Blue-winged Parrots sunning themselves on the fence-line. And we managed to get some pretty good shots for the photographers.  Then one of our more alert spotted a flash of red, and a Flame Robin males spent the next ten minutes entertaining us flying from fence to track to feed.  He seemed the least concerned by our presence and again it was a photo opportunity.

Add a couple of Whistling Kites, and several Black Kites that seemed quite taken by our presence and made low passes to get a good look at us. Perhaps they were doing a “People Count” or a “Camera Type Count”. Whichever it was nice to see the sunshine glinting on those rich  deep brown wings.

By the time we’d made it to the Homestead area, the tide was well in, several Australasian Gannets were working in the waters further out, EE managed some White-faced Herons, and Pacific Gulls while she had waited for us to turn up.

A large flock, (300+) Little Black and Pied Cormorants were working on a fish shoal out beyond the reef, and every-time the shoal moved a large black mass ascended to the air to catch up with. Very impressive.

A walk back to the car through the farmland revealed some more Flame Robins, several White-browed Scrubwrens and a loud-voiced Singing Honeyeater.

After lunch a few of the group continued round to the RAAF Lake Lookout and spent some time at a pond with circling Welcome Swallows.  Where are you Rodger Scott!!

Graham then spotted first one, then a second Little Eagle at work over the Lake, and we were discussing the presence (or lack of) Goshawks, when over the treeline a bullet shape with longish tail appeared and at first I’d picked it for a Goshawk, and we were both amused we’d been discussing the same.  Then as the bird drew closer, it pulled up its wings in a most ungoshawk manner and revealed itself as a Peregrine Falcon, and it was most intent on making the Little Eagle’s life just a bit miserable.  Several close stoops had the Eagle moving on thank you.

Thanks to Graham for organising the day, and to all the grand folk who turned up to add such a delightful companionship to a glorious sunny day.   Really, after the past week or so, the weather just seemed to make the air sing.



Brown Falcon, being seen off by an Australian Magpie

Brown Falcon, being seen off by an Australian Magpie

Female Flame Robin
Female Flame Robin
Striated Fieldwren
Striated Fieldwren
Yellow-rumped Thornbill
Yellow-rumped Thornbill
Meetup at work
Meetup at work
Blue-winged Parrot
Blue-winged Parrot
Male Flame Robin
Male Flame Robin
Whistling Kite
Whistling Kite
Australian Pelican
Australian Pelican



Meeting Up with Friends Take #2

Graham Harkom, as self-confessed birder and mad photographer, also among his other accomplishments runs an online bird photography group,   Melbourne Bird Photographers, under the Meetup banner.

See Here

So most months there is an event to turn up to.  It’s such an intriguing way to organise an event, and great kudos for Graham and his organising group for keeping up the great places to visit. Always good for birds, photography and chatting, and of course food!

So, when I discovered the next one was to be at the Western Treatment Plant, it wasn’t too hard to tick the Yes we will attend box.

So, as the Banjo was wont to say, we went.

Also my long term mate and fellow conspirator and Flickr mate Mark S came over to make an excellent day of it.   Graham, herein named, “He who always has brilliant sunshine for his events”, met us at the Caltex Servo at Werribee and had turned on the sunshine as requested.

28 keen folk sipped Gerry’s best coffee, ate raisin toast, and talked about the day’s opportunities.  We took off toward Avalon, stopping long enough to get some good views, if only average photos of some Banded Plovers, then it was on to the T Section, and the inevitable wait by the Crake Pool, and out came the Australian Crake, right on time.  No Brolga here, so off to the Paradise Road ponds for our little convoy.

Met a carful of helpful folk who said, “Down there somewhere we saw Brolga”, which unscrambled meant. On to the 145W outflow. A very co-operative Brown Falcon stopping us in our quest, and gave some great poses, and a fine fly off shot for those of us not too busy checking the camera settings. —Will I never never learn!!!!  😦

Then, we spotted the Brolga, (Singular in this case), and the usual dilemma,  stay where we are for distant, safe views , or drive on a small distance and see if we can get closer.  We drove.  And the kind bird tolerated us, for a while, then gave a super fly by quite close.  Too much fun.

We had a quiet photography time at 145W, and lunch, then it was on to Lake Borrie. My mates Neil and David turned up in the Prado,they were both out playing with new toys, A Canon 1D X and a Nikon D4. Ah, the joys of learning new equipment.

As we drove back the Brown Falcon had perched on the ‘Specimen Tree’ in Little River and we managed several great shots in the sunshine.

On toward the Bird-hide for some good views of Musk Duck, Great Crested Grebe and an obliging Swamp Harrier made the journey well worthwhile.

Then we took a quick detour toward the top end of Lake Borrie, and to my surprise and great delight—Picture if you will, a small child in a sweet-shop—I spotted some White-winged Terns hunting in the next pond.  (They used to be called White-winged Black Terns, but like many things name changes are important.)
Not that I cared as a most remarkable all Black flanked bird tacked into view.  It was in full breeding plumage, and has to be seen flashing over the water to be genuinely appreciated.   By now the memory cards were filling up. And they were just Mine!!!!!

These birds are only at WTP a few weeks during the year, and mostly never in breeding black plumage. Also every other time I’ve seen them it’s been raining.  See some other blogs on here.

A really top find, and a great way to end the day. A quick run up the highway. A refreshing cup of coffee and some good discussion on the finds of the day,- including a top shot of a Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater (Missed that one! ), and everybody back in their transportation and  time for home.

Thanks again to Graham “He who always has brilliant sunshine for his events”, and the pleasure of his visitor from Thailand, for such a good relaxing day, and so much to see, and to all those intrepid Meetup-erers who ventured down, and enjoyed the day with us.  Hope to see you all again down the track.


A fine start to the day with a Black-shouldered Kite warming in the morning sunshine
A fine start to the day with a Black-shouldered Kite warming in the morning sunshine
At Crake HQ, an Australian Crake on good display.
At Crake HQ, an Australian Crake on good display.
A hunting we wiil go Whistling Kite over paddock
A hunting we will go. Whistling Kite over paddock
A Black Kite on a tight turn hunting small insects.
A Black Kite on a tight turn hunting small insects.
No one gets past here!
No one gets past here!
One of the finds of the day. Brolga in flight
One of the finds of the day. Brolga in flight
Brown Falcon on Specimen Tree
Brown Falcon on Specimen Tree
A Swamp Harrier on a tight turn. Another one for my "How to Sneak up on a Swamp Harier", book. :-)
A Swamp Harrier on a tight turn. Another one for my “How to Sneak up on a Swamp Harrier”, book. 🙂
White-winged Tern. What a great find, and this one in full breeding plumage.
White-winged Tern. What a great find, and this one in full breeding plumage.
So Good. Here is another.
So Good. Here is another.
White-winged Tern (formerly White-winged Black Tern for obvious reasons), this one is moulting in.
White-winged Tern (formerly White-winged Black Tern for obvious reasons), this one is moulting in.


Visiting Friends A day along the Beach at Point Cook

Was chatting with a birder friend, and I mentioned the Point Cook Coastal Park, and he said, that he didn’t plan to go there much as most of the birds were pretty common, and only occasionally was a Plover or a Pratincole enough to take the trip down there.

When we relocated home a couple of years back, Point Cook was on the top of my list as a suitable place, and to be honest, it was second, third and a close run fourth on the list.  And of course the logic was it was but a few minutes from the Coastal Park of the same name, and it would be neat to roll out of bed, and stroll on down to the park.

In the end, much wiser heads than mine  (EE as it turns out) found us the place that ‘we’ wanted and Tarneit took on our new home address.
But every so often when the light is right, and sometimes when its wrong we venture down to the Coastal Park.  And surprisingly, many of the common birds down there have become a bit like friends.
So today we went, not to count, nor to get our lists up, nor necessarily to capture the best bird photos ever, but to visit some friends.

Our friend the Brown Falcon was in the carpark area, and we enjoyed some time with it, as it hunted quite casually from the fence line.  Also found a number of Flame Robins that have made the park their winter beach residence.

And  of course the usual Pied, Little Pied and Great Cormorants down on the old jetty.   They gave us some pretty impressive flight displays while we sipped on a fine cuppa.

Then the local White-faced Heron, and the pair of Pacific Gulls cruised by hunting on the out-going tide.  And to our amusement, a pair of Black Swans how have obviously just coupled up were making interesting subjects as they hunted together on the gentle rolling outgoing tide.

As we walked back to carpark, the air literally filled with raptors.

At one point we had all up at the same time,  Little Eagle, Black Kite, Whistling Kite, Brown Falcon, Australian Hobby and Brown Goshawk.  I was hoping that the resident Spotted Harrier would make an appearance, but we had to be satisfied with those six.

We stopped along the road to look at some Flame Robins bathing in a tiny pool in a paddock, and some ‘new friends’, came over to say ‘hello’.  So we spent a few minutes becoming acquainted with several chesnut horses.

We might not have added any ‘new’ birds to our list, but we had as the Sans Bushman said, “Recognised some birds,and built a tiny connection with them, that is growing into a thread”


A Band of Banded Brothers

Came upon a small band of Banded Stilts and Red-necked Avocets the other morning.

We had been looking for some locations for subjects for my book on “How to Sneak Up on a Swamp Harrier”. Needless to say the next chapter or two will for the short term be blank pages.

On one pond we happened in the best of traditions on a flock of Banded Stilts, and some companions.

So we settle down for about an hour or so.   While we were enjoying the birds, the sunshine and a cuppa, we were joined for a short while by a hunting party of Black Kite and a Black Falcon. We counted around 25 Black Kites and there were plenty spiralling down from a great height that we didn’t count any more.
Sort of added that sparkle to the day.


Passing time with inflight shots

We’ve been sitting in our mobile hide (the little i20), near a tree that has a Black-shouldered Kite nest and the female in residence.
As is typical of her species, the nest is just below tree top and hidden well in among the fine uppermost branches.  Once she is under the canopy she is gone!

He off course is on hunting duty, and every so often turns up with a nice fresh mouse.   So all we have to do is point the camera, (attached, I might add to the WImberley Gimbal head), and wait either for him to arrive and/or her to emerge or reenter.
Now, if you’ve ever watched them, the first thing you’ll recall is that it can be a long long long time inbetween feeds.

Sometimes even she gets a bit anxious and sends out some pretty interesting Kite calls just to make sure he gets the message.
So we wait.

And of course in the waiting is the challenge.   So we, well at least I, keep the shorter 300mm f4 PF on a second camera and practice my flight shots on anything that spins past.

So here are a few from the other day.

Rockin’ and Rollin’ in Raptor Alley

Just a quick look at any weather forecast over the past two weeks would draw the conclusion we’ve been having a spot of weather at the moment.  And you’d be right.  The mushy cloud days, the biting cold, the wind and the rain. And mostly the lack of Sunshine.

Its not much fun for a  photographer to venture out for small birds as the forest is wet and its hard to get much light in under the canopy.  Big field birds become grey blobs against even greyer backdrops.

So it was a bit unusual last Wednesday afternoon to see the sunshine sweeping along streets.   “Grab the cameras and let’s go to Twenty Nine Road”, EE suggested.

So we did.

Two of the major roads that run through the Western Treatment Plant complex,- and don’t require a permit-, are The Beach Road, and Twenty Nine Mile Roads.   They both have huge paddock areas that these days are no longer used for the original purpose (the disposal of the waste from Melbourne), and are now farmed over for a range of farm products.  (Not for human consumption).   One of the crops is maize and it is ready for harvest. I assume they use it to feed the stock cattle.

One of the benefits of all this production is off course that the mice see the left over and dropped seed and corn as an indication of bounty, and begin to multiply.  And as they do, the raptors, not likely to forego a mouse dinner move in to match the increase. Which of course helps the mice produce more, and more raptors move in. …. fill in the blanks.

On a sunny afternoon, its nice to be able sit along the roadway near the harvested paddocks and watch the various hunting techniques.   Kestrels and Black-shouldered Kites hovering.  Whistling Kites and Black Kites hunting from the air, Goshawks swooping through prepared for anything that moves, and of course the Kites being prepared to wrestle food from the smaller hunting falcons.  Add to that the pair of Black Falcons who believe any food is rightfully theirs and are prepared to out-fly anyone to get it, and a fine afternoon’s entertainment is assured.

So, rather than ramble here is a small selection from a few hours work.

Raptor Alley. The Beach Road looking toward the bay. The sharp eyed might even note a Black-shouldered Kite high on the rhs tree
Raptor Alley. The Beach Road looking toward the bay. The sharp eyed might even note a Black-shoudlered Kite high on the rhs tree
Delightful to watch them in the air
Delightful to watch them in the air
Australian Kestrel with an afternoon snack
Australian Kestrel with an afternoon snack
Taking a spell from hunting
Taking a spell from hunting
Another mouse down
Another mouse down
First time I've ever seen a Goshawk just sitting.
First time I’ve ever seen a Goshawk just sitting.
When I grow up I want a nest just like this. Superb Fairy-wren sitting in a disused Magpie Lark's nest
When I grow up I want a nest just like this.
Superb Fairy-wren sitting in a disused Magpie Lark’s nest
Pair of Black-shouldered Kites resting together
Pair of Black-shouldered Kites resting together
These are the bird of my youth, Sitting on a gate post
These are the bird of my youth, Sitting on a gate post
A hard turn into the breeze
A hard turn into the breeze
In bound for a tree rest
In bound for a tree rest
Australian Kestrel, tail preening in the sunshine
Australian Kestrel, tail preening in the sunshine
Black Kite landing. The post is an old sluice to control the waste.
Black Kite landing. The post is an old sluice to control the waste.
Fresh catch
Fresh catch
How tough is this mouse
How tough is this mouth
Female Australian Kestrel
Female Australian Kestrel
A late entry into the field Brolga at sundown
A late entry into the field Brolga at sundown

Just when I thought I’d seen it all

This Black Kite is such a confident aviator, that it can preen as it flies.

Bored from following a tractor in the field, it decided a little cleanup time was in order.

What staggers me is the amount of brain power going on to keep the right side up, going in the correct direction, finding the feathers in the breeze and figuring it all out ‘on the fly’.

The second shot – the headless one- shows if you look closely out from the top wing rhs a feather that has been discarded.
Definitely  don’t try this at home.

DWJ-1504-30-_DWJ6407 DWJ-1504-30-_DWJ6410

It must be in the air!

Had some really interesting and forthright emails and comments on the last long blog on ‘why we press the shutter’.  Funny how sometimes things just mesh in  harmony and we all have a chance to stop and at least make a quick ponder on our special place in the photographic endeavour.

But it must be in the air at the moment, as I received an email update from Jon Young, he of “What the Robin Knows” and founder of 8 Shields Institute.  For those that haven’t grasped his work, have a look  at the website.  He is primarily a mentor for developing the, ‘nearly lost art of understanding bird and animal language’.  Sites are here  Jon Young and here Bird Language. Ok, its a place to buy stuff, but look among the ideas. They also have a Free 8 week course, which is really a condensation  of the book “What the Robin Knows”.

Anyway marketing pitch off, I got an email from one of  his colleagues Josh Lane, and you can find the whole page here, Seeing with New Eyes

He puts it best this way, and I’m lifting out a couple of paragraphs, so hope the thought police are not on the job too much.  Check out Josh’s full quote above.

“On one level, this ability to perceive and behave unconsciously helps us in daily life, as we can learn to do many things at once without having to think about them. On the other hand, we can too easily go into “autopilot” and miss out on a lot of the world around us. 

The next time you walk out of your front door, or go to your sit spot, set the intention first to approach that place with beginner’s mind, as if you have never been there before.

Open your senses up. Pretend to be a tourist admiring the architecture of the building, or a birder who is on a distant safari watching and listening keenly for exotic new birds. Let nothing escape your attention.

Develop this practice for a week. Perhaps that same tree you have walked by 100 times before will catch your attention in a new way; maybe the afternoon light will hit the branches in a way you have never noticed before. Or, a flower growing in the cracks of the sidewalk will call to your senses and remind you of the beauty of the earth. Let your awareness be open and expansive, as you see familiar places with new eyes!”

Think this is what I’m wrestling with in my own work.   As I replied to Steve Hayward  He of Devophoto here on Flickr;

” I’ve been struggling of late between the need for technical shots of details and the need to develop a sense of place for the bird.”

And I think now that Josh has sussed it out.  Being so conscious of the right exposure, and the right location, and the right angle and the difficulty of filling the frame, I’ve been forgetting to look, to be open and expansive and to see the familiar with new eyes.

We’ll see. (pun intended).

Brown Falcon on a turn. She has a nesting site in mind, I'm sure
Brown Falcon on a turn. She has a nesting site in mind, I’m sure. She, because it is the larger of the pair.
Black Kites dancing together in the late afternoon sunshine
Black Kites dancing together in the late afternoon sunshine



This one is carrying what looks to be a large tuft of grass. He(?) scooped it off the top of the river sand cliffs.
This one is carrying what looks to be a large tuft of grass. He(?) scooped it off the top of the river sand cliffs.



With all the mice they are consuming, the high octane fuel is filling them up.
With all the mice they are consuming, the high octane fuel is filling them up.