Little Journeys: A Morning at The Plant

Now that Melbourne has emerged from its fifth covid lockdown its time for the Doona Hermit to shed his old worn doona and venture out in to the real, (no definitions please) world.

#kneetoo and I had a little local journey planned, with a stop off along the way to look at a pair of Black-shouldered Kites and their young(?)

But as I pulled back said doona and checked the weather app, it looked like a beaut, clear, cold morning.
We had planned to do our quick visit and then be home by mid-morning for a relaxing morning tea, so I was not planning to load Earl of Grey into the thermos or grab a bikkie or two for the journey.
But.

On a whim, we decided that a morning driving around part of the Werribee Treatment Plant birding area would make the most of the weather, and who knows when if, ever, we’d have such a chance.  Fix snacxks, load cameras, dress warmly and we were on the way.

As it turned out much of the area where we visited was pretty bereft of birds, but what we lacked in quantity we made up for in birds we’d not had the pleasure of seeing for quite awhile

Here’s a small selection.

The dancing fisherman.
The Little Egrets make such delicate moves as they follow the fish through the water
Where did that fish go?
Napping out of the wind. PIed Oystercatcher
A Swamp Harrier on patrol
Crested Tern rolling over for a fishing plunge
Swamp Harrier on a turn
A beaut find, Blue-winged Parrots feeding in the saltbush. We probably saw 15 or more
Blue-winged Parrot. One of the most delightful little parrots we photograph
Pied Oystercacther powering past
One of a number of white chested Brown Falcons we found during the morning/
This one was in no hurry to move and in the end, a Whistling Kite approaching finally put it to air.
When I first came across this bird, it didn’t seem to be in a hurry to leave. At first I thought it was working out the moves for its next meal. Closer inspection shows it must have only recently eaten and was resting for digestion.

Saturday Evening Post: #144 :Brown Falcon Dreaming

Hello all my felllow-lockdownees, and others.
The Doona Hermit has crawled out from under the covers here at the Global Headquarters of the Doona Hermit.

Not much to see in our street, so I’ll move on to other things.

Best wishes to all the Sydney-siders.  So many of them stood with us in solidarity last year as our lockdowns dragged on and on. We know your pain, we know how hard it is with just about everybody doing the right thing and then… what are those people doin!!!
Concentrate on the good ones.  Those who are working on the front-line, in the backrooms, calling, delivering, offering comfort, and all the other other genuine human things we are so capable of in crisis.
Goodonya

Meanwhile Victoria is again in the firing line with a nominal, “Five Day Circuit Breaker”, but I doubt if there is a single Victorian who even dares to image that come next Tuesday evening we’ll be relieved.  The smart money seems to be on an extension of some duration.

The ‘We allwannagotothefooty” mantra has meant that those few selfish (and this blog doesn’t usually call it a it is!) had their couple of hours of ‘pleasure’ and now we all suffer.
Years ago in the Sun New Pictorial newspaper, columnist  Keith Dunstan (OAM) established the Anti-Football League (AFL)
I’d be happy to be a subscribing member at the moment 🙂

Draw a line


I watched part of the David Attenborough series “LIFE IN COLOR“, can’t find much of a link anywhere, but will keep trying.  The part that is of interest here to your scribe was the segment on the Fiddler crab and its ability to use polarised light to find a mate, and to avoid predators.

As a photographer I’ve been interested in the use of polarised light and its characteristics for a long time.  Numerous polarising filters, filter sheet, and polarising materials laying around the work area will attest to the ongoing investigations.
Even helped me on several jobs, particularly when we were working for car mags, and also the excursion into interiors for home-improvement clients.

I wish I could find some details of how the production team worked with all this, how they determined it worked and how they then built the special gear to bring it to screen.  A few voice-over sentences hardly does it justice.

The interesting one for me was that if said crab turned its attentions and its special skills to the skies, what it would ‘see’ was a blank, white canvas. Any movement, say a predator gull, or large hungry seabird, would be picked up as a black shape against the white, no distractions, and as quick as you can say, disappear, it was down in its hole, safe and secure.

No doubt, and I hypothesize, (you get to do that a lot hidden under the doona), that the creature also had some shape recognition, much like the plane and boat recognition shapes that were used by spotters during WWII.
Which of course led to the next hypothesis.

If it works for your clever and well equipped Fiddler crab, might it not have some similar application in other creatures.

Long-term readers will know I have a theory. No, I didn’t borrow this one from Mr An Onymous, this is pure Doona Hermit land.

I’ve sat and watch Brown Falcon’s for many an hour.  Not your ‘Oh, there’s a Brown Falcon on the fence’ move on” sort of stuff, but sitting a respectful distance from Brown and watching it watch.

I’m convinced they have the area ‘mapped’. Somehow. Each scan of the scene reinforces the last scan, or reveals something new to be added to the ‘map’.  Such as.
That skink just came out from under the leaves.  There is a snake working through the bracken.  The crickets are gathering near the little water soak. Each can then be evaluated as to the risk-management of pursing the prey.  Once they know where the opportunities exist, they don’t have to immediately take off and chase, they can plan and take action at a time that suits them.

Flying there is usually, low and fast through the grasses and bushes not even being able to see where the quarry is, but knowing if they stick to the map, weave here, turn there, zig left, they will arrive, like a shopper in a supermarket, at the right aisle, for the prize.

Now if I combine that with the polarised light Attenborough segment, I am wondering if Brown’s have some similar ability.  Looking out they see a blank canvas, and anything that moves across that landscape is ‘red-hot’ in contrast, and easily mapped and evaluated.
Such is the theory.

In the meantime this Brown was sitting high on his territory.  It is a fav perch, right alongside a major, busy road, with wide open paddocks all around.
On this particular frosty morning, he’d taken the opportunity to warm up in the struggling sunlight and was in no hurry to move on.
The scanning process was obvious.

Little Visits: Enjoying the Morning Sunshine

Funny old weather Melbourne.  Biting cold for days, then, such a tiny break of stable weather.  Frost on the ground, breathing out ‘steam’, and calm winds. Ideal.

So. I, as the Banjo wrote, “Sent him a email, which I had for want of better knowledge sent to his mail address, in case he was home.
Just on Spec, titled as follows, “A trip to Point Cook is in the offing”.
And an answer came directed in a manner I expected.  “Mr An Onymous will meet you there”.

So, as #kneetoo is on the move, but not willing to venture too far at the moment, I went.

As the weather icon ladies had predicted, the morning was crisp, still and sunny. Ideal.

After the usual “G’days” and, the like, we set off for a walk through the pines.

We’d not walked more than a few hundred metres when I turned to glance a Brown Falcon that had set itself up in a sheltered, warm spot in the sunshine. Had I kept going, he’d have stayed I’m guessing, but too much activity too close, and he unfurled the big brown sails and was gone.

Next the call of Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos rang across the frosty grass, and there on the other side of the paddock we say around 6-8 descend on the large pines. To be followed in quick succession by a second group of more than 20, and then another smaller mob of about 10. By the time we’d arrived close up, they were well in to their feast of the young cones in what can only be described as an open area dining area.

 

 

Then one of the young ones, crying, caught my attention and we managed a view of it being fed.  Beak to beak.

Onward for a cuppa of the Earl’s best and a sit by the water’s edge.  The moon was pulling in a high, high tide and the still waters lapped and laughed as they kissed the sand, and retreated, having enjoyed the moment so much to quickly repeat the performance.
Sometimes, just slowing down, and watching the small things, like small child exploring the beach, not over-awed by the expanse of sand and water, but rather inspecting the grains of sand on its fingers.

A Greater Crested Tern was fishing, and I missed the head shake as it came out of the water.   Then a White-faced Heron again standing perfectly still.

Several young Pacific Gulls were paddling in the clear waters, and an adult was doing its best Otis Redding impersonation of “Watchin’ the Tide Roll Away…”

We could have stayed all day, but each of us had other things family to attend to, and we retreated to the vehicles and a local coffee shop.
Great day for birds, relaxing and a bit of a natter.

As we left the beach an Australian Pelican beat its way along the water’s edge, flying low to make the most of the lift of the water.

Studio Werkz: A Step back in Time

For those new readers, Studio Werkz, was the proposed name of a ‘Studio Alliance”, by a group of photographers ever-so-long ago. I’ve blogged here about the formation and dissolution, (all in 24hours), so won’t belabour here.

However everytime I get the chance to make a portrait of a bird, I find myself pondering why studio offers so many opportunities to bring out the character of the subject.

It is about lighting, it is about backdrop and it is about the magic moment when the subject no longer is “having a portrait taken”, but allows an insight into their life. A sparkle in the eye, a wry grin, leaning forward, turning the body everso slightly, and there is the magic moment.

It’s like as one of my early mentors would say, “Like eavesdropping on a special moment. Developing a real sensitivity for a feeling that says so much. The lens, the camera, the lighting all are forgotten, it is the reaction that speaks visually.”

On my very first ever trip to the Western Treatment Plant many years back, I’d been travelling about the Plant with a very experienced birdo who graciously gave me a wonderful introduction to the area—so much so that I registered for access the following morning.

However, I hadn’t managed to achieve any significant pictures during our day, as we had little time to work with the birds.

After I picked up my car and was driving along 29 Mile Road on the way home, I spied this Brown Falcon sitting on the post in the late evening sunshine. Hesitantly I parked, and eased out of the vehicle, 500mm lens and beanbag.
Would Brown stay?

Now the falcons in the area are pretty used to vehicles speeding past, or even stopping, and have at least a passing tolerance for the human condition. Although what they really think of us is debatable.  Three things they they do give credit for, are lovely well spaced perching spaces, mice and rabbits.

Brown held.

And so I began to move about to get the best light, angle, and backdrop.  And for a brief moment it took me all in.
That was the going home shot.

Not more than a minute later, a vehicle approached and Brown felt the pressure and sniffing a light breeze turned and was gone.

Enjoy

Remain

Davyyd.

One of my most published bird photos

Moment: Getting that Old De Javu Feeling—Again

Yogi Berra, a baseball coach for the New York Mets was famous for his ‘apparent’ contradictive language. Malapropisms and the like
“It ain’t over till it’s over”.
Giving directions on how to travel to a location, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”
“You can observe a lot, by watching.”

And “It’s Like Deja Vu all over again!”

We were down near the old nest site of Cassia-of Cinammon, and her young, now long abandoned, as the young have been on the wing the best of three months.

When on a sudden across the paddock a brown form came ‘rowing’ toward us.

What makes this memorable moment, is not that it’s a Brown Falcon, nor that it’s about to take off, nor that I managed some sunlight, nor get about the right exposure.

No.

It’s probably going to go down a one of my most heartwarming shots of the year, and so it has more to do with the moment than simply pressing the shutter.

The bird was one of the young Browns from the season. While Mum and Dad seem to have moved their winter territories, this young one has stayed on in the area.  Those who bravely follow the blog will have seen several shots of the bird as it’s been growing up.

What made it special for me is that the bird landed on the top of a tree, and not just any tree.

A tree that Cassia had used repeatedly over the season. From this tree she could keep a lookout over her nest, and its special inhabitants.

Seeing her strong young gun sitting on the same tree, gazing, as Browns do, just like its mother, made me think of Yogi’s Deja Vu quote.

Now, with a full set of tail feathers and much of the orange of youth has been replaced by more common straw.  It sat on the tree for a few minutes, and then because of the strong wind, it simply raised the wings and drifted off the tree and dived through the scrub and was away at a fearsome pace.  Low level, stealth-fighter like.

Enjoy.  I did.

 

Saturday Evening Post #61: Like a Wraith

Still working my way though Deng Ming-Doa’s 365 Meditations

“All things in this life depend on direction. In our world all is oriented toward the sun. The planets revolve around it, the seasons depend on it, and our very concept of day and night is tied to the the sun’s rising and setting. The sun is the dominant element in our lives.”

And on the evening before the Summer Solstice (in Southern Hemisphere), I thought, the sun is also the dominant element in my photography.

I talked recently about the “Sun over your left shoulder, Dear”.

Front light: Pure, direct, making our subjects brim with colour. Little shadow depth, a strong, harsh, rich light.
Side Light:  The angular light the gives us rich detail, with texture and form. The light of inspection, depth and tone. Running from brilliant highlights, to melding soothing form and tone, through to rich deep shadows.
Back Light: The light of Drama.  Subjects in rim light, highlights displaying the complexity of the shape. Long running shadows that have a mood and rich mystery. Lacking in colour, detail and texture, but making up for it in deep mystery and mysticism.

Light is the center of our camera settings.  I choose a fast or slow shutter speed depending on the light, and the intent of time perception. Light, I choose a large aperture for subject isolation with narrow depth of field, or a smaller aperture for greater depth of field and sharp detail across the frame depending on the light. Too much light and I drop the ISO, or I raise it for low light subjects.  I shoot with Neutral density or polarising filters to control my vision of the moment.  I add flash for fill-in or main light effects. Reflectors and gobos in the studio. And I try to find such effects when I’m in the field.

Light: The dominant element in my photo graphos, life. (photos-Light, graphos,-of writing) Who’d have thought.

I was waiting next to a melaleuca bush. In front of me was the large pine that Cassia’s nest is situated.  I can just see the two young bobbing back and forth occasionally.
To my immediate left, (and why I’m standing where I am) is a tallish young pine that the pair have been using for food exchange.  30m further away a larger tree with a huge pinecone cluster on top. Ideal for preparing food. And 50m further on, and opposite the nest, one of her fav perches, and a launching spot toward the nest.
In the distance in the paddock 2 isolated pines, both with excellent views over the paddocks and again favoured for inspections of the territory.

But. No Cassia.

Behind me and the bush, about 100m away is a line of very old pines, probably date to the 1870s when the homestead in the area was established.  About a week before she had been sitting among the pines and had made a direct run across the paddock, over the melaleuca bush and past my head at a couple of metres.  Not a defensive move. I reckon, she did it to keep me awake.  EE is still laughing.

The distinctive magpie call. “Falcon in flight. Let’s go”, alerted me this time.  I peeked around the bush, and like a wraith out of the darkness of the trees, sweeping over at fern top height I saw her running directly toward my position.
Light, just right. Soft, overcast, kept the backdrop moody, yet enough to separate her shape and form, and show her intention.
I think I spoiled her game this time:-)

As in the last few yards, she slewed to the left, and went by without looking.  You can’t hide from a Brown Falcon.

 

Little Visits: Cassia’s Secrets are Out!

For the best part of three months, Cassia—of Cinnamon, and her mate have been working on their annual nesting project.

Best I can determine, she took just over a month for incubation, and then another 30-35 days for the young to start to move about the nest and branches and then a few more days to fly.  We checked on Friday, and they were clambering about, then on Monday, the secrets are out.

How confident is this bird. She was relaxed enough to do close flybys without aggression.
Still in baby down, but wanting to see the wide world
Starting to get a few real feathers
Just starting to see the Apricot wash coming on
That famous Brown Falcon stare starts early
And then there were two.
I’ve no way of knowing, but based on previous experiences, I would predict the older, larger is a female.
Out and about. Probably second day on the wing
Now let’s see if I remember. Tail up, head down, wings out and…
Tail up, head down, wings out, …
Oh, yes, Tail down, head up, wings up, Let Go.!
Yah!

 

OK you go me our here, how do I stop this thing.
Landing skills need a bit more practice
Study in concentration as it goes through the landing routine.

Moments: Hunting Sea Eagles

“Tis a Sea-eagle,” EE cried.

Her response to the question “Where?” was, “Down there along the beach”.

Now truth be told, I reckoned the beach to be at near enough to  one kilometre to the south of us.

Don’t ask how EE can see that far, its inherit in her name.

About 1/10th of a second later, a brown shadow rushed past us just overhead.  Cassia, who’d been sitting on a branch behind us, too, had spotted said Sea-eagle.
Now you know.  EE is faster on the eyeball than a Brown Falcon. By at least 1/10th of a second. Explains it all really.

Cassia hauled across the paddock not gaining height, just rocketing along toward the beach.  Her mate was on a diagonal line from further down the paddock bent on the same target.   I don’t know how this works in Falcon speak, but there was no cackling, just pure energy converted to motion.

The line they were on would get them both to the same tall tree on the beach line at roughly the same time.  Without any foto-finish cameras and the like, I be putting my money on Cassia arriving just a wing flap ahead of the male.

Brown Falcon surveillance time. Both sat watching.

The Sea Eagle had slipped behind a line of trees on the beach, and had no doubt gone to invite some duck or gull home for lunch.  A plethora of ducks, coots, gulls, cormorants and several white-faced herons darkened the sky as they rose in one squawking mass.

“We need to be down there”, she said.  Fleet of foot we’re not, so it was going to a few minutes before we appeared on the scene.

In the meantime both falcons had made a noisy run down along the beach and back.

Then as we approached, they both made another swing along the beach, but the trees blocked our view.

We made it to the scrub along the beach and now had to work out, was the action to the left or right.  The bird groups on our left seem quite settled so the guess would be “To the Right”.  Good guess.

But look along the beach, and our view (and coincidentally of course for anything further along the beach—think big white-bellied…. ) the beach curved around and our view was blocked by the saltbush and other scrub.

Not to worry, Cassia and the male had made another screeching run down to the beach, and in response, all the ducks, swans, coots, gulls and two white-faced herons, took to the air.
“That was impressive for two falcons,” I thought.
Then with long slow deliberate wing flaps, the juvenile White-bellied Sea-eagle pulled up over the scrub, followed by two very vocal Brown Falcons.

I’d not be able to get any pictures of the falcon/sea eagle confrontation, because there really wasn’t one.The falcons kept a safe distance, and the eagle just stuck to its job of getting some height and then sailed away up the beach.

The male falcon went back to hunting, Cassia went to check on the kids.

And here is what all the fuss is about.
Number One child, all fledged and learning of Brown Falcon ways.

Enjoy

 

Out to meet the challenge. Cassia gains speed on a downward run
If its too big to scare off at least give it a lecture
She did not risk a close pass but rather turned over the quickly rising Sea Eagle
The interloper
Given the bulk of the Sea Eagle, there was little the small falcons could do for a direct confrontation.
Number One Child.
Fledged since Friday.

Saturday Evening Post #59 : Hot off the Press

Deng Ming-Dao writes in 365 Tao Meditations

Hawk doesn’t think during the hunt.

It does not care for theory or ethics.

All that is does is natural.

Animals live simple lives close to Tao. They do not need to think or reason: They never doubt themselves. When they are hungry, they eat. When they are tired, they sleep. They respond to the cycles of the day according to their intuition.
They mate in the proper season, and the nurture their young according to their understanding.

+===========+

Now I might disagee somewhat with their ‘need to think or reason’, but I think he means its more about calculated risk and designing to be something other than a falcon.

Stop the Presses!
The day has arrived.
Cassia has been hunting further and further out among the paddocks and tree lines, the past couple of visits.
She was almost out of sight way down the paddock, and EE and I took the moment to cross the patio, and have a closer look at her nesting sight.  Half-expecting to be challenged, but she seemed more interested in avoiding the local magpie flotilla and picking small prey from along the edges of the paddock.

And

There it stood.
Big, Bold, Brown and Black.
Perhaps not quite ready to fly, but only days away from stepping off the only place it has known, and moving out into the much wider world.

It sat, perfectly Brown Falcon still, and watched the goings on around the paddock. A vehicle track runs quite close to the nesting area, and at one stage a local fox management vehicle drove past.   It was thoroughly scanned onto the scene, and off again.  I can’t imagine what the young falcon thought of such an event.
Clever Cassia has infact two of these little bundles of joy in the nest it seems but we didn’t get a good look at it.

Eventually tiring of all this learning, it must have rocked back into the nest, settled down and disappeared.

Soon Cassia appeared with a prize meal.

In the next few days, or so, all the theory of flight will come into one small black and buff package as it steps into its own unknown, and is instantly freed from the constraints of doubt. Ready to write its own story of wonder.

Enjoy.

Moments: Running the Gauntlet

The past couple of weeks, EE and I have been working with a pair of Brown Falcons.

Took about three weeks to really track down where they had a nest, and then another couple of weeks, to be able to have the birds’ confidence to move about in the area.

Well, it seems that she has hatched her brood, and now she has a bit of ‘time’ to do her own hunting.  A shame at one level, as the male was not only reliable, but almost worked his wings off keeping up a steady stream.

Along one line of the paddock is a line of trees, that seem to provide plenty of food for a hunting Brown Falcon, and we’ve noted she’s been sitting in the tops of the trees to hunt, and also keep a ‘falcon’s eye’ on her nest area.
But the same line of trees holds similar opportunities for other species as well.  And now as the younger Australian Magpies from the first clutch of the season are pretty much independant, and more footloose teenagers in a shopping mall, anything that flys past or near is fair game to stretch out the wings in rage and show off flying prowess.

Cassia- named for her rich colour, —of Cinnamon— , decided that some good food opportunities lay just under the low branches, and dropped down to the ground to wander about and see what she might find.

Seriously bad career move!

The local magpies came from four quarters, like screaming banshees. (not that I’ve heard banshees, screaming or otherwise)

Hard for Cassia to get out of the tree line and extend a wing, so they had her pressed against the tree line for a few seconds in the encounter.

Then out across the open paddock with the hoard in full cry behind. Several managed to keep up, and just at the last moment, one made a very close approach, and then she was over the demarcation line and they sailed away back to the trees to caroll to each other about their brave deeds.

She’ll be back over there again I’m sure. A few magpies seem pretty harmless in her quest for food.

Sneak Attack. She must have decided to land on a branch to avoid the onslaught, but they cut her off at every turn.
Out into the open, she can gain some speed to keep them at bay. The magpies have to use a lot of energy to keep up. Cassia is really just at cruising speed, so is not using anywhere near as much energy.
Maggie in hot pursuit
Trying to swing in to put her off her fast straight line
Each wing stroke gains speed.
Coming out of the sun! An attack from a high position. This is just about the end of the territory and they’ve made their point.
I’d like to think she flew by with a “I was in control of that” look, but it was time to check on the baby(s).

Moments: The Stakes are High

The continuing saga of the Brown Falcon at nest.

She had come out to meet her mate for a food exchange.  Where this is actually taking place, and where she is dining is a bit of a mystery to me, as the surrounding thick pine trees block any view once they come down to the tree-line.
But once she has fed, she seems to favour a perch near the nest, I guess to keep an eye on what’s happening, and also to preen.

However, the same tree also is close to a Willie Wagtail nursery.  And both Willies came out in force to make the point she is not welcome. Gotta give Willies “A” for pluck.
If after the usual flyby chatter doesn’t work, then its time for  hands on aggression, as the male found out as he was returning with the food.
Willie attached to his back and proceeded to peck his head as both flew past.
Then when she returned they began in earnest to move her along.

The stakes are high for both birds, so it’s the immovable object verses the irresistible force.  And in the end, the Falcon will give ground.

High drama for both birds, the wagtails with their young charges to protect, and the Falcon with her commitment to the yet to be hatched egg.

Here is the moment by moment action.

Willie desperate to attach to the back of the male coming in with a small bird for food.
Once attached, the little bird pecks away incessantly at the male’s head. What is important to note is he is carrying a small bird, probably a pipit, so it’s a super bold move by Willie
Just when you settle down for a rest, the noisy neighbours start up.

Eventually both of the pair moved in to keep the Falcon unsettled.
And just when she might have thought things were settling down, the local Black Kites joined in the foray
Defence pose on the Kites. They are likely to rob him of any food he is delivering if they can get a decent run, which maybe why they are secretive in the exchange

Little Visits: Building a Thread with a Brown Falcon

Many of my early readers and followers of this blog will recall I am a follower of Jon Young, author of “What the Robin Knows”.

His book is not so much about robins per se as about making connections with birds in their world.
Jon is among other things a skilled tracker and an outdoors trainer. He was taught by some of the best trackers and hunters from his tribe with the Native Americans. His work, and humanitarian activities have taken him around the world and he often tells the story of a Sans Bushman from Africa who said,
“I see a small bird and recognise it, a thin thread is formed between me and the bird. If I just see it no thread is made. If I go again, and again, and recognise the bird, the thread will thicken. Each time I recognise the bird the thread will grow to become a string, a cord and then a rope. We make ropes to all aspects of creation in this way.”

He also tells of the time he was at a meeting in a glass-walled office suite and said to the folk in the room, “You have a cat in your courtyard”.  No, no, they replied, there are no animals allowed in the gardens.  A minute or so later, a cat strolled nonchalantly across the manicured lawns. How did he know that, they asked. “The birds in the garden were acting in a manner that suggested a cat was nearby,” Jon replied.

Over the years I’ve managed, and its not bragging, just the way I work, of building some fine rope connections with some birds. Perhaps because of their personality, or sheer inquisitiveness, but like Jon, there a several such stories I could tell, a few of them have been subjects of this blog in the past.

EE and I have located a Brown Falcon at nest. Dangerous really, as Browns broach no interference in this serious business, and someone, even with good intentions, sticking a camera in their work space is not taken kindly. So having worked out where the activity was taking place, I’ve made a wide berth of the spot.   I also know, from past experience, that if all is well, and I don’t press the boundaries, respect their business and keep to my side of the line, that eventually the line will become narrower, and I’ll be able to see just a little more. Then sometimes the bird graces us with the chance to enter into its world, and while I might not have free access, at least I’m treated benignly.

What worries me about sharing this is that some will drag out the ‘Photographers Code of Practice”, or some such and berate me for my impertinence.   However if I’m not invited, I don’t go.

Someone will ask ‘How do you know?”
To which I have to respond honestly, “Why don’t you go out and sit with a bird and find out for yourself.”  Operative point of that is— ‘sit with the bird’.

Here’s the scoop.  She sits the nest. He hunts.  A large gleeful cackle brings an instant response from her and she is off the nest and in the air to accept his delivery.  She will feed, preen, stretch and then return to the nest.  If I’m not wanted, then I don’t see any of that.
Where it gets really exciting is this Brown, feed, then landed on a branch quite close to where we were standing, and sat.

We waited.

She realised no movement from us, and after about 20 minutes, she began the process of putting all her nest crumpled feathers back in place. Then she waited, flew past a few metres out, landed on another tree, and repeated the process.  The shots here were taken over about an hour, and neither EE or I moved much more than a metre or so.
Again she preened, rearranged, and then stepped out, and circled to land in the nest.

Now I should also add that I’ve worked with the bird a few seasons before, so we are not complete strangers. In fact over the time she has taught me quite a bit about the world of Brown Falcon. Still so much more to learn.

Enjoy.

Flying out to meet her cackling mate coming in with lunch
This is the male. He has, unusually, a yellow cere and eye ring.
I’d guess its a pipit he’s delivering
Off to the ‘secret’ hand over spot
1911-10_DWJ_9855
The male on the way out again. Sometimes he’ll return and sit near the nest, just to check things out. Most times, its back out to the paddock for another food run.
Well fed she can attend to the business of brightening up her wardrobe. I love to see them zip up all the flight feathers.
Sometimes, the one-legged stance is a challenge, but here she is getting ready to line up the feathers.
Wing and tail relief all at once. The wing markings are a treat.
Time to go. Nesting duty calls. I’m pretty certain the egg is near to hatched or just recently hatched as she did spend a lot of time away.
All sails up.
Passing by with not even a glance. Every time that happens, the thread is strengthened.

Moments: Learning (Brown) Patience

At “The Office”, there are a resident pair of Brown Falcon.

(Called the Office, because we spend a bit of time there as in—Just another day at the office—)

One of Brown’s qualities certainly must be their patience. Happy to sit quietly, seemingly disinterested, they take the scene in, work out where the food is, and then strategies to get to the spot, and return with the least amount of energy dissipation.

Not unusual to see Brown, sitting with its distinct upright stance on a post, branch or roadside sign for what seems hours. Passing traffic has little effect on the bird’s demure stance.

We’ve worked with this pair for a few years, and when they are around, its interesting to see them favour one or another perching locations.
I’ve featured this bird several times on the blog over the years, and have called him “Bernie”. Late evening sunshine ‘burnishes,’ his rich mottled chest, and so the name seemed appropriate.  Not that he seems to care it must be said.

He was hunting for small crickets and the like on the edge of the river cliffs.  A large melaleuca bush is one of the favoured perches.  Gives a great view along the cliffs and he can prop into the branches and so be protected from attacks from the rear.  Magpies, mudlarks, other raptors might swing by and attempt to dislodge him, but clever bird that he is, he simply sets back further among the branches and any attack is thwarted by the branches.

We had been working with him for about an hour or so and the light had been good, and as we headed for home, I peeked over the rim and there he was in the bush. But the light had diminished, still it was worth waiting for him to throw as it would have to be toward or at least to the side.

I don’t often shoot multi-burst, but figured that by the time he left the bush and got settled he’d have to stay pretty much in the same focus plane and most of the shots would be sharp (ish). Pity about the light and slow shutter speed.

So EE and I waited.  Things happen slowly in Brown Falcon time. But you’ve got to keep your eye on the bird, as they don’t give a lot of warning that they are going to move.
So we waited.

Brown waited.

It’s one of the reasons why with a long lens we invest in a good tripod, and a Wimberley gimbal head. Takes all the weight off the arms. But, who wants to carry all that heavy gear out just on the off chance it might be needed. So, I was shooting handheld with the 500mm PF. Light enough, but after 10 minutes my aching muscles needed a rest.  And then there is always the risk that is the moment the bird will throw.

Waiting.

Another round or two of holding until the muscles cramp, and then releasing.
Waiting.

I was just regrabbing focus and had the shutter half-pressed, when with barely a feather ruffle Bernie took to the air, straight toward me, and I ripped off a sequence.
“Oh No,” I heard on my right.  And it was just at that moment EE had taken a muscle relief stretch.  Sympathy doesn’t cut it.  Gloating is not part of the process.

Here are all the frames from the sequence.  I thought it was interesting  how the wings are deployed to get him out of the bush, and turned for the run along the grass.

{EDIT} It wasn’t until I re-looked at the shots here on the blog that it shows that on the upwing strokes the rocks his legs forward pendulum like, on the more powerful down stroke, the legs go  back to close to the body.  Just like a kid on a swing. Brown, you always amaze me.

Enjoy

Bernie arriving at the bush. I shot this one earlier in the day, and you can just see the edge of the river cliff in the bottom of the frame.
Snug, safe and on the alert

Typical Brown Falcon flight. Ground hugging radar in action
This is a close flyby from earlier in the afternoon when the light was good. Go Bernie

Saturday Evening Post: #34 Getting Close

It is said of famous battle photographer Robert Capa, when asked by a collegue why his photos weren’t good enough, responded, “If your photographs aren’t good enough, you aren’t close enough.”

It’s easy at first blush to believe that Capa meant, well, get out of the trench and get close to the action. However it is more than likely that his comment had a much deeper meaning of getting close to the subject in an intimate knowledgeable way.

It’s about a matter of experiencing. And as bird photographers we chase distant subjects with the longest lenses, and its hard to establish a feeling of the intimate from a distance.

For us its a matter of spending time, respecting the subject, and allowing the time to wonder. I really believe one of the great gifts of photography is that it teaches us to see. And not just what we see,

but,

How we see it.

So much so that I can say, with some degree of wonder, that the camera has opened my eyes to the world around me. Not just the natural, but the human. Some of it from the dark side, but also from the beauty. It’s not a perfect world, but I don’t want to discuss that here.

The gift helps us to learn to see. Moments of interaction of shape, light, line colour, slow down.
And we make space for wonder at the world around us and the brillance of the amazing medium we have to share those moments with others.