How quickly time moves on for these young kites. A few weeks ago they were peeking out of the nest, then launched into flight on some of the most windy days we’ve had this year. And when we arrived on this particular morning they were now fully-fledged (pun intended) hunters.
Bronson, the male was no longer providing handouts. It was literally every bird for itself. They had chosen to sit together for what was probably the very last time in the early morning sun and scan the surrounding paddock for a likely meal. Most of their hunting as we watched was for skinks and small prey, but no doubt in the next day or two they would have skilled up enough for the real thing. Mice
Bronson flew past at one stage, perhaps checking they were still in the area, but they knew not to pester him for food and it was a silent flyover. They went back to the job in hand.
A couple of days later on our next visit, they were nowhere to be seen, all the usual roosting spots were empty. We caught a glimpse far across the freeway of one sitting, then hunting and flying off with its prize.
Their time had come to explore the world as fully developed young birds.
It is both a sad and also an exciting time to share their graduation and to farewell them.
After a pretty windy start the young Black-shouldered Kites have quickly advanced to developing both their hunting skill and their ground tactics. It might just me wanting to explain their process, but I think that the first few days on the wing in the very strong gale force winds gave them an advantage in learning the flying techniques. It is not unusual to see them leave the home tree and in a few wing flicks they are nearly a kilometre away down the paddock. So we miss all of the action happening from where we stand.
But, the other morning on what can only be described as “picture perfect”, they were working closer in and going through the paces of hovering and dropping out of the sky into the grass. Now, any mice there were pretty safe as they don’t quite have the skills to finalise the ‘catch’. However it won’t be long I suspect before they make the necesary connections and then they’ll be on the way to independance.
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.
It’s hard to ignore the call of a warm sunny morning, one with little wind, and the chance of fog on the water.
Conference between, #kneetoo, Mr An Onymous, and I, and the location of choice was Jawbone Reserve and the bird of interest, Great Crested Grebe.
Not that we expected to see the parents doting on the young as they have been out for a couple of weeks, and would be able to fend for themselves.
And the usual spots were the young had been last seen revealed no grebes at all.
So it was a walk about the tracks looking in some of the other ponds, and doing our best not to be an annoyance to, and being run over by, speeding local cyclists.
Then far out on one of the larger ponds, among a gaggle (?) of ducks and assorted coots, Mr A spotted two young grebes, heads all tucked in keeping warm in the sunshine.
We waited and just as well, as not so long after they began their morning duties of cleaning, preening and looking about. One of the adults was not too far away keeping a ‘weather’ eye on them.
Around a corner paddling remarkably fast came ‘Motor’ Grebe with a big wash ahead of its chest.
It stopped closer to where we were and began to hunt, and quickly showed how adept they had become in just a few weeks.
The other two paddled over to see if they too could get in the action.
Way down the pond, the second adult made an appearance and the two adults swam toward one another, but. That is for another page in the book.
An interesting fact(oid) is the birds were nearly hunted to extinction in the 1800s as the feathers were used for hats (ladies),and the Royal Society for the Preservation of Birds was set up to protect them. Cocker, Mark; Mabey, Richard (2005). Birds Britannica. London: Chatto and Windus. pp. 6–7. ISBN978-0-7011-6907-7.