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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Setting the Scene: A Day at the Office

Blogging 201 assignment for this week is Setting the Scene.
As it turns out, I was gearing up to reflect on a day at the Office yesterday.
The weather turned Kind.  Really Kind.  The kind of Kind, where the cameras practically pack themselves out of the cupboard and into the car, and sit there going, “Well…..” “Well…. are you ready to leave yet.”

We left early, and decided to take the longer walk down to the river behind the golf course. This is really old river flat, and the river makes a distinct “U” for several hundred metres and then a fine “S” movement that provides for some great old river flat dissected by the flow of the water. Water bird can abound, and there is still some good grass and tree cover to make life entertaining for the smaller bush birds.

Its a long way for EE to walk, but stoically she lead on.

The Office for the uninitiated is an area along the Werribee River a few kilometres from the mouth at Werribee South. It cuts through the rich river soil and in places the cliffs are 30-40 metres high.   The big birds – think raptors- enjoy the wind currents coming up the ramparts and I do believe a good case could be made that there are certain areas where its better, and a sort of ‘flyway’ or navigational line is drawn.  They seem to favour coming and going along those locations.

You just know its going to be a good day when as you drive in a Black-shouldered Kite is hunting close to the carpark, and just inside the walking track, Bernie the Brown Falcon is loafing in a favourite tree.

Next up a Little Eagle made several passes along one of the ‘flyway’ paths.  The Ibis, both White and Straw-necked use the same paths on the way to the feeding grounds along the river.

We sat with a family of Superb Fairy-wrens, and I will tell more of that tale on another blog, and were entertained by the feeding antics of a few Crested Terns. (another blog post methinks)

It was pretty awe-inspiring to be sitting by the river, dangling my feet over the river bank and sipping Earl of Grey, and enoying the time time in the sunshine with such a group of bids. And all less than 10 minutes from home.  A most amazing place.

Easy day, easy photography, easy birds, and Just Another Day at the Office really.

How’s that for setting the scene!


Black-shouldered Kite.
Black-shouldered Kite.
Berne the Brown Falcon
Bernie the Brown Falcon
A view along the sandy cliff face. The area we are heading is down toward the right hand side.
A view along the sandy cliff face. The area we are heading is down toward the left hand side.
Superb Fairywren. This is a helper bird. A male not yet left home.
Superb Fairy-wren. This is a helper bird. A male not yet left home.
Great Egret
Great Egret
Little Eagle
Little Eagle
White Ibis
White Ibis
Crested Tern against the cliff face.
Crested Tern against the cliff face.
Crested Tern, juvenile, on a wing sretch, while waiting for Mum to deliver food
Crested Tern, juvenile, on a wing sretch, while waiting for Mum to deliver food

Just a little bit of drama

The sun was shining and the clouds, ominous in shape and colour were moving slowly enough for me to conclude that I’d get an hour or so of sunshine.  Interested in the Flame Robins at the Office so down I went.

As it turned out the clouds and the rain moved faster than the traffic along the way, but even so, I managed a few minutes in the sun. No Robins.

Just as I was turning for home, out of no where two Little Eagles decided to song and dance across the sky.

I’ve probably said it before but the Office offers one great advantage when the birds are up.  On the top of the ridge that overlooks the old river plain, its possible to get eyeball to eyeball, and in this case it was pretty much so. The two battled it out pretty much at viewing height.

Now, I’m not sure if I’m looking at two birds in dispute over a territory arrangement, or a pair with bonding in mind.  The amount of wing turn, claw defence and the like, along with the plaintive ”pee, pee” whistle of the birds didn’t help either. In the end I just enjoyed.
Hope you do too.

The tale of the hapless Little Eagle

Sometimes you can always tell when a raptor is in the air. The birds go quiet, or there is a series of warning calls ring across the forest.   Or, the local magpies and ravens go into high gear agitation and  speed across the sky in pursuit of nemesis.

The latter was the case the other morning.  A local Little Eagle had been out and had collected itself a pretty fair meal, and was carrying it home tucked in its crop.  See the flickr shot here.

A little while later, the ravens and magpies were on high call and in hot pursuit.  The day was very windy, and it favoured the highly manoeuvrable and speedy ravens, so the poor Little Eagle copped a right pounding.  The wind gave the ravens a great climbing speed and they were able to outclass the raptor.  It on the other hand couldn’t get advantage as it had to keep losing height and changing direction.  It’s plaintive ‘peep’ call is pretty pathetic.

For some reason, Little Eagles seem to cop it from everyone.  Its diet rarely would include taking birds but it seems to get the rap from all the birds.  Such is the way of life on the wing.

Also hard to get them all in frame when you’ve only got the big lens handy and the wind is blowing a gale and wrenching it out of cold old hands.

The amazing ways of the bird world

We’ve had a whole range of really average weather of late, and both EE and I were getting a bit tired of being unable to get out for a really good look about.  Much changes in a fortnight.

We decided on an early trip to Eynesbury, mainly because of Speckled Warbler. These tiny little songsters are proving to be incredibly illusive for us.  We’ve heard them in several places, but have little to show other than a glimpse of a bird flying off into the distance.
Weatherzone showed some pretty nice icons indicating its should be clear from sunup till at least midday, so setting the alarm clock, we were ready for an early start. As we drove up toward Eynesbury, it was obvious the weather was not going to match the icons and it was very overcast.  And with no wind, it was pretty much going to stay that way.  Still we crossed the road entered the forest and began our search.  And within about 10mins had heard the cheery cry of the Warbler, but so far away and no pictures.
The other bird of interest is the Diamond Firetail, and while we got some good views no really great photos.

By late morning the sun had poked through, the Little Eagles were playing the strengthening breezes and a pair of Brown Falcons were playing chase across the treetops.

We took a walk up past the old shearing shed area and then down the track toward the golf course dam.

“There is always a pair of Jacky Winter on this corner, ” I assured EE, but she responded “I would have thought the name ‘Winter’ might have been a clue.”

And then to both our  collective surprises a Jacky flew down grabbed a bug and sat in a tree with its usual tail wag.
The Jacky winter is a fine mixture of part Robin, part Flycatcher (they used to be called the Lesser Fascinating Flycatcher), part Fantail, and a touch of Woodswallow. Well it seems like that to me.

They are also among my favourite birds.  Their simple colours make a great photo harmony, their clear sounding calls are a delight and they can be very easy to work with, almost completely ignoring the inquisitive human being.  On average.  I’ve also met a few that are extraordinarily skittish, and I’ve never had much success.
This corner pair fall somewhere in between.  We’ve had some lovely interaction and complete disdain on other occasions.

I followed this one across the roadway, and propped against a tree, hoping, she/he? they are impossible to tell apart, would come on back and at least hunt in the area.  It immediately headed back across the road, into a tree, and I caught a glimpse of it on a limb with a lot of wing fluttering. Perhaps its going to be fed, thought I, so I wandered slowly in that direction, but by then the bird had moved on.  However there was a bump in the branch, and at first I thought it might have been the other of the pair.
Then it dawned on me.  “It’s a young one that is waiting to be fed”.  But…

When I put the glass on it, what I discovered was a Jacky Winter nest.  Now, I’ve seen some pretty tiny Red-capped Robin nests and the nest of a Grey Fantail, but this was even tinier, and not at all well built. The two young were already overcrowding the nest.  And the one thing they seemed to be able to do was to crouch down, and hang on.  So at a quick glance it didn’t look like either a nest nor any young birds.   Very clever.

But it is tiny.

After a few minutes the first of the adults and then the other came in and poked food into the open mouths, and there was no sound from the young and apart from putting their head up, no real movement either. Very clever.

I concluded from the size that they were about a week from fledging, so perhaps another trip will be needed to see the young birds in action.

Only spent enough time to get a few shots, like to leave them to themselves unless I’m invited to stay, and there wasn’t time for introductions.

On the way back to where we’d left our gear, I heard the Warbler and managed a few shots of it. One of them in the clear. What I didn’t expect was to be harassed by 3 or 4 very agitated Superb Fairy Wren males and several females. The males getting up very close indeed to try and attract my attention and then I noticed why.  They had recently fledged 3 or 4 young birds and were trying to protect them.  I managed a couple of quick shots of the young with their very short tails.


Jacky Winter on a hunting trip.  My first sight of the bird.
Jacky Winter on a hunting trip. My first sight of the bird.
What's this.  A nest? Two young nestlings snuggled down in the 'nest'
What’s this. A nest? Two young nestlings snuggled down in the ‘nest’
Proud Mum(?) comes to check on her brood.
Proud Mum(?) comes to check on her brood.
Lots of food needed for them to grow
Lots of food needed for them to grow
She watched over them for quite awhile after each feed.
She watched over them for quite awhile after each feed.
Open wide and I'll pop it in.
Open wide and I’ll pop it in.
Thanks Mum
Thanks Mum
Speckled Warbler.
Speckled Warbler.
Recently fledged Superb Fairy Wrens. Look at the tiny tails.
Recently fledged Superb Fairy Wrens. Look at the tiny tails.
One of a number of "helper' males, who where not at all pleased with my presence near the fledglings.
One of a number of “helper’ males, who where not at all pleased with my presence near the fledglings.