Saturday Evening Post #155: Shadow Opportunity

Deng Ming-Dao writes,” Times of oppression and adversity cannot last forever. In the midst of great difficulty, a tiny opportunity will open—if only by chance.
You must be sharp enough to discern it, quick enough to catch it, and determined enough to do something with it.  Stick to it like a Shadow.”

“It is like a bird. If you try to catch it, you will miss. If you are always with it, moving at its speed, as much a part of it as its own shadow, then it is easy to seize.”

We have, tis fair to say, had our fill of lockdownitis. One of several pairs of Black-shouldered Kites that we’ve worked with over the years has flown several clutches of young while we’ve been at home with our four walls.

The sad thing is that the 5km limit we  have been forced to work to, just gets us to the turn-off to the road where the Kites territory begins. So it was possible to drive, and park, and like a kid looking in a lollyshop window droll on the glass.

But. Not able to get close enough to see what was going on.

The road runs off a major access road, so parking on the side, (within our limit) is fraught with its own challenges.  Myriad passing traffic, difficulty of parking on the side of the road, not to mention, standing about with a long camera lens  is likely to bring the wrath of some ‘public concerned individual” as to why we would be doing such a thing. And of course the inevitable visit from the long arm of the law.
So, we stayed away.
This particular pair, and really its the female, as we are pretty certain she has had two male companions over the past couple of years, have done their bit to keep the Kite species alive and well supplied.
Working backward, with the few clutches we had photographed without interruption and the number of clutches that were started and then we lost track of, or had begun and we came back on the end of the season with the young well and truly on the wing, we think in the past 3 years, they have had somewhere around 8 clutches.  Maybe 9.  On average she brings out 3 young, so given one known clutch failure, and one that only produced two young, it would be fair to say they have flown around 25 young birds.

Now we have a little more travel space, EE and I ventured out, among other places to see what the kites were doing, (If anything)   Parking well off the mainroad and scanning about, eventually we found one of the pair sitting high on a tree.  Not long after the female emerged from the top of a tree, and with much sqarrking encouraged the male to go hunting.
Bingo.  They have a nest.
That would be perhaps number 10 so far.  She is a bit of a workaholic.

Shadow time!  Hopefully the next few weeks will give us a chance to follow the progress.

The weather wasn’t all that kind, but here she is coming in with a fresh prize to prepare for the young, which must only be hatched for a week or so.

And just in case you’ve not seen a link before
The Peregrine Falcons high up on 367 Collins Street in Melbourne have hatched a clutch of three.
Here is a link to their video feed.



Moments:Mist-erious Morning Ramble

“On the Post,” she cried.
We were driving along a flat farmland, busy, country road.  Which Post? Seemed an obvious question from the driver’s side view. Thought I was supposed to be keeping it on the blackstuff, and avoiding making close personal contact with the oncoming traffic.
“Back there, on your side.” Makes it even harder.

Slow down a bit, look for a spot to pull off the road.  No easy matter either as we’ve had a good share of rain of late and the pools on the grass on the side of the road, are not a promising parking location. 500 metres and I’m off the road.  Now to wait for a break in the traffic to get around avoid cars in both directions. I’ve seen it less busy on a club day at Winton or Philip Island circuits.

“Think its a Brown Falcon,” so around we go. “There.”, but I’ve spotted it in the sunshine by then. Another of the avoid other car contact at all costs manoeuvres, and I’ve got the car about 50 metres from the most likely photo spot.
Slog back through the mud, avoiding if possible the road spray from our passing friendly roadsharing traffic.
By the time we’d got to a break in the roadside bushes, I’d already called “Peregrine Falcon”. Much too broad across the shoulders for your average Brown.
“It’s caught something,” Something, being, as it soon becomes apparent, is a rabbit.

First problem.  The first signs of a morning seamist are just about on top of us, and the sunlight has a limited tenure.  Second, the bird is much too far away in the middle of the fence line.  Thirdly in my haste to slosh down here, I’ve left the Teleconverter in the car. Bad move.

Two passes by a magpie and the Falcon is a bit nervous, and takes to the air, at first I thought because of its run, it was going to come close, but it soon swung out, around, and headed down the line.  Now too far for much else than enjoying the moment.
Then the seamist closed in, and we needed a guide dog to get back to the car, and the strains of bagpipes and Paul McCartney’s “Mull of Kintyre” ringing in my ears.


Just about to have its morning meal interrupted by a passing magpie
With a tail flick its away. Easy to see the prey was a rabbit.
Getting up to speed
And now too far away, and with a mist rolling in, the best we can do is watch. Is that bagpipes I hear in the background?

As Ansel Adams says. “Sometimes the moments arrive, you just need to be there” : Or Living on Falcon Time.

I still can’t believe it happened.

And that I didn’t get a bright sunny day to go with it, is not nearly so important as being at the right spot.

EE and I had left home amid some bright afternoon sunshine and stopped for a coffee at the Highway Lounge at the Caltex Servo on the road out of Werribee.  By the time we’d sipped one of Gerry’s best brews, and stepped back outside the cloud was thickening up to biblical proportions. Mind I’m not sure what separates biblical proportions from ordinary thick grey cloud, but..

Continue reading “As Ansel Adams says. “Sometimes the moments arrive, you just need to be there” : Or Living on Falcon Time.”

The balance of life: Western Treatment Plant

I wrote of the Banjo’s Romance, last blog.
Then we were out to the Treatment Plant, EE, Mr An Onymous and I.

To see that poem played out.

On a day that started with a lighting strike about 100m away and “CRACK” of thunder that would indeed wake the dead, the overcast and wet weather offered us little reprise in our quest for Sea-eagle.

So we turned the way for home.

And just as the light was fading, a sparkling wingflash streaked across the river just to our left.  A falcon.  No, not any flacon.  A Peregrine Falcon. My first for the Treatment Plant.

It had downed a duck.

The Pink-eared Ducks spend most of the day lolling about in Lake Borrie, but then on evening, make the several hundred metre flight over the Little River and into one of the Walsh Lagoons just over the river.  A few minutes flight for a nimble duck.

For the Falcon, it was pretty easy pickings if you think about it.  Ducks- several hundred- in  a straight line, – tricky little dudes, fly over the reeds on the far side take a detour either left or right for a few hundred metres along the rivers edge, then pop over the far bank and plop in to the Lagoon.  The slow moving Whistling Kites and Swamp Harriers can’t match that speed.


Dropping from above at speed over 100kph, the Peregrine probably doesn’t even raise a sweat.


The duck is a heavy creature and the Falcon can’t get it airborne and must work it on the ground.  Now, ordinarily, good luck would have put the prey down in a secluded spot. However in this case it was on the middle of the track we were travelling out along.

So the Falcon took to the air. And circled.  So much so that in the end, I decided to reverse the car back down the road, and see what would happen.  Too far back for photos, but what would the bird do?

And sure enough, after several scattered flights back and forth, and cleaning up an inquisitive Swamp Harrier along the way, the Falcon landed about 50m from the duck and decided what to do.  After several minutes, it flew down landed a few metres away, re-evaluated our presence, the chance of a meal, and hopped up to the duck and began to take off the feathers.

We left it in peace to finish its well earned meal.  On the far side of the river we spotted another set of sharp wings. A second Peregrine!   And the light was gone.

Enjoy.  Huge crops, but I wasn’t going to disturb the bird any more than I had already.

Swinging in to claim its kill.  The unfortunate Pink-eared Duck is in the foreground.
Swinging in to claim its kill. The unfortunate Pink-eared Duck is in the foreground.
Time to sit and contemplate the next move
Time to sit and contemplate the next move. A Swamp Harrier along the river in the top left.
Closer now and everything looks safe
Closer now and everything looks safe
Move onto the prey
Move onto the prey
Hopping the last few metres
Hopping the last few metres
It's mine!  And feathers begin to fly
It’s mine!
And feathers begin to fly
Feather removal.
Feather removal.