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

Moments: Sharing a Little Love

We don’t get many Little Lorikeets down around The Office area. But there are several pairs that seem to come and go on a regular basis, and I suspect they might always be in the area, just too high up to notice.

With reports of Purple-crowned Lorikeets in the general area, we wondered if they might be at The Office, so took Dolly on a bit of a traverse to see what we could find. Despite EE’s best attempts, we couldn’t spot, let alone hear them.  We were getting ready for the trek back out, when the “rattley rolling, squeaky” call came from a tree behind. And there was a pair of Little Lorikeets engaged in some preening and pairbonding alopreening.

I think the photos tell the story.

Enjoy

Moments: Whistling Kite does Takeaway

It’s beginning to look like I’m getting in a rut with raptors and food.
Mostly just a bit of a backlog of other work and the natural progression of things.

Interesting to be posting such work on the blog, as it fulfills a learning process I’m journeying on at the moment.
Exploring photography, my own work in particular, as an iterative process.  Or a journey of versions that lead to new discoveries.

That is: the repetition that builds on the previous shot. It is where the concept of ‘multi-burst’ and I diverge.  I need to  have thought out the changes, or the visual differences from shot to shot. Not just blaze away and pick out the ‘best looking one’, to tidy up in Photoshop.

Not, as I’m sure you can imagine a simple step by step process when it comes to birds that are unpredictable at best, and downright difficult to get to understand at the worst. Which I think is why ‘iterative’ is such a useful motif.

EE and I were at The Office.  The Red Gum picnic area to be specific. Its a short trip down for Dolly, and if all goes well, there can be an interesting array of birds on a good day.
We were sitting enjoying the Grey of Earl, and a snack, when a grey shadow moved over our heads and flew toward the large dead skeleton of a tree by the river’s edge.
“A Whistling Kite,” quoth she.

Then it became, as we moved nearer, that said Kite also had bought a snack too. It had found a discarded Shingleback Lizard carcass remains. Now, it might be that the Kite had made the kill, but the condition of the carcass suggested it more likely had retrieved it after it was abandoned. Most of the rich middle parts of the hapless creature were already gone.

So we sat and watched it play with its food, and all went well until a ‘murder of crows’ in the form of a group of ravens moved in to help the Kite.  They believed it seems, in ‘share and share alike’, so long as they got the goodies to share.
Our hero was having none of that and scooping up its meal, it departed to a more secure area.

Enjoy

 

Snapshots: Dusky Woodswallow Morning

EE and I went to the Office a couple of mornings ago.

As we were walking over the river bridge we were discussing the small number of Dusky Woodswallows that had nested in the area.  And how they were now probably well on their way north.
When to our surprise, as much as anything, we heard the calls of them as hawked for insects in the sky overhead.
Like Choughs they are very community dependent, and its not unusual to see dozens of them sitting on the one branch all jostling for the best position. These are no exceptions. However with good grace the birds make room for one another, even if it means flying off and relanding.

They were still feeding young ones, so I concluded they must have had a late season nesting before the cold weather sets in.

Close, closer, closest
If you can’t get the spot you want, you go underneath and then popup on the other side. Everybody always moves up graciously
Incoming, make room
Woodswallows have the ability to both fly and glide like swallows.
They have a wonderful marking set on the wing edges, which is not always easy to see
Food is still in abundance.
Spent a few minutes with the patient bird, making portraits. While it talked constantly to its neighbours
Hard to guess, but this one is a juvenile, now looking like the adults
An adult turns up with a food topup

Snapshots: Biting of More than You can Chew

Here’s a quickie, hope it makes you smile.

Sometimes a day at the office for this Great Egret brings on more than expected.

Or
The tale of the Egret that hoped to grow up to be an Osprey.

As my old footy coach used to say, “Never let you Ambitions Outweigh your Capabilities.”

I was sitting at The Shallows, and well, it wasn’t as the tide was running high, so not much happening. And the weather was blowing all get out and deep dark clouds were appearing.

I saw this Egret on the other side of the river. Too far for much real work, and besides it was mostly hunkered down among the small trees, trying to keep out of the wind. I spent more time with some dotterels and a few spoonbills, and was well into my second cup of Grey of Earl, when I heard a loud “SPLASH”, and without turning round, I knew instantly what had happen. The Egret had gone into the water. What I didn’t know was what it had caught. Hard to get it in the water and  it was on the bank and behind the trees before you could say, “That’s a big Fish!”.

The next few minutes were between hilarious and painful, as it wrestled to get that size fish into a position to swallow. And to make things worse its new friends the Straw-necked Ibis  were getting close hoping to get a morsel or two.
In the end after much neck manipulation, and headshaking, it decided that a new approach was needed and it took off behind the river bank, and I lost sight of the outcome.

I waited, but in the end the weather, and time ran out, and I left not knowing how it had fared.

Enjoy

Snapshots: Crested Tern Feeding Young

Over the past few weeks I’ve been working on a new “Sit” spot at “The Office”.
At one point the Werribee River as it cuts through the old sandhills that once were part of the lake that became Port Philip Bay, runs over a stony bottom and has not been able to cut deeply, but rather has formed an area of shallow water at low tide.

To compensate, the river water spreads out into a number of small backwater lagoons or billabongs, so there is quite a range of areas for the birds to congregate and feed.

The Werribee Golf Club skirts the river at this point, so access to the area is relatively easy from the K Road carpark. A great feature is that the afternoon light is coming from behind the photographer, and as my Mum used to say when we used the Box Camera, “Keep the Sun over your left shoulder dear”, so she’d love the lighting happening here.

It’s only a couple of kilometres to the River Mouth at South Werribee, and the fish regularly come and go with the tides.

No doubt I’ll feature more of this area as I settle into working from the river bank. A couple of hours with a ‘cuppa’, and a bit of patience brings all sorts of activity along the river.

One of the birds in the area are Great Crested Terns, and at the moment they are feeding their juveniles.  I just can’t get close enough to the far bank, but sometimes the Tern will sweep by with its payload.

Enjoy

There that should keep you quiet
I know when food is on the way as the young one puts up quite a racket
The parent just doesn’t miss the mark
Sweeping in with a fresh fish
Two at a time is good fishing

 

While I was waiting a flock of Fairy Martins began to hunt insects among the reeds.

Snapshots: The Eloise Collection

Been amassing quite a collection of shots of the Eastern Osprey as she has been working in the Werribee River area. Rather than break it up into various days or activities, I’ve become a bit self-indulgent and also saving myself some time by making a collection.

Enjoy.

Is that a fish down there?
I should investigate
Looks like a good meal.
On second thoughts I’ll wait for a bigger one.
Keyed on
Reading to pounce
All systems locked on and ready for impact
One bream coming up
Taking a bit of effort to get free from the water
All good to go.
Hey, Look, fresh fish.

Snapshots: Breakfast at Tiffany’s

Well not quite, but I went down early this morning as the light looked like being great, and promised to be back ‘soon’, but stayed a bit longer.
EE has done a fetlock, or pulled a ‘hammie”, and is a bit out of circulation at the moment, so I set off on me lonesome, hoping the sunshine might stay.

The Lady was in residence by the time I arrived, and was no doubt looking for breakfast.  She had several attempts but missed, then stretched out upriver and within a few minutes returned with a sizeable fish.

Bathed in early morning sunlight
I’m really getting a feel for her contrasted against the cliffs behind
The first swing and miss for the morning. Have to say I really thought she was on a winner here
A second attempt.
The tail kicks up and must give her some extra speed
Another miss.
Plenty of light to make the water sparkle
The fantastic head shake that flings off all the excess water
A mintue later and she was back with a fish
There was a young family in the carpark, and their baby cried. The long stare took it all in
And there goes the last of the tail. All done at that.

Snapshots: An Eloise Collection

Enough of this photography vision inspired techno mumbo jumbo.
How about some photographs.

Good point.

As I rack up harddiskfulls of Osprey pictures, it getting hard to put them all on Flickr.
I know there is way to make project pages here on WordPress, however I just can’t figure out how to make it work the way I want. But the story telling of the blog suits my photo journalism style I think, so I’ll persevere a bit longer.

In the meantime here is a few so that you don’t miss out.

Enjoy

Gotta Love that intense look
Balancing
This is like a layup in basketball, straight onto the perch
A hit and miss. One fish that got the chance of another day
Sometimes photographers talk about “Pre-visualising the image” it’s an Ansel Adams term. Here I more ‘pre-willed’ as I knew she was swinging up, and was lucky she chose the small shaft of light through the trees.
Soft melded light that just reeks character
Take away food
A big wing stretch before leaving
Swinging up in the even light
Soft evening light enhances the colours
A really tight turn with the head held level
Sometimes the poetry just happens in the best light

 

 

Atmospherics

It rained overnight. Not a lot really, we were promised a deluge, but like all good weather cells, some places were more fortunate than others.  And the weather prognosticators, of the tv weather. in their usual scramble to spread fear and anxiousness among the masses were predicting a morning that would have made Noach tremble in his galoshes.

We, EE and I were keen—insert obsessed—with going back out and seeing Eloise, and as I had an early morning appointment, we figured on an early start and then home for breakfast. Good plan.
Weather looked pretty nice with stars asparkling in the rich blue predawn sky. But by the time we’d pulled into the parking area, an ominous dark cloud was rolling in behind. However because of the rain, and the heat, what we also had was the area festooned in mist. Everywhere. and the photographer was beginning to lament leaving the landscape lens at home.

Eloise must have had similar Osprey thoughts about the weather and she didn’t turn up until about an hour and a half after sunup.  Caught a glimpse of her wafting through the mists. She sat on the furtherest tree and showed no sign of going fishing. We concluded she must have eaten an early breakfast elsewhere today.

But in the meantime the mists and the birds in the area were a pleasant interlude.

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The mist lay a carpet of pearl across the landscape
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Lack of light and high ISO were the order of the day.
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White birds on pearl
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Eloise coming out of the mists
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The Royal Spoonbill decided to sleep in.
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Even when a burst of sunshine came, the Spoonbill carried on
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Eloise perched a long way from our camera point
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The Dusky Moorhens were happy with a fresh supply coming down on the river
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No wonder the mists lingered. The air was still, the water mirror smooth

Snapshots: Learning the Fine Art of Fishing

or:  Eloise Does Fast-food Breakfast.

You knew it was coming right? Of course you did.

With such a bird in the vicinity, and the possibility of her taking a fish sometime when I was there, it was too much not to expect I’d sacrifice a couple of hours sleep, and go down to K Road Cliffs in the early morning.  EE had somewhat offhandedly remarked that perhaps I should sleep down there in the car.

So armed with the ever reliable D810 and the 300mm f/2.8 and TC2.0, I set out.  The only thing that made the plan look less than successful was the weather. Overcast. Porridge. Classic 3200ISO weather.

I found her sitting high in a tree overlooking the horseshoe bend and its big fishing hole.  The tide was at the end of running in high, and that seems to be her preferred time.
So I waited. Did I mention that lack of light.  I’m not a great high iso at any cost person, but it was high or go home, and I took the former not the latter option.

And waited. So did she.

Here’s the long sequence.  Enjoy

 Eloise was sitting high above the river on a favoured perch.

A first strike

 The next attempt.  What I learned from all this is that she prefers to hunt close to the river bank. Each strike was only a few metres from the edge.  I’m not sure if that makes it easier to see the fish or if the fish work close along the river bank

  Tail up and grappling hooks going down

 I put this not so good one in to see how close she runs to the edge. Another miss

 Back up to the far bank. Here is part of the high cliffs on K Road. They sometimes appear in movie and tv dramas.

 Another try another miss

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The look and the wingspread say it allAnd away for another attempt

I missed the strike, but here it’s possible to see how close to the edge she is working

Gathering the energy for extraction

I’ve included this as I love that just over the wing view.  However the fish is not coming out without a fight.

Sinking back in to try again

WIngs spread out, she spent a few seconds regathering her strength and perhaps rearranging the fish underneath for better lift

Swing and away

Now to find a quiet spot of enjoy breakfast

A little later some Whistling Kites thought they could freeload so she took off again with her half-eaten prize.

 

Snapshots: Hangin’ out the Sheets with Eloise

This gracious lady is currently settled in to the K Road Cliffs area at Werribee.  There is a horseshoe bend in the river and it obviously suits her fishing style. Not being a fishing sort of person, I don’t understand how the fish run up the estuary but suspect now, that it is more likely on the turn of the tide as the water flow out. Today that would have happend around sunup, and most likely she had hunted on the early morning light.
By  the time we, and 10 or so of our new close personal friends, rocked up after breakfast, she was well fed and/or the fish had gone as she showed little inclination for hunting.

However she did manage to make the photographers smile. On a tree close to the river edge, and in full sunlight.

So given an appreciative audience, she ran through the entire preening process, making sure every feather had a lick, and was back in the right place.  By 10:30 am, it was all over she packed up the sheets, took a long stretch and headed up river for her own reasons.

I thought I’d post a small selection, as I can quickly see that I am going to end up with days of work that don’t get sorted nor published.

So prepare for a few more blogs as the days progress.

Enjoy.

Hangin’ out the Sheets

One of my favourite activites with raptors is that ‘zipping’ up of the tail feathers.
A quick shake and all are back in place

 

After stiting in the hot sun for several hours she was panting and drooping out her wings
She is folding up the sheets, and I rather like the look of the power and depth of the wings shown here.
Time to turn around. A delicate process and a test of balance and wing work
A final big stretch of wings, tail, body and legs. It must be time to go

 

Feathers, feet and tail hard at work to regain equilibrium

 

High Day in Elegance

I received a note from my Flickr mate David Nice. “An Osprey has been seen feeding at K Road Cliffs”.

So I dropped plans of going to look for snipe the following morning and loaded up to go to K Road.

As soon as I got out of the car, I heard two distinct ‘Tcluck’ calls and figured she must be there somewhere.

But despite looking with the Binos from the carpark, I couldn’t get a spotting anywhere.  Was just about to think of walking down along the river, when the remainder of the morning shift turned up.  David, Gilbert and his friend all dragged out the big lenses and we began the search.
After about 15 minutes we were still none the wiser, but I spotted a Nankeen Night Heron leaving the water and taking to the tall gums alongside the cliffs.  And as they say, “A night-heron in the tree is better than an osprey you can’t find”, so we went to have a look. After a few average shots, we walked the little extra along the edge and down some steps, and someone spotted the osprey in the tree on the far bank.  Took a bit to work out among the various branches and twigs. But.

Yes, there she is. Fish in claw, and enjoying a freshly caught breakfast.

The rest of the story is pretty much boring. 3 hours just goes so fast, we sat, and stood alongside the river edge as she polished off the fish, polished up her feathers and took a little nap to let the meal go down.

We had been working most of the morning with rather average overcast light, and by late morning, the sun began to break through and her true colours became evident.

No doubt this is the same bird from previous seasons, and as the mullet are running up the river, it must be a fair assumption that this bird follows the shoals of fish. And of course it raises so many questions about where she is during the year, does she have a mate, or is she a ‘single girl’.

But what  pleasure to have such a lovely lady to work with. No doubt as the short season moves on we’ll have a few opportunities to work with her in action, and do some portrait sessions.
So be ready for a stream of blogs featuring the fine lady Eloise.

Enjoy.

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Hello, welcome back fine lady
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Looking for a table with a view to enjoy breakfast
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That will do nicely
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Toe tapping to relieve the pressure on the muscles
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A wing stretch and dangling out the grappling irons
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Airborne
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Time to go. And then I looked at my watch and 3 hours had disappeared.

 

 

 

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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