Enjoying the Freedom of Flight

Black-shouldered Kites Growing up. October 10, 2017

Waiting is not Patience. Patience is about the moment,
 an intersection of the strongest story with the right light,
 the best timing and an awareness of the around.
 Waiting makes us pay attention. David Duchemin

You’re Welcome Here.

We’ve been tracking a clutch of Black-shouldered Kites down on the 29 Mile Road at the Western Treatment Plant.  The young have been on the wing now for over two months, and are now the expert hunters.  They are just moulting out the last of their juvenile ginger and grey feathers and the eye is taking on the rich ruby colour of adult-hood.

The best perches in the area are along the roadside, the few trees and fenceposts and man-made solar panels and the like.  And because of their consummate skill in the air, and the vast quantity of mice in the area, the young kites seem quite oblivious to human presence.

So sometimes it’s possible to get right into the world of the hunting birds—not as a long distance observer—in a hurry—but to take the time the learn about the birds, their preferences for hunting areas and their choice of spots to enjoy their successes.

I’ve been reading and following photographer David DuChemin and his approach to teaching a photographic vision.  He has a series called Vision is Better.  He talks about patience, waiting, the involvement in the around and being able to identify with the subject to really tell their story.  On one such video he travels to  British Columbia’s Great Bear Rainforest to photograph the Spirit Bears – a white variation of the black bear.  His video is shot from a short kayak trip, and I think its possible to really get both his excitement of the area, and his immersion in the moment, (if you will allow the pun).

Here’s the link if you’ve got 10 minutes.  https://craftandvision.com/blogs/all/vision-is-better-ep-20

 

Continue reading “Enjoying the Freedom of Flight”

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In Search of the Grail: The Journey of Perceval

++++ Editorial Note: This was written back in May 2016, due to complicated circumstances, (if you will) I had let its publication slide.  Enjoy. ++++++

One of the most endearing myths surrounds the Search for the “Grail”.  This mysterious cup that is the hero’s quest.

Joseph Campbell, is one of my favourite authors and while I don’t always concur with his conclusions, his insight into the depths of myth and legend always intrigues me.

One such story is the Hero’s Journey.  A story that is played out over and over in old Hebrew texts, Chinese history, Indian legends, South American dramas, and innumerable other historical stories. And into modern-day novel such as Dan Brown’s “Da Vinci Code
Simplified it’s “Local Hero—(ine) makes Good”.

Somewhere the legend becomes intertwined with knights bold of old and ends up as justification for the wholesale slaughter that was inflicted during the Crusades, in search of the now “Holy Grail” the cup that held the crucified Messiah blood.

Campbell writes it best as the story of Sir Perceval, although there are lots of previous versions going well back into the Dark Ages of Europe.

Still.

Sir Perceval, is off on his Quest. His is the journey to visit the wasteland, (Joyce devotees take note  {++ Ed Note: I was thinking of Ulysses, here, but as Cheryl rightly points out the reference probably belongs more to T.S. Eliot++}),   of a certain king, sometimes called the Fisher King who is the possessor of the Grail. Giver of Eternal life.  This dude is crippled, variously described as from battle or curse, and the ‘grail’ keeps him alive.   He not only has the cup, but is wont to hand out helpful advice and wisdom to any who would enter his realm (Aside— I’ve often pondered if he was so smart and wise how come his kingdom was a wasteland and his subjects abject suffering wretches— but let’s not let detail get in the way of a good story)

Sir Perc, is supposed to ask the magic question, but of course his chivalrous upbringing, (or lack of) means he can’t do that, so he misses out on the prize.  Now banished he too must walk his own wasteland.  (I do see a picture building up here).

Before your eyes glaze over, he returns, retrieves the grail, heals the king, the land and puts out the cat and makes toast. On ya Perc, good afternoon’s work.

(Aside: always wanted to write it that way for my term paper on Myth and Symbol, but figured a pass was better than a laugh).

Which brings Sir Perceval, that is the name of our little grey car, on its quest to the Wasteland of the Western Treatment Plant in search of “The Grail”.

On board Sir Perc are  EE, Mr An Onymous and your erstwhile writer. The Grail is “White-bellied Sea-eagle”
There are several of these amazing birds at work over the Treatment Plant ponds.  The amount of duck on the water is fairly easy picking for a well-trained Sea-eagle, and these dudes are well trained. (Even without the Fisher King’s help, they know fishing)

Yet.

Finding one in a good location, and up-close and personal, has always been a problem for Perc and contents. EE had a plan, not the first you are reminded, but none the less a plan.  Mr An Onymous had the lens ready and a theory for everything. And me.  I was looking for birds.
We entered the track alongside the Little River, being allowed access by the “Gate Keeper”,  Little Pied Cormorant who is often at work near the gate.
Onwards

Two Whistling Kites departed from the Specimen Tree, and were away before a lens was pointed.  On to the Japan Tree. This lovely tree has featured here on the blog and on my Flickr site regularly. A tree of a thousand poses, it sits on the edge of the causeway over Little River.

I spotted it in the tree.

Grey and white in the sunshine.

I slowed Sir Perc and stopped.  Each looked about. “Not much here- as usual”.

“What about the Sea-eagle,” I reply.
“Oh it would be so good if we saw one somewhere along the track today, ” reply.
“Well what about that one up in the tree,” saith I.
“Yeah, that would be a good spot”
“It’s there on the left-hand side.”

Brains click into gear, doors open, cameras start to bundle images onto memory cards.
“It’s tough light here,” add I, “I’m going to take the car to the other side of the causeway.”

  • Meanwhile, I’m adding up the possibilities.
    Move to other side of causeway.
    Light better.
    Not hidden among tree branches
    Bird will throw if I move the car
    If bird throws from this side it will be into the light and we’ll get silhouettes.
    Walking about will make it throw.
    Take the risk.

So, Sir Perceval moves over to the far side of the causeway. I think I heard the Fisher King groaning.

Bird is relaxed. Goodo—out of the car, setup the lens, beanbag on roof, line up shot, check exposure, make more shots.
Change camera to the shorter lens. — Mistake. Note to self. Only take one camera/lens combo next time.

The light is about as good as it gets, the pose is as regal as they come and the memory card is still taking in the images.
Then
It ruffles the wings, and I can only say, under my breath, “It’s about to throw”, to no one in particular, and before I can change back to the longer lens, it’s airborne. No time to put up the big camera. Mutter under breath about senility.

And

It throws out into the open, pulls the big wings about, and comes directly into the sunshine.  No time to ponder correct exposure now, this is what we came for.

“Well, we can go back for coffee now”, I announce. But the others are ‘chimping’ at the review screens on the camera. Y’know, head down, arms waving, “Oh, oh, oh”

Not a bad morning’s work. The Sir Perc of Old would be happy.
Enjoy

1605_05-DWJ_3794
The Gate Keeper “Who dares enter here?”
1605_05-DWJ_7528
First sighting. Lost among the branches
1605_05-DWJ_7545
That was the view I was looking for
1605_05-DWJ_7632
Elegance has a form
1605_05-DWJ_3758
Wing ruffle, its time to go.
1605_05-DWJ_3759
Beginning to stretch the wings
1605_05-DWJ_3760
Coiled and ready to unwind
1605_05-DWJ_3761 - Version 2
Stepping out, wing driving to the left
1605_05-DWJ_3762fx2
Succesful launch
1605_05-DWJ_3763 - Version 2
And against the best backdrop sky

Loitering with INTENT

We’ve been housebound because of the weather, and in the early afternoon, the sun shone, blue sky, and we decided to head to Twenty Nine Mile Road.  Just for a look, and then a coffee on the way home.   The Plant is Locked Out to mere mortals at the moment as the roads are a quagmire from the rains, the constant 4WD traffic, and that one of the number of bird watchers managed to put their ‘fourbee’  off the road and into a bog, requiring work by the management to get it out.  So.

The weather forecast was loaded with gloom and doom, but we thought it was worth the risk just for the time out.

And we managed some good sunshine for about 30 minutes.  And then a great big black cloud with a distinct grey sheet falling from it, headed in our direction. It was, as they say.  All over.

And in the same direction a large raptor, which as it came closer was definitely a White-bellied Sea-eagle. It swung in on the wind, which even optimistically could be measured somewhere between 50-60kph. The rain was ripping in behind it.  The bird landed, without a care on a roadway bund between two ponds.  And with the rain pelting down it just sat and watched.   A lone Samp Harrier had clued on that something was going to happen and was making various treks back and forth behind the eagle. We were stuck sitting in the car with the window open, and rain pouring in.  Close window at least.

And it waited.  It seemed to me the wind and the rain were increasing, but still it sat. And looked.

Then at what can only be described as ‘The height of the storm”. — or as poor old much maligned Edward Bulwer-Lytton “It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents — except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.” might have said.

The bird casually turned its body into the wind, raised the wings and lifted off. And to my real surprise, headed “into” the wind. Long deliberate beats that took it just over the water out along the pond.
Then it became clear through the rain.
A lone Eurasian Coot had taken that moment to make its run across the lake.  Wrong move!

With the rain hammering at me as I swung open the door, and raced back along the road to get a clear look at the event, the eagle made several passes at the hapless coot, and then I lost it behind a clump of grass in between, and to be honest, the sting of the rain, the lack of wet protection for body and camera, and it was time to go back to the ‘safety’ of the car.   EE had managed to get a better look of the eagle as it brought the coot to land.

But.  Let’s face it. A long way away, drenching rain, no  light, and buckets of contrast and colour and sharpening and noise reduction, and this a about as good as it gets.

I guess I make no apology for the images.  At least we were there.

The power of the eagle is still haunting my thoughts.  I was having trouble walking in that wind.

Thanks to EE for supplying the last moments of the action.

Locked on Target
Locked on Target. That the D810 and the 300mm Locked on at all is much a tribute to the gear.
Photo Courtesy EE
Photo Courtesy EE
Photo Courtesy EE
Photo Courtesy EE
Photo Courtesy EE
Photo Courtesy EE
Photo courtesy EE
Photo courtesy EE

 

What a Difference some Sunshine Makes

Been beavering away here at the Website trying to find ways to improve the overall look and experience of visiting, and trying to give expression visually to the site’s dedicated title. “Birds as Poetry”.

Sometimes its easy to find clever words to describe a moment in time with the birds, or to cover over the fact it was just another day on the job making images of very fine birds. But that is not the visual feel.  And above all I guess my main goal for the web pages.

Been doing as you’ve probably gathered a bit of introspection on what the bird stories should show, how relevant that is to those who have graciously signed up to follow along here and at the same time not making it so esoteric that even I find it hard to reach those heights of expression.

And at another level, the pure old photographic know how and application needs to still satisfy both viewer and creator.  And of course in this day and age wrestling with the ever-advancing technology that so readily leads us onward with banners waving from one vantage point to the next, without even taking the time to notice the journey across the plain.

Along with photography, poor writing and a love of Russel Coight’s All Australian Adventure tv shows (skits please), I also offer Tai Chi as another of my dizzying weaknessess.  What I like most about this ancient (art) is the definiteness of purpose and deliberateness of movement. And in that is the edge of my photography with the birds, and hence the constant need to find expression of Birds  as  Poetry.

Continue reading “What a Difference some Sunshine Makes”

Meeting Up with Friends Take #2

Graham Harkom, as self-confessed birder and mad photographer, also among his other accomplishments runs an online bird photography group,   Melbourne Bird Photographers, under the Meetup banner.

See Here

So most months there is an event to turn up to.  It’s such an intriguing way to organise an event, and great kudos for Graham and his organising group for keeping up the great places to visit. Always good for birds, photography and chatting, and of course food!

So, when I discovered the next one was to be at the Western Treatment Plant, it wasn’t too hard to tick the Yes we will attend box.

So, as the Banjo was wont to say, we went.

Also my long term mate and fellow conspirator and Flickr mate Mark S came over to make an excellent day of it.   Graham, herein named, “He who always has brilliant sunshine for his events”, met us at the Caltex Servo at Werribee and had turned on the sunshine as requested.

28 keen folk sipped Gerry’s best coffee, ate raisin toast, and talked about the day’s opportunities.  We took off toward Avalon, stopping long enough to get some good views, if only average photos of some Banded Plovers, then it was on to the T Section, and the inevitable wait by the Crake Pool, and out came the Australian Crake, right on time.  No Brolga here, so off to the Paradise Road ponds for our little convoy.

Met a carful of helpful folk who said, “Down there somewhere we saw Brolga”, which unscrambled meant. On to the 145W outflow. A very co-operative Brown Falcon stopping us in our quest, and gave some great poses, and a fine fly off shot for those of us not too busy checking the camera settings. —Will I never never learn!!!!  😦

Then, we spotted the Brolga, (Singular in this case), and the usual dilemma,  stay where we are for distant, safe views , or drive on a small distance and see if we can get closer.  We drove.  And the kind bird tolerated us, for a while, then gave a super fly by quite close.  Too much fun.

We had a quiet photography time at 145W, and lunch, then it was on to Lake Borrie. My mates Neil and David turned up in the Prado,they were both out playing with new toys, A Canon 1D X and a Nikon D4. Ah, the joys of learning new equipment.

As we drove back the Brown Falcon had perched on the ‘Specimen Tree’ in Little River and we managed several great shots in the sunshine.

On toward the Bird-hide for some good views of Musk Duck, Great Crested Grebe and an obliging Swamp Harrier made the journey well worthwhile.

Then we took a quick detour toward the top end of Lake Borrie, and to my surprise and great delight—Picture if you will, a small child in a sweet-shop—I spotted some White-winged Terns hunting in the next pond.  (They used to be called White-winged Black Terns, but like many things name changes are important.)
Not that I cared as a most remarkable all Black flanked bird tacked into view.  It was in full breeding plumage, and has to be seen flashing over the water to be genuinely appreciated.   By now the memory cards were filling up. And they were just Mine!!!!!

These birds are only at WTP a few weeks during the year, and mostly never in breeding black plumage. Also every other time I’ve seen them it’s been raining.  See some other blogs on here.

A really top find, and a great way to end the day. A quick run up the highway. A refreshing cup of coffee and some good discussion on the finds of the day,- including a top shot of a Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater (Missed that one! ), and everybody back in their transportation and  time for home.

Thanks again to Graham “He who always has brilliant sunshine for his events”, and the pleasure of his visitor from Thailand, for such a good relaxing day, and so much to see, and to all those intrepid Meetup-erers who ventured down, and enjoyed the day with us.  Hope to see you all again down the track.

Enjoy.

A fine start to the day with a Black-shouldered Kite warming in the morning sunshine
A fine start to the day with a Black-shouldered Kite warming in the morning sunshine
At Crake HQ, an Australian Crake on good display.
At Crake HQ, an Australian Crake on good display.
A hunting we wiil go Whistling Kite over paddock
A hunting we will go. Whistling Kite over paddock
A Black Kite on a tight turn hunting small insects.
A Black Kite on a tight turn hunting small insects.
No one gets past here!
No one gets past here!
One of the finds of the day. Brolga in flight
One of the finds of the day. Brolga in flight
Brown Falcon on Specimen Tree
Brown Falcon on Specimen Tree
A Swamp Harrier on a tight turn. Another one for my "How to Sneak up on a Swamp Harier", book. :-)
A Swamp Harrier on a tight turn. Another one for my “How to Sneak up on a Swamp Harrier”, book. 🙂
White-winged Tern. What a great find, and this one in full breeding plumage.
White-winged Tern. What a great find, and this one in full breeding plumage.
So Good. Here is another.
So Good. Here is another.
White-winged Tern (formerly White-winged Black Tern for obvious reasons), this one is moulting in.
White-winged Tern (formerly White-winged Black Tern for obvious reasons), this one is moulting in.