Interludes: Let’s Be Careful Out There

The title is a quote from a tv show of the 1980s.

The Duty Sergeant would remind his team as they left the daily briefing, ‘Let’s be Careful Out There.”

In these days of rampant pandemic it still seems like good advice.

However being careful out there applies to some birds as much as it did to the police in “Hill Street Blues

Longer term readers may recall that two years ago we spent quite a bit of time with a Brown Falcon pair as they nested.  Cassia, of Cinnamon, provided us with some excellent insight into the nesting and feeding habits of their lives.
Unfortunately we were unable to follow up with them last season due to travel restrictions.

However with a change in limitations we have now been able to revisit the park, and after a couple of futile attempts,  EE pulled the proverbial Brown Falcon Nest out of a Hat.
He had been hunting close into the nest in the open paddocks and seemed to be having some success, however we missed the food exchanges and were unable to determine a possible nest site.
It was not only us that were taking an interest in the falcon’s presence.  Australian Magpies took them as ‘easy’ targets and each time one of the birds flew, a flotilla of maggies were in hot pursuit.
Mostly the magpies are fast enough, and the falcons don’t put in that much effort to get away, but today it was quite obvious that the falcons were not going to broach harassment, and each time the magpies drew in close, the falcons put effort into the wing strokes and powered away. Not something I usually see.

Cassia does indeed, Need to be Careful Out There.

Here is a small selection of the morning’s activity.

This is the male, he is lighter in colour. He is doing his best to hover over the grasses
Action TIme. A quick drop on to some prey below
Mouse delivery. Unlike Black-shouldered Kites, he carries the prey in his beak.
The male: Time for a scratch on the wing.
Sitting waiting for an opportunity to pounce. His yellow cere and eye ring are noticeable id markings. HANZAB notes that yellow cere may be a sign of age and is more prevalent in males. This bird might be at least 15 years old as we’ve seen him over a number of seasons.
Heading out for another catch
This is Cassia, of Cinnamon and her nest with at least two young. They are only recently hatched, perhaps in the past few days.
The magpies decided that Cassia was not going to sit quietly anywhere in their territory.
Maggie closing in.
She is well aware of the challenge, and is about to power away.
This is the first time I’ve seen a falcon put in the effort to evade the charging magpies. I think she has the better of them in a vertical climb
Stretching out. The magpies might have the advantage on a downhill run or across a level field, but in this case she just lifted up faster than the magpie could manage.
The male avoiding two enraged Little Ravens

Interludes: Of Tooth and Claw

Tho’ Nature, red in tooth and claw
In Memoriam;
Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Welcome to Interludes:
We had been monitoring a pair of Black-shouldered Kites for the past several months, in between lockdowns, and had come to the conclusion that perhaps they had abandoned the project due to the cold weather.
However a couple of weeks ago things seemed to change, the male began to bring in food and took to sitting on a tree close to where we thought the nest might be.  Plaintive cries from a hungry female confirmed it.

But, the nest tree was cleverly located behind a huge chainwire fence at the Treatment Plant and access and a close approach was out of the question. So in between weeks at home and bad weather we just had to wait.

Then, the weather opened up one morning to sunshine and we journeyed out for a looksee.

Can’t be sure, but it is pretty clear that the young had emerged from the nest, and at least one of them has made a few tentative flights.
Set up, settle in, see what happens.

One of the young took to the air, but its direction and control skills needed much more development.  Eventually after much loud calling it landed a bit down range in the next tree.

Unfortunately, the tree was already inhabited by a nesting Australian Magpie.

And Maggie has a zero tolerance for visitor. Enraged and highly defensive, the little Kite would be no match for Maggies sustained attack.

There are no First Warnings!
We have a NO Visitors Policy
Not on MY tree you don’t
Contact
Ouch, That Hurt!
Pressing home its attack
Safely back on the Nest: We didn’t see it again for the afternoon
The Cavalry Arrives. But after several half-hearted swoops on the enraged Magpie, Dad gave up.

From the FieldNotes Book: Little Troubles

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.

Little Journeys: Strollin’

One thing our lockdown for the CovidCrisis has highlighted for us, is the chance to enjoy a walk around some of our local areas. Normally we’d be out and about in regular birding locations.

And of course, being local, there is not likely to be much in the way of highly sought out birds in the area.

Or
So we thought.

Not much more than a stroll from home is a new housing estate. It has been built on what, of course, was old farming land. And in our area, that would have been vegetable farming. A small, seasonal creek runs through the area, and because it is of environmental significance because of among other things, the habitat of  Growling Grass Frogs (Litoria raniformis) a fairly wide verge has been created, and partly sculptured with a well formed footpath and open grass.

The rest of the creek proper, thanks to the developers, the local council and Melbourne Water, has been turned into runoff water retarding basins. As the creek was originally a set of water holes rather than a flowing creek, they have used the natural lay of the land to develop the area.

The past few days we’ve had a good amount of rain. In our gauge alone  showed over an inch and a half  (about 39mm).   The new development with its sealed roads, footpaths, lawns and of course house roofs has indeed provided plenty of run off.  As we walked today there was plenty of evidence of at least a metre or more water having recently been through the reed beds. But thanks to clever Melb Water development, the water level has subsided quite quickly.

About half an hour walk from home is an aptly named coffee shop, The Little Growling, and it makes a good spot to turn around and return.  With a freshly brewed coffee to go, thanks very much.

As we walked out of our village at the start of our stroll, I heard the call of a Rosella, I’ve been hearing it occasionally over the past few weeks, and had even spotted it on a fence-line a couple of times. This time it was in one of the street trees, and to my surprise, a Crimson juvenile was with it, so there was much calling.  (Whether they nested locally or not is still open to supposition). I am beginning to have my doubts about the Eastern id, perhaps it is a hybrid?

Not a bird we’d normally see locally, so it was not only a pleasant surprise, but quite enchanting.

Enjoy.

Eastern Rosella, or a hybrid with buff cheeks.

Juvenile Crimson Rosella.

The last of our local Black Swans. The rest of the family seems to have moved on. Perhaps this one is reluctant to leave a good feeding location

Magpie Drama. For reasons I’ve never been sure of the adults seem to single out one of the young and peck away at it. No one seems to be hurt and the young one will pickup and move on as if nothing happened.

Enjoying breakfast together.

Maned Duck Drama. This male has a family of 5 trying to move across open ground. About 20 ravens thought there might be a quick snack or two for an enterprising attempt.
In the end, EE and I moved down the paddock and put the ravens to wing. Not that it would last for long, but sufficient to get the little ones safely to water.

The little family made it safely to the water, and were able to paddle away.

Australian Reed Warblers are either feeding young or building new nests.

Food delivery

Now that is something you don’t see in the average housing estate. Fortunately it was in no hurry to stop and chat

Like all housing estates, there are plenty of opportunists.

And this is why they call her EE.
“Buff-banded Rail,” she cried. True to form, it was. A most unusual find in a housing estate. We have been known to drive around the Treatment Plant for hours and never see one.

Little Visits: You Yangs on Sunday

One of the first times EE and I have been out just looking about.
We had been hoping to find some Eastern Yellow Robins, and or some evidences of the Scarlet Robins at the You Yangs, and EE also wanted to visit her water feature near the Big Rock carpark.

In the end, the big surprise was a family of Sittella,  and their young recently fledged clan. I’m going to do a separate blog on that encounter.

In the meantime in spite of all the disaster that is around, and the challenges of the rest of summer ahead of us, it was good to see the birds had new life on the way.

Silvereye at the Water Feature

Young Australian Magpie engaged in some serious preening, while reminding the parents of its presence.

One of several juvenile Grey Shrike Thrush working in the area

A Yellow-faced Honeyeater waits, nervously and politely for its turn at the water.

Varied Sittella, circling the branch

Two young Varied Sittella preening and resting while the family feed nearby

A young Scarlet Robin, one of the first we’ve seen in many months. Presumably its a male beginning to moult in.

Spotty the Pardalote. This is the male that I showed feeding his young on my Flickr steam.

Well not every shot is a winner, but I rather liked the colour set of the Sittella wings

Drama in Several Acts

We’d be chatting, Mr An Onymous and I, about the history and development of Greek Drama and Tragedy. And the role of Satyr as a political statement. Among the playwrights were Sophocles, and Euripides, and how they used the stage to create the Spectacle and allow the characters and drama to develop.  Anyway, you get the idea. 

1805-31_DWJ_4718.jpg

“The Rise and Rise of the Brown Falcon in Unfamiliar Territory”

All good plays need a title that might throw the unwary viewer in the wrong direction.

Curtain Rises.

Act 1

Scene 1.  A roadway somewhere along the Western Treatment Plant.  Single treeline along roadway.  Magpies embedded in trees carolling among themselves.

Enter Stage Left.  Single Brown Falcon, flying about tree height toward the roadway. Point to note.  Brown is flying slowly and deliberately.

Scene 2.  Brown approaches treeline directly toward Magpies. Still slow and deliberate.

Continue reading “Drama in Several Acts”

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.

1805-27_DWJ_7271.jpg

Continue reading “SnapShots: The Account of The Magpie and the Little Eagle”