From the FieldNotes Book: A Morning’s Practice

How quickly time moves on for these young kites. A few weeks ago they were peeking out of the nest, then launched into flight on some of the most windy days we’ve had this year.
And when we arrived on this particular morning they were now fully-fledged (pun intended) hunters.

Bronson, the male was no longer providing handouts. It was literally every bird for itself. They had chosen to sit together for what was probably the very last time in the early morning sun and scan the surrounding paddock for a likely meal. Most of their hunting as we watched was for skinks and small prey, but no doubt in the next day or two they would have skilled up enough for the real thing. Mice

Bronson flew past at one stage, perhaps checking they were still in the area, but they knew not to pester him for food and it was a silent flyover. They went back to the job in hand.

A couple of days later on our next visit, they were nowhere to be seen, all the usual roosting spots were empty. We caught a glimpse far across the freeway of one sitting, then hunting and flying off with its prize.

Their time had come to explore the world as fully developed young birds.

It is both a sad and also an exciting time to share their graduation and to farewell them.


From the Fieldnotes Book: Learning to Hunt

After a pretty windy start the young Black-shouldered Kites have quickly advanced to developing both their hunting skill and their ground tactics.
It might just me wanting to explain their process, but I think that the first few days on the wing in the very strong gale force winds gave them an advantage in learning the flying techniques. It is not unusual to see them leave the home tree and in a few wing flicks they are nearly a kilometre away down the paddock. So we miss all of the action happening from where we stand.

But, the other morning on what can only be described as “picture perfect”, they were working closer in and going through the paces of hovering and dropping out of the sky into the grass. Now, any mice there were pretty safe as they don’t quite have the skills to finalise the ‘catch’. However it won’t be long I suspect before they make the necesary connections and then they’ll be on the way to independance.

So here are a few highlights from the action.

Dropping from a hovering position. The wings folded up and the legs beginning to tuck up.
No Score. But at this stage they just pull out above the grass.
Getting serious now with the legs coming down
Look out Mice. Here I Come.
A much more serious attempt with the wings folded up and dropping vertically
Complete Concentration
Once again pulling out just above the grass
Really getting into the grass

From Field notes Book: Dad’s Rules

After what has been a bit of a difficult start with heatwave days and torrential rain the local Black-shouldered Kites have fledged three new chicks.

Like everything for this little family nothing goes easily and the young have fledged in the middle of a week of high winds. Yet they seem to have taken to the job with a wonderful zest.

But the high winds quickly throws them off course and Dad has had to go an hunt them back into his territory.

Here are some photos from his attempt to bring one of his wayward young back into the home area. Not easy when little wings are struggling in high breezes.

Interludes: Wings Out

We stopped briefly this morning at the Black-shouldered Kite nest in a pine on a now disused piece of road.

The last few times we’ve visited it was apparent that the young birds were getting close to fledging, however as it turns out we were pretty much completely wrong.

When we arrived they were already sitting high up on the tree and one moved from one branch to another with a skill of a seasoned flyer.
And not long after two of them took to the air and circled about the paddock around the tree, eventually returned and settled in.
A third one came by just as we were leaving so it must have been resting in a tree further down the road.

On return the young kite had to run the gauntlet with an enraged Australian Magpie. Unfortunately it happened all so fast and so close in that we didn’t get much of a result, and to it credit the young kite was easily able to avoid the attack. Which further shows they have been airborne a few days at least.

The female turned up and spent quite a bit of time ‘tail flicking’, which I’ve always taken as either a pair-bonding  or a territory maintenance movement. Given a second pair of Kites have a nest somewhere further down the main road, it might be safe to assume she was giving warning that her young were out and about and not to be messed with.

Here are a few from the excursions around the nest.

 

 

Young Kite defending against the Magpie attack. The feathers might look out of control, but I suspect it has set up the feathers to give it both control and the ability to avoid the magpie. A good indication they have been out for a few days.

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.

https://367collins.mirvac.com/workplace/building-overview/falcons-at-367-collins

Enjoy.

 

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.

Interludes: “On The Road Again…”

Well then, time to don the old spotted ‘kerchief, pull down the weather beaten widebrimmed hat, tune up the ole guitar and climb aboard the VW Microbus for another round of Willie Nelson singin’  “On the Road Again”. Now Willie may not be my fav entertainer, but I do as an aside, get a bit lumpy of throat everytime I hear his “Blue eyes Cryin’ in the Rain.”
Wipes moisture off keyboard continues typing.

Yep.  She’s back on the Road.  Well, more particularly out and about in the field with camera at the ready.

A few more weeks, and the old EE will be back to full form I’d be thinking. Goodby to #Kneetoo it seems.

How many Australian Hobbies would you normally expect to see in a morning? Most of us would be hard to agree to One, and then think it lucky
Two?  Stretching it Mate.
Three? EE

Now for bonus points, how many of those Hobbies would be carefully ensconced in a tree happily feeding away on a recent take?
One, oh, ok, I’ll give you that.
Two? Well that is why you should turn up the music louder. She’s back on the road.  🙂

We were working on a couple of recently fledged Black-shouldered Kites, when the conversation changed to,
“I think a Hobby with a meal just landed in a tree back there.”

We look, well at least I did.  Dark in there, lots of thick branches and leaves.  Searching.
Click, click, click.  She’s spotted it.
And there was the Hobby with what was the remains of a House Sparrow.  Way up there, in among all that clutter.  Amazing.

Suitably  photographed, we left it to its devices and headed back to iAmGrey for a cuppa.

Midway through, the conversation changed.

“I think there is a second Hobby with a meal in that tree at the end of the roadway!”

Abandoning the warm Earl of Grey to its own devices, we move to the other side of the parking area.
Now this one wasn’t so hard, out in the open, on a branch, looking very uncomfortable trying to eat on a sloping branch.
Click, click.

Job done we relocated to a second pair of kites.  Another Interlude story for next time.

Just as EE got out of the iAmGrey, a Hobby flew pretty much head height over her. ”
Click Click. Click.

I can still hear the guitars, and,”The Life I love is making photos with my friend, I’m so glad that we’re back in the field again!!”

Young Black-shouldered Kites mock battle

Only recently fledgded, but already quite the adept aviator

Hobby Number One. Once under the tree, it was easier to see among the foliage

A fresh catch that needed cleaning up for table presentation

Hobby Number Two. A rather awkward perch to work on.

Hobby Number Two. Eventually moved to a more suitable branch in the open. 
However this was the home of a pair of Willie Wagtails, and visitors were not welcome.

There is only so much harasssment it could take. FInished the meal, and time to leave.

Young Black-shouldered Kite. It seems this clutch flew two young.
They have been moved a few hundred metres from the nesting area. Perhaps the food is better on that side of the highway.

Outta the Kitchen Drawer

I bet we’ve all got at least one.  If you’re a photographer, like collecting camera bags, it might be that you have more than one.
That drawer in the Kitchen that holds all the knickknacks, detritus, and otherwise never sorted collection of things that have no where else to be stored.

Oh, look, four rubber bands, an old shopping list, some faded receipts for something or other, a pair of blunt scissors, the battery from… I wonder what? And all sorts of other accumulated, but not discarded  items of dubious value.

Irish comedian Jimeoin even wrote a song about it, “The Third Draw Down”  careful about the words, but that is comedy these days.

Well, I’ve been collecting a little here and there for a blog but none of the topics are significant enough on their own to warrant a single blog.

So.

Let’s put them in the Kitchen Draw and rummage through.

#kneetoo is back in the bush.
A few days before out current Fifth Lockdown, #kneetoo made her first real venture out into the wide world with camera and patience both firmly attached.

Also a deckchair, carefully placed in the sunshine was an essential element.  Subject was a Black-shouldered Kite’s nesting.  So here is how the action unfolded.

What else is at the back of the draw.?
Talked at the weekend about the “Mapping” ability of the Brown Falcon.
A tv semi-doco over the weekend produced in England. Life in the Air: Masters of the Sky

Can’t find that much about it, but the graphics are really explanatory, and the short inflight shots really help show what each segment is about.  However there is a lack of any references to the research, and I suspect that many of the sequences have been strung together from unrelated events.

Of interest is the segment on the garden hunting of a Sparrowhawk.  The graphics show how the bird, from 50m out from a birdfeeder in a backyard is able to negotiate a convoluted track in to avoid detection from all the dozens of little eyes always on the alert.
Having established the track, the action then ‘follows’ the bird from strike launch until four seconds later when a dramatic ‘puff’ of feathers over the birdfeeder is supposed to indicate a strike.  It is interesting to see the path the bird takes, its twists and turns to keep hidden for as long as possible   There are quite a lot of slo-mo sequences of it flying under, through and skimming over a bush here, turning on a tree there and the through the railing in a gate.
A great story.

I’d have loved it to be a bit more referenced as it is a great example of what I believe about Brown Falcon.  I love to see Browns running wing height over the ground, through the bracken, and bushes, to arrive at its target. Or the considered attack on a Tiger snake. It is all mapped and planned.

Rumage, rumage rumage.

Here are a few more from the Red Wattlebird attack on Bronson as he delivers another few sticks to bolster the well hidden nest.

 

 

 

 

And not looking to happy about surveying the damage to his rump.

One more from under the receipts, and those old drink coasters, who knew we still had them.

Wanted to finish on a positive note with a big SHOUT OUT, to all the Heroes doing Heroic work on our behalves during this most stressful of times.

Had to get some blood tests the other day.  The nurse doing the work is taking a break after a 6 week shift at the Showgrounds taking Covid 19 tests.  7:30am to 11pm has been her workload for most of that time. Goodonya!

To all those who have one way or another provided support, helped with logistics, cleaned everything—I see you at my Woollies—and all the other amazing Heroic things that are being carried out, often in the background.

Our local Shik community who are working to provide meals and support for so many isolated. ‘Onya!’

Meanwhile the fearnews concentrates one more more ratbag element, when there are so many great stories, even in their simplicity being written by people who have dedicated themselves in so many ways.

And of course to all those whose one simple act of getting tested, and then isolating for the appropriate amount of time.  Thank you.  I dedicate this blog to your act of selflessness.

The list is long, and includes those who turn up at sites to provide some cheer, food, flowers, to all those front line workers, what a great way to say, “Thanks”.

May healing come rapidly on wings of peace.

 

 

 

 

 

Little Visits: The Power of Wings

Somethings happen so fast that it defeats the human eye to follow.  Sometimes a short sequence of photos can reveal not only fine details of an event but also an understanding of the forces at work.

Such, is the case of a pair of Black-shouldered Kites at work on their current nesting duties.
Our blog friend David Nice gave me the headsup that the Kites were back at work on the Sneydes Road area. Time for a looksee.

And indeed they were. The nest is quite a new site for the pair, and built in such a position that its a little hard to fly in nesting sticks directly, and the male has been ‘drifting’ them in at an angle to get the larger longer sticks in just the right position.

I normally don’t shoot multi-burst, but, well you know how it is, the first pair of kites we’ve worked with in quite awhile. So I was happy to begin to fillup the memory card.

Where the magic happened however was when I began to curate the images and found the various changes in wing angle and feather application that he was using to ‘drift’ into the right position.
So the series here are simply to show how he has used wing angle and wing lift to get the right momentum, direction and control. With one wing carrying the movement while the other wing lets air cascade away to ‘fall’ in that direction.
Hope you find in interesting.

 

His second problem is that the locals are not too impressed to have the new home renovators at work in their area, and each trip in and out was a to run the gauntlet of ravens, Red-wattle birds and magpies.  A bit costly on feather contacts on a number of occasions.

 

 

Return to the Office

As the first Australian Lockdown came to an end back in March 2020, Scomo, our Prime Minister announced that it was “Time for Australia to come out from under the Doona and get back to the office”. Fine sentiment.

For readers not familiar with Scomo, it is a contraction of the Prime Minister’s name. Scott Morrison.
It came to public attention first on August 2, 2018, when during a press conference, Mr Morrison was asked about his leadership aspirations, as there was a lot of unease about Malcom Turnbull’s leadership.
He reached out and hugged Mr Turnbull and said, “This is my leader, I’m ambitious for him”

To which the (doomed) Malcom Turnbull responded, “Thanks, Scomo.”

The irony of the comment really only became obvious about 3 weeks later, when Malcom Turnbull was ousted, and Scomo became Prime Minister. (Skipping over some of the heavy duty political drama in there!)

So with the recent lifting of restrictions on the Victorian Lockdown to a 10km travel radius, I decided to take Scomo’s advice and “Return to the Office.

Mostly I wanted to see if the Flame Robins were still in the area. But as it turns out, they have become very conspicuous by their absence.
I did find a lone Black-shouldered Kite who was happy to share a photo of its hunting prowess.

Then I heard the intense call of Magpies announcing a raptor approaching. Looking far across the paddock a small dot with large wings was headed my way. To be honest, at first I thought it was a local Black Kite and was nearly going to dismiss it, but the intensity of the maggies attack made me look again.

Wedge-tailed Eagle

Trying desperately to get enough speed to gain some height and escape being harassed. However maggies are trained for this and they were making sure that the Eagle had to stay down just over the paddock.
It kept coming and then the Eagle and its attendant pesky magpies flew pretty much over where I was standing.

Thanks Scomo.
Hope I don’t get deposed 🙂

Photographic Essay: I Thought Everyone Loved Me!

This is a story from earlier in the year.

The young Black-shouldered Kites had only recently fledged and were still in the process of learning how to use the muscle control of the wings, how the wind varies. and that it might be possible eventually to fly in something more than a straight line, and land by simply crashing into things.

As it turned out this youngster got to the air, but with a strong wind blowing it managed to drift away from the shelter of the nesting area and about 200metres out eventually land in the leaves of a tall gum tree.

What it didn’t know, and was soon to find out, was that a pair of Red Wattlebirds also had a nest in the tree and some fine youngsters coming on. And at that stage they had a zero tolerance policy for any bird, stray or otherwise from resting near their young.

After several swoops the little Kite realised an important lesson in life. Not everybody loves a cute little ginger and white Kite.

Under attack it took to the air, but it didn’t have the aerial skills of the Honeyeaters that mercilessly chased it from the area.  Taking out a beakful or two of back feathers in the process.

A week later it would have been a different encounter, but the Honeyeaters pressed their attack with avengeance.

Here tis.

Photographic Essay: Dad’s Rules, or Dad Rules

The poor old male Black-shouldered Kite, in the this case, Bronson, has to put up with a lot as his young aeronauts learn the ways of Black-shouldered Kite.

He gets yelled at for more food, buffeted and bounced about the sky by his inept, but over-enthusiastic young and pushed from his perch if they decide to land near him, and do it rather inelegantly.

Yet, for the most part he seems to take it all with good grace, and just gets on with the job. Perhaps he sees it as part of the drama of doing business with the young birds.

However, there are several rules that he seems to have, and enforces.

One of the rules is that there should be no in-fighting among the young ones. Each will get a turn at food, or his attention.
Another relates to landing rights, and if one of the young should knock its sibling from the perch while landing then consequences are inevitable and he’ll step in.
Another rule seems to be if he is busy preparing for a hunt, then he will not be interrupted by one of the young landing nearby and calling at him.

His major, and most enforceable rule seems to be if the young ones in their enthusiasm and lack of skill decide to take to the air to defend against passing Kestrels, Falcons and Black Kites.
He will then herd the young one back out of the way, giving it a bit of  a clip for its troubles.
Then of course he has to go and defend against the now aggrieved foe.

His major method appears to be a clip on the back with his claws.  Because he can still outfly them, well at least at the beginning, it seems to be quite a successful method.

Here are a few instances

Never knock Dad off his perch. In this case the young one had managed to get a grip of one of his legs instead of the branch, and couldn’t let go.

As the young one tried to find a new perch, Bronson came it an gave it a clip on the back

Bronson pursuing the young one back to the nesting area.

Suitably chastised the young one headed for a rest at the nesting site


Bronson had landed hoping to have a top-up meal. In a sneak attack the young one managed to get a grip of the mouse and pulled him from the tower.

C’mon Dad, time for a feed. This is the eldest of the two females, and she obviously inherited her mother’s bossy gene.
She had given him either a peck or a push to move him on.


This young one had decided to land on the same top branch as its sibling. Not enough room for two, and the first one had to yield.

Within a few seconds Bronson had arrived and a quick clip on the back, you can see a feather flying, and the young one was forced off the branch

An angry Dad with the wings down.


Foolishly this young one decided to defend against a grown Nankeen Kestrel. The much more agile Kestrel was prepared to take the attack to the young one. Dad would have to set in.

Dad’s Rules

Now he has to hunt the young one away from the Kestrel.

And a good clip on the back will be its punishment. He then had see off the angry Kestrel.

Photographic Essay: Feeding your Black-shouldered Kite

Firstly I was sent this link by a friend, and I thought it struck a similar chord to some of my recent meanderings on visualisation.  It also has some useful in-the-field bird photography advice.  Funny how it’s taken a lockdown for people to realise that ‘awareness’ is not some app on a phone.
Tiny Wonders by Jessica Martin ABC News

She talks about developing a “Sense of Awe”

Quick quote,
“In many ways, then, these tiny, simple things we’ve been savouring lately — a flower, a bird’s pitch-perfect trill, how the sun hits the wet grass after a night of heavy rain — are the big things.

There are silver linings in all this.”

Hope you find it encouraging.


Back to the Kites.
I’m just now getting to working through the images of a couple of months back to consolidate them into working groups of similar actions or events.

The young had been on the wing for a couple of weeks and had developed their in-flight feeding skills.  Poor old Bronson, had more work than a one-armed paperhanger keeping up with their voracious hunger.  The female, Belle, seems to play no part in their early training or feeding once they are on the wing.

From The Global Headquarters of the Doona Hermit

Remain

Look out Dad, here I come

Timing is right, speed is right, direction is right, eyes on the target.
Release the Claws!

Nailed it

Dad won’t let go until he’s certain the young one has a proper grip.

This one missed the speed, angle and accuracy tests. Need to go around again.

To help, Dad readjusted his grip.

More speed, but this time an overshoot.

Take Three, timing looks better here

Whoa! where did the mouse go.

Where’s my mouse!!
Hard to keep them filled up and quiet.

Little Visits from the Couch: A Morning with the Young Kites

I really feel I’ve been remiss working on the blog of late.  I guess if anything it has pointed out to me the very nature of the “now” of the running a blog.

Birds as Poetry has always been for me about our interactions, or visits with a limited range of birds.
So no visits, well, not postings.

Still, as I wander back through the most recent trips we took in mid June, there are certainly moments that need to be shared.

So expect to see a few Photographic Essay of our days with the young kites.   It either shows how dedicated to a clutch of birds, or how narrow our travel and bird experiences were during that period.  Be kind, we weren’t able to travel very far.

The evil thing is cutting such a swathe of agony for so many people.  I fully expect we will be limited in movement for quite a long time to come.
So enjoy the little interludes as I sweep out the library files, (figuratively of course)

Not often we saw all three on the same branch

After so many weeks with them, they were now very comfortable with our presence, and simply carried on around us

This picket was the only landing spot near me, and the young one came in quite deliberately to land. I’d like to think it wanted a closer look at my camera.

The clever one foot landing

They had spent more of their lives all together in the small nest, and still were happy to share the smallest branch area. One just about losing balance to make room for the interloper

It’s mine, no, mine, no mine.

One mouse, two hungry mouths, and not the ones Dad was interested in feeding. He would let them get close, but then turn away. He delivered it to the third one.

Still getting the hang of taking from Dad’s claw. This one has overshot the mouse and crashed into Dad’s tummy