Snapshots: Think Local

I know, the think global, act local is all the rage in some politically correct circles.

We have been thinking locally the past week or so. Partly because of the weather— finally getting the rain we desperately need. And also strong winds, which we could do without. 85kph gusts the other day. Seriously, if you can’t stand up in it why go out.

EE and I have had need to visit the local medical area at Werribee Hospital precinct. As it turns out, my Flickr mate David Nice, has several good areas mapped out in the area.  With Kestrels, Brown Falcon, and Little Eagles, and ‘alleged’ Black-shouldered Kites.;-)

So after the serious stuff, and the coffee in the cafe area, to recover, we’ve been sitting in the car along a couple of the roads by the local paddocks to see what is happening. Now tis true we don’t have the bird Karma of David N. but I do have EE, and that is about the best advantage I can offer.

Oh, she cries, Black-shouldered Kites,  I scan. Nothing. I scan more. Still nothing, I point the Bushnells across the sky. Nothing.
Ok, saith I, Where?
Over there, beyond those trees. What she actually means is in the next suburb! Bushnells finally lock on. Yep, those two insignificant dots, could be Black-shouldered Kites. I retire defeated.

“On the left”, the cry goes up.  Turning in my best Tai Chi move, I make a brush knee move to the left, and sure enough, as I swing up the camera, there is David’s friend, ” Georgia” the Kestrel, lining up for a hunt.  So we spent the next few minutes in the area, and saw her making a number of catches, crickets or the like, I suspect.
She then lucked out with a mouse, then another, which she stashed near a rock, and as we were geting ready to move, she flashed by with a third one, to land on the buildings in the medical precinct.  Not sure where she went with it after that.

We then moved further south, and found a male Kestrel hunting in the paddocks near the Uni.  At one point he was about three metres above the median strip on the roadway, with cars ripping past on both sides.  My heart was in my mouth. No luck, so he too moved on.

Found Arthur the Brown Falcon at work in the fields again. Every time he got airborne, the local Magpie squadron took him out, so he was contented to hunt mostly among the tall grasses and roadside.

And just as the light was going to be captured by thick dark clouds, a Little Eagle drifted overhead, and it too moved further over the freeway.
So.

Think local does have benefits.

Locked on
Lift off.
What are you doing in MY paddock. Inquisitive Willie Wagtail just has to know.
Male, levelling into position
Little Eagle
Little Eagle on a close pass
Nankeen Kestrel, (M), hunting on a roadside verge. He is only a few metres from traffic both ways.
Arthur the Brown Flacon. He had been sitting on the fenceline for about 10minutes. Then just dropped the couple of metres.
Hard to know what he caught, but after a few minutes contemplation, he moved on.
Georgia with a mouse. She will prepare it, then take it across the paddock and tuck it away under some stubble for later on.
Her lunch is tucked away for later.

Georgia with a second mouse. She will fly to the buildings on the far side of the road.
Georgia with the second mouse. I’m unsure what she was going to do with this one, but she disappeared behind the buldings. And we headed for home.

Eynesbury Gems: Take #3

Been pondering anew, my approach to Bird Photography, again.  Yes dear reader, tis that time of year again for tinsel, things red and white, muzak that dumbs the mind at the shopping centre and of course my annual “where is my photography going to bend in 2019”. But

Fear not, this is not that blog.
Great gasps of relaxation and sighs of relief heard across the ‘blogosphere’.

 

I really wanted to get the remainder of the shots from our Eynesbury excursions, (incursions?) out.

So rather than belabour, here is the best of the rest sort of feature.
There is still one more chapter to put up, but I’m going to do that as a Snapshots type blog as it concerns our favourite Jackys and their now well fledged young.  Might even get that done the next few days.

Here tis.

After about 20 attempts this is as good as it got. A Tree Martin flying in with food for the young. I think that Tree Martins have multiple families at nest inside the hollows.

 

A very young Black Kite. We sat with the young bird for several hours over three days, but didnot see the adults come to the nest.
However there was a constant overflying as they kept check on the young one for above.

 

Another from the Black Kite at Play series

 

Another from the Black Kite at Play series. It is coming out of a turn and heading into the wind using all the speed it gained on the run with the wind

 

Black-faced Cuckooshrike

 

Overenthusiastic young one just about unperches the adult. I love the look on the adutls face.

 

This looks like family fun, however food is involved and when the adult arrived to feed the lower bird, the upper one flew in. Then to get in a better position to be fed, it ‘stepped’ over its rival.
The adult sovled the problem by flying off the end of the branch, circling and landing nearer the lower bird. It’s not always the loudest and largest beak that gets filled.

 

Little Eagle. Eynesbury has a resident pair of Little Eagle. I suspect, from the calls, that there is a nest located on the western side of the forest, but have to say I’ve been out of luck locating it.

 

And of course Jacky Winter

Watching Jacky feed is quite interesting. The young don’t cry out for food. Most times they don’t even respond to Mum or Dad arriving. Then there must be a quiet call, and they quickly pop up, the food is delivered and they both settle straight down. It’s also not unusual for the adult to spend a few minutes alongside the nest making sure all is well before flying off.

 

Eynesbury Gems—Episode #1

Eynesbury township just a few minutes from Melton, was established around a golf-club. Part of the deal concerns a stand of Grey Box Forest, that is in close to original condition, or perhaps, well established with old trees and understory, might be a better description.
It was used until the mid 1950s as a pastoral area, and the forest was used to run the shorn sheep from the shearing sheds in the area.

Many long term readers will know that its been noted that I have Grey Box sap running in my veins and a visit to the Eynesbury Forest is enough to rejuvenate the lowest of my spirits.

The local Eynesbury Conservation Group, you can look them up on Facebook, conduct a walk on a Sunday morning every two months. Usually led by the award-winning Chris Lunardi, a local identity; EE and I make it a point to turn up if at all possible.

Much to see in a day, so we cheated, and went back for a second look the following day.

Here are some of the Gems of the Forest.1811-28_DWJ_6412.jpg
Little Eagle, one of a pair. And try as I might I’ve not been able to locate their current nest site.

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Peregrine Falcon, a new bird for me at Eynesbury, this one is working on short wings with quick flutters. Target— Tree Martins that are nesting in the forest. We found at least one carcass to confirm its skills.

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A fledged Jacky Winter. Not from our usual pair, but one of two young birds on the wing. Well done Jacky

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A trip through the Greybox will always be accompanied by the trills from the many Brown Treecreepers in the area. A threatened species, so its good to see them so active in the forest
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At the lake, an Australasian Grebe was nurturing at least one new addition to the family

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Big, bold, noisy and hungry. Sulphur-crested Cockatoos are working in the wattles that have seeded

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“Our’ Jacky Winter young. The nest is near falling apart, and the young still have a few days to go to fledge. Jacky made it quite clear today, that we were not welcome. So we moved on quickly

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Normally at this time of the year the forest would be ringing with the calls of hundreds of Dusky Woodswallows. Again, it is feared they are in decline, and this is the first season we’ve seen so few. But those that have come down, have wasted no time in getting off their first batch. This pair are feeding two young

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Two Black Kites were in the air having the best time on the strong winds. it really deserves a blog page of its own to describe and show the antics of this couple of birds, but two should do eh?

And finally two of the Tawny Frogmouth from the Children’s Playground park. Other photographers, you know who you are Lyndell, seem to be able to get them on days when they are low down, in the open and all together. They seem to be quite happy to sit in the trees while kids play about on the swings and climbing things just metres below.

Another episode to come I think.

 

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

Setting the Scene: A Day at the Office

Blogging 201 assignment for this week is Setting the Scene.
As it turns out, I was gearing up to reflect on a day at the Office yesterday.
The weather turned Kind.  Really Kind.  The kind of Kind, where the cameras practically pack themselves out of the cupboard and into the car, and sit there going, “Well…..” “Well…. are you ready to leave yet.”

We left early, and decided to take the longer walk down to the river behind the golf course. This is really old river flat, and the river makes a distinct “U” for several hundred metres and then a fine “S” movement that provides for some great old river flat dissected by the flow of the water. Water bird can abound, and there is still some good grass and tree cover to make life entertaining for the smaller bush birds.

Its a long way for EE to walk, but stoically she lead on.

The Office for the uninitiated is an area along the Werribee River a few kilometres from the mouth at Werribee South. It cuts through the rich river soil and in places the cliffs are 30-40 metres high.   The big birds – think raptors- enjoy the wind currents coming up the ramparts and I do believe a good case could be made that there are certain areas where its better, and a sort of ‘flyway’ or navigational line is drawn.  They seem to favour coming and going along those locations.

You just know its going to be a good day when as you drive in a Black-shouldered Kite is hunting close to the carpark, and just inside the walking track, Bernie the Brown Falcon is loafing in a favourite tree.

Next up a Little Eagle made several passes along one of the ‘flyway’ paths.  The Ibis, both White and Straw-necked use the same paths on the way to the feeding grounds along the river.

We sat with a family of Superb Fairy-wrens, and I will tell more of that tale on another blog, and were entertained by the feeding antics of a few Crested Terns. (another blog post methinks)

It was pretty awe-inspiring to be sitting by the river, dangling my feet over the river bank and sipping Earl of Grey, and enoying the time time in the sunshine with such a group of bids. And all less than 10 minutes from home.  A most amazing place.

Easy day, easy photography, easy birds, and Just Another Day at the Office really.

How’s that for setting the scene!

Enjoy.

Black-shouldered Kite.
Black-shouldered Kite.

Berne the Brown Falcon
Bernie the Brown Falcon

A view along the sandy cliff face. The area we are heading is down toward the right hand side.
A view along the sandy cliff face. The area we are heading is down toward the left hand side.

Superb Fairywren. This is a helper bird. A male not yet left home.
Superb Fairy-wren. This is a helper bird. A male not yet left home.

Great Egret
Great Egret

Little Eagle
Little Eagle

White Ibis
White Ibis

Crested Tern against the cliff face.
Crested Tern against the cliff face.

Crested Tern, juvenile, on a wing sretch, while waiting for Mum to deliver food
Crested Tern, juvenile, on a wing sretch, while waiting for Mum to deliver food

Just a little bit of drama

The sun was shining and the clouds, ominous in shape and colour were moving slowly enough for me to conclude that I’d get an hour or so of sunshine.  Interested in the Flame Robins at the Office so down I went.

As it turned out the clouds and the rain moved faster than the traffic along the way, but even so, I managed a few minutes in the sun. No Robins.

Just as I was turning for home, out of no where two Little Eagles decided to song and dance across the sky.

I’ve probably said it before but the Office offers one great advantage when the birds are up.  On the top of the ridge that overlooks the old river plain, its possible to get eyeball to eyeball, and in this case it was pretty much so. The two battled it out pretty much at viewing height.

Now, I’m not sure if I’m looking at two birds in dispute over a territory arrangement, or a pair with bonding in mind.  The amount of wing turn, claw defence and the like, along with the plaintive ”pee, pee” whistle of the birds didn’t help either. In the end I just enjoyed.
Hope you do too.

The tale of the hapless Little Eagle

Sometimes you can always tell when a raptor is in the air. The birds go quiet, or there is a series of warning calls ring across the forest.   Or, the local magpies and ravens go into high gear agitation and  speed across the sky in pursuit of nemesis.

The latter was the case the other morning.  A local Little Eagle had been out and had collected itself a pretty fair meal, and was carrying it home tucked in its crop.  See the flickr shot here.

A little while later, the ravens and magpies were on high call and in hot pursuit.  The day was very windy, and it favoured the highly manoeuvrable and speedy ravens, so the poor Little Eagle copped a right pounding.  The wind gave the ravens a great climbing speed and they were able to outclass the raptor.  It on the other hand couldn’t get advantage as it had to keep losing height and changing direction.  It’s plaintive ‘peep’ call is pretty pathetic.

For some reason, Little Eagles seem to cop it from everyone.  Its diet rarely would include taking birds but it seems to get the rap from all the birds.  Such is the way of life on the wing.

Also hard to get them all in frame when you’ve only got the big lens handy and the wind is blowing a gale and wrenching it out of cold old hands.

Little Eagle aerial performance

This morning while we were out looking for the elusive, but very vocal Scarlet Robin, we were entertained by a pair of Little Eagles in the air.  It would be nice to think that they were at play, but it seemed a very dangerous game they were engrossed in.

The pair are a light morph and a dark morph.  Each seemed to be about as aggressive. It just depended on who got the height.  There was lots of crossing one another’s paths, plenty of frontal attacks and several passes with long claws extended. This shot is about half way through the confrontation and shows the darker bird on its back talons extending up.

It might be courtship, or the two young at play, or perhaps a younger bird being chased away.   In the end the lighter one took a thermal to a height and then speared away to the south.  The darker bird circled a little longer, and then we lost it among the trees.  However it did show up at the carpark  later, but on its own.

Much to learn.

Two Little Eagles that are hard at work vying for best position for attack.

Young Little Eagles in a fair breeze

Over the past few months it has become one of my challenges to find where a pair of Little Eagles had nested this season.  I had a rough idea, but heavy chain fences and hard to get to locations had pretty well extinguished any chances of finding the location.  Over the past few weeks things have changed a bit as the young are now on the wing.

Lots of activity in the air today, and we spotted 4 birds.  One was definitely an older bird with lighter colouring and a tail that looked in need of a few feathers.  One other bird was a bit more elusive and could well have been a young bird or perhaps the other of the parent pair.

Two of them were young birds, lovely rich cinnamon and ginger colours.  They are masters of the air already and in a good breeze, they manoeuvred over our location in fine style.  The camera says that the closest I recorded was 35 metres, like it just passed overhead.  One made a pass over some small dense scrub at the end of a dam, and went down to just over the scrub height.  All hell broke loose as the various inhabitants including ducks, grebes, cormorants and a few assorted cuckoos, wagtails and the like took off in all directions with honks, squawks and chatter. It took a trip around the dam to gain height and had a second go, fluttering down like a leaf swaying from one side to the other just loosing height, but this time the wagtail contingent were ready and it got a right royal chattering and dive bombing from the squadron.

A couple of other shots are in the Little Eagle page here.

A very brown Little Eagle in flight over dam

Little Eagle loosing height by falling as a leaf from side to side, legs are down for control.