Along The Track: Duck Season

Warning: This blog contains details and images that may cause distress to some readers.
I see that just about every night on the tv news, and I’m not sure what you are expected to do. Change channels, turn tv off. Close your eyes?

When I was a little kid, I remember a Loony Tunes cartoon of Elmer Fudd, the duckhunter, and Daffy Duck eluding him. The hapless Elemer never seemed to be able to take home a duck dinner.
Currently our Victorian Government seem to be in the same sort of dilemna about banning Duck Season 2023.

In the meantime, down at the the Western Treatment Plant, a White-bellied Sea Eagle is not the least preturbed by a possible closure of duck season.

Thanks to the headsup of its likely presence by my Flickrmate Don, and a couple of other birdos, we were planning to make a trip to WTP to see what, well, what we could see.

The family were coming for Australia Day, so we were planning to go the following day, but, best laid plans as Robbie Burns would write, and family decided that to come the day after Aussie-Day-Maaate.
How Un-Australian is that! I wonder if they disappeared as happens in the Sam Keckovic Lamb tv ad.

So rearranging our schedule we headed for the Treatment Plant. I’m not a great fan of going there on public holidays and weekends. Once the plant was visited by keen birders who took time to see and id as many birds as possible, and it was very laid back and tranquil.

These days it seems to be photographers who hurry from one end of the plant to the other to get just that one shot. Sometimes its seems to resemble a badly run motorcrosse event. And I’ve photographed a goodly number of motorcrosse events, and participated in a few historic rally runs so have a vague idea about proceedings.

So weekends are not my fav time in the plant.

Rant over, back to Sea Eagles. Well, one in particular.

The smart money seemed to suggest it would be on Lake Borrie, that’s where it was the day before. Every heard that advice. “Oh, yes, I saw it just there, yesterday.”

We parked conveniently about mid-way along the road and started to scan. Nothing in close. Of course not, did you really expect it?

Then EE made a gesture, way out in the middle of the lake. A white spec, that could have been a refigerator as far as normal eye sight would know. Through the binos, it was indeed a White-bellied Sea Eagle, perched high on a tree with great views of the menu (eer. ducks) all around.

It sat. We despaired at getting a sharp image at that distance and with the sun rising, heat-haze began to make it presence felt.
Then the bird jumped, went to the deck and moved about 300m up the lake. Just about every duck in that direction took to the air and flew the opposite way. Better to fly first and ask where later on.
Still too far out, but, just that little bit closer. Another long sit, and as soon as I turned away, it dropped down on to a log at water level.
Missed that.
Another long wait. But the bird kept turning its head to the left, and it had obviously locked on to something. More waiting.

Then, unfurling the wings it took off, quite leisurely it seemed, almost stealth mode.
And while I didn’t really see it though the viewfinder, somewhere out there a Chestnut Teal had nodded off to sleep.
Bad career move.
There was no second chance. The eagle swiftly despatched the duck, and sat on the waterline with it for a good 15 minutes, then scooping up its prize flew down the lake to a suitable dining table.

Event Log

When a Sea Eagle flys East, the wise among the ducks fly West
Swinging In to land
Locked for landing
Viewing the Menu from the best position in town
After a very long wait, it dropped down on to a waterline log for a drink
It kept looking to the left, obviously some opportunity had presented itself
Like all raptors there is no wasted energy, the time to move has to be just right.
Strike
Time to recover
Now to relocate to a more suitable dining table
A handy perch
cenare all’aria aperta

Little Visits: A Morning in the Western Treatment Plant

Due to an odd arrangement of circumstances, that would take several blog pages to cover and even more to wend the pieces together, we had decided on a trip to the Western Treatment Plant. (WTP)
What, of couse, was not in the “How to do it” manual was control of the weather.

Grandson “+D4” was staying over and t’was the only day avaible. For those interested “+D4” comes as an ‘Addition’ to the “3D’s” fabled for their “Dawdling” while on car-convoy on such trips to the WTP.

We picked up the usual Coffee-to-Go from our local and hit the highway. (Mr An Onymous, has a theory that in future times, sociologists and archeologists will conclude that ‘hit the road’ had some quasi-spiritualistic meaning and that the poor deluded ancients would go out and hit the road with their hand expecting some mystical experience—but— I digress)

The overcast, rain and high winds did not digress. Nor did they ease off. I may have mentioned before, that I can deal with the poor light and the rain at the WTP, but not the wind. It just makes getting out of IamGrey and standing in the open a truly harrowing experience and one that even the best of birds seems avoid at all costs. For those that might venture there, the track in the “Special Section” that was out along the beach area and barely passable with 2WD is now eroded to the point of being 4WD only.

So we had a fairly quiet trip about the plant. Good news is the roads are in very good condition and the closure has allowed several areas to be graded and topped and the drive experience improved no end.

We had hoped that White-winged Black Terns might have returned by now, but if so we didn’t get a sighting. The weather changes seem to have altered the plans of many returning migrants so far this season.

So as the blog is more now about the photos of the day, and less about the babble, here tis.
Enjoy

This is part of the coastal road at the Plant. Normally it is accessible by 2WD, but now 4WD and low tide are the recommendation. Erosion is quite evident. We retreated.
A small selection of Pied Oystercatchers hunkering down on a sandspit out of the wind.
This beautiful Goose has been on its own for at least 12 months, but has remained faithful to the area. I’m sure it doesn’t recognise me, but each time we go past its territory, I stop and we exchange a few head-bobs and it goes back to feeding.

I’m pretty certain it has lost its mate, the pair used to be quite the regulars in the area and nested over several seasons. For its own reasons it hasn’t ventured away to find a new mate.
Female White-fronted Chat. They seem to take extraordinary care about returning to the nest with food, and will spend many minutes checking everything out before deposting the food.
One of a pair of Brolga that were working in the T-Section
He is returning to see how things are going with his nesting mate. I’m sure that is a Swan smile
I saw the nest from the other side of the pond and we drove round for a clearer view. This clever lass was taking no chances and had built her nest in the very middle of quite a deep pond and it seems to have paid off with a lovely set of matching cygnets.
By early afternoon, the wind, the cold and the rain has gotten the best of the best of us, and we made one forlorn loop around the Western Lagoon area. Surprisingly we spotted a pair of Brolga with two quite large well developed juveniles in tow. Well worth the extra few minutes and the tired and exhausted among us were quick to respond to the opportunity. The birds seemed quite relaxed and in no hurry to go anywhere, but big long legs quickly carried them across the ponds.
Quite well developed. I’m not sure if they are fledged, but that normally takes around 3-4 months. Which just shows how silly Uncle Google can be, as I’ve seen figures of 2-3 weeks, which are impossible. They stay with the parents for nearly 12 months until the next breeding cycle.
Here is an intersting factsheet on Brolga on Farms.
For bonus points we called in to see the Hobbys on the way home. This one is now just about a ‘brancher’ and no doubt days from flight. The nest is festooned in discared down.
All tucked up secure. Three little Wagtails about a week old.

Little Visits: Busi-ness

We had a few minutes to spare on the return home past the Western Treatment Plant and decided to look in on the “T Section” area. Not many birds in there at present, except for colonies of nesting swans.

We found this pair in the business of Busy-ness

First step in the process is house building

The male is ready to contribute

Time for a little romance

This involves much swimiming in a circle and heads and necks over bodies

It seems that blowing bubbles was the start of something big.

The main event

She reared up so fast and I was unable to get back further so clipped the top of her beak

Job Done. Back to building. Repeat.

Little Visits: The Flight of the Brolga

I was going solo at the Western Treatment Plant.  #kneetoo was tucked up in her wide view bird-hide at the hospital, and as the sun was shining in a clear blue sky, I thought a quick trip to check to see if any Flame Robins could be making the most of the weather and the paddocks at the Plant.

However after a bit of fruitless searching it was obviously not going to be my day for robins.

A final quick trip around the “T Section” area just in case a Brown Falcon or two might be present and then home was my plan.

As I unlocked the entry gate to the area, I heard the long rasping call away off in the distance of Brolga. A scan around the horizon and it was not likely I’d spot any as the calls had been a long way off, and had now stopped.

I prepared to shut the gate and another birdo was approaching to go out, so I held the gate open and said I’d lock it as they left.  Then, just as I swung the gate across the road, that rasping cry filled the air, and this time I’d id’d the location. Sure enough in the air were three Brolga. Then as the shapes grew more distinct, it was likely that they were not only coming in my direction, but would perhaps make a pretty close pass by.

Locking the gate, I grabbed the camera and hoped that the pass would be on the sunny side of iAmGrey.

The more I watched, the more I became aware they would be using the roadway behind me as sort of navigation aid, and would pass right over the top of me.

And they did.

They disappeared behind one of the bunds, and I wondered where they had ended up.

Satisfied with  the fly by, I went on to look along the roadways. Time for a cuppa, so I pulled up at one of the cross tracks and pulled out the doings.

Then the croaking call rattled over the ponds and I looked a bit further along the track and the pair were in head stretch calling mode, and engaging in a little pair bonding.  Cuppa forgotten, I moved along the track for a better looksee.

They settled down to some preening and feeding and the juvenile with them was feeding in one of the shallow ponds.

I went back for my Cuppa and sat and watched until they moved off the pondage and up on to the track, and moved further along to continue their morning routine.

Satisfied, I packed up and headed off for a visit with the patient.

Enjoy


 

Studio Werkz: A Step back in Time

For those new readers, Studio Werkz, was the proposed name of a ‘Studio Alliance”, by a group of photographers ever-so-long ago. I’ve blogged here about the formation and dissolution, (all in 24hours), so won’t belabour here.

However everytime I get the chance to make a portrait of a bird, I find myself pondering why studio offers so many opportunities to bring out the character of the subject.

It is about lighting, it is about backdrop and it is about the magic moment when the subject no longer is “having a portrait taken”, but allows an insight into their life. A sparkle in the eye, a wry grin, leaning forward, turning the body everso slightly, and there is the magic moment.

It’s like as one of my early mentors would say, “Like eavesdropping on a special moment. Developing a real sensitivity for a feeling that says so much. The lens, the camera, the lighting all are forgotten, it is the reaction that speaks visually.”

On my very first ever trip to the Western Treatment Plant many years back, I’d been travelling about the Plant with a very experienced birdo who graciously gave me a wonderful introduction to the area—so much so that I registered for access the following morning.

However, I hadn’t managed to achieve any significant pictures during our day, as we had little time to work with the birds.

After I picked up my car and was driving along 29 Mile Road on the way home, I spied this Brown Falcon sitting on the post in the late evening sunshine. Hesitantly I parked, and eased out of the vehicle, 500mm lens and beanbag.
Would Brown stay?

Now the falcons in the area are pretty used to vehicles speeding past, or even stopping, and have at least a passing tolerance for the human condition. Although what they really think of us is debatable.  Three things they they do give credit for, are lovely well spaced perching spaces, mice and rabbits.

Brown held.

And so I began to move about to get the best light, angle, and backdrop.  And for a brief moment it took me all in.
That was the going home shot.

Not more than a minute later, a vehicle approached and Brown felt the pressure and sniffing a light breeze turned and was gone.

Enjoy

Remain

Davyyd.

One of my most published bird photos

Little Journeys: Weather Bound

After our aborted visit late last week, and with the prospect of finding Glossy Ibis in the sunshine, we eagerly waited for a break in the weather, and of course time out of our hectic social calendars (Well EE’s anyway).
Such an opportunity does not come up that often it seems so Iam Grey sat languishing in the garage as both the calendar and weather phenomena swept over our heads.

EE agreed to cancel a day with the girls, and so it was deemed that we’d make a run early on Tuesday morning. Of course the weather prognosticators and their cleverly arranged little tv charts said, “Oh no, not another disastrous weather pattern, watch out for a bloke with a big boat and lots of gathering animals”, but none the less, given that was the time slot.
We went.

Didn’t see the animals two by two, but have to confess the rain made up for any loss there.

In the end I sat in the car, window down, rain falling down and watched Whiskered Terns hunting along the edge of the bunds among the grasses and the escapee canola. (ahhh yes the product that was promised not to get out of control)

The waves in the photo are not tidal, these are former sewerage ponds and the wind has stirred up the water into large running waves.

So with out further… here tis.

 

White-winged Terns: Welcome Visitors

I have, it must be said, been hanging off making this post. I was hoping, somewhat against hope, the I’d get another day down at the WTP with these delightful birds, but sad to say, the season has changed, the birds are on the move, and the fickle weather has finally arrived with some decent rain for the hard stressed environment.

White-winged Terns, (used to be called White-winged Black Tern for obvious reasons), pay a visit to the south over the mid-of-summer through most of autumn. They feed  up on the rich supply of insects along the bunds and over the waters at the treatment plant. I suspect we see somewhere between 50-100 of them over the period.

The breeding birds also begin to colour up readying for their trip north.  They are not huge migrants, like say Red-necked Stints, but still their journey north will take them into South-East Asia, and as far as China and India. Hard to find definitive data. There is also a branch of the family that breeds as far up as northern Europe. I think they spend the summer around the Mediterranean.

We all, I suppose, have birds that intrigue us to one extent or another, and White-winged Terns are one of those birds for me.  I think mostly because of their consistent habit, and their lovely changeable plumage. Most seasons they seem to work in just a few ponds at the WTP, it changes a bit with the food source, but most times if they are locatable, and not on far-off ponds that have no access, they present a wonderful show of hunting close into the edges of the ponds and over the grass verges.  Making it easy to get closeups, if and I did say, if, I can keep them in the viewfinder.  Like all terns the flight path is not erratic, but certainly not predictable.

We have had several sessions with the birds, and rather than try and explain it all, the following shots should speak volumes for the beauty and delicate nature of these birds.
Hopefully it might also show just a little bit of my interest and enjoyment of their visit and how much I appreciate such a challenging subject.

Enjoy.

Part of a larger flock on the move. It shows the various moultings from almost white juveniles to near black-bodied adults.

Food off the water, or…

… In the air

They also are called, “Ear muff terns” by some folk because of the little black markings behind the eye

Easy to image how impressive they will be in full breeding moult

Till next year, travel well little birds, your visit was most appreciated.

Moments: Brown Falcon—My Kitchen Rules, Tiger Snake, a la carte

YaJustHaddabeThere.

If you feel history is repeating itself, well done. It is.

Brown Falcon are very active at the Treatment Plant at the moment, as it seems are snakes in the close of the warm weather.
This bird didn’t fool me.  I knew it had intentions.  That it only moved one or two fence posts at a time was the first clue. When a vehicle drove down the road past EE and I, and then past Brown, and it didn’t even flinch, I knew.

YaJustHaddabeThere.

Settle in for a long wait. My first frame of the encounter was shot a 1:53pm.  The last one 2:42pm. And the bird was still in residence at that stage.
Here’s a summary and then we’ll let the images tell the story.
We noted the Falcon on the fence as we drove down. It was not in a hurry to move, and it was apparent that in spite of its seeming casualness,  it was hard at work. I’ve written before that I believe Browns map everything only move when its to their advantage.

It flew along the road, and then walked into the grass. At first I missed the movement. But Brown had calculated the snake would move out into the open. Ha!  Not this one. Brown reacted but the blanket weed is much too thick. Advantage Snake.

Brown considered a new plan from a small hillock nearby. And that is where there time went. Twenty minutes of more.  Then for no apparent reason the bird moved to a higher roadside sign. And I knew an attack was in play.

YaJustHaddabeThere.
It went down behind the small hillock, and we lost sight, but we lost no time in getting up the road to see if we could get a look.
Yes. There it was mantled, wings spread out. Motionless. At the right time, the head moved and it was all over.
The next few minutes were dealing with the death throes of the snake, and it eventually got a tail twisted over the Falcon’s wings.
After gorging itself it tried to move the snake out into the open, but for some reason, the snake had twisted itself into the grass.  Pretty much exhausted from all the effort, the bird took a break, then flew on to the roadside fence.  And sat.

After a few minutes it began to preen, and we decided to move on.
I collected the vehicle from down the road, and we drove by the fence, and normally a bird would take to the air.  Not this bird, it was either satisfied we meant no harm, exhausted, or just was not going to give up its ground for its meal.
YaJustHaddabeThere.

Which ever, EE got an eye to eye encounter as we went past about arms-length from the bird.

None of these are cropped as they show both the action, the closeness, and the area of the action. For those that are guessing, I think the

markings are a Tiger Snake.

YaJustHaddabeThere.

Enjoy.

Flying from post to post. A typical Brown Falcon Activity

Now its serious. The time and location are right.

Let’s see

Hey, look, its over here. At first I couldn’t see the snake through the grass, but its just in front of the bird.

Tricky little customer. It should have moved out into the open.

Not fair. Come back

Too hard to attack in the thick undergrowth.

I know its there. We’ll just wait.

Taking a height advantage the bird sat for nearly twenty minutes.

Then, relocated

And a few seconds later dropped.

We moved up the road to get a better view, hoping the bird would not be nervous and take off. I should not have been worried. Here it is mantled, wings out over the snake.

The snake has been despatched and its time to begin lunch

The size of the snake would have been around 1.5 metre and my guess from the markings its a Tiger Snake. The tail is starting to twirl over the bird.

In the death throes, the tail curled around the back of the Falcon.

Down to business. The bird tries to move the snake to a more open area, but its somehow caught among the grasses.

Here its trying to pull it out with its leg force.

That failed, so now its the pull forward with the beak and head, but it can’t get enough purchase to solve the problem.

After nearly an hour the bird is I think exhausted and took time out for a rest and to reevaluate its next move.

Across the road for a rest

Yep, I can still see it from here thanks.

We drove past the bird and this is looking back, a nice rotund tummy.

Moments: A Hunting We will Go. Brown Falcon Style

In the best traditions of exclusive marketing, “Snapshots” has been renamed “Moments”.  Same great taste, same great ingredients, just a name that more closely realises the time with a bird(s).

EE and I have been missing our dose of Brown Falcon life for quite awhile.  Summer over, nesting behind them, tis time for Browns to come out and play again.  Gone are the wary, defensive secretive lives.  Now relaxed birds that don’t have a territory nor a growing family to defend.

We were looking along Ryan’s Swamp Rd at the WTP and found a bird sitting just off the road on a bund. Hunting.
Now Browns aren’t like other falcons, lots of flying about looking, here and there, looking busy.  Brown’s mostly contemplate. They are clever hunters that have their local territory ‘mapped’. Each flypast simply confirms, or adds to their already massive data bank.   A farm ute driving past on the roadway doesn’t even get a glance.  They know it’s not a threat.

We managed to get past the bird for some over-the-shoulder front light.
And then. Waited.  Browns do that a lot.
This one sat, then lifted off with one wing sweep, and landed on the far side of the bund emerging with a cricket or a beetle snack.
Next it swept across the road. Low down, Brown style.  Paused on a white fence post.  Then returned to our side of the road landing on a post to contemplate.
Another trip across the road, and more sitting.
A small sweep out to pickup another snack, and back on the white fence post.

Watching it is one thing. Working out the its stratergy something else again.
A dash off the post, a huge sweep up on to a branch and it sat.
Intruiged I walked over the road to get closer.
And it sat.

After a few minutes, it threw off the branch, dropped without a wing flap, straight down on to the ground on top of the bund on the far side of the fence.  Straight into some old grass and scrub. Luckily for me, there was an opening in the dried twigs and I managed to see it turn around with its latest meal. A snake.  Tiger I think. Your average Brown stands about 50cm so its fair to guess that the snake was at least that longer or a bit longer, perhaps 60-70cm (about 2 Foot in the old real measurement).

Satisfied all was safe, the bird went to work and before too long, turned, licked its beak (Well it can’t do that, but anthropomorphically speaking). Looked about and sailed back up into the tree to let the meal digest.

Bad career move!

The tree was inhabited by a small flock of WIllie Wagtail juveniles, all wanting to show their prowess and bravery.  So poor Brown was harassed mercilessly by the team of young guns. Each trying to be a little more enthusiastic than the others. In the end, Brown took the hint and moved on.

Sitting quietly by the side of the road. Taking it all in.

Just a hop and a step, and there’s a snack

It looks pretty detached, but its fair to conclude that nothing is getting past that steely gaze

A quick fly over the bund, just to see what the options or possibilites are.

From this perch, the bird no doubt had a good view of the snake, and kept returning here every 10 minutes or so.

A plan is hatched, just need to get the right attack position.

Dropping straight down under full control

On Target!

Look what I found.

And that is the last little bit.

Never underestimate your average Brown Falcon, but also never underestimate a determined Wagtail clan.

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”

A Bit of a Story

Long term readers and those who have worked with me, will know I’m not a great Bird Chaser to get my numbers up.
I can recognise when I find a new bird, Commonly known among the best circles as “A Lifer”. But the thought of chasing a bird across miles/kilometers of country, just to get a fleeting glimpse or a slightly blurry photo that needs to be enlarged from a two pixel size, is not among my ‘must do this year’ things.
My birding, is much more the sitting quietly, enjoying the moment and appreciatting the birds in their world.

I’ve quoted Jon Young before, he of “What the Robin Knows”, so here we go again.
“Practice with the routine of invisibility, and growing respect, connection and San-like recognition, in the vernacular of the bird language, are secrets to close encounters”.

At Werribee Treatment Plant, its not unusual to have a car pull up, and the driver or passengers ask, “Have you seen THE Bittern”. Always THE, so is there only one? or are there more?
Mostly I can dumbly answer, “Sorry, haven’t seen it today!”, to be covered in a cloud of dust as they drive away to the next “opportunity”.

On a whim, we went to the T Section early on Thursday morning. The weather had been predicted to be below average, bordering on the catastrophic, but I’ve rambled enough on Weather Novelists, haven’t I. EE noted some sunshine and blue sky, and said let’s go, breakfast done, we did.

Crisp sunshine looked good, and a stiff breeze was only going to be cold, but that is what Drizabone is for.

It didn’t take the track near the ‘Crake Pond’ long to fill up with the usual 4WD convoys.
And then one of the group came down to where I was photographing a Willie Wagtail hovering in the strong breeze, and say, “They have found THE Bittern up by the pool, do you want to see it.”.
1806-14_DWJ_6844.jpg

Continue reading “A Bit of a Story”

Home Improvements

One of the more visited areas at the Western Treatment Plant is the “T-Section”. Among its notable areas is the aptly named, “Crake Pool”, it’s not unusual on any given trip down there, to find at least one, sometimes more, vehicles pulled up in the open areas near the pool, hoping to catch a glimpse of the many crakes that inhabit the area.

Just a little further along the road and a small pile of rocks in the middle of the pond usually has a share of waterbirds, or waders loafing in the sunshine.

So you might well imagine our suprise the other day to see a pair of enterprising Black Swan had taken over the rocks, and built what can only be thought of as Swan Hilton, securely among the rocks.

DWJ_2886.jpg

Continue reading “Home Improvements”

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