Moments: Whistling Kite does Takeaway

It’s beginning to look like I’m getting in a rut with raptors and food.
Mostly just a bit of a backlog of other work and the natural progression of things.

Interesting to be posting such work on the blog, as it fulfills a learning process I’m journeying on at the moment.
Exploring photography, my own work in particular, as an iterative process.  Or a journey of versions that lead to new discoveries.

That is: the repetition that builds on the previous shot. It is where the concept of ‘multi-burst’ and I diverge.  I need to  have thought out the changes, or the visual differences from shot to shot. Not just blaze away and pick out the ‘best looking one’, to tidy up in Photoshop.

Not, as I’m sure you can imagine a simple step by step process when it comes to birds that are unpredictable at best, and downright difficult to get to understand at the worst. Which I think is why ‘iterative’ is such a useful motif.

EE and I were at The Office.  The Red Gum picnic area to be specific. Its a short trip down for Dolly, and if all goes well, there can be an interesting array of birds on a good day.
We were sitting enjoying the Grey of Earl, and a snack, when a grey shadow moved over our heads and flew toward the large dead skeleton of a tree by the river’s edge.
“A Whistling Kite,” quoth she.

Then it became, as we moved nearer, that said Kite also had bought a snack too. It had found a discarded Shingleback Lizard carcass remains. Now, it might be that the Kite had made the kill, but the condition of the carcass suggested it more likely had retrieved it after it was abandoned. Most of the rich middle parts of the hapless creature were already gone.

So we sat and watched it play with its food, and all went well until a ‘murder of crows’ in the form of a group of ravens moved in to help the Kite.  They believed it seems, in ‘share and share alike’, so long as they got the goodies to share.
Our hero was having none of that and scooping up its meal, it departed to a more secure area.

Enjoy

 

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Meeting Up with Friends Take #2

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

See Here

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy.

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

 

Visiting Friends A day along the Beach at Point Cook

Was chatting with a birder friend, and I mentioned the Point Cook Coastal Park, and he said, that he didn’t plan to go there much as most of the birds were pretty common, and only occasionally was a Plover or a Pratincole enough to take the trip down there.

When we relocated home a couple of years back, Point Cook was on the top of my list as a suitable place, and to be honest, it was second, third and a close run fourth on the list.  And of course the logic was it was but a few minutes from the Coastal Park of the same name, and it would be neat to roll out of bed, and stroll on down to the park.

In the end, much wiser heads than mine  (EE as it turns out) found us the place that ‘we’ wanted and Tarneit took on our new home address.
But every so often when the light is right, and sometimes when its wrong we venture down to the Coastal Park.  And surprisingly, many of the common birds down there have become a bit like friends.
So today we went, not to count, nor to get our lists up, nor necessarily to capture the best bird photos ever, but to visit some friends.

Our friend the Brown Falcon was in the carpark area, and we enjoyed some time with it, as it hunted quite casually from the fence line.  Also found a number of Flame Robins that have made the park their winter beach residence.

And  of course the usual Pied, Little Pied and Great Cormorants down on the old jetty.   They gave us some pretty impressive flight displays while we sipped on a fine cuppa.

Then the local White-faced Heron, and the pair of Pacific Gulls cruised by hunting on the out-going tide.  And to our amusement, a pair of Black Swans how have obviously just coupled up were making interesting subjects as they hunted together on the gentle rolling outgoing tide.

As we walked back to carpark, the air literally filled with raptors.

At one point we had all up at the same time,  Little Eagle, Black Kite, Whistling Kite, Brown Falcon, Australian Hobby and Brown Goshawk.  I was hoping that the resident Spotted Harrier would make an appearance, but we had to be satisfied with those six.

We stopped along the road to look at some Flame Robins bathing in a tiny pool in a paddock, and some ‘new friends’, came over to say ‘hello’.  So we spent a few minutes becoming acquainted with several chesnut horses.

We might not have added any ‘new’ birds to our list, but we had as the Sans Bushman said, “Recognised some birds,and built a tiny connection with them, that is growing into a thread”

Enjoy.

A Band of Banded Brothers

Came upon a small band of Banded Stilts and Red-necked Avocets the other morning.

We had been looking for some locations for subjects for my book on “How to Sneak Up on a Swamp Harrier”. Needless to say the next chapter or two will for the short term be blank pages.

On one pond we happened in the best of traditions on a flock of Banded Stilts, and some companions.

So we settle down for about an hour or so.   While we were enjoying the birds, the sunshine and a cuppa, we were joined for a short while by a hunting party of Black Kite and a Black Falcon. We counted around 25 Black Kites and there were plenty spiralling down from a great height that we didn’t count any more.
Sort of added that sparkle to the day.

Enjoy

Dull day at the beach

One look at the weather map was enough, didn’t need no icon waving, weather talkin, danger predicting tv dude to tell me.  It was going to be cold, miserable, overcast and photographically crippling.

But.

We went anyway.

Mostly to see if the Flame Robins were at Point Cook, -yes.  Was the Pink Robin(s) there.  No. (well not that we could find)  Were the pair of Black Kites any further advanced with the reproduction activity. Jury out on that.

After being blown down toward the beach, the tide was well out.  Half blown out, I’d suggest.   And there were a pair of Pacific Gulls resting in the lee of the rocks.  And the shutter speed was on the never-never plan.

After awhile one of the gulls got up, flew to a rocky edge of the water and retrieved what I take to be a Sea Urchin.  This hard shell creature is more than it can break open by hitting on a rock. But, the species has developed over the years a working technique. Take the prize up about 20m and drop it on the rocks. Smash.  Or at least on the second attempt.
Waft down and enjoy the feast.

After performing this feat several times in front of us, it also attracted the usual scavengers and free loaders.   So on the incredibly strong wind several Whistling Kites came to pay a visit to their new ‘best’ mate.  However Pacific was having none of that and inspite of some clever wing work on the part of several attacking at once, the gull simply stood its ground.  In the end, they moved on to look elsewhere and gull went back to its snack. And then moved down the beach with the next catch.

Sunshine in late Autumn at Western Treatment Plant

My friend Dieter and I planned a day down at WTP,  he because he wanted to try out the new D800, and me because I like to go down there.

We left early and beat the morning traffic, and were just getting the gear out of of the camera bags at the turn off to Point Wilson, when an explosive whistle and cry came from directly overhead in the trees, after a few seconds it was obvious it was a Whistling Kite in full voice.  Followed by an equally loud squeal from a Black-shouldered Kite, before both of them came barrelling out of the tree line.  The Whistling Kite being fairly aggressively attacked by the Black-shouldered Kite.

By this time we had the cameras out and were hard at work.  The BSK made a number of fast passes over the struggling for wind speed, Whistling Kite, and it was struck several times by its protagonist.  The shot here shows the Whistling Kite with claws out as it has just defended off the aggro Black-shouldered Kite,  it is possible to see a few loose feathers floating away.

After a heavy pursuit, the Whistling Kite gained some height and speed, and by then it was well away from the tree-line.  The Black-shouldered Kite came back and started a second pursuit of a Goshawk, but it managed to slip away without any thing more damaged than its pride. The BSK, then patrolled the treeline and all and sundry were aware of its stake to territory.

The rest of the day was nowhere near as dramatic, except for a Brown Falcon playing catch me if you can along a fence line.  But I was driving and Dieter was the one working in the new D800.

A Black-shoudlered Kite making an aggressive pass on a Whistling Kite who was doing all it could to defend itself against a constant attack. The loose feathers are from a direct hit by the BSK.

Whistling Kite and Prey

Given the ongoing fine autumn weather and the oncoming long weekend which would be filled up with all sorts of other activities, Dorothy and I took the chance and went to the Treatment Plant for the afternoon.  And the weather held.

We didn’t  find the elusive Brolgas, but that only means trying harder next time, spotted a good sized flock of Red-necked Stints, some with a nice on colouring of red, and also near Kirks Point located some Magpie-geese.

A little further on a Welcome Swallow sat motionless on the fence wire as the car approached and as I literally inched forward, it stood its ground until it was filling the frame in the 300mm lens.  At about 2.8 metres.  Then it preened and pretended that we weren’t there, but we had such a great view of the light of the dark coloured feathers as  they flashed blue in the sunshine.

Welcome Swallow

A little later on as the sun was drifting toward the horizon and thoughts of dinner and going home were upon us, a Whistling Kite made a pass over some trees and then landed just out of sight. By the time we had turned the corner, it has decapitated its prey and was struggling to get into  the air.  Without any breeze to give it extra lift it was all hard work and it made a pass across our viewpoint as it tried to get above the tree line.  Guesses at to what it had taken abound.  The long wings of the bird made it difficult for the kite to use its tail as the wings kept getting in the way. No doubt it retired satisfied with its day’s work.

In the late evening light this Whistling Kite was trying to find a place to set down wiht its uncooperative prey. The wings of the unfortunate bird kept getting in the way of the kites tail feather adjustments

Cape Barren Geese are funny creatures.  We came across this pair in some sort of dance display.  It is time we purchased a movie camera.