This weekend I am in Clare in the mid-north of South Australia. My daughter teaches in the local high school and my wife is currently doing ten days of teaching there too.
Today we were invited to visit family in Jamestown, about 40 minutes north. We drove there in time for lunch and had a very pleasant afternoon sitting in the lovely sunshine. This was a complete contrast to some of the windy, cold and showery weather of recent weeks.
On our way back to Clare we had the delight of seeing two magnificent Wedge-tail Eagles gliding slowly across the road some thirty metres in front of the car. They were barely two metres off the ground. Several very frightened ducks (species unknown) were flying away at a great rate from the swampy ground near the roadside. I guess they figured that they might easily have been the eagles’ supper. The camera was in the back of the car, but they would have been well out of view before I’d stopped and switched it on.
On the journey up to Jamestown I saw plenty of Nankeen Kestrels soaring near or over the road as we drove along. I did not count them but there must have been about a dozen during the 70km trip.
Yesterday morning I took a short five minute break from my studies. I thought I’d go for a short walk up our long driveway. A quick glance at the sky – a common enough action for me – revealed an eagle not far away. I raced back inside to grab the binoculars. There was a Wedge-tailed Eagle soaring overhead.
Camera. Grab the camera was my next thought – I don’t have a photo of a WTE in my collection yet. (The photo shown on this page was taken by my son.) As I raced outside again I discovered that the batteries in the camera were flat. Change the batteries. The next set was also flat. The third set worked – but by then the bird had flown away. That’d be right. Never mind.
Wedge-tailed Eagles are widespread in our area but are not all that common. In over 20 years I have only once before recorded this species on my Home Block list and, like this one, was soaring high overhead. It would be a significant day if one landed on our block or in a tree in our garden.
A few days ago we had a picnic lunch at Swanport Reserve. This reserve is about a ten minute drive from home. It is about five kilometres south of the CBD of Murray Bridge. This pleasant reserve is a favourite of many locals for ‘picnics, barbecues, fishing and it has become one of my favourite birding spots.
This is one very reliable place to see Whistling Kites, as shown in the photos on this page. Come to think of it, Whistling Kites are found all along the River Murray. They are also present throughout most of Australia in suitable habitat. Their preferred habitat seems to be near watercourses, lakes, estuaries, swamps and open forests. Its distinctive (and diagnostic?) whistling call is a common sound in rural areas of Australia. Here I must give a note of warning: Black Kites sometimes give a similar whistling call, albeit somewhat more muted and not as frequent nor as shrill.
I am still having some trouble taking photos of flying birds. The one above of a soaring Whistling Kite is not as sharp as I would like, but it is the best of a bad lot. Significant though is the diagnostic underwing patterns of the feathers, and so it is worth showing. One day I need to spend a few hours practising taking photos of moving birds. If any of my readers have hints on doing this, please leave a comment.
Click on the photo to enlarge the images.
I rose early this morning so I could go for a walk. I left the house just after sunrise. The air was crisp and cool and I was pleased it had not yet warmed up to the forecast temperature.
I decided to take the route along the road up the hill from our home. Because it was early there was very little traffic. This meant I could concentrate on the bird life. I was quite delighted with the busy activity of so many birds all around me.
Just as I approached a bush on the road side I was aware of a sudden flapping. A Singing Honeyeater shot like an arrow from the bush closely pursued by a Collared Sparrowhawk. They flew to another bush on the opposite side of the road. The honeyeater was too quick for the hawk and escaped. The hawk wheeled around, flew back in front of me and then off to look for another potential meal.
As I continued my walk I noticed the sparrow-hawk eyeing off a small flock of Common Starlings nearby. I hope he had more luck with them and eventually caught some breakfast.
The photo below was taken last year, possibly of the same bird. If it is the same bird it is a frequent visitor to our garden.
Updated November 2013.
I am trying to go for a morning walk every day.
For the good of my health.
Morning walks are very productive birding times here in Australia. Yesterday I saw and heard the usual suspects: honeyeaters, Galahs, Crested Pigeons, Little Ravens, Yellow Rumped Thornbills, House Sparrows and Common Starlings.
From time to time we have the odd Black Kite or two glide silently over head as we work in the garden. Rarely more than two but sometimes three or four can be seen at the one time. I was taken a bit by surprise to count a loose flock of 22 Black Kites circling at a spot nearby. This is unusual around here, though on one occasion a few years ago I did see at least 50 in one location. I assumed that there was a dead animal lying somewhere nearby, or perhaps a rubbish dump in the vicinity.
My experience with this species in Australia is for single birds or up to 3 or 4 together. I understand that they can congregate in large numbers elsewhere in Australia and in other parts of the world. On my visit to Thailand and Nepal last December-January I saw small flocks only. It seemed to be the main raptor in Kathmandu.
There probably isn’t a collective noun for Black Kites so I’ve made one up. A “Cloud of Kites” sounds good to me – it is perhaps an act of apt alliteration and acidic assonance? Kites are not mentioned in the Wikipedia entry on collective nouns for birds.