Yesterday I wrote about seeing two Ospreys soaring over the beach and headland at Marion Bay. This lovely species is one I’ve not seen many times before. This merely reflects the fact I’ve not done enough birding in their preferred habitats: shorelines, estuaries, rivers and lakes.
I short time after seeing the first two I saw another one, this time flying overland at the historic township of Inneston. To see one is good; to see three in a couple of hours was a real buzz, and a highlight of the weekend.
Inneston is now a deserted town. In the early twentieth century is was a bustling mining town with several hundred residents. The nearby lakes were mined for gypsum. When the mine closed the town quickly died. About five of the original homes have been restored and are now used as accommodation by visitors to the Innes National Park.
On our recent short holiday on the Yorke Peninsula here in South Australia we stopped to have lunch at Penguin Point near Marion Bay. I didn’t see any penguins; at this time of year they are probably all far out to sea feeding. In fact, I saw very few birds during our lunch break. The reason for this was the weather; it was blowing a gale.
While sitting in the car eating our lunch two Ospreys flew low overhead. This was a great sighting because I’ve rarely seen this species over the years. Seeing two at once was a bonus. They were using the strong wind to soar and hover over the nearby beach and rocky headland. They repeatedly did this so it was too good an opportunity to let slip.
Leaving my lunch I braved the fierce wind and cold conditions and ventured out with my camera. Now I must admit that I have not really mastered the art of photographing birds in flight. It’s a skill I must spend far more time on developing. This was a good opportunity to practise. One element quickly become an obvious hindrance: the wild, blustery conditions. It was hard enough trying to remain upright without worrying about getting the shot just right. So I basically just aimed and clicked, hoping for the best.
While the photos on this post will never win any great photo competition, at least you can identify the birds from them. I console myself with two thoughts:
- I now have some photos of this species.
- I can only get better.
I was outside enjoying breakfast and the newspaper this morning when the birds in the bushes in our garden erupted in noise and confusion. The New Holland Honeyeaters suddenly began screeching and smaller birds like the House Sparrows went scurrying for cover. The resident Common Starlings headed off rapidly into the mallee scrub and the Red Wattlebirds were carrying on noisily.
Seconds later a juvenile Collared Sparrowhawk came swooping into the garden and landed in a tree in our back yard. The other birds kept up their noise and harassment until the sparrowhawk reluctantly flew off through the scrub.
After that, life in the garden returned to its former calmness.
And I returned to my paper.
I had to admit to my wife last week that I really enjoy hanging out the washing.
The reason is simple: it gets me outdoors, eyes cast skywards. Some of my best birding moments have occurred while hanging out the washing.
Last week was one of those moments. I had barely commenced when my attention was caught by a bird of prey high in the sky. It was obviously an eagle, slowly riding the air currents and circling overhead. I raced inside for the binoculars, sure that it was a Wedge-tailed Eagle. A more passes overhead confirmed my first identification.
This magnificent raptor – our largest bird of prey – is widespread all over Australia. It is widespread in our region too, but not common. Their territories are often huge, and they soar for many kilometres each day searching for their food. Despite them being relatively common in our region, this is only the third time in over 25 years I’ve observed one over our property. I need to get outdoors more often!
The nest of the Wedge-tailed Eagle consists of many sticks and twigs and can be reused many times in the lives of a pair. They will often refurbish the original nest, adding many more sticks until the structure is huge, sometimes large enough for a human adult to lie down in. The nearest nest I know of is about 20km NW of home near the Mannum waterfalls reserve.
We were having breakfast out on the back veranda this morning when there was a sudden stirring of the garden birds. All the smaller birds like the honeyeaters went scurrying for cover in all directions. Their warning calls filled the air.
Just as suddenly the cause of the kerfuffle became apparent. A Brown Falcon came swooping low through the trees and bushes quite close to the house and where we were sitting. The bird continued on through the mallee scrub at the back of our house, unsuccessful in its quest for a tasty meal. It flew off before I could get a photo, so I’ve used a photo of one taken last year at Monarto Zoo about 10km west of our home.
The Brown Falcon we saw was considerably browner than the one shown in the photo. There can be quite a few variations in plumage colours between individuals, from the colours shown above through to almost a chocolate brown in the dark phase. All very confusing really.