For over 26 years I’ve kept a month by month list of the birds seen in our garden, on our five acre block or flying overhead. In that time I’ve only recorded Wedge-tailed Eagles on a handful of occasions, despite the fact that they are relatively common and widespread in the region in which I live.
That seems to be changing recently. I saw one flying high over head a few weeks ago – read about it here. Then last Saturday we were entertaining some friends around our swimming pool when another one flew low over our neighbour’s garden. We had good views as it soared back and forth looking for a meal.
My latest sighting was yesterday morning. My wife was walking in our driveway and saw two Wedge-tailed Eagles soaring overhead. This is the first time I can recall seeing two at once over our place. They glided on the thermals for about five minutes before moving out of sight over the nearby hills. I had excellent views through my binoculars, but they were a little too far off for good photos. Instead, I’ve included a photo of a WT Eagle taken during the Free Flight Bird Show at Taronga Zoo in Sydney early last year.
Reflecting on these recent sightings I concluded that there may be a link between the appearance of these birds and rabbits. Until a year or so ago, we never saw any rabbits around here because of a virus. They have now become partially resistant to this virus and are breeding up in large numbers. We have several baby rabbits residing in our garden. This increased breeding has been aided by a much wetter than usual winter and spring last year, and there is still plenty of food available for them.
Now how do I encourage the eagles to visit regularly and partake of these meals on four legs?
Earlier this week I was working in our mallee scrub at the back of our house. I had been using the chain saw and was cutting up some fallen branches from a storm a few weeks earlier. As I was picking up the wood I’d cut I heard a noise which made me look skywards.
High above our five acre block I saw a Wedge-tailed Eagle soaring on the wind. It was too high for the noise to have come from the eagle, but I’m pleased I looked up at that moment as it was quickly gliding away to the north. I didn’t have my camera with me; it was too far away for a photo anyway. So instead of a tiny dot in the distance I am using a photo of a Wedge-tailed Eagle I took earlier this year during the Free Flight Bird Show at Taronga Zoo in Sydney.
This morning I was on my way to take my mother-in-law shopping. As I passed the local golf course an Australian Magpie flew low and rapidly across the road in front of my car. Nothing unusual about that.
Hot on its tail, however, was a New Holland Honeyeater, aggressively chasing the much bigger magpie and snapping at its tail feathers.
It always amuses me how some of our smallest birds will actively and quite aggressively harass birds many times their size. Probably the most bizarre example I’ve seen is a Willie Wagtail coming in at about 20 cm (8 inches) attacking our largest bird of prey, the Wedge-tailed Eagle at about 110 cm (44 inches) and a wing span of 280 cm (112 inches).
These little birds know instinctively that the larger birds often prey upon their nests, taking eggs or baby birds. They seem to know no fear as they protect their little ones.
Black Kites are very common birds of prey throughout their range which includes Africa, Eurasia and most of Australia (except Tasmania). I have seen them in many places here in Australia and this species is also on my Thailand and Nepal lists. It is a bird that is hard to miss.
Strangely enough, even though they are regular visitors to our home block – or should I say, birds that regularly fly over our block – I had not managed to get a good photo of one. They are usually too high up for a good shot as they soar overhead.
On a recent visit to our local open range zoo, Monarto Zoo, a solitary Black Kite came down close overhead and soared around several times checking us out. It was a good opportunity to get a reasonable photo.
On our visit to Mallacoota in far eastern Victoria in January we went for an after dinner walk along the foreshore and estuary of the river. It was a calm, warm evening and we had a pleasant time exploring this lovely spot for the first time. We decided that this is one place we needed to revisit – and stay four or five days at the very least.
In the quiet estuary we saw many Black Swans, Australian Pelicans, a few Pied Oystercatchers and three Royal Spoonbills.
While on our walk we saw several Great cormorants as well as some Little Pied Cormorants. Two Whistling Kites patrolled the shallows in the company of a lone White-bellied Sea Eagle. I’ve not seen too many sea eagles in all of my birding, so this was something special. I was surprised though that there were not many ducks in the estuary. In fact I only recorded a few Australian Wood Ducks. Perhaps the kites and eagle had scared them off.
The inlet is an ideal haven for fishermen, and this is iluustrated by the large number of boats present in the water and on trailers in the caravan park. There are also boats offering cruises on the river, like the one shown below.