Murder in the garden

Many people enjoy seeing birds, especially those that visit their gardens. People also enjoy seeing birds in parks and reserves, on the beach or along rivers. They are variously described as “cute”, “pretty”, “delightful”, “wonderful” and many other such “nice” words.

Rarely are they described as gory, or brutal or even dangerous. The stark reality is that while many birds are indeed stunning in their colours, amazing in their survival instincts and quite fascinating in their behaviour, some species do have a gory, brutal (in human terms) side to their lives.

A few days ago I was hanging up the washing on the clothes line – or getting it off – whatever – and there was a sudden noisy kerfuffle in the trees nearby. The various honeyeater species were totally upset – and with good reason. A Collared Sparrow-hawk flew ponderously to a branch nearby, clutching a struggling bird in its talons.

The sparrow-hawk proceeded to gouge chunks of flesh off the hapless bird, feathers scattering in the breeze and all the while the rest of the avian community voiced their disapproval – or fears. I tried to sneak up for a closer look. I quickly dismissed the idea of racing inside to get the camera. It appeared to be a White-plumed Honeyeater being eaten.

This is the reality of life in the raw.  To survive, the sparrow-hawk must eat. One bird’s death means another bird’s survival. In human terms it seems cruel and gory, but this is the way of web of life.

I didn’t get a photo, so I’ve included one below that I took some years ago.

This article was last update on 10th October 2015.

Collared Sparrowhawk

Kestrel flyover

Nankeen Kestrel, Laratinga wetlands, Mt Barker SA

Earlier this week I took a mid-morning break to have a coffee and to do some reading. It was a beautiful day with bright sunshine, moderate temperature and no clouds. It was the complete opposite of some of the dreary,gloomy, drizzly weather we’ve had this winter. I was enjoying the warmth of the sun, and the coffee wasn’t bad either.

As I read, a bird call nearby attracted my attention from my book. I’d heard this call several times in the previous few days but had not managed to catch sight of the birds. I recognised the call as that of a juvenile Nankeen Kestrel begging for food from the parents. A few seconds later an adult bird flew overhead, closely pursued by two young ones begging as they flew.

They went across our garden so quickly it was only a brief glimpse. They didn’t land nearby so there was no opportunity for a photo or two, so I’ve included a photo of a different bird of the same species taken in nearby Mt Barker some months ago. I have observed that they had been landing regularly on the cross bar of a nearby electricity power pole. Getting close enough without disturbing them can be a challenge as they can see me coming.

I’ll keep trying.

Good birding.

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Black Kite, Monarto Zoo

Black Kite, Monarto Zoo

Black Kite, Monarto Zoo

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.

Black Kite, Monarto Zoo

Black Kite, Monarto Zoo

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Brown Falcon at Monarto Zoo

Brown Falcon, Monarto Zoo

Brown Falcon, Monarto Zoo

A few weeks ago we went with our family to visit Monarto Zoo near our home town of Murray Bridge. This open range zoo is a part of the Adelaide Zoological Gardens and being only a few kilometres down the road from our home we like to visit often. Being a Life Member I like to visit often.

One of the features of the zoo is the large tract of untouched mallee scrub where visitors can walk on the numerous walking trails leading from one enclosure to another. The regular shuttle buses moving around the zoo make this a very attractive part of the visit. All tracks are easily negotiated, even by wheelchair.

Walking through the mallee scrub is a good way to observe many of the local bird species abundant in the area. On this visit I had great views of this Brown Falcon. Normally a reasonable shy bird, this individual decided to pose nicely for a few photos.

Brown Falcon, Monarto Zoo

Brown Falcon, Monarto Zoo

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Some simple bird photography rules

A few days ago I was sitting out in the lovely winter sunshine trying to recover from my recent bout of flu. Our back veranda is generally out of the wind and a very pleasant spot to take in a little snoozing in the sunshine. It was one of those rare days we’ve had recently, what with all the rain and showery weather we have been  having for a change. We can’t say we are out of the drought yet, but the signs are encouraging.

While slumbering in the sun I was aware of a bird of prey calling nearby. That certainly woke me up. What looked and sounded like a Brown Falcon was circling low overhead.  Several of the local resident Australian Magpies were vigorously attacking this poor creature. In a matter of seconds it had flown off to a safer location.

I do not yet have a photo of a Brown Falcon. During those 10-15 seconds it was circling overhead I most certainly would have been able to get several good shots of the underwing markings. Alas – no camera in my hand or within easy reach. When I did go inside to get my camera I found that the batteries were flat.

Two Simple Rules:

  1. Always have your camera handy.
  2. Check to see that the camera batteries are charged.

Happy birding.