Tackling the big birds

Earlier this week we drove from our home in Murray Bridge to Sydney, a two day drive of over 1300km. It is a long and interesting drive. Our purpose is always to stay with our son and spend time with him and our two grandchildren.

Along the way we usually stop for morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea. I like to choose spots where I know I have a reasonable chance of seeing some birds. This does not always work; sometimes the weather conspires against good birding, like when the wind is blowing and I have trouble identifying the birds calling.

I also keep a sharp eye out as we are driving along, listing the birds I see. I should add that I only add to my list when my wife is driving, though even when I am behind the wheel I have been known to dictate lists to my wife – who obligingly scribes for me.

On this current trip I saw an interesting case of brave bird behaviour. As we neared the town of Narrandera a Wedge-tailed Eagle flew very low over our car. These are magnificent birds even when seen soaring high up in the sky, but at close quarters they are truly impressive. What made this sighting even more interesting were the two Australian magpies hotly pursuing the much larger eagle. There is obviously no love lost between these two species.

This is not an isolated or unique occurrence. I have seen smaller birds harassing much bigger species like the wedge-tail. I have even seen the comparatively small Willie Wagtail tacking a Wedge-tail Eagle. The eagle could easily swallow the wagtail in several gulps. It would be just a snack to the much larger bird.

Wedge-tailed eagle

Wedge-tailed eagle

Wedge-tailed Eagle overhead

Wedge-tailed Eagle

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.