A moment of mayhem

The sequence of photographs below don’t really tell the full story.

I was walking near Mia Mia Track on Sunday afternoon when I spotted a male Red-capped Robin, the bird was just beginning its late afternoon hunting on what had been a pretty hot day. Struggling to get the bird into a decent pose for a shot I disturbed an Owlet Nightjar (most likely the one I featured recently) from a hollow in a small, dead eucalypt. The owlet fluttered in typical uncoordinated fashion towards a nearby perch, whereupon a raptor appeared instantly from nearby – in pursuit of the owlet!

Happily the owlet returned to its hollow, the robin disappeared and the raptor ascended above, keeping a curious eye on the photographer. In summary it was a moment of mayhem with no decent photographs and to cap it off I’m not even certain of the identity of the raptor – either a Brown Goshawk or Collared Sparrowhawk, the moulting tail feathers have made it difficult. Suggestions welcome!


Trust me … moments earlier an Owlet Nightjar took flight from this hollow!


Male Red-capped Robin, Mia Mia Track, 21st February 2016




Brown Goshawk or Collared Sparrowhawk … help??



9 responses to “A moment of mayhem

  1. Carol Summerhayes

    Elongated middle toe – collared sparrow hawk?

  2. Good morning Geoff,

    Your photo with notation ‘Brown Goshawk or Collared Sparrowhawk … help??’ made me look up my copy of H T Condon’s Hawks of Australia (1973). In his page of sketches Medium Hawks is one identical to your photo. It is labelled ‘Goshawk and Sparrowhawk (same pattern)…..Juvenile’.

    Perhaps not surprisingly, there is a copy of the above available on eBay. The Field Guides to both the Hawks and the Waders were much used when we were into Birds in our Darwin years.



    • Thanks Rosalie – I haven’t looked at that book for many years! Thanks for the reminder. The two species are identical in many respects,although the breast barring on this one signifies an adult.
      Cheers, geoff

  3. Unless my eyes are deceiving me, that middle elongated toe would indicate Sparrowhawk Geoff . They are a conundrum.

    • Well spotted Marlene – I’d noticed this too but had to zoom in on Photoshop – it must be a sparrowhawk ….
      Cheers, geoff

  4. Hi Geoff,

    Not sure how to respond to blogs – hoping this is OK.

    I sent your 26 Jan. blog page to Stephen Debus (Field Guide for Raptors) because you have such great raptor photos. He made the ID comments below – sorry I didn’t forward them at the time.

    But seeing your new blog today and your question, I thought Steve’s comments might be helpful with your IDing.

    Thanks so much for your photos and insights and love of it all – really helps when I’m stuck on my computer for hours!

    Best wishes from NSW FSC around Bermagui, Danie Ondinea

    Begin forwarded message:

    > From: Steve Debus > Date: 26 January 2016 1:33:35 PM AEDT > To: Danie Ondinea > Subject: RE: Do you know this nature blog? > > Hi Danie, > > Thanks, I hadn’t caught up with Geoff’s photos. Even though the fledglings don’t have fully grown tails yet, it’s clear that their tails will be square-tipped or slightly notched, and typically with broad feathers, which with their other characters (slight brow-ridge, small bill, middle toe a whole segment longer than the others), shown them to be Sparrowhawks. Feel free to post this, especially if there is some doubt or argument in prior comments. > > Cheers, > > Stephen > > > > From: Danie Ondinea [mailto:danieondinea@gmail.com] > Sent: Tuesday, 26 January 2016 11:27 AM > To: Steve Debus > Subject: Do you know this nature blog? > > Hi Stephen, > > This man takes wonderful bird photos, many of raptors – so just wanted to make sure you know of him > > He’s asking about his photos below which he’s pretty sure are Collared Sparrowhawks. > > Cheers, Danie O > > Begin forwarded message: > > > From: Natural Newstead > Date: 26 January 2016 7:56:45 AM AEDT > To: danieondinea@gmail.com > Subject: [New post] Unpacking the puzzle > Reply-To: “Natural Newstead” > > >

  5. Bernie McRitchie

    Male Brown Goshawk for my guess, based mainly on the tail shape. Easy to be wrong though, especially with a moulting bird. Either species would love to snack on a delicate little Owlet.

    • Thanks Bernie – your reasoning is much like mine but that elongated middle toe suggests most likely a sparrowhawk …. a bloody confounding species!
      Cheers, geoff

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