Category Archives: Raptors

Fine finish

The kites are gathering at Cairn Curran.

As the reservoir is steadily rising from good winter rains the water is spilling over areas of mudflat … rich pickings of frogs, fish and the occasional duckling will keep the Whistling Kites happy.

A brief stop at Joyce’s Creek was followed by a sweep across the plains. Numerous Brown Falcons were observed – the highlight as I turned for home was an Australian Hobby just south of Walker’s Swamp. I’ve seen a hobby at this location before.

Whistling Kites @ Joyce’s Creek, 5th September 2020

Brown Falcon near Walker’s Swamp

Australian Hobby with volcanic landscape backdrop

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Sights and sounds

As I wandered along a side-track in the Mia Mia at the weekend the unmistakable sound of Olive-backed Orioles  could be heard coming from a couple of different directions. A common spring migrant, this is something of an early record as they generally arrive in the first week of September. As I tried to track down the birds calling in the trees nearby I spotted this individual ‘skulking’ in the undergrowth. This one was uttering a selection of different notes, softer and including some mimicry for which orioles are renowned.

Orioles are considered by some to have few equals as a mimic – the breadth of their repertoire is impressive … Whistling Kite, Crimson Rosella, Noisy Friarbird and Grey Shrike-thrush to name just a few of the species that have been noted being impersonated by this oriole. One of the theories put forward to explain their mimicry is that it allows them to feed in mixed flocks with more aggressive birds, such as large honeyeaters and figbirds.

Olive-backed Oriole near South German Track, 16th August 2020

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Moments later another early arrival appeared quietly overhead, just above the canopy – a Square-tailed Kite back in one of its favourite haunts. Spring is in the offing!

Square-tailed Kite

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Things are starting to move …

There is a definite hint of spring in the air with a run of sunny days this week.

In the Rise and Shine the birds are responding. Eastern Yellow Robins are keeping close company and I’m sure the first nests of the season will be underway. Likewise, Peaceful Doves are showing early signs of courtship activity.

Peaceful Doves, Rise and Shine Bushland Reserve, 15th July 2020

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Eastern Yellow Robin

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Also observed yesterday afternoon: Spotted and Striated Pardalote, White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike, Fan-tailed Cuckoo, Black-chinned Honeyeater, White-naped Honeyeater, Fuscous Honeyeater, Brown-headed Honeyeater, Yellow-tufted Honeyeater, Little Eagle, Crimson Rosella, Eastern Rosella, Grey Shrike-thrush and Brown Treecreeper.

The food chain in the chook yard

Since we started sharing our place in the bush at Strangways with some chickens, the dynamics of the local bird life have certainly changed.

White-winged Choughs (Corcorax melanorhamphos) have been the true masters of our land for many years and became the first species to decide the chook food was pretty good. Several families visit often, squawking and carrying on relentlessly. They are so adapted to us, that close-up photos are very easy.

The spectacular eye of a White-winged Chough

A pair of Sulphur-crested Cockatoos (Cacatua galerita) have also become regulars and are similarly unfazed by the presence of a human with a big camera.

Sulphur-crested Cockatoo

In the last 6 months, Peaceful Doves (Geopelia placida) have become regulars. We used to occasionally hear and rarely see these beautiful birds. Now a flock of up to twelve find their way through the wire mesh and into the main chook pen. They are more coy than the Choughs, flying out of the yard and onto a nearby Long-leafed Box limb when we approach.

Peaceful Doves in a light shower
On a favoured branch

Recently, raptors have twigged that the doves are regular visitors and have started dropping by to hunt them. We saw an Australian Hobby (Falco longipennis) a few days ago. Yesterday a pair of of Collared Sparrowhawks (Accipiter cirrocephalus) came in to check things out. They flew off as I approached with the camera, but didn’t go far.

Collared Sparrowhawk

One returned before too long. Instead of making for the chook yard, it perched on a gate at the bottom of our yard, closely scanning a mound of dirt near a garden bed, presumably looking for small prey on the ground.

Closely watching for prey on the ground.

Periodically it would spread its wings slightly. I don’t know what this was about and would welcome any insight.

A slight wingspread.

Black Kite appreciation

There are quite a few Black Kites getting around at present.

They are curious and handsome birds … not in the ‘Black Falcon class’ but still lots of fun to observe and photograph.

Black Kite, Moolort Plains, 31st May 2020

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Black Falcon x Black Kite

Sunday morning, Moolort Plains

A quiet Sunday morning on the plains … a cruising Black Falcon … what a sight!

Black Falcon, Moolort Plains, 31st May 2020

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Falco subniger … a minor influx

I couldn’t resist the opportunity to share another Black Falcon Falco subniger image, this time in monochrome. It appears there are at least two separate pairs roaming the Moolort Plains at present.

Black Falcon, Moolort Plains, 23rd May 2020

In their usual haunts

I venture to the western boundary of the Moolort Plains only rarely.

At this time of year I make a note to stop by the recreation area at Tullaroop Reservoir. Planted out with specimen trees in the 1960s, mainly native but non-local, it is a good spot to get close up views of lorikeets as they feed on the autumn flowering gums.

Purple-crowned Lorikeets, an uncommon species locally, can be reliably seen here over winter, along with Musk Lorikeets. An immature White-bellied Sea-Eagle was also observed cruising the margins of the lake and then a pair of Black Falcons in the deepening gloom at Rodborough as I returned home.

Purple-crowned Lorikeet feeding in Spotted Gum, Tullaroop Reservoir, 22nd May 2020

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Musk Lorikeet

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One of a pair of Black Falcons seen on the return journey

For every 100 Brown Falcons …

… that I see on the plains, I can reckon on a single Black Falcon.

Each encounter is a thrilling event. This one was spotted yesterday afternoon at the Moolort grain silos.

When perched it can be easy to discount this species as just another Brown Falcon, although when you become familiar with Black Falcons they are instantly recognisable.

A fast and powerful flier, the tail is noticeably longer than the wings and they lack the distinct Brown Falcon mask. In flight their rapid wing-beats and long, broad wings set them apart from their sluggish cousin. While they breed locally most years I seem to observe them more frequently in winter.

Black Falcon, Moolort Plains, 16th May 2020

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Falco portrait

Just this today … Brown Falcon Falco berigora, a portrait in monochrome.

I’ve observed a few raptors in our skies in recent days – Collared Sparrowhawk and Australian Hobby in town and this Brown Falcon at Picnic Point.

Brown Falcon, Picnic Point, 12th May 2020