Category Archives: Raptors

Afternoon, the plains

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Plains country … click to expand

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Great Egret @ Picnic Point

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Australian Hobby, Moolort Plains, 6th May 2022

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Wedge-tailed Eagle and grumpy magpie

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Plains country #2

Smoke and raptors

I was surprised earlier in the week to see a rising column of smoke on the Moolort Plains. Stubble burning largely finished a few weeks back, prior to the autumn break.

As is often the case, where there is smoke there are often raptors.

Sure enough Whistling Kites and Black Kites were hunting above the burning stubble, a number also chasing insects across the burnt ground. The highlight though was a pair of Black Falcons, the first I’ve seen for almost 12 months. Distant views but exciting nonetheless.

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Stubble burning, Moolort Plains, 2nd May 2022

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Black Falcon

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Whistling Kite hunting in stubble

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Black Kite

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Spot the difference?

I’ve been tardy posting this story, but here goes.

The first two images are of a pair of Barking Owls, roosting in a tall Yellow Gum west of the Loddon River at Newstead. The slightly larger male is on the right with the smaller female (narrower head and rounded crown) perched just behind. The birds were photographed at 8.30am that morning.

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Barking Owl pair – male at right, Newstead, 10th March 2022

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This second pair of images were taken the next day, around 5pm, this time at a different site about 900 metres to the east.

I’ve studied the images carefully and am convinced they are the same pair – one similarity is the smudge of blood on the bill of the female, but there are numerous other signs if you look closely.

It’s early autumn and I suspect the home range of the birds has expanded as they search for food in the lead up to breeding over winter. Barking Owls are very fond of rabbits!

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Barking Owl (male), 11th March 2022

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Barking Owl (female)

Summer favourites

Breeding migrants both … they will be with us for a few short weeks still, before heading north again.

The Square-tailed Kite is an adult … twas in the company of a youngster (not pictured).

The Rainbow Bee-eater is a juvenile … a successful fledgling from this summer’s breeding effort.

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Square-tailed Kite, Mia Mia Road, 2nd February 2022

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Rainbow Bee-eater

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Sparrowhawk trifecta poses a puzzle

I set off this morning to inspect the effects of last afternoon’s storm … 75mm in a two hour burst. More on that in an upcoming post.

As I strolled along Mia Mia Track the distinctive call of a Collared Sparrowhawk grabbed my attention, followed by the agitated call of a second individual nearby.

It didn’t take long to locate three individuals, two of which were juveniles with small songbirds in their talons. One of the prey items was easily identified – a Yellow-tufted Honeyeater, while the other young sparrowhawk had a slightly larger catch … possibly a young Red Wattlebird.

The third sparrowhawk was in similar garb to the juveniles but appeared to be an older immature bird, the slaty-grey upper parts retaining just a semblance of rufous edging on the wing coverts, with this feature more pronounced in the juvenile birds. The parent, which I think was the female, on account of its larger size, later captured a meal for itself … a Scarlet Robin I suspect.

Upon returning home a spot of research revealed that Collared Sparrowhawks sometimes breed before they attain their full adult plumage. This article gives a fabulously detailed account.

This blog post from 2015 has a nice image of an adult Collared Sparrowhawk.

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Collared Sparrowhawk – juvenile with prey, Mia Mia Track, 29th January 2022

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The second juvenile with a Yellow-tufted Honeyeater

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The third bird – I suspect the female parent … still in immature plumage

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Collared Sparrowhawk … ever alert

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One of the juveniles in the act of dismembering its prey

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The female again, this time with what appears to be a Scarlet Robin … note the slaty-grey upper parts, lacking (largely) rufous margins to the wing coverts

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Agitated juvenile

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Collared Sparrowhawk showing the distinctive elongated middle-toe

Seen and heard

While it has been the usual suspects getting in the way of the camera on recent visits to the Muckleford bush, there are a number of interesting observations to report.

Yesterday afternoon I heard at least two Yellow-plumed Honeyeaters, occasional summer visitors from the mallee country further north and the previous evening a small party of White-throated Needletails. The latter usually arrive at ahead of a storm front but these ones appeared under clear blue skies, circling overhead for a few minutes and then disappearing before I could grab the camera.

Also … Sacred Kingfisher, Black-chinned Honeyeater, Crested Shrike-tit, Whistling Kite. Pied Currawongs were also heard calling last night in town.

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Yellow-tufted Honeyeater, Muckleford State Forest, 29th December 2021

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Brown-headed Honeyeater

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Peaceful Dove

Vigilance and patience are rewarded

At the risk of repeating myself the keys to nature observation are vigilance and patience.

Sitting quietly in the in the one spot for an extended period is usually rewarded.

Rainbow Bee-eaters are on the cusp of egg-laying, courtship feeding is a sign that tunnels have been prepared and the birds will be ‘earth-bound’ for extended periods over coming weeks.

The sudden appearance of a pair of Peregrine Falcons caused a flurry of alarm calls and a scattering of birds, large and small. Nearby an adult female Brown Goshawk allowed some excellent views as it uttered its chanting calls from a high perch in a Yellow Gum.

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Rainbow Bee-eater (male), Joyce’s Creek, 21st November 2021

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Rainbow Bee-eater (female)

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Male at right … female at left …

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Courtship feeding

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Peregrine Falcon

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Brown Goshawk (adult female)

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Flying high

Harvest has started on the Moolort Plains.

This means there will be good opportunities to observe a variety of raptors over coming weeks.

Black Kites and Whistling Kites are two of the larger species that profit at this time of year.

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Black Kite, Moolort Plains, 18th November 2021

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Whistling Kite

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Success!

Always exciting to record Barking Owls in the Newstead district … even more so when there are signs of successful breeding.

I’ve been watching this local pair for a few weeks now, hoping to see a youngster in tow. Typically the owlets are out of the nesting hollow by early October and I was beginning to think this pair had failed in this year’s breeding effort.

Not so!

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Barking Owl (male), Newstead, 4th November 2021

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Female Barking Owl

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Barking owlet

Kite return

A while back I bemoaned the fact that Black-shouldered Kites had apparently disappeared from the district. In recent years this once common raptor has seemingly declined locally. A few birds have started trickling back in recent weeks, possibly the result of good breeding conditions in central Australia.

The juvenile bird pictured below was spotted on a low perch at Captain’s Creek, intent on the activity of small birds in a nearby Hedge Wattle. It allowed me to come almost within touching distance. The adult bird pictured was seen on a well-known raptor perch, just north of where Green Gully Creek crosses the highway west of the town. A cranky raven provoked a screech from the kite before it took flight.

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Black-shouldered Kite (juvenile), Captain’s Creek, 17th October 2021

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Black-shouldered Kite (adult), Green Gully Creek Newstead, 21st October 2021

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