The last few mornings dog walks have been spiced up by some very territorial brown goshawks. As we walk along the river and then down onto the river bed we can hear them calling and chattering. It then goes quiet for a second or so and then there is a loud whoosh as you are buzzed from behind. As the bird passes overhead you can feel the air current generated by its wings. At first I thought the birds were objecting to the dog but I and this pattern persisted for about a week. But then something happened that disabused me of that notion – my hat suddenly became the victim of a bird of prey. The last time it happened they managed to knock it off my head. I’m beginning to think my bicycle helmet may be more appropriate headwear.
The other day I’d been up on Mount Brown (which is a grand name for a moderately sized hill) looking for interesting birds to photograph. The conditions were great, but the birds uncooperative so I gave up and started driving home. At the bottom of the hill I caught out of the corner of my eye a nankeen kestrel hunting on an empty block. It swooped down into the long grass and quickly took off again obviously holding something. So I did something I’d never thought that I’d do. I’ve just been really getting into this bird photography malarkey and have been watching YouTube videos for tips. Mostly British videos, but the occasional American one. I’d noticed that quite a few of the American ones had the photographers driving around looking for birds and photographing then from the car. Well I started to follow this bird in the car. It didn’t go far. It landed on the power lines outside of Marwick’s Barn obviously to catch its breath. It obviously decided that the power lines was no place to deal with the kicking and struggling mouse so it moved to the top of a nearby power pole. So I pulled up on to the dirt shoulder and hanging out of the driver’s side window I photographed madly.
There were no niceties, the kestrel didn’t even both to dispatch its prey before eating – it just pulled the mouse apart. I continued snapping frantically. When everything was finished the kestrel noticed the sound of the camera and gave me a hard stare. Rumbled! With a look of disdain it flew off.
The other morning just as I was about to have my shower I heard a commotion on my front veranda. Quickly putting on my dressing gown (I don’t want to scare the neighbours) I went and looked out to see what was going on. To my delight a collared sparrowhawk had perched on the rail to eat its prey. I quickly ran to my office and grabbed a camera and long lens and started shooting.
The commotion was caused by the resident Willie Wagtails (Rhipidura leucophrys leucophrys). For the non Aussies among us the Willie Wagtail is a tiny insect-eating bird whose bossiness and boldness knows no bounds and they will often attempt to chase off larger animals from their territory. That was what happening here hence all the noise.
The Willie Wagtails made several sorties to no avail. Although the collared sparrowhawk’s feathers became a little ruffled at the constant harassment of the tiny feathered furies it did not move on and eventually the small birds gave up and left.
The raptor only left when I tried to move closer to get a better photo.