13 August, 2011

Go Fly a Kite

...or more precisely, go watch the kites flying. And I do occasionally. Here and there I have seen parents and their kids out flying kites in the parks along the banks of the Barwon. Last week as I was riding home, there was a kite flying above Balyang Sanctuary - probably from King Lloyd Reserve on the opposite side of Shannon Avenue.
Of late, the kids have expressed an interest in kite flying, so it looks like I'll have to invest in a new toy and get out there, hopefully creating a few photo-opportunities along the way. In the meantime, I will have to settle for photos of a different kind of kite.
Whistling Kite
Last week during a trip to Tait's Point, I wandered along the shore of Lake Connewarre, making my way round to Hospital Swamp - an area of the lake complex which I hadn't seen before. Not far from the parking area at Tait's Point, I was following the rough track which leads along the edge of the lake, keeping an eye and ear out to see what birds might be around. At this point the bank is well above water level and the land around is open farmland covered with long grass.
To my left, I suddenly noticed I was being observed by a large raptor which was standing quietly, almost completely camouflaged amongst the grass. I carefully snapped a few photos, watched closely the whole time. I moved a little closer, hoping to get a better shot and to minimise the amount of grass impinging on the shots. My subject however, was having none of that, and immediately took to the air, circling overhead and confounding my attempts to take even one respectable aerial shot.
It vaguely crossed my mind that such birds often hunted in pairs, but unfortunately I did not consider this seriously enough and as I moved off, a second bird took to the air. Eventually I abandoned my attempts at mid-air photography - doing this properly would require a significant upgrade to my photographic equipment and probably some specialist training. Neither is likely to happen any time soon.
So, hoping I'd taken at least one decent shot, I moved on a little and discovered a flock of red-rumped parrots perched - as they are wont to do - on the branches of a dead tree. Not particularly fazed by my presence, they twittered away whilst I snapped my shots. I moved in closer - still no reaction from the parrots. At that point however, one of the raptors (I had yet to identify them), swooped low overhead. What had been a tree full of parrots, very quickly became nothing more than a dead tree once again. Clearly whilst I was not considered to be a significant threat, the same could not be said for the large bird of prey overhead and the parrots made themselves scarce very quickly.
Meanwhile, I continued my walk, heading round to Hospital Swamp which I found to be home to many dozens of ducks, cormorants, swans and even an egret. I spent another hour or more taking photos and wandering around whilst above, the large birds continued to circle.
Eventually, I headed home and did some research which informed me a) that my raptor was a Whistling Kite and b) that there were many better photos around than the ones I'd managed to snap. Oh well, at least I now had proof of another species of bird living by the river - two actually, including the Great Egret I'd seen.
Brown Falcon
Buoyed by my "discovery", I headed back to Tait's Point a couple of days later, snapping more photos of several other species I hadn't seen before, including a European Green Finch, a Brush Cuckoo and a very obliging  Fan-tailed Cuckoo which was more than happy to pose for me. Once again I was pleased to note a pair of large birds circling overhead.
The weather was better on this occasion than two days earlier when I'd returned home with some good photos but very wet feet. Today I had good photos and dry feet. Great! Then, having decided I'd done enough for the day, I headed back the way I'd come. As I approached the point where I'd seen the kites two days earlier, I suddenly spotted what I thought was one of the same pair sitting on the branch of a dead tree. Carefully, I snapped several shots, closely observed once again. Also like last time, I attempted to approach a little closer only to have my quarry take to the air. So, again, I admitted defeat, headed for home and downloaded the new batch of photos only to discover that this raptor was not the kite I had seen the previous day. Instead, it was a Brown Falcon, a smaller, stockier bird with differently coloured plumage.
And so I had another bird to add to my tally. All in all another successful outing and a little better educated than before. Now to teach the kids how to fly a kite...

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