17 August, 2011

Gone with the wind...

Ducks on Hospital Swamp
Yesterday I headed back to Tait's Point - via Hospital Swamp - and then to Barwon Heads hoping to get some better bird shots to add to the ones I took last week. Great idea...in theory.
The scene was set as I headed around Lake Road when I saw what was quite possibly a Black-winged Kite perched on a fence post. Coming to an abrupt halt, I grabbed the camera only to see my quarry heading for a distant tree.
Things continued in this vein when at Hospital Swamp I didn't get a clear shot of several Crimson Rosellas or a Black-faced Cuckoo Shrike. Round at Tait's Point I didn't get a good shot of a pair of Eastern Rosellas. The Brown Falcons were circling, the Whistling Kites were doing just that but all far enough in the distance that there was no chance of a photo and there was no sign of the cuckoos or greenfinches I saw last week. Even the swallows seemed to have better things to do.
Not a good start.
Crested Tern at Barwon Heads
Whilst the weather was relatively mild and sunny in patches, it was rather windy, blowing in from the north and east I judged. I have noticed in the past that the jetties near the Tait's Point car park are a favourite spot for the cormorants to perch and dry their wings. I have also noticed that some days they use both jetties and on other days they prefer one to the other, making me wonder if one offers more protection than the other. Today, they were absent altogether. Also missing in action were the hundreds of ducks, swamphens and cormorants which I saw on Hospital Swamp last week.
Clearly they know more about the weather than I do and know a cool easterly wind when they feel it and had decided that today was not the day to be out on the lake. Of course, the sport of fishing is also quite weather and wind dependent, so perhaps the birds know that an easterly does not make for good fishing at this location.
Nankeen Kestrel over the Bluff at Barwon Heads
What ever the reason, I left empty handed on this occasion and decided to try my luck at Barwon Heads. Not surprisingly, it was quite windy there too, but some of the coastal birds to be found at the Heads are obviously made of sterner stuff than those on the lakes. The gulls as always, were in attendance and a whole raft of smaller birds were making themselves heard - but unfortunately not seen - from the scrub near the Bluff. On the rocks below I spotted a tern - the first I'd seen and then above I noticed several Nankeen Kestrels making use of the air currents to float over the edge of the cliff face before diving down upon their prey. Again and again they took to the air, hovering, waiting and then descending like a rock on some unsuspecting creature below. So good are the kestrels at hovering, that it made for a rather good photo opportunity even with my limited equipment.
So in the end, I was left with several reasonable photos and even more questions about the effects of prevailing wind patterns on bird behaviour - but with no obvious answers.

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