Bird of the Week: the Australian Hobby has lunch on the wing
Last Friday I packed up the Troopie and headed north-west for a few hours to a gorge that I've camped at a few times in the past. At this time of year there are quite a few waterholes scattered throughout the ranges that this gorge cuts through. Right now the waterhole near the mouth of the gorge is full and fresh, later in the year the waterhole will be the last "free" water in the area.
I’ve been living in Alice Springs for a few months now and miss my daily walks through the bush at Yuendumu to walk the dogs and keep an eye on the birds that live in and wander through that corner of the Tanami Desert. So I try to get back out bush when I can to catch up with the country and the birds. And right now is a particularly good time for birds because we’ve had some – but not enough – of our summer rains.
So last Friday I packed up the Troopie and headed north-west for a few hours to a gorge that I’ve camped at a few times in the past. You can see one of my reports of the bird life at this gorge here. At this time of year there are quite a few waterholes scattered throughout the ranges that this gorge cuts through. Right now the waterhole near the mouth of the gorge is full and fresh, later in the year the waterhole will be the last “free” water in the area. For much of the year this waterhole is an essential resource for the many granivores – the small doves, finches and parrots – that need to access water several times a day to survive.
And where you have a steady flow of small birds to and from a reliable waterhole you will also find the birds that kill and eat them. Which is one of the reasons that I keep coming back to this place – to see the wonderful variety of raptors – the birds that eat other birds – that forage for prey around the gorge and the ranges.
Here are a few of the birds I caught up with over the weekend.
This Australian Hobby turned up late in the morning with an unidentified small bird a large grasshopper clutched firmly in it’s talons and proceeded to fly around above me for about five minutes, all the while keeping an eye out for other raptors that would try to steal it’s feed – and tearing strips off its tender prey.
As I’ve reported in my previous post this gorge is a favourite hunting ground for the Peregrine Falcons, the larger cousin of the Hobby pictured here. While I didn’t manage to catch any Peregrines with my camera on this visit, one evening while I was preparing my dinner a Peregrine flew through my camp at furious speed and about four feet off the ground in hot pursuit of some hapless small bird. I didn’t see if the Peregrine made the kill but it did fly back over my camp and had a close look at what I was up to before disappearing into the gloaming.
A pair of Brown Falcons appear to have taken up residence in and around the gorge and on several occasions I saw fascinating interactions between the Brown Falcons and other raptors, with the Falcons attacking one of a pair of Brown Goshawks that deigned to hunt in their claimed territory and in turn being attacked by the Goshawks, who were not shy of their own aerial interactions.
Other raptors that I saw over the course of the weekend included a single Wedge-tailed Eagle that glided past with unrivalled authority late one afternoon, a Black Falcon and several of what are my most favourite Australian bird of prey, the Spotted Harrier. Here are a few more pictures.
And here, in part for dramatic effect but also to perhaps prompt some thought about keeping a good lookout for birds of prey on our roadsides, is a Brown Falcon in deathly repose after being hit by a car. I found this bird on the side of the road as I drove out for the weekend.
And of course there was a wide variety of non-raptorial species in and around this valuable resource. This is one of a pair of Pallid Cuckoos that called incessantly all weekend – from first to last light.