Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Friday, September 07, 2007

Grey skies and Grey Goshawk

Today I was doing some work in the garden, with the help of Kim and her offsider, Damien. We were moving some plants around, and doing some clearing of trees and shrubs which had been damaged by wind.

While doing some of these chores, I suddenly realised there was a chorus of Magpies making those distinctive calls they make when chasing away an intruder. Magpies are such good "alarm" birds, and always tell me when a hawk or eagle is around. Listen to your local Magpies - they have many different calls, and some of them will lead you to an interesting sight, such as happened today.

High above, a Grey Goshawk was being chased round and round by three Magpies. Today's sky was grey and dull, unlike the clear blue sky from two weeks ago, when I walked along the track to Clover Hill Falls (half way down Macquarie Pass). I also saw a Grey Goshawk then, circling high. Not a good photo, but it is distinctive with the round tail, wide grey wings, and large white body. The Grey Goshawk is a classic bird of the rainforest, so Clover Hill Falls is absolutely classic habitat for this bird. Robertson, just a few kilometres away, is easily within foraging distance from this bird's main habitat.

The Goshawk looked at first glance, like a White Cockatoo, but Magpies would not bother to harass a Cocky. Not only are Cockies no threat to the Magpies, but also, a solitary Cockatoo is almost an oxymoron. They are a flock bird, and seldom fly by themselves.

The Grey Goshawk is a powerful flier, and soon outpaced the Magpies, and it flew off out of their territory. The Maggies lost interest and tailed away, heading back to the Pine Trees on the local ridge. Here is a photo of a Grey Goshawk, perched in the Redwoods in the "School Forest" here in Robertson. The yellow legs, the high stance, and the large size of this bird are all distinctive.
Here is the same bird doing what one mostly sees a Grey Goshawk doing - flying away from you. In this case it was landing, so the tail and wings are wide spread (to lose speed, as it comes in to land). But the shape of the wings and tail are diagnostic features of this bird.

The other "white" birds of prey (in the local district) are very different. The Black-shouldered Kite is a much smaller bird, with pointed wings, which either sits on power lines, or hovers (stationary in the sky) with a heavy flapping motion, while hunting for mice or large insects, like Grasshoppers. The other local grey and white bird of prey is also very different - the White-breasted Sea Eagle. It is huge, by comparison, and could not be confused with the Grey Goshawk.


steve said...

Hi Dennis,
Fantastic post, mate. I have only seen the grey goshawk a few times. They are a beautiful bird, indeed. I have been reading about magpies which do indeed harass birds of prey who come into their territory.
Thanks for the hints re diagnostic features.


Denis Wilson said...

Thanks Steve
I am not a photographer's bootlace, but I am a pretty good observer.
I was taught from the age of 5 by good naturalists. I try to describe things in a meaningful way, if I can.
I appreciate your comments.