Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Eagles over the Wollondilly River

Today I went with the Southern Highlands Photographic Society, to visit a property of one of their members, in a district called "Bullio", overlooking the steep gorge through which the ancient Wollondilly River flows. I say ancient, for this is granite country - really hard rock. And yet the River has carved a really steep gorge, down about 300 metres, or more.

The view from the Red Door Gazebo.
The Wollondilly River is just visible in the dark line of vegetation
on the bottom right of the image. (Click to enlarge).Here is the Gazebo, (centre) seen from the highest point on the property.

This is Eagle country, out here. The Wedge-tailed Eagle (Aquila audax) is a large, powerful flier, but they love to revel in breezes and uplifts which steep gullies like this produce. Also, they like to build their nests in trees on the side of steep gullies, as the breezes allow the adult birds to leave the nest easily, by just catching the wind, and flying out away from the nest, without too much energy use. It also enables young birds to strengthen their flight muscles (in their chest) by practice flapping, while still in the nest. With the wind rushing through their feathers, but their powerful claws firmly gripping the nest structure, the chicks can "fly" without leaving the safety of the nest.
Soaring Eagle, with wedge-shaped tail visible.
One Eagle, in several frames, merged into a composite image. In the first frame, the bird is diving down (from the top of its flight path) by closing its wings tightly (dropping like a stone); then as it builds up speed it spreads wings slightly to regain control; then flattening out at the bottom of a dive; before arcing back up to the top level of the cliffs, and doing it all over again. This routine is "play" and both birds in the pair were doing similar manoeuvres. (Click on image, to enlarge it, and see this bird properly).
A pair of Eagles circling in alternate arcs (as they often do). Here I managed to get them in a single frame, with a cloud below them, for scale and "aspect" - so you can see the weather conditions, hot, humid, possible storm developing. At this point the birds were well above the cliff lines, but still riding the wind patterns generated by the steep valley below them.

Note the upturned wing tips of the top bird. It is flying directly away from me, with wings flat, except for the tips of the wings, which bend upwards, with the pressure of the wind. The lower bird is circling around in a clockwise pattern, as it turns to come back in my direction.
Here is another panoramic shot, to give you a sense of perspective again (after staring into the sky - looking at distant Eagles).
I like this image, for it shows the angular hillside, but the "wild tobacco plants" (Verbascum sp.) grow in stiff upright stalks, from a sloping base. So we have strong angles, contrasted with numerous vertical lines.

Thanks to Bruce and Carolyn for their generous hospitality, today.


David said...

Hi Denis,
Bloody eagles think being such a majestic bird that they would be more friendly to the camera....and come a little closer.
Nice composite shot mate...well captured, and gives an idea of the process of a dive.


Denis Wilson said...

I agree, David.
Either I need tamer Eagles, or a much longer lens?