Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Friday, October 17, 2008

The Magpies told me - there's a Wedgie outside!

I have often said, on this blog, listen to your Magpies - they will tell you when Eagles and Hawks are around.

This afternoon I was sitting on my bed, thinking of having a little "Nanna Nap", when I realised that the Magpies outside were being unusually persistent in their cries and squarkings. So I took my own advice, grabbed the camera and went out to have a look around. What did not make sense was that the Magpies were all sitting in the trees (not circling above), but they were complaining about something.

Normally what they do is follow an Eagle or Hawk, and take it in turns to fly above it, and then dive-bomb the intruder from above. Not today. They were not visible, nor moving, just calling - persistently - from the tops of the local Blackwoods.

I walked along the side verandah, and towards the back of the house, suddenly, there was a huge amount of movement and noise. A huge bird flew out from a Sassafras tree, just a mere 30 metres away. It then flew down the valley to gain height and speed, and swung around to the east, heading for a line of Pine Trees on the horizon, 300 metres away. It was tailed initially by a Raven, and 3 Magpies, but only one stuck with it. It was, of course, a Wedge-tailed Eagle. Totally unexpected sitting in one of my trees!

This was so sudden, and unexpected, that I could barely recover myself to take a single shot, before the bird disappeared over the local horizon (a ridge) and then it would have been in "clean air space", and could easily out-distance the Magpies.

This shot (below) appears to show a V shape under the wings of the Eagle - with a tiny patch of blue sky between both objects. That is correct. It shows a Magpie, right behind the Eagle - flapping like crazy to keep up with the Eagle. The Magpie's wings are in the Up-beat position, underneath the Eagle, which is on the down-beat of its wings. If you can click on the image to enlarge it, do try that - but it will not be very clear. The powerlines are about 200 metres away - but for an Eagle, that is only a matter of a few flaps, a few seconds flying time, especially when it got the fright of its life when it found itself only 30 metres away from me (coming out of my house).

I mentioned that the Wedgie was sitting in a Sassafras Tree. That almost defies belief. These trees are so dense, that there is no way an Eagle could sit "in" the tree. (Click here to see an image of this tree - to see what I mean). It was obviously sitting atop a clump of small branches. This is such an unusual position that I can only assume that the bird was "forced to land" by a group of Magpies (more-or-less crash landed). In other words, it had taken refuge on or in the top of the Sassafras. That was until I came to check out the Magpies calls, and disturbed the Eagle (unwittingly).

Needless to say, I would have loved to have taken a shot of the head of an Eagle poking out from some dense Sassafras foliage, at 30 metres range. But that was never going to happen, was it?

(I should start a catalogue of "If Only" images). Fellow Nature Bloggers are invited to offer their own "If Only" stories.

Here are two shots from previous years of Wedge-tailed Eagles flying over my house (different days). This is one of my favourite shots, showing the tail shape and the spread "fingers" of the wings, as the bird circles me. In fact, on 200% cropping, I was able to see that the Eagle was using its far superior vision to look straight down the line of my camera lens (checking if I was aiming a camera or a gun at it). (Click here to see the same image cropped, and expanded, with a "Photoshopped" circle highlighting the bird's head. You can see the bird's eye staring straight at me.) Click here to read the full post about Eagles, from last year.

In this angle, the beak is reflecting a patch of light, as are the undersides of the main flight feathers. These shots show how I would expect to see a Wedgie at my place. From my photo catalogue, this happens about once every 6 months.

Rest assured, magnificent birds, you are always safe at my house - even if the resident magpies give you a hard time (unjustifiably).


Mosura said...

As an alternative possibility I wonder if it may have aborted an attempt at taking some prey and landed temporarily in the tree, thus attracting the interest of the local mob. We'll never know of course but it's interesting to hypothesise.

mick said...

A fantastic story! How lucky you were to see the eagle - and its definitely a one-of-a-kind happening! I've only ever seen them circling far overhead but even that sends the other birds into panic mode.

Tyra in Vaxholm said...

I have a love/hate relation with the magpie. I have noticed lately that they work in team with crows! Isn't that odd? / Tyra
Beautiful bird that eagle of yours, magnificent.

Snail said...

It's lovely seeing wedge-tailed eagles. I occasionally spot them from my office window, soaring high in the thermals. (Them, obviously, not me.)

Denis Wilson said...

Hi Folks

Thanks for thwe comments.

Welcome to Tyra from Vaxholm (in Sweden). Our Aussie Magpies are different from yours. Named for their black and white colouring. I hope you come back to the previous days's post re Peonies - our Spring season is just starting. There will be many more Peony flowers to come.

Lovely image of Snail soaring high on the thermals (in his office) -until he avoided the ambiguity.

Its had not to be in awe of the Eagles.