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.