Monday, February 19, 2007
I recently found myself picking my way round pools of rainwater formed on either side of the unsealed road near the oyster sheds at Pipeclay Lagoon. The recent rainstorm had not only flooded this road, but made remedial work on the beach access from the sheds necessary. As I did so (I was in my car), I momentarily noticed an obvious bird of prey out of the corner of my eye. My first guess was a Swamp Harrier, as they are by far the most commonly seen bird of prey here, usually hunting over the roadside marsh. Not able to safely take my eye off the road, and in any event viewing the bird against the glare of the sun, I briefly lost sight of it. Second view it appeared dark, and obviously not flying like a harrier...maybe a Peregrine Falcon? They are occasionally seen here, and well worth further investigation. I drove on, doing a swift U-turn, my eyes partially on the road, and yet seeking a further view of this bird. By now it was some hundreds of metres away, but luckily it propped on a fence post and was being harrassed by a pair of Masked Lapwings. I drove slowly toward it, praying that it would stay long enough for a photograph. As I did, and by now the truth of its' ID had dawned on me, I watched it duck each time a Lapwing made a pass. I stopped some 40 metres away and took the accompanying shots, before it finally took flight. The bird, as you can see, is a juvenile Brown Falcon. Much darker than the adult birds that are more commonly seen. I suspect it was drawn here by the literally hundreds of White-fronted Chats feeding on the edges of the roadside pools. Perhaps a Brown Falcon is not quite as interesting as either of my first two guesses, but it did give me a 'photo opportunity' and a few moments of excitement as I speculated on its' identity.