Sunday, September 30, 2007

Unexpected Behaviour--Wedge-tailed Eagle

Bird behaviour can sometimes surprise you when you least expect it. I had been birding on Goat Bluff, on the South Arm peninsula, on the eastern shore of the Derwent River, and decided to make the short journey to the South Arm neck, really hoping to get to grips with one of the Swamp Harriers which hunt over the marsh there, from time to time. The first thing I noted as I drove along the neck, was the flock of Oystercatchers, mostly Pied with a couple of Sooty, roosting within a metre of the road. Although the tide was in, this isn't the favoured roost site, and I surmised that they had been disturbed, but by what or whom? I drove on. I casually looked toward the stunted trees, growing on the windswept dunes to the South, half expecting to see a Harrier, the treetops being a vantage point they often use to survey the marsh. I did a double take! Instead of the expected Harrier, there was the unmistakable shape of a Wedge-tailed Eagle. Quickly doing a U turn, I pulled to the side of the road to watch and take a photograph, albeit from inside the car, as I felt sure it would fly off if I got out. Having secured a shot, (I've added the image to show it really was a free flying bird!), I got a little bolder and moved the car closer. It lifted off and using the updraft from the dunes, hunted over the area. I watched, just enjoying the moment, as the eagle went about it's business, but a little disappointed in not getting a better shot.
But all was
not lost! It returned to the vantage point it had only recently left. Well, over the next 20 minutes or so, I got a little bolder in my approach. Eventually getting ouit of the car and walking up to the tree it was in--and it stayed there! The shots shown here were taken from the sort of distance an eagle or indeed any other bird, would almost certainly normally cause them to take flight. I walked back to my car with the eagle still atop the tree, mulling over why it had behaved so apparently indifferent to my presence. Perhaps it was driven by hunger, or is it a recently rehabilitated bird? I have seen, what I suspect is this bird, hunting over nearby woodland and on to Betsy Island, usually harried by local Forest Ravens. I doubt that I'll ever know the cause, but it's events like this, that make birding so pleasurable.

5 comments:

John Tongue said...

Nice shots of the eagles, Alan! We happened on a pair near St. Helen's on our recent holiday. They were feeding on road kill as we rounded a bend on a back track. They only flew up into a nearby tree, but we didn't try to get out of the car, as they were pretty nervous. I suspect they went back to their find soon after we left. One of our pair was quite 'golden'. Not sure if that means it was one or other sex, or just a younger bird - I'm sure I've read they darken with age.

BirdingTas said...

Thanks for your comments, John. I don't think there was any suggestion, by it's behaviour, that would suggest that this bird was interested in a road kill or similar. Surprisingly, it wasn't being harried by the Forest Ravens either, their presence usually a good sign that there's a free feed about! Wedgetails nest on nearby Betsy Island, and it's possible that it has young to feed, and that urge has made it somewhat tamer. The approach to this eagle was across an open paddock.

Graeme said...

awesome shots!! what lens do you use - a 500 mm 2.8?

BirdingTas said...

Thanks for the compliment Graeme. You were half right! I do have a 500mm lens, but it's a Sigma 50-500mm f6.3, now supplanted by a Canon 100-400mm f5.6, which at least for my style of photography, is much better.

Graeme said...

yes, much more mobile!!