My family and I spent the long weekend just gone at
the Rotamah Island bird observatory in the Gippsland Lakes. Highly
recommended, and many thanks again to Liz and Craig for looking after us so
well. However, our best bird for the trip didn't show upuntil we were well
on our way home.
I looked up about 5 km west of Rosedale on the
Princes Hwy (about 180 km east of Melbourne), and saw a large BOP flying fairly
purposefully west, more or less following the road. A Magpie flew up to
harass it, giving a fair indication of size: large, but definitely not to
Wedge-tail or Sea-eagle size. The BOP did not seem worried by the Magpie,
just kept flying steadily with even, rowing sort of wingbeats. We went
underneath it, looking up (carefully) and I made out pretty distinct roundish
pale markings around the base of the primaries. The wings looked quite
long for the size of the bird. Cathy had a better look (while I glanced
back at the traffic), and couldn't distinguish any other clear markings on the
wings, but the tips were fingered rather than pointed. I pulled over and
managed another look as the bird headed further west, veering a bit to the right
away to the north of the road. The tail was broadish but not especially
long; with the angle of the light I couldn't make out any pattern. It
looked proportionately bigger than a Little Eagle's tail. It glided a bit
at this stage, and the wings were upswept in the glide, with a bit of a break a
bit over halfway out, the outer portion again upswept, especially at the
tips. This was quite different from, say, a Sea-eagle or a harrier, which
in my experience display a clean sweep of the wings from body to tip.
I am familiar with both Little Eagle and Whistling
Kite, and on the basis of my experience I'd comfortably rule out both of those,
nor did it look anything like any of the Black Kites I have seen. The
closest I could come is Square-tailed Kite, of which I've only ever seen one,
about 25 years ago. I had a chance to look at the glide silhouette in
HANZAB a couple of days later, and it looked spot on. Seems a bit odd in
Gippsland in the middle of June, however, if they are summer migrants as recent
literature seems to suggest.
I'd welcome any comments from anyone more familiar with Square-tailed Kites
than I am (or anyone else who's seen one in the Latrobe Valley recently).
Spent dawn this morning in Sherbrooke for the first of this winter's three
Lyrebird survey mornings - heard three Lyrebirds and one Sotty Owl - well worth
losing an hour or two's sleep.