A winter's day (and some Letter-winged Kite images)

To: Birding Aus <>
Subject: A winter's day (and some Letter-winged Kite images)
From: Bill Jolly <>
Date: Fri, 18 Jul 2003 13:33:42 +1000
A gloriously warm and gentle English summer's day - but it's really
mid-winter in Queensland! We do get a winter, but in truth it only sidles
in, creeps about for a bit and then it's off before anyone from almost
anywhere other than Queensland would notice it. Mind you, as a long-standing
Queenslander, I still expect to shiver in August.

Three Speckled Warblers have been chasing around and around through the
trees this-morning, it's about as high off the ground as I've ever seen
them, something exciting must be going on. Variegated, Red-backed and Superb
Fairywrens are all in the brightest plumage and singing seemingly all day,
every day. Half a dozen butterfly species are still active every day. This
is the first year I've kept a monthly butterfly list, it will be interesting
to see which ones go right through.

When I popped down the road to get the paper on Sunday, I realised after a
kilometre or so that I hadn't got any binoculars with me - a very strange
and uncomfortable feeling!  Briefly I pondered the perverse hope that maybe
I wouldn't see any birds in the ten or fifteen minutes I'd be
binocular-less, but that was a silly thought on several grounds.

In the event, I met a great row of Cockatiels on some wires just up the road
from home; then, as I crossed Lockyer Creek at a ford near the fruit shop
where I buy the paper, three Red-tailed Black Cockatoos who were chomping
away in a roadside White Cedar allowed me to pull up alongside them and we
eyeballed each other at close quarters for a minute or so, with no pause in
their feasting; as I crossed the creek at water-level, a couple of
glistening wet Hardheads and three or four drying Little Black Cormorants
were just a handful of metres from me through the still open window; when I
arrived at the fruit shop a handsome Black-shouldered Kite was sitting on a
post adjacent, close enough for me to see his red eye without any optical
aids; and, as I opened the gate back at Abberton not long after, there was a
male Mistletoebird, red chest puffed out not much above arms length away,
while three or four Striated Pardalotes buzzed me as they sped around after
each other, chip-chip-chipping non-stop.

People-wise, it was a quiet Sunday morning, maybe that was a crucial part of
the experience, but it seemed as though a suspension of normal relations had
been declared, and I was being allowed to wander through the day invisible
to the birds - while they remained visible to me, even though I'd forgotten
my binoculars.

Yesterday afternoon, I smelled burning and went out to the verandah to find
a thick tongue of smoke extending over the creek, originating from a
neighbour's up-wind burn-off - while in between the house and the creek an
opportunistic Black Kite was wheeling and tail-twisting right in front of
me, at eye-level; quite a sizeable bird close up and much less common here
than Whistling Kites or harriers, or even Little Eagles at this time of

Stephen Harper has kindly sent me some photographs of the only Letter-winged
Kite that has been reliably confirmed to date in the Lockyer Valley. He
found the bird in poor condition near Gatton a few years back, and did a
great job in bringing it back to health, as evidenced by the photographs.

The close-up photos he took at the time show perfectly those other
characteristics, additional to the distinctive underwing, which mark out the
Letter-winged from the Black Shouldered Kite. I'm hoping to find time this
weekend to update the Abberton website with these images and a few others.
I'll put a short note on birding-aus as soon as it's available, they're well
worth a look.

Bill Jolly

Lockyer Valley, Queensland.

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