At 1 pm on 17 October 2006, I was birdwatching near the viewing platform at
Shepherds Lookout, when I saw a Brown Falcon perched atop a dead Casaurina about
30 m away. As I crept towards it, the falcon took wing and I noticed it was
carrying a bird in its talons.
In the few seconds I had the airborne falcon in the field of view of my
binoculars, the prey’s dorsal areas appeared to be grey and its drooping wings
pointed. As the prey was gripped by the breast, I didn’t glimpse the ventral
plumage. However, what I saw of it, particularly the pointed wings, caused me
think of a small raptor – most likely an Australian Hobby.
The Brown Falcon landed some100 m away on a bare branch jutting out from a
Yellow Box about 8 m above the ground. I stalked it for 10 minutes until, 30 m
away, I stopped to watch. The falcon was plucking its prey, pausing every few
seconds, looking up and swiveling its head from side to side.
The prey’s downy breast feathers plumed away like smoke on the breeze.
Nonetheless, I was able to discern that the breast appeared rufous-brown, which
reinforced my guess that it might have been a hobby. After five minutes, I
decided to get closer but, as I moved, the falcon took wing carrying its prey.
Fifty metres later it dropped its prey into a paddock and continued on,
disappearing down into the river valley.
When the falcon didn’t return after fifteen minutes, I headed to where I
thought the prey had been dropped. "Serendipity!" I thought, "this will be the
proof of the pudding." However, contretemps countered serendipity – I couldn’t
locate the stupid thing! I quartered some 2500 m2 and didn’t
find so much as a feather.
As there’s a Peregrine Falcons’ eerie in the area, I also considered the prey
species might have been a fledgling peregrine. I suppose some early-hatched
peregrine fledglings could be abroad as early as mid-October. Whether a Brown
Falcon would be feisty/foolhardy enough to hunt peregrine fledglings if the
parents were in the vicinity is another question. And it just occurred to me: as
I reckoned the prey species was no bigger than a hobby, perhaps a fledgling
peregrine would have appeared noticeably larger. S’pose I should check the books
but am too lazy/tired.
Earlier, I looked up Brown Falcons in HANZAB and, under prey, the only
mention of raptors I noticed is a Black-shouldered Kite.