This afternoon I sat soaking
up the sun on the Lake Ginninderra shore at McDermott Place absorbed in Sue
Halpern’s Four Wings and a Prayer – Caught in the Mystery of the
Monarch Butterfly when I looked up for no particular reason, birder’s
sixth sense maybe, and high overhead a White-bellied Sea-Eagle was heading
helter-skelter northward. Hot on its tail were three Magpies and two Ravens. As
the eagle swung west the ravens broke away and began a long descent in the
direction of Bruce, while the magpies pressed home their harassment until
all were out of sight.
Lately, during these sunny,
warm and still afternoons after about 5 o’clock larger garden birds
launch feeding forays against aerial insects. Today, an hour before sundown I
sat in the backyard still glued to Halpern when a Red Wattlebird and a Noisy
Friarbird whizzed by. At first I thought they were competing for
hunting rights , but no, turned out to be more like a cooperative effort as the
pair landed next to one another on a cable and flew in tandem to grab airborne
prey before returning to their perch to gobble down the spoils. A pair of
Black-faced Cuckoo-shrikes began hunting nearby as more wattlebirds launched vertical
sorties from a Silver birch at the far end of the garden.
An immaculate male White-backed
Magpie (looking like he’d just returned from the dry cleaners) appeared
at my feet and scrutinised me for a moment before pinching the salami from a
half-eaten sandwich that was on a plate on the grass next to my chair. Good.
Might teach the pilfering knave a lesson, see, it was Hungarian salami,
liberally spiced with hot paprika. Snicker, snicker.
John K. Layton