Bob Lake wrote:
Re: Bob's sighting above. I've just returned from a week in the Auckland
area and visited Miranda Tuesday 28th March. While watching 1000s of
Wrybills and S Island Pied Oystercatchers, 100s of Lesser Knot and
Bar-tailed Godwits, parties of the latter two species were rising,
circling and attempting to land in some open shallow pools away from the
shoreline, when an Australasian Harrier took off and attacked from below
one group of around 150 or so Knot. It flew up towards the base of the
flock, which took evasive action wheeling up and sideways, with a tail
of the 30 or so birds drifting off to one side. The main flock continued
flying fast south along the coast with the Harrier again and again
trying to crash into them from below. Didn't see athe end of this chase
as they flew out of sight. It was a superb sight to see so many Wrybill.
Also a pair of Buf-breasted Rails with well grown juvenile, about 50
White-faced Heron, a few Sharp-tailed Sandpipers but impossible to get
close to these as no cover. Many of the Knots were in bright
chestnut-red breeding plumage.
Whistling Kite in hot pursuit
One of our most common raptors in south-east Queensland and the far
north of NSW is the Whistling Kite, which I have never before seen
hunting in this fashion.
This month, we stayed at Brooms Head - a beautiful spot around which
we recorded 99 species - also visiting nearby Sandon in Yuragir
National Park. On the Sandon estuary beach we watched flocks of Silver
Gulls and Crested and Little Terns, which rose in an almost ritual
flap every time a Whistling Kite soared lazily overhead at a height of
50 metres or so. (The kite returned from time to time to a nest high
in a Norfolk Pine - whether it was breeding or not at this time I
Then as the kite approached for the umpteenth time, it glided swiftly
down, losing altitude to be about seven metres or so above the flock
at the time the alarm was given. As the flock of about 60 gulls and
terns took to the air, the kite locked on to one Little Tern, pursuing
it through the rapidly dispersing mass and ignoring the other birds.
As the Little tern jigged and twisted, the kite turned its wings this
way and that in hot pursuit - an awesome performance in such a large
and apparently 'lazy' bird. At the far perimeter of the airborne
flock, the tern twisted its way through a jigging 180 degree turn,
followed, incredibly, by the kite. But by then the kite had lost too
much ground and although it still followed the same tern it was now
several metres behind and gave up - flapping and soaring back to its
higher patrolling altitude.
Are there many records of such determined hunting of live airborne
prey by Whistling Kites? I have never seen this before but then, maybe
I don't spend enough time on the beach.
Also visited Tiri-Tiri Matangi Island off Auckland - they now have over
350 Stitchbirds and the Kokako are also breeding successfully.- a pair
was moving around in the trees above my head (very difficult to get good
views) and singing - a weird and lovely series of calls - bell-like,
croaks, warbles - makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up. It's
a great island to spend a day on, and you get to see a few seabirds en
route - in this case a large raft of Fluttering Shearwaters as the sea
was dead flat.
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