A good raptor morning in the Tanami

To: "Birding-Aus (Forum)" <>
Subject: A good raptor morning in the Tanami
From: bob gosford <>
Date: Sat, 29 Aug 2009 15:22:01 +0930
Up and out to check out a nesting pair of Peregrines in a small valley about
20 km out of town. En-route a single Brown Falcon and a Little Eagle in the
pre-dawn light. Driving into the valley a large falcon flew from beside the
road, probably one of the Peregrines.

We had talked about walking into this valley for some time because of the
high likelihood of nesting sites on the sheer east-facing cliff wall that
line one side of it. Over the past couple of months we've cleared an old
overgrown track sufficient to allow a vehicle to drive about a km into the
valley. The steep broken rock walls have a number of sites with evidence of
past nesting and/or roosting and one area in particular had a number of
relatively fresh whitewash areas scattered over a length of a couple of
hundred metres.
About 1 km away is another rocky outcrop with similar old whitewashed
nesting sites scattered over several hundred metres of the steep rock walls.

We'd not seen any signs of cliff-nesting raptors in the valley itself until
two days ago when my partner returned to camp from her walk further up the
valley and asked "Did you see the birds? They were wrestling in mid-air and
calling loudly". She showed me a photo that she'd taken in the failing light
that clearly showed a Peregrine in the area with extensive whitewashed nest
& roost sites..

Yesterday I went out early in the afternoon and soon spotted the pair of
Peregrines. One was on a rock ledge 20 metres down from the cliff-top, the
other in a small tree at the top of the cliff. For an hour or so they
appeared to be resting or sleeping, with little movement other than to make
it clear that they knew I was watching from behind a tree some hundreds of
metres away. I managed to get a few shots of them but did not try to get
closer. After sun down the bird from the tree flew around the valley several
times, roosting opposite on the top of the cliff site until I left to return
to camp in falling light.

This morning I was in the valley just as sun rose (really an hour late!) and
saw no sign of the falcons other than the bird that flew away as I drove in.
I occupied myself with taking shots of the resident Mistletoebirds and the
many Little Woodswallows flittering along the lee of the cliff edge. After a
couple of hours I heard a falcon's call and noticed that one bird was
perched on the top of the cliff, softly responding to the other, which was
calling loudly and flying along the cliff wall at speed, and then flying
several circuits overhead - offering wonderful views and allowing me to get
some reasonable flight shots. I saw no more of the birds after the falcon
perched on the cliff flew to the nest/roost site it had been at the previous
evening. The other bird flew away to the east.

An hour or so later I left and en route to town checked out the nests (one
old, one used last year) of a pair of Black-breasted Buzzards - no sign of
nesting but one bird was flying close to the nest. back in town a short trip
to the sewer ponds rewarded with a single Yellow-billed Spoonbill (with very
"dirty" plumage), a pair of Australasian Grebes with 3 chicks, a
White-necked Heron, a Red-kneed Dotterel and over head a Brown Falcon,
another Black-breasted Buzzard and another Little Eagle, with both the
Buzzard and the Eagle giving obliging photo opportunities.

Then home for breakfast...that is what I call a good morning!

Bob Gosford

Yuendumu, NT

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