Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Red barred bird of terra australis



Red Goshawk

Erythrotriorchis radiatus

adult female


Cape York, Queensland, Australia




If you’ve ever been looking for Red Goshawks in south-east Queensland, you know you can visit various lookouts around the Great Dividing Range and watch and wait. There you can watch bright white clouds scattered lowly about the clear blue sky. If you study them without distraction they seem to barely move and you can recognise their shapes and positions as if fixed like the mountains; or as if they were dapples of titanium white oil paint sitting motionless on a cobalt blue canvas hanging in a dimly lit room, where generations prance and hobble by…… If however, you are distracted by another bird or conversation or such and forget to count the time you look away, your mind returns to the unknown. The forms have changed or moved and the sky looks new and unfamiliar again and the sun has repositioned into the blur of another day.

Such are my memories of Red Goshawks.




I don’t know if it was because of my age or just for the fact it was the 1980s, but I didn’t get up til well after noon. It was a Sunday. It was a fine winter’s day but I shunned the light and switched on the tele. Luckily one channel was avoiding broadcasts of rugby or motor racing and even luckier it was a subject of interest to me. I don’t remember if it was still Channel O (pronounced “Oh”) or had already become Channel Ten. The clouds have since repositioned. Anyway, the title, “Hunters of the Skies” really caught my attention.







Episode one was especially exciting - “The Goshawks”. This episode introduced us to Jack and Lindsay Cupper, a father and son team of orange growers from Mildura (Victoria, Australia) who were pursuing their dream of photographing all of Australia’s 24 raptor species in the wild at the nest. Inspirational photography introduced us to our beautiful accipiters and showed us how Jack and Lindsay followed each species and filmed them unobtrusively from hides built in their own especially designed towers. The highlight of their quest was to be the holy grail of Australian raptors, the Red Goshawk. It took them just seven years to find a pair of reds at the nest and the Cuppers secured superb photographs. Furthermore the first ever movie film footage was acquired of this notoriously rare and shy raptor species, and the collections remain true Australian treasures. The documentary series has six episodes studying all the Australian raptors and was produced by Roger Whittaker Films based in Sydney.

I bought their book and studied it carefully. I also found another wonderful book by David Hollands entitled, “Eagles, Hawks, and Falcons of Australia”. (I think, I recall, I bought the latter in 1987) Both books remain incredibly beautiful and are invaluable resources for anyone interested in the nature of Australia.




Nearly thirty years later, and living well away from their distribution I’ve understood that it is unlikely to find Red Goshawks on my fleeting annual visits home and I decided to ask for professional help to ease my restless mind. I express a sincere thank you to Klaus Uhlenhut.
Suddenly the male arrived at the nest with prey.

Photograph by Michael Atzeni

Adult male

We retreated well away.



The female went to the nest after the male had left the prey.

I am usually reluctant to work around nests but into my third decade of wishing to photograph them, I had no other options. We kept a fair distance from our subjects and quietly checked their behaviour. They seemed to behave as usual and our short visit didn't seem to distract them too much. These photographs taken with a Nikon D800 at 36 megapixels with a 1.4X convertor and 300mm lens. The pictures are very heavily cropped. 




There were two chicks and I have since heard that both juveniles have left the nest.



The female left the nest after feeding was complete.

She headed off towards a noisy family of Kookaburras and I could see her bomb diving the area.

The Kookaburras seemed to move off quickly and quietly. 

After she chased the kookas off, she returned, relaxed and began to preen.
This was my last view of her and we we gone.

Grateful.



“In Jack’s words, ‘We were walking on air’”.

5 comments:

  1. A pretty cool raptor Russell and nice shots of it too......

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  2. Some superb shots and a detailed narrative Russell. It must have been quite a day to get the chance to photograph such an elusive species.

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  3. Wow! Great documentation. It's always exciting to observe raptors.

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  4. Wow Russell, these are impressive raptors! How cool to see them with their young as well! Congrats on the chance to see them:)

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  5. Spectacular images and story Russell. The documentary you mentioned sounded fantastic. These photos are really something amazing - how lucky you were to witness them let alone capture it on camera.

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