Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Gabrielle of Healesville


Wedge-tailed Eagle

Healesville Sanctuary, Victoria, Australia


April, 29 2014 Russell wrote: 

This Wedge-tailed Eagle was the star of the "flight show" at Healesville Sanctuary, in Victoria in 1992. I believe her name was Gabrielle. I recall she was just a couple of years old in this photo. She was found as a chick playing with children in a city park in Melbourne. It seemed that someone had collected her from a nest and tried to make a pet of her but had let her go. 

I remember she was magnificent in the flight show and she really loved her handler, almost seen in the photo. I studied her combing his hair in her mighty bill and she was quite protective of him. 

This photograph was taken with my Pentax K1000 and Sigma, I think 70-250mm lens, with Kodachrome 200. I found this file on a Kodak Photo CD that was created on May 13, 1999. I found the CD recently but couldn't open the files until a remembered an old computer with and old version of photoshop. It worked well and opened an old chest of treasures for me. It's worth keeping our old computers.

This photo also reminds me of my first ever computer ($3000+ with 6 Gigabyte hard-drive and 128mb RAM) and first efforts with photo editing software. The first thing I wanted to do was edit the human out of the picture. Interesting after 22 years, I am happy to leave it as is. 

*I tried Googling Gabrielle to see where she ended up but found nothing. I also emailed Healesville Sanctuary but didn't get a reply. If you know more about this eagle, I'd be most grateful to learn. Thank you. * PLEASE SEE UPDATE BELOW.

(Also my book "Big Eagles Japan" is now available at Russell's Eagle Book at Amazon)

May 1, 2014: UPDATE:

Thank you to everyone who has visited and commented on this post. I'm very grateful to Healesville Sanctuary for replying to my recent email and confirming that the eagle's name was "Gabrielle".

Gabrielle was transferred from Healesville Sanctuary to Taronga Zoo where she passed away peacefully of natural causes. 

I'm sure that in her time at both sanctuaries, she inspired many crowds to look up for eagles in their daily lives. I can imagine the "Oohs" and "Aahs" and amazed faces privileged to see her and her wild kin. 

Thank you also to Jenelle for feedback which gave me good advice and led me to sending another email. I think my first one was to a wrong address.

For anyone interested in visiting Healesville Sanctuary, I recommend it and you can check out their webpage: Healesville Sanctuary

NEW (UPDATED May 6, 2014):

I received the following email, on May 2, 2014, from Brendan of Taronga Zoo:

Hi Russell,

I just read your blog after having your email forwarded to me this afternoon. Great stuff!

Since you’ve updated your April blog I see you’ve been given the correct information that Gabby was transferred to Taronga Zoo a number of years ago, and then did sadly pass away. I had the extreme pleasure of working with Gabrielle, along with the rest of our team for a number of years. Gabrielle flew in our 12PM Bird Show and was by far a highlight.

Seeing your photo from 1992 and reading your blog I have found to be very touching. It fills me with pride to think of how Gabrielle, and the other animals we work with, have the ability to touch the lives of so many.

If you have any specific questions please do not hesitate to contact me to ask.


Brendan Mark Host
Bird Show Keeper

Thank you, Brendan and Taronga Zoo.

NEW May 12, Update:

Brendan kindly replied to some of my questions about Gabrielle:

Hi Russell,


Regarding your first question, Gabby sadly passed away in 2008 at approximately 20 years of age. Gabrielle arrived at Taronga in 2006, and flew in our show for just under two years. We thought very highly of her.

Regarding where she was found, to the best of our knowledge she was found in a park in Melbourne, at least this was the information passed onto us. She was thought to be 3-4 years of age when she was rescued. This was only a guess as she appeared to be young, but not first year. It was reasoned that she may have been a rehabbed bird that proved unsuccessful.

I know what you mean. I feel very privileged to work so closely to these birds, and value the relationships myself and my teammates get to build with them. It is very humbling. We are currently training some other eagles we hope to introduce to the show later in the year.


Brendan Mark Host
Bird Show Keeper

Many Thanks, Brendan!

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Red-flanked Bluetail Female

Red-flanked Bluetail


Junsai-ike, Niigata, Japan

April 19, 2014

Had a bird outing to Junsai-ike with Mr Honma this morning. This was our best find so are are three almost identical shots. Quite cool in the breeze.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Mejiro and the Moon

A variety of Cherry Tree at Junsai-ike, Niigata, Japan

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Mr Honma and I braved the crowds in the hope of finding flycatchers at Junsai-ike last Sunday. We failed. Apart from a brief encounter with some White-eyes, we didn't find much to excite us. 

Both of us haven't seen either Blue-and-white Flycatchers or Narcissus Flycatchers this year. They usually show before the blossoms appear. Mr Honma found several Japanese Waxwings at Junsai-ike just days before. A new record for him. I didn't get to see them.

I had a go at photographing the moon this week. I practised on Monday night, then it was overcast and stormy here on the night of the blood moon so nothing to see. I took more pics on Wednesday night and the moon was noticeably more orange than on Monday night. It quickly disappeared into the mist.

Not much to report but I thought they two subjects are nice together. All photos are uncropped today.

"Mejiro" (Japanese) > Japanese White-eye

Monday April 14th, 2014, Niigata, Japan

Wednesday, April 16, 2014 same place...and below..

Friday, 11 April 2014


Olive-backed Sunbird


Portland Roads, Cape York, Queensland, Australia

October 2012

My thoughts are with the people, birds, mammals, reptiles, insects and plants of Northern Queensland tonight. I have been worrying all day about cyclone Ita. I hope you find safe keeping.

These pictures are from a garden at Portland Roads back in October 2012. I took them all in a few minutes of each other. North Queensland is deep in my heart.

Friday, 4 April 2014

A Road to Nara

Messengers of Shinto Gods, Sika Deer wander freely around Nara’s world heritage site that incorporates several of Japan’s oldest temples and shrines. The deer are designated “National Living Treasures” by the highest legislation in the land. 

I wish Australia’s animals were protected with such respect. Everything in Australia seems to be evaluated by scientific conditions such as biodiversity and sustainability, with little conceptualisation of the value of heritage.

(click on the image for a larger view)

We had a long weekend for March 21, 22, and 23 and we took the seven hour drive from Niigata to Nara. (The capital before Kyoto, which was before Tokyo). It was rainy and snowy along the road but we enjoyed two nights in Nara. The Saturday weather was kind to us and most of these shots were taken then. 

Thank you to Mr and Mrs Kosaka who kindly showed us the secret parking spaces of Nara, bought us too much dinner and took us out on the town in Osaka on Saturday night. I treasure my new hat.

Mr Kosaka has a wonderful hat store in Nara and he visited Canberra last October with the mayor of Nara and presented his new product, the "Sun Levee" which protects wearers from harmful UV. I think it will be most beneficial to those who have to work in the Australian sun. His website is in Japanese but can be accessed here: http://j-k-labo.co.jp

Japanese Pigmy Woodpecker on the grounds of Todai-ji

I saw a swarm of birds including Great and Long-tailed Tit as well as this JPW and they looked so nice in the sunlight but when I got out my bird camera and approached they went up into the shadows. Ain't it the way.

Great Buddha Hall (Daibutsuden) at Todai-ji

The Great Buddha of Nara (Nara Daibutsu) (right figure) was completed in 751 or 752 AD according to various sources

I think the looming figure on the right is Bishamonten 

One of Todai-ji's guards

Oriental Turtle Dove in Nara Park (Nara Koen)

Dusky Thrush

Nara Park


Kofuku-ji (above and below)

Mr Kosaka in his hat store in Nara.

and me