As high as a Kite, Atherton Tablelands, Far North Queensland, Australia

Highland view over Atherton Tablelands, Far North Queensland, Australia

Highland view over Atherton Tablelands, Far North Queensland, Australia

Driving along the Atherton Tablelands near Millaa Millaa on another blue sunny day, something caught my attention.

Unidentified flying object at Atherton Tablelands, Far North Queensland, Australia

Unidentified flying object at Atherton Tablelands, Far North Queensland, Australia

Something was moving within a clear blue sky on top of a hill in front of me. It was floating for a while before it promptly disappeared. Only to shoot straight up in to the air in lightning speed, almost like a drone. It was a bird of prey of some sort, but I couldn’t work out which kind.

Petit body in white, Atherton Tablelands, Far North Queensland, Australia

Petit body in white, Atherton Tablelands, Far North Queensland, Australia

It’s feathers are mainly white but its body was too small to be an eagle.

Osprey nest near Port Douglas, Far North Queensland, Australia

Osprey nest near Port Douglas, Far North Queensland, Australia

It wasn’t an osprey either.

Common falcon in Townsville, Far North Queensland, Australia

Common falcon in Townsville, Far North Queensland, Australia

It had the size of a falcon, but the feather colouring of a snow owl. I didn’t really care at the time as I pulled over where this spectacular bird was hovering almost right over me. It didn’t take long to exchange the lenses on my OM-D, before I focused on this skill full areal predator, scanning the grassland for movement.

Scanning the grasslands at Atherton Tablelands, Far North Queensland, Australia

Scanning the grasslands at Atherton Tablelands, Far North Queensland, Australia

He was clearly focused, something grabbed his attention. He lowered a good meter and kept fluttering over the same spot.

Cow lineup at Atherton Tablelands, Far North Queensland, Australia

Cow lineup at Atherton Tablelands, Far North Queensland, Australia

The cows in the background added nicely to this frame.

Anything happening to my right? Atherton Tablelands, Far North Queensland, Australia

Anything happening to my right? Atherton Tablelands, Far North Queensland, Australia

A quick look to his right, maybe there are other options?

Focusing on the objectives, Atherton Tablelands, Far North Queensland, Australia

Focusing on the objectives, Atherton Tablelands, Far North Queensland, Australia

It didn’t appear that way, he focused on the same region.

Just as well, Atherton Tablelands, Far North Queensland, Australia

Just as well, Atherton Tablelands, Far North Queensland, Australia

Another look to the right? Just as well as he eventually made his move.

Claws first free fall at Atherton Tablelands, Far North Queensland, Australia

Claws first free fall at Atherton Tablelands, Far North Queensland, Australia

Free falling, he dropped to the ground. His sharp claws pointed exactly towards his prey, silent and deadly. Success, some poor rodent had no chance to escape.

Success at Atherton Tablelands, Far North Queensland, Australia

Success at Atherton Tablelands, Far North Queensland, Australia

The hunt success rate of Black Shouldered Kites is quite high at 75%. With so much farmland up here, these kites will never go hungry. They are some of the few species, who actually benefit from the change to agriculture.

One footed landing at Atherton Tablelands, Far North Queensland, Australia

One footed landing at Atherton Tablelands, Far North Queensland, Australia

This kite might have noticed my camera as he landed in a rather sad looking tree not far from me.

Mouse size snack at Atherton Tablelands, Far North Queensland, Australia

Mouse size snack at Atherton Tablelands, Far North Queensland, Australia

He didn’t wait long to enjoy his afternoon lunch. It didn’t take long for his prey to be devoured either.

What else is on the menu, Atherton Tablelands, Far North Queensland, Australia

What else is on the menu, Atherton Tablelands, Far North Queensland, Australia

This bird of prey was still hungry and observed his ‘all you can eat buffet’. 

A satisfied kite for now, Atherton Tablelands, Far North Queensland, Australia

A satisfied kite for now, Atherton Tablelands, Far North Queensland, Australia

Black Shouldered Kites form monogamous pairs and mate for life.

Partner throughout life at Atherton Tablelands, Far North Queensland, Australia

Partner throughout life at Atherton Tablelands, Far North Queensland, Australia

I spotted his partner earlier in a tree in fair distance from me. It didn’t appear that this pair was nesting in this tree, but it functioned sufficiently as a good observation platform.

Here she comes, Atherton Tablelands, Far North Queensland

Here she comes, Atherton Tablelands, Far North Queensland

Persevering  the grassland from high above, she was up for an aerial spectacular.

Shining star at Atherton Tablelands, Far North Queensland, Australia

Shining star at Atherton Tablelands, Far North Queensland, Australia

It was her turn to shine in the sun as she flew in straight line towards me. How cool is that? This must be a preferred hunting patch, not far from where I was standing. She was hovering about 30 meters over me.

Tricky lighting conditions, Atherton Tablelands, Far North Queensland, Australia

Tricky lighting conditions, Atherton Tablelands, Far North Queensland, Australia

The glaring sun made photography tricky again. Some photos showed too much shadow. My angle changed as I moved towards the sun.

Scanning for movement at Atherton Tablelands, Far North Queensland, Australia

Scanning for movement at Atherton Tablelands, Far North Queensland, Australia

Her tail and wing feathers lid up like a beacon as she was scanning the grass patch bit by bit.

Ready to go at Atherton Tablelands, Far North Queensland, Australia

Ready to go at Atherton Tablelands, Far North Queensland, Australia

She was ready to pounce, as I was ready to hold my finger on the shutter button.

No prey to be found, Atherton Tablelands, Far North Queensland, Australia

No prey to be found, Atherton Tablelands, Far North Queensland, Australia

But not such luck.

A popular bird by farmers, Atherton Tablelands, Far North Queensland, Australia

A popular bird by farmers, Atherton Tablelands, Far North Queensland, Australia

She caught the strong southerly winds for an avid change of territory.

Dinner is served at Atherton Tablelands, Far North Queensland, Australia

Dinner is served at Atherton Tablelands, Far North Queensland, Australia

Yet another successful hunt saw her flying back to her favorable tree in the distance.

High as a kite at Atherton Tablelands, Far North Queensland, Australia

High as a kite at Atherton Tablelands, Far North Queensland, Australia

Black Shouldered Kites observe their hunting patch thoroughly. They spend 10 to 12 minutes hovering over potential hunting grounds on averuage.

Observant raptor at Atherton Tablelands, Far North Queensland, Australia

Observant raptor at Atherton Tablelands, Far North Queensland, Australia

Remarkably, they don’t vier to either side even in gusty winds. That behavior made photography somewhat easier for me.

Another amazing afternoon at Atherton Tablelands, Far North Queensland, Australia

Another amazing afternoon at Atherton Tablelands, Far North Queensland, Australia

I spent a fair while observing this raptor pair, it was simply terrific.  

 

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