Driving along the Atherton Tablelands near Millaa Millaa on another blue sunny day, something caught my attention.
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.
It’s feathers are mainly white but its body was too small to be an eagle.
It wasn’t an osprey either.
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.
He was clearly focused, something grabbed his attention. He lowered a good meter and kept fluttering over the same spot.
The cows in the background added nicely to this frame.
A quick look to his right, maybe there are other options?
It didn’t appear that way, he focused on the same region.
Another look to the right? Just as well as he eventually made his move.
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.
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.
This kite might have noticed my camera as he landed in a rather sad looking tree not far from me.
He didn’t wait long to enjoy his afternoon lunch. It didn’t take long for his prey to be devoured either.
This bird of prey was still hungry and observed his ‘all you can eat buffet’.
Black Shouldered Kites form monogamous pairs and mate for life.
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.
Persevering the grassland from high above, she was up for an aerial spectacular.
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.
The glaring sun made photography tricky again. Some photos showed too much shadow. My angle changed as I moved towards the sun.
Her tail and wing feathers lid up like a beacon as she was scanning the grass patch bit by bit.
She was ready to pounce, as I was ready to hold my finger on the shutter button.
But not such luck.
She caught the strong southerly winds for an avid change of territory.
Yet another successful hunt saw her flying back to her favorable tree in the distance.
Black Shouldered Kites observe their hunting patch thoroughly. They spend 10 to 12 minutes hovering over potential hunting grounds on averuage.
Remarkably, they don’t vier to either side even in gusty winds. That behavior made photography somewhat easier for me.
I spent a fair while observing this raptor pair, it was simply terrific.