Wedge-tailed Eagle ( Aquila audax)
I am the Eagle, I live in high country, In rocky cathedrals that reach to the sky” John Denver, “The Eagle and the Hawk”
A lot of people complain about the work they do, why do I get all the good jobs is the run of the mill sarcastic statement. I’ve been known to utter it myself, don’t worry about that. But sometimes I think to myself, hey, maybe I do get all the good jobs. Take the last three weeks for example. A building site next to Avalon airport near Little River. Flat, cleared land, not many trees, sheep, cattle and cropping farmland, nothing too exciting. The punch line here is that it is Raptor central, the number of birds of prey present is mind boggling. While it would be quicker to tell you what I haven’t seen, here’s the list seen either on the job site or close by. Black Kite, Whistling Kite, Black-shouldered Kite, Nankeen Kestrel, Swamp Harrier, Brown Falcon, Australian Hobby (or Little Falcon), Collared Sparrowhawk, Little Eagle and the King of the airways, Wedge-tailed Eagle. **************** Qantas, Virgin, Jetstar - household names emblazoned on the sides of the jets, all sitting idle. At least 40 of them are on the tarmac, like frozen apparitions. At first light their eerie forms take shape, struck down not by a mechanical fault or safety issue, but by a virus you need a microscope to see. But the birds don’t seem to mind. The Black and Whistling Kites hover and glide lazily over the silent monoliths all day long, seemingly trying to cajole them into action. 2 Wedgies often sit on the Avalon Airport training jet tail, a massive Jumbo, an ironic twist of fate. *************** With a wingspan of up to 2.8 metres they are an enormous bird. Whilst airborne, the size is hard to gauge. Get up close and personal with one and you’ll be blown away. The photo accompanying this article was taken by yours truly, on my phone camera literally on the other side of the road. He is a juvenile bird (adults are much darker) which may account for his trusting nature. Those talons are much larger than my hands, once they clutch onto a rabbit or large bird, escape is not an option. My field guides say that wedgies have an incredible strike rate, once they chose a victim, they seldom miss. If you have ever seen a Wedge-tailed Eagles nest, you can’t believe your eyes. Without exaggeration, a man could hide in it if he crouched down. My friend Peter Fry owns a bush block in the Brisbane Ranges and last count had 5 on his property. We stand underneath them in awe, shaking our heads in disbelief. And the work in making them must be a task let me tell you. But something sinister goes on in these nests, believe me. Well, sinister by our standards. Wedgies normally lay 3, sometimes 4 eggs. 3-4 eggs means 3-4 chicks, right? No, not very often. The biggest chick of the clutch sometimes gets hungry in between the parents bringing food in, and what a tasty snack my smaller brother or sister could be. Eeeek, sibling rivalry just took on a new dimension. That’s why you often see three eagles together, Mum, Dad and the strongest chick of the brood. That isn’t sinister really, that’s just nature at work. No, real evil is only ever undertaken by humans. Take the two recent cases, one in Gippsland and one in NE Victoria of men being prosecuted for killing these beautiful birds. Farmers have traditionally thought of the eagle as an enemy, a killer of lambs. I don’t know the number of healthy lambs they take, but surely one here or there doesn’t matter. 99.9% of farmers now leave these birds of prey alone, realising they do more good than harm by cleaning up dead animals on their properties. I can’t let the opportunity pass to tell you something else I saw not far from the job site, at Western Lagoon, part of the WTP. A small flock of White-fronted Chats were feeding on the roadside when they suddenly took to the sky, a juvenile Collared Sparrowhawk managing to cut one out of the flock then seize it before disappearing. This all took about three seconds from whoa to go. Sadly for me the Western Treatment Plant is closed due to the pandemic. Working next door to Australia’s premier birdwatching venue and not being allowed in is akin to giving an Photo by Des Palmer alcoholic the keys to a distillery and on turning the key realises he’s been given the wrong one. Doh! While looking over the fence at Western Lagoon has been good (I’ve seen Brolga, Marsh Sandpiper and Bar tailed Godwit) it just isn’t the same. Our field trips have started again but are now on hold again. We recently had a children’s birdwatching day at the Liverpool Road Retarding Basin. Pip, Emmy, Hamish, Riley, Maddie and Lily all enjoyed a great morning, seeing plenty of birds. We also spotted a Red Fox much to the delight of the kids, but not to your correspondent. Des Palmer
BBCN MEMORIES From Cann River: By John EdgleyOn the 7th July I was contacted by Rosemary Arnold of Cann River with a request for a copy of an article from our May 2006 paper. The article was presented by Pauline Brown, and was about the life of Ron Edmenson who was a bomber pilot in the RAF in the Second World War and flew a remarkable 30 plus missions. After the war he migrated to Australia and joined the Royal Australian Air Force. I found the article at the Boronia Library and with their help made a copy of both pages suitable for framing. The paper was the smaller version. I sent the parcel to Cann River and was contacted a few days later saying her father’s story was hanging on the wall.