Saturday, January 15, 2011

Saltfields and Square-tailed Kites

This morning I went to Cheetham Saltfields in St Kilda SA to assist with the Shorebird count. 3 hrs driving around resulted in far less birds than I expected. I think most shorebirds have stayed north this year due to the incredible amount of rain.

Pectoral Sandpiper, Ruff, Fairy Tern, Musk Duck were highlights of this morning along with a surprising Grey Butcherbird! Unfortunately I am unable to take photos through my Scope so am unable to add many photos from this mornings Wader experience.

Fairy Tern

Common Sandpiper

Curlew Sandpiper

After lunch I then visited the Square-tailed Kite nest one last time. Let me explain….

November 7 last year I went to a park near Williamstown because my friend Colin Rogers had told me he had seen Square-tailed Kites “hanging around” that location the day before. He believed they may be nesting in that area but try as he did, he had not been able to locate a nest.

I searched for 3 hrs that morning before striking gold!! A HUGE nest in a fork near the top of a Eucalypt. On closer inspection there was a gorgeous Square–tailed Kite sitting on it and another standing next to it with food. I was gob-smacked! A LIFER for me! I’d never seen one before so I was STOKED! While staring at them in shock they proceeded to tear the food (a medium sized bird) into pieces and lean deep into the nest to feed the young. The young were so small that I could not see them.

Frozen to the spot I managed to ring Colin and advised him of the nest location. We decided that due to the extreme rarity status of this species in SA (only 2 recorded breeding pairs in SA) that we would keep the location secret in order to try and keep them undisturbed. I did however share the info with my closest birding friends as I knew they would keep the location to themselves, as they understand the importance of protecting this species. So Chris, Dave, Teresa and Stuart got to share the awesome experience.

Square Tailed Kite Juveniles

I have continued to monitor their progress fortnightly and now the juveniles are flying. For a while both parents stayed close by, then the Adult Male spent more time hunting but Adult Female stayed with the juveniles, now both parents are away hunting and the Juveniles are left to themselves for most of the day.

Soon they will move on. I may never have the honour to experience these remarkable birds again but I feel extremely privileged to have been able to observe them for so long.

It is interesting to observe that at no time did they show any concern at my presence. They simply ignored me completely! Amazing!