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Is this a sign of trust?

November 7th, 2010

A few months ago I have noticed that Australian Kestrels have been hanging around a local road. There is a large open field to the SW and a woodland, or remnants of one, to the NE with a little man-made lake. There are some tall gum trees, red gums, and a few dead specimens harbor nesting hollows. Last year I thought I may have found a pair of Australian Kestrels nesting in one tree, but I could not be sure. This year, around early September, I noticed a male and female on the same tree. The male presented a small skink to his mate and I figured that it may be a signal to breeding. About a month later, well not quite, I walked my three gorgeous dogs in the area. As I got close to the dead red gum, a female Australian Kestrel erupted from a hollow about 7m from the ground. A nest! Bingo.

Sitting on road signs is what gave me the idea to put a perch up.

The male arrives at the nest with a skink.

Inside, I could hear the begging chatter of young raptors, so the breeding was confirmed. In the meantime, I walk my dogs along the road as well and noted both adult kestrels perching on speed limit signs and also on the ugly star picket fence posts. What I thought is that them being raptors and wanting to scan over an area as big as possible to find prey, if I were to put a branch that rises higher than the ugly posts, that would provide the kestrels with nicer photographic perches but more importantly a better vantage point. Being higher, they would be able to cover far more an area. So one night I went ahead and picked two perches from a nearby bushland. They were branches that fell naturally, I am not in the business of chopping things down for the sake of it, so off I went and used cable ties to attach them to the posts. They looked OK, but I needed time to tell whether the kestrels would accustom to them and use them too.

This is the perch they are now using.

It did not take long. In possibly less than two weeks, I began seeing adults perching. Being smart, yeah right, I wanted to pull up near with my car, as cars are usually good hides for birds, and take some shots. That was not to be. The female was totally touchy and would not let me get within about 30m. Then one week ago my friend Steve Davey (www.photography.avkomp.com) rang in the morning asking for confirmation of the nest site etc. As I drove towards them along the road to say hi, I noted the male kestrel perching on the perch. He took some shots with his D3 and 600mm lens. By the time I got out and near enough for any shot, the male kestrel had enough and off he went.

He is looking absolutely beautiful.

Yesterday morning, I saw him on the perch again, in yuck light. It was morning, but there was no sun, just clouds threatening to dump rain. He sat, and sat, and sat. I figured I will not get close to him at all especially with my three mutts in tow. Little did I expect that he allowed us four to get to ten meters from him! ten meters!!! That is insanely close for a normally shy bird of prey. Of course, these things happen when one has no camera on hand so I tried to get a video with my phone. I am not sure of the quality, but I am sure it is crap.

This morning I wasted no time and had the Canon 30D ready to fire. I saw him again, and I approached gently and slowly. He stayed put. I got to within 10m of him again and could take many, many shots. He did fly not long after so I decided next time, I will not get so close.

I went again on dusk today. He was there, I did not bother with the camera, but I videoed myself using the camera phone, and you can watch the crap footage here.

VTS_01_1_mpeg2video_mpeg2video

Overall, I feel extremely privileged to have made his acquaintance and cherish every precious moment he allows for me to share with him at such close proximity. I have not yet decide to name him. Just too early at this time, maybe the meetings will end soon. But I will return and see if we can have another little chat.

Nature Photography