Tag Archives: Mike Peisley

Riders on the storm

Happier of happy though I be, like them I cannot take possession of the sky, mount with a thoughtless impulse, and wheel there, one of a mighty multitude whose way and motion is a harmony and dance magnificent. — William Wordsworth

The light waits for no-one. I had the spot, balanced precariously with tripod and camera on a boulder on Mount Kiangarow, the highest point of Bunya Mountains National Park.

Storms moved across the Darling Downs below. The setting sun lit clouds, rain and the grass trees in front of me with dramatic hues of red and purple. I was glued to the viewfinder, locking the tripod, checking settings, aware that the scene was vanishing by the second. There was a half-decent photograph here if I could get my act together.

Distractions were not needed at this point. I was in the zone, one of those rare moments for a photographer when things were working. Suddenly, a loud rippling, tearing, whooshing sound hit me. I looked up, startled. Nothing, I’d missed it — peregrine falcon, some other kind of bird, a UFO? I had no idea.

Then it happened again and this time I caught the source — a squadron of White-throated Needletails. With long wings curved back and tiny black eyes glinting, the birds tore through the air in front of me at terrific speed. I cranked my head back as far as I could without falling off the boulder, tracking them as they banked steeply like fighter planes and shot skywards in one long sun-lit arc of rippling feathers, disappearing east over the mountain in seconds.

White-throated Needletails have been observed from aircraft at up to 2,000 metres above sea-level, with a speed in flight measured at 120kph. While they mate in Asia, aerial courtship, consisting of chases and vertical swooping dives is seen while they are in Australia. Photo courtesy Tom Tarrant.

White-throated Needletails have been observed from aircraft at up to 2,000 metres above sea-level, with a speed in flight measured at 120 kilometres per hour. While they mate in Asia, aerial courtship, consisting of chases and vertical swooping dives, is seen while they are in southern skies. Photo courtesy Tom Tarrant.

White-throated Needletails (once known as Spine-tailed Swifts) must surely be one of the most unusual and mysterious of the more than 200 species of birds that regularly migrate to and from Australia.  Australia’s largest member of the Swift family (Apodidae), with sleek bodies up to 21 centimetres in length and long, curved wings, these are birds superbly adapted to a life spent mostly in the air.

After breeding in the rocky hills of central Asia, southern Siberia and north-eastern China, White-throated Needletails head south as the cold sets in, over-wintering largely in India, south-east Asia and Australia. It is thought that the entire population of the caudacutus subspecies of this bird visits Australia during our summer. While their exact route south is still a bit of a mystery, we know that they head south through eastern China and Japan, down the Korean peninsula, mostly moving east of Borneo, through Papua New Guinea and on to Australia — arriving here about October. Once in Australia, they slowly disperse along the continent’s eastern edge, mostly on or east of the Great Dividing Range, eventually reaching Tasmania and even New Zealand, before heading back north the following May.

The view east over the Darling Downs from Mt Kiangarow, at 1135 metres above sea level the highest point on the Bunya Mountains. Photos R. Ashdown.

White-throated Needletails spend almost all of their migratory time in the air. Highly maneuverable masters of flight, they move from a few centimeters above to ground to over a kilometre in the air, reaching speeds of up to 120 kilometres per hour. They feed on the wing — diving repeatedly through swarms of insects, scooping them up with their wide beaks. As I’d just seen, the birds streak past in long, curving rushes, with bursts of quick wing-beats or fast raking glides. Their eyes are protected from insects and debris by a special clear membrane and fine protective hairs.

White-throated Needletails are aerial birds and for a time it was commonly believed that they did not land while in Australia. It has now been observed that birds will roost in trees, and radio-tracking has since confirmed that this is a regular activity. With difficult conditions, such as with bushfires and extreme hot or cold weather, they may take refuge on tree. There is one record of the species resting under a sprinkler on a lawn during a heatwave. Photo courtesy Mile Peisley.

White-throated Needletails are aerial birds and for a time it was commonly believed that they did not land while in Australia. It has now been observed that birds will roost in trees, and radio-tracking has since confirmed that this is a regular activity. With difficult conditions, such as during bushfires and extreme hot or cold weather, they may take refuge on trees. There is one record of the birds resting under a sprinkler on a lawn during a heatwave. Photo courtesy Mike Peisley.

Needletails usually forage in areas of rising air, such as ridgelines, cliffs, sand-dunes, whirlwinds and bushfires. As with my Bunya Mountains experience, they are spotted moving ahead of low pressure fronts and associated storms, which lift both the insects and the birds, and it is said that they follow these systems across Australia.

And what’s with the ‘needletails’? These unusual birds have needle-like spines that project up to 6mm beyond their normal tail feathers. These are thought to provide increased stability in flight and to assist with clinging to vertical surfaces on the rare times they touch down on cliffs or trees.

Like all migratory birds, Needletails face many challenges. They fly for thousands of kilometers over some of the most densely populated areas of the world, where the huge human population places enormous pressure on natural resources. It’s difficult to monitor numbers of such a bird — they’re usually not even seen unless you spend most of your time looking skyward or are messing about on top of hills. In Australia they are usually seen in flocks of around 100, but sometimes up to about 2000, birds. In Victoria in 1958 a flock of between 50,000 to 100,000 birds was seen.

While they are not thought to be globally threatened, there is some evidence that the population of the subspecies that visits Australia has declined by at least 30%, probably due to habitat loss in their northern breeding grounds.

The sun had gone and the needletails had vanished with the light. As I walked back down the track in the dark, lit by lightning and shaken by distant thunder, I thought of the Needletails. Where were those tiny bundles of frantic feathers now? They were somewhere out there in the night beyond my knowing, riding the storm-winds, hanging together in the dark — travelers on an epic eight-month cross-planet journey.

A lightning-lit storm heads across the Bunya Mountains, driving insects and migratory needletails high into the air ahead of it. Photo Robert Ashdown.

A lightning-lit storm heads across the Bunya Mountains, driving insects and migratory needletails high into the air ahead of it. Photo Robert Ashdown.

Stormy skies

Summer storms, dramatic skies. Photos by Mike Peisley and Rob Ashdown.

Storm heading east over Boonah, from Toowoomba escarpment. Photo R. Ashdown.

Moreton Bay storms brew, from Shorncliffe. Photo M. Peisley.

A storm sweeps north-east near Injune, central Queensland. Photo R. Ashdown.

Moreton Bay, from Shorncliffe. Photo M. Peisley.

Storm over Moreton Bay, from Shorncliffe. Photo M. Peisley.

Stormy sunset skies, Toowoomba. Photo R. Ashdown.

Queens Park, Toowoomba. Photo R. Ashdown.

Lightning strikes the ocean, Moreton Bay. Photo M. Peisley.

Storm north of Injune. Photo R. Ashdown.

Storm heading east over Boonah, from Toowoomba escarpment. Photo R. Ashdown.

Jacarandas and stormwater., Toowoomba. Photo R. Ashdown.

Storm over Moreton Bay, from Shorncliffe. Photo M. Peisley.

After the storm, Toowoomba. Photo R. Ashdown.

The edge of the storm, north of Injune. Photo R. Ashdown

Wet powerlines reflect the setting sun, Toowoomba. Photo R. Ashdown.

Full moon and the sun’s last rays, looking east from Toowoomba, January 2016. Photo R. Ashdown.

Wildlife of the Lockyer Valley calendar 2016

The Wildlife of the Upper Lockyer Valley calendar for 2016 is now available for ordering.

Burton’s Snake Lizard. Photo Robert Ashdown.

Proceeds from the sale of this calendar go toward The Citizens of the Lockyer Inc. This community group aims to increase awareness of the rich biodiversity to be found throughout the Lockyer Valley and to promote the adoption of sustainable lifestyles in this unique rural environment.

The calendar features some wonderful images from Bruce Thomson, Mike Peisley and Russell Jenkins (and a few from me), and includes information about the area’s wildlife from naturalist par-excellence Rod Hobson. Design was by the talented Rob and Terttu Mancini of Evergreen Design. The calendar was produced through an Community Environment grant from the Lockyer Valley Regional Council.

Graphic Flutterer. Photo by Bruce Thomson.

Wedge-tailed Eagle and Magpie. Photo by Russell Jenkins.

Scarlet Honeyeater. Photo by Mike Piesley.

Copies are $15 (+ postage) and can be ordered from Roxanne Blackley at bioearth@bigpond.com.

Green, grey

Perched uncomfortably in a grey mangrove tree, I was being eaten alive by sand-flies. I was coping with this, however, as I’d just caught a glimpse of my favourite bird.

I sat as still as possible, peering intently into the tangle of foliage on the opposite bank of this small, mangrove-lined creek on the outskirts of Brisbane. A pale grey, ghostly shape had just glided through a gap in the canopy, and the place had fallen silent — not a sound from the other mangrove birds that had been piping away seconds before. The place was tense. A predator was looking for a meal, and all were wary.

Grey Goshawk, Boondall wetlands, Brisbane. Grey Goshawks frequent most forest types, especially tall closed forests (including rainforests) in the coastal areas of northern and eastern Australia. They feed on birds, small mammals, reptiles and insects, capturing prey by striking with their long, powerful clawed toes. They pursue prey in flight, striking at speed, and even chasing prey into dense undergrowth.  Please credit: Photograph by Mike Peisley

Grey Goshawk, Boondall wetlands, Brisbane. Grey Goshawks frequent most forest types, especially tall closed forests (including rainforests) in the coastal areas of northern and eastern Australia. They feed on birds, small mammals, reptiles and insects, capturing prey by striking with their long, powerful clawed toes. They pursue prey in flight, striking at speed, and even chasing prey into dense undergrowth.
All photographs courtesy, and copyright, Mike Peisley.

My first close encounter with a Grey Goshawk in my local patch of bushland, years earlier, had really sparked my enthusiasm for raptors — our birds of prey. I’d stopped in my tracks to meet the steady, but wary, gaze of this impressive bird as it perched on the end of a eucalypt limb above the walking track, black eyes stark against pale grey feathers. Having seen these birds occasionally from a distance on the edges of distant rainforest, I was stunned to be face-to-face with one in this patch of bush where the suburbs meet Moreton Bay. The bird had quickly and silently taken off, leaving me hooked.

Like many other bird-watchers before me I took a deeper plunge into the addictive world of raptor identification — a pastime equal parts frustration and excitement. What was this raptor doing here in Brisbane, and what others might be around? With fellow local birdwatchers over the next few years, I’d pursued some answers to these questions, and found many raptors hanging out locally. Our finds included Brown and Grey Goshawks; Collared Sparrow-hawks; Pacific Bazas; Brahminy, Whistling and Black-shouldered Kites — and even White-bellied Sea Eagles — all nesting in the area. We soon realised just how important these habitats were for our birds of prey.

Grey Goshawk

Many years later, I still find raptors exciting to watch. Living on the Darling Downs, I’ve seen Spotted Harriers gliding over fields, Brown Falcons flapping about a clear blue sky, and Peregrine Falcons nesting on the cliffs of old quarries. Yet my favourite bird remains the Grey Goshawk, with whom my encounters are still rare and always thrilling. I’ve spotted one gliding over Queens Park in the middle of Toowoomba, and one day near Ravensbourne stood transfixed as a white phase morph of the species (the only pure white raptor in the world) glided past. That was one of the highlights of my life as a naturalist.



A naturalist? I remember telling a colleague that I was one of these, to which I received the shocked response, “You’re into running around with no clothes on?” It seems that being a naturalist (as opposed to a naturist, or nudist), is a pastime little known these days, and certainly less popular than watching football (and possibly running around nude). But it’s a long tradition, and a good-value hobby. Watching the natural world brings endless rewards. Part of the tradition is of course the sometimes obsessive need to impose order on what we see, to collect and categorise. Where once our predecessors kept bird eggs and cabinets of specimens, we keep notes, tick lists, make sketches and take photographs. And, of course, we share stories of what we’ve seen, which seems to close the loop on the enjoyable process of watching wildlife. I think it is the mystery and challenge, and the encounters with wonderful wild creatures, that make being a naturalist so rewarding.


Raptors are a great reminder of the mystery inherent in nature. Despite our technology we can’t just whistle them up, and identification (let alone an understanding of behaviour) takes dedication and skill. Long persecuted as predators that take our chickens or lambs, their ability to survive around us — largely unnoticed and given the chaos we wreak on habitats — is admirable.

As I sat in the mangroves that day, I was holding my breath. No doubt this mere glimpse would be all I’d get once more. But I was in luck, as a large female Grey Goshawk emerged from the tree line and glided right past me. My hands were shaking so much I could barely hold the binoculars still. Locking them briefly onto the bird’s face, I once more met the fierce and intelligent gaze of this most striking bird, before it was gone — as silently and as quickly as it had appeared.

I went home itchy, clothed and happy.

Personality-plus birds

Some more great images by guest photographer Mike Peisley.

Torresian Crows

These images were all taken in and around the wetlands and coastal areas of the Brisbane bayside areas of Boondall and Shorncliffe. Mike’s patience, observation skills and technical prowess have seen him capture images overflowing with the subjects’ personality.

Riders on the storm

Queensland is still counting the cost of   ‘ex-Tropical Cyclone Oswald’, with major flooding and damage to property and infrastructure right down the east coast.

Humans were not the only species affected, with seabirds being blown far from home by the wild weather during January 2013.

Black Noddy _Mike_P (1) copy

Black Noddy, photographed at Shorncliffe by Mike Peisley. Blown off course by Cyclone Oswald, this is a bird usually found on islands and cays, including the Capricorn and Bunker groups, the Great Barrier Reef, Norfolk Island and the Coral Sea. It’s a species that occasionally visits Stradbroke Island and eastern New South Wales.

In the Darling Downs area, a range of unusual species were recorded. Birds either seen flying or found exhausted included Wedge-tailed Shearwaters, Sooty Terns, White-tailed Tropicbirds, Frigatebirds and a Bulwer’s Petrel. The latter was a very interesting record — although there have been several confirmed sightings of Bulwer’s Petrels in Queensland over the years, this was the first specimen of this species obtained for the State, and only the second specimen for Australia.

White-tailed Tropicbird 2 Mick Atzeni copy

White-tailed Tropicbird, found in Toowoomba — a long way from ‘home’. This is a true ocean-going bird (pelagic), only coming ashore to breed. For eastern Australian birds, breeding takes place at Fiji – New Caledonia and the Tuamotu and Walpole islands. Photograph courtesy Mick Atzeni.

Toowoomba Bird Observers (TBO) president Mick Atzeni has been collecting records of the unusual sightings, adding to the group’s extensive database on the birds of the Toowoomba region.

“To see seabirds flying around paddocks and over local dams was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for most people,” said Mick.  “It was bitter-sweet, because these birds were starving, exhausted, and lost.”

Wildlife carer Trish LeeHong cared for some of the exhausted birds, which stretched the resources of her always-busy and not-for-profit Wildlife Rescue, Rehabilitation and Education Association. Several were restored to health and released at Deception Bay.

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Wedge-tailed Shearwater, Toowoomba. The common ‘muttonbird’ of Queensland’s warmer coastal waters, responsible for the wailing, crooning sounds often heard at night on Great Barrier Reef islands (but usually not in the Toowoomba suburbs). Photograph courtesy Pat McConnell.

Mick reported that dead Sooty Terns were found in the middle of Toowoomba, at the Murphys Creek township and at Lockyer Siding, while a Wedge-tailed Shearwater was found in James Street near Clifford Gardens, Toowoomba. Exhausted White-tailed Tropicbirds were found at Meringandan and Withcott, while Sooty Terns and a Wedge-tailed Shearwater were seen flying over the Lockyer Valley by TBO members.

Sooty Tern_Mick Atzeni copy

Adult Sooty Tern, Toowoomba. Also known as ‘Wideawake’, the Sooty Tern’s habitat is tropical and sub-tropical seas as well as islands and coral cays. Photograph courtesy Mick Atzeni.


Juvenile Sooty Tern, Lota. Photograph courtesy James Hunt.

“Wedge-tailed Shearwater and White-tailed Tropicbird are new birds for the official TBO bird list,” said Mick. “This was our first live record for Sooty Terns in the area we survey, as the only previous record was a dead one found on the Range Highway in 1976 (during a  previous cyclone).”

The body of the Bulwer’s Petrel, which unfortunately died soon after being found,  was lodged with the  Queensland Museum at Southbank, where its identity was confirmed. Stored as part of the Museum’s natural history collections, the specimen will be valuable for future studies.

Bulwers Petrel (9) copy (Large)

Bulwer’s Petrel, collected at the Oakey Army Base, on the Darling Downs. This small, sooty-brown seabird is found in tropical and sub-tropical waters around the world. Usually a solitary bird when at sea, this species gathers to breed on islands in the Pacific and north Atlantic oceans. Bulwer’s Petrels have only been sighted in Australian waters on several occasions. Photo R. Ashdown.

Ian Gynther, Senior Conservation Officer with the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection, spoke to the ABC about the Bulwer’s Petrel.  “It’s only a tiny thing. When they’re not breeding they spend their whole life at sea — you could imagine the waves and wind they put up with at the best of times.”

“This is a prime example of how our knowledge of a bird that’s seldom recorded has been greatly increased by somebody with sharp eyes at Oakey,” said Ian.

Black Noddy _Mike_P (5) copy

Black Noddy on the wing at Shorncliffe — grace, style and frequent flyer points. Photograph courtesy Mike Peisley.

Storm-soaked Torresian Crow

Hmmm … maybe not so much grace, but a survivor nonetheless. Storm-battered Torresian Crow, Shorncliffe. Photo courtesy Mike Peisley.

  •  Find out more about The Toowoomba Bird Observers.

Thanks to Mick Atzeni, Mike Peisley, James Hunt, Pat McConnell and Rod Hobson.

Boondall Birds

Some more photos from my brother-in-law, Mike, all taken at Boondall Wetlands, Brisbane. Think I need to convince him to set up his own blog.

Female Rufous Whistler

Rufous Whistler (Pachycephala rufiventris). All photographs copyright Mike Peisley.


Forest Kingfishers (Todiramphus macleayi)


Buff-banded Rail (Gallirallus philippensis)


Pheasant Coucal (Centropus phasianinus)


Brown Quail (Coturnix pectoralis)

Collared Kingfisher (Todiramphus chloris)


Kingfishers and Kookaburras! Vibrant in color, conspicuous in activity and often hilariously raucous, these are some of the most well-known and much loved birds in Australia! Kingfishers and kookaburras are a versatile group. Their colours range across the spectrum. They have adapted to rivers and deserts, to wet rainforests and dry woodlands, to mangrove swamps and islands. They catch lizards, snakes and spiders on the ground, dive underwater for fish, snatch frogs in the tree canopy, and take insects in full flight. — Online review notes of ‘Kingfishers and kookaburras: Jewels of the Australian Bush’, by David Hollands.

There are ten species of kingfisher in Australia. I’ve only seen a few of them, but recently laid eyes on a personal new species — the Red-Backed kingfisher (Todiramphus pyrrhopygia) on the Darling Downs.

red-backed kingfisher

Red-backed Kingfisher (Todiramphus pyrrhopygia), Mount Tyson, Darling Downs. Thanks to spotter extraordinaire Rod Hobson. Photo R. Ashdown.


Red back of the Red-backed Kingfisher. These kingfishers inhabit the dry, inland regions of Australia, usually desert, mulga and mallee country. A nomadic species, in dry winter months they may migrate northward or towards the west and north-eastern coast. Photo R. Ashdown.

Whether or not I’ve a camera in hand, it is always a thrill to watch kingfishers. The fleeting, dazzling blue of an azure kingfisher darting across a dark, quiet creek or a muddy mangrove bank seems to me to be like the last piece of a scene’s jigsaw falling into place.


Azure Kingfisher (Alcedo pusilla), Tingalpa Creek. Australia’s smallest kingfisher, with a bill that takes up more than a quarter of its 19cm body length. Photo R. Ashdown.

I’ve always found these birds difficult to photograph. The best results, as is always the case, come with knowing your subject, having incredible patience, and often using a hide and having a big bit of glass stuck to your camera. I haven’t used any of these when it comes to kingfishers – I’ve always ended up in a muddle just snapping away, usually with fairly ordinary results. I did discover that you can get fairly close to kingfishers by using a canoe to sneak up on them – that’s how I took these images of an Azure Kingfisher (above) and a  Collared Kingfisher (below) on Tingalpa Creek, where Brisbane’s outskirts meet Redland Bay.


Collared Kingfisher (Todiramphus sanctus), Tingalpa Creek. Sometimes referred to as the Mangrove Kingfisher, this bird lives in the mangroves of Australia’s northern coasts. It eats insects, reptiles and aquatic animals such as worms, which it picks off the mudflats. Photo R. Ashdown.

Through patience and persistence, Mike Peisley has captured taken some excellent images of sacred kingfishers in his local patch of scrub in Brisbane.


Mike in the Boondal wetlands, Brisbane. Photo Karen Ashdown.



Sacred Kingfisher (Todiramphus sanctus). This is the most familiar, and widespread, of the Australian kingfishers. It spends its day watching for insects and lizards in the leaf litter, but sometimes dives into brackish water for fish or yabbies. This species is found all over Australia, except in the densest rainforests and inland deserts. Photo M. Peisley.

Finally, here are some more images of these adaptable and exquisite birds using any available perch.


Azure Kingfisher, David Fleay Wildlife Park. Photo R. Ashdown.


Forest Kingfisher (Todiramphus macleayii), northern Queensland. A bird with royal blue wings, the Forest Kingfisher is a bird of open woodlands, swamps, mangroves and gardens. Photo R. Ashdown.


Sacred Kingfisher, Lake Broadwater near Dalby. Photo Chris Mitchell.


Sacred Kingfisher, Stradbroke Island. Photo Michael Hines.


Laughing Kookaburra (Dacelo novaeguineae), Bellthorpe State Forest. A common visitor to Australian gardens, this large kingfisher of the southern and eastern states has been introduced and established in Western Australia, Tasmania and New Zealand. Photo R. Ashdown.


Urban jewel. Sacred Kingfisher on the backyard clothesline. Photo Mike Peisley.

Challenging and enchanting subjects indeed. For anyone seeking a complete immersion in the magical world of Australian kingfishers, track down a copy of the book mentioned at the start of this post: Kingfishers and Kookaburras: Jewels of the Australian Bush, by David Hollands, is a book that truly captures the magic of these birds in all their variety.

Pacific Bazas

Pacific Baza, Boondal, Brisbane.

More photos from friends! Mike Peisley’s patience in watching Pacific Bazas at Boondall has paid off with some wonderful images, which he has generously allowed me to post.

Pacific Bazas, or Crested Hawks (Aviceda subcristata) visit Brisbane in numbers during early winter to mid-spring. These striking raptors have a distinctive ‘whee chu’ call, which is often heard during breeding season.

Pacific Baza, Boondal, Brisbane.

The sole Australian representative of a hawk group known as the Cuckoo Falcons or Lizard Hawks, Bazas feed in treetops, where they snatch small prey such as frogs and insects such as phasmids (such as Mike captured here). Their eyes contain particular oil drops that allow them to spot green prey among foliage.

Pacific Baza, Boondal, Brisbane.

Pacific Baza, Boondal, Brisbane.

During the breeding season, Bazas call, soar and carry out dramatic display flights. Outside the breeding season, they can be secretive and difficult to spot.

Pacific Baza, Boondal, Brisbane.

Pacific Baza, Boondal, Brisbane.

Pacific Baza, Boondal, Brisbane.

For more information on these birds, see the Queensland Museum’s information sheet (PDF download).

Peregrine up close

While on a break from his job as an air traffic controller, Mike Peisley spotted a peregrine falcon flying outside the tower. Luckily he had a compact camera with him, and grabbed these images of a spectacular raptor as it landed on the ledge outside the window.

Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus). One of Australia's six falcon species. The specific name comes from the word 'wandering' and alludes to the migratory nature of Peregrines in the northern hemisphere. Australian adult Peregines, however, are not migratory. All photos copyright M. Peisley.

Mike explains how he got the images:

The peregrine approached the tower and zoomed up a bit looking inside, paused and landed on the balcony behind the controllers on duty. 

Luckily I was on a break and grabbed my compact camera.  The control tower is about 70m high at our level with 25mm thick glass windows.  I approached the back of the tower cautiously trying not to spook him as the peregrine was tilting his head and either looking up at his reflection or trying to look inside. 

peregrine falcon

The Peregrine is a compact, heavily-built falcon, stockier than other Australian falcons. It is characterised by short tarsi (the lower part of the visible section of the bird's leg, below the ankle joint - the true knee is hidden by feathers), large feet, and long toes.

Peregrine Falcons are found throughout mainland Australian and Tasmania. They are solitary, aggressive falcons found in most habitats but usually seen near cliffs, escarpments and wetlands. They fly and soar strongly at great heights and stoop with closed wings in a bullet-like shape. They are capable of striking down quite large birds and often feed on the ground.

From about 5m away I got the best views and pictures I am ever likely to get.  What really surprised me was the size and menacing look to his claws — I was thinking velocoraptor.

peregrine falcon

Peregrines nest solitarily in stick nests of other raptors in trees  or on a scrape on a quarry or cliff edge. They also nest on structures such as buildings or silos (maybe this one was checking nest site possibilities). Usually three or four eggs are laid between August and October. Young birds are dependent on parents for two to three months after fledging. Young can remain in the nest area for up to eight months, but then disperse widely (up to 500 km has been recorded, usually about 60 km for males and 130 km for females).

 It was a real treat and I felt very lucky to have seen him so closely.  He stayed for about 3 minutes, walking a few meters along the balcony, stopping and looking again in the glass.  In more than ten years I have never seen a peregrine (or any prey bird) land on our balcony and only perhaps one or two cruise past per year.  

peregrine falcon

The Peregrine is not globally or nationally threatened, and has increased in urban and agricultural areas in Australia since DDT was banned - this insecticide reduced the thickness of eggshells  and numbers of these falcons declined. They are still heavily (and illegally) persecuted by pigeon-fanciers. Information from The Birds of Australia, A Field Guide by Stephen Debus.


Shaking Tern, Wandering Tattler

Crested Tern

Birds are such great subjects, to photograph or just watch. Can you possibly imagine a world without them? Mike’s photo of the Tern captures a wonderful, always photogenic species — in motion, bursting with energy and life. Great lighting, evocative background, a frozen moment in a bird’s fast-forward life.

Michael’s tattler image immediately pulled me into the scene, the subdued light (morning sun behind clouds?), wonderful colours of the rock, the motion of the surf and the tentative, ever-watchful long-distance traveller, such a natural part of the landscape. I can just smell the beach and the water.

Wandering Tattler, north Stradbroke Island

Wandering Tattler (Tringa incana), Deadman's Beach, North Stradbroke Island. Photograph by Michael Hines. A medium-sized shorebird that breeds by mountain streams in Alaska and far eastern Siberia; migrates to southern North America, Central America and northern parts of south America, small islands in the Pacific Ocean, and the east coast of Australia and New Zealand. 

There are no rules for good photographs, there are only good photographs. Ansel Adams


Some recent bird images from friends Mike Peisley and Rob Mancini, plus a few of my own.

Cattle Egret (Ardea ibis). University of Southern Queensland wetlands. Photo Robert Ashdown.

Tawny Frogmouth (Podargus strigoides). Boondal Wetlands, Brisbane. Photo Mike Peisley.

Australasian Grebe (Tachybaptus novaehollandiae), with chick. Newport Lakes, Melbourne. Photograph Rob Mancini.

Plumed Whistling Duck (Dendrocygna eytoni). Wild bird at Fleays Wildlife Park, Burleigh. Photograph Robert Ashdown.

Ground Cuckoo-shrike (Coracina maxima). Near Gatton. Photograph Robert Ashdown.

Intermediate Egret (Ardea intermedia). Shorncliffe Pier. Photograph Mike Peisley.

Cattle Egret (Ardea ibis). University of Southern Queensland wetlands. Photo Robert Ashdown.

Dollarbird (Eurystomus orientalis) and Plum-headed Finch (Neochmia modesta). Near Gatton. Photograph Robert Ashdown.

Barking Owl (Ninox connivens). Captive animal, Fleays Wildlife Park, Burleigh. Photograph Robert Ashdown.